Rotten to the Corps
Floodplain follies: I'm a former U.S. Corps of Engineers flood control project manager, but I have no particular knowledge of the unique circumstances behind the Clear Creek project ["Not Worth a Dam," by Brian Wallstin, September 13]. In fact, yours was the most comprehensive report I have seen.
It does, however, seem unlikely that environmental concerns were the only (or even major) factor in the delay of the Clear Creek project -- the corps normally makes short shrift of such concerns. My only point is one that you already have made, that waiting for the corps to solve a flooding problem is a losing proposition. When I worked there, the average time for completion of a federal project was 26 years -- and then there was always a question as to whether the project would work as intended. My advice is simple: Don't build in a floodplain in the first place.
FEMA's buyouts are a start; improving Texas land use planning abilities (which are virtually nonexistent) would be a good step as well. Thanks for the excellent reporting.
War casualty? Loved the story "Drug Money" [by Steve McVicker and Tim Carman, September 6]. Like the victims mentioned there, my wife did a favor for a "friend" in a small town. Six months later she ended up with a felony conviction, five years' probation and thousands of dollars in fines.
Turns out her "friend" was rolling over on people he knew in order to escape indictment for robbing a convenience store. So thanks to you, repentant cons-turned-informants. Thanks for ruining any chance my wife, 14-month-old son and I have for moving on, escaping the past, leading a normal life -- just to save your own sorry ass.
She made some bad choices like just about every one of us has. But not as bad as the choice you made.
Name withheld by request
Sweet and Neat
Give the Girls a break: So the Sweet Girls are not always the best of pals, and like many collaborations, theirs has been a mutable one ["Sugar and Spice," by Lauren Kern, August 30]. But am I the only reader who found your report a bit of a cop-out? Yeah, it's always more fun to chart social rifts than to talk about art, but like VH1's Behind the Music, your article adhered to the clichés, with only a few paragraphs about the implications of their work.
What dismayed me is the assumption that the Sweet Girls should be judged for failing to achieve a fixed goal. Your article turns them into one-hit wonders, a girl band who blew their chance to perpetuate and profit from a well-defined image. Actually, such associations in art blossom and come apart with mind-boggling speed. Indeed, it's the cycle of change that usually keeps things interesting.
I had no idea what the Sweet Girls were up to before walking into Lawing Gallery earlier. As a feminist who came of age in the much sterner '70s, I got a bang out of their hilariously seductive and savvy installation. Was it great art? No. Was it a provocative summer show that made me curious to know what would come next from these ladies, whether as a group or on their own? You betcha.
Alison de Lima Greene
Help Westbury: After reading Margaret Downing's article ["Stepchild," September 6], it's clear that the "traditionalists" of Westbury High School are trying to hold on to a past that is out of touch with today's public school crisis from not upgrading schools in minority communities.
The Westbury community will never return to the glory days of majority white, blue-collar, etc. Westbury's problems did not begin three or four years ago. Where were the "traditionalists" at the onset of racial change? What did they do at that point to ensure that Westbury High would never slip into what is now commonplace in many schools that are largely minority? Why not let school officials, academic experts and rational residents meet in a crisis summit to do damage control to a situation that has been years in the making?
Everyone who is familiar with the plight of today's schools, with large numbers of minority students, knows that there cannot be a strong academic program without student discipline. This group's solution seems to be "tear down the apartment complexes and return the neighborhood to its former status."
Johnny Reb and the rebel flag have no place in a school with a vast cross-section of racial groups.
Name withheld by request
Irish stew: Though not prone to revel in any individual's misfortune, I would argue that collectively the Houston Chronicle's woes [News Hostage, by Richard Connelly, September 6] elicit no tears from the city's active Irish and Irish-American communities.
Richard Connelly was spot on with his contention of the paper having its "sacred cows" and "untouchable" institutions, a fatal flaw when the public has ample access to factual news coverage. From our perspective, the Chronicle's reporting and editorials of current events in Northern Ireland are notoriously and blatantly pro-British. Yet innumerable editorial rebuttals and demands subsequently tendered for accurate reporting curiously fail to merit publication or consideration.
Any media outlet aspiring to survive would do well to take heed of the breadth and intelligence of their audience. Sacred cows as well as subsequent censorship are not only unacceptable but the antithesis of responsible journalism. Such practices will invariably and inevitably result in the kiss of death. The Chronicle's choice is painfully simple: Lead, follow, or get out of the way!
Maire A. McPartland
Irish Northern Aid Committee
Sporting chance: I'm sure that none of the sports columnists will get laid off. That's the only Chron section that ever gets bigger and bigger and bigger. I think that the Chron should break off the sports page to sell as a separate paper for about $1 a day.
That way maybe they could fund the rest of their paper, maybe even making badly needed improvements, like adding impartial editors, reporters who can see the big picture and an editorial staff capable of weeding out fluff pieces. Oh, and while we're at it, maybe get someone to do some hard-hitting journalism.
Stamp of Disapproval
Boxed out: I enjoyed your article on the United States Postal Service ["Zoned Out," by Jeffrey Gilbert, August 23].
I moved from a home that has a mailbox in front of it to one that has boxes together. I went to the Beechnut post office to get a key for the new box. The person at the counter rudely talked down to me when I said I needed more than one key. He said it would take a couple of days.
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Four days later no copy of the key had been made. I had to contact the post office supervisor to get a day that I could get the key. Then my wife was told it was not there.
The next day I was told that it had been there the day before, but they didn't know why no one knew where it was.
This is what you call better service? Maybe we need competition. To have other companies offer regular mail delivery might get the USPS to care more. The USPS is a private company not owned by the U.S. government, I was told years ago.