Davy and Mike
Boycotting slimeballs: I've known Mike McSpadden for more than 20 years, first when he was a prosecutor, then as a district judge ["An Open Mike," by George Flynn, April 19]. Sometimes I disagree with Judge McSpadden, and that's part of being a lawyer. But regardless of how he rules, you can be sure that he is trying to be fair to everyone in his courtroom.
Judge McSpadden has a very strong sense of fairness. He wants every defendant in his court to have a fair trial and to have a trial that the defendant can see is fair. When he isn't sure how the law requires him to rule, he usually does what he thinks is right -- and 99 percent of the time, he's doing what the law requires.
In 1986, when he was under pressure to sign on to the joint Republican judicial campaign, he thought one of the nominees (who eventually lost) was slimy and not up to the job. He was right. If Mike McSpadden sacrificed a federal bench for doing what he thinks is right, more power to him. As Davy Crockett said, "Be sure you're right, then go ahead." Judge McSpadden also knows how to stand by a friend.
Incidentally, Judge McSpadden was appointed to the bench to replace Frank Price rather than Lee Duggan.
Self-defense: Judge McSpadden was the first judge in Harris County to establish his own little "public defender system." The problem with his version is that he controls the pocketbook for the defense of the accused indigents in his court. No criminal defense attorney who is dependent upon a judge for his entire income can escape a conflict of interest in his representation of the indigents in that judge's court.
The conflict of interest is so obvious in Judge McSpadden's "public defender system" that a child of six could see it. Why can't the Commission on Judicial Conduct or the State Bar Grievance Committee?
E.G. (Gail) Huff
In a league of his own: When my son Michael (now a federal public defender in Houston) was in high school and considering law school, I took him to chambers to meet Judge McSpadden. During their brief conversation, Michael told of being a volunteer coach for a largely minority intercity baseball team of kids ten and 11 years old.
It was a poor league. His team had only two baseballs for batting practice and had to share baseball gloves. They rarely had enough for all nine players. Their left-handed first baseman wore his sister's right-handed glove. A week or two later, I was invited to Judge McSpadden's chambers without the prosecutor. McSpadden handed me some brand-new baseballs and a left-handed glove.
He was impressed that a young high school student would donate his time to such a worthy cause and wanted to help. He asked me to deliver them to my son and asked only that I not make it public. I carried his donations out of chambers in a plastic bag. That was over ten years ago, and I am certain the statute of limitations has run.
ExCEPtion to the Rule
Warehoused kids: I am writing to say "hooray!" to those parents who are [challenging] the validity of their child's stay at CEP ["180 Days in the Hole," by Margaret Downing, April 19]. I certainly sympathize with their plight, as I am a former employee of Community Education Partners, and I know the frustration of the students who are there for lengthy stays and, unfortunately, unchallenging class work.
Grades have been changed, altered and made up in order to meet deadlines. Teachers often have little or no classroom experience and basically baby-sit the students. Fights are frequent, and consequences minimal. The staff turnover rate is tremendous. In the last month, I know of at least three people who resigned because of the poor management of the facility -- I even hesitate to call it a school!
So, parents, keep up the good work of boycotting the school and its multimillion-dollar investment. CEP does not educate students, it serves as a warehouse for kids.
Name withheld by request
Expel druggies: Are Drew's parents arguing that he should not have been expelled for bringing drugs to school? The three-day suspension sounds more like the interim needed for his due process hearing with his expulsion being the result of his guilt. If this is true, good for HISD. I believe that the hundreds of thousands of HISD students who do not break the law deserve their right to a safe and drug-free school. So even though I think CEP has problems, I think it's good that Drew and other expelled students have a place to continue their education.
Name withheld by request
Parental participation, please: As a former student, parent and now grandparent of students of HISD, I have faced the challenges these parents are now facing with their children. At a personal financial cost, I went toe-to-toe to try to bring change through every means possible. I won some and lost some, but through it all I tried to balance my involvement with constructive participation to improve what was already there.
We do have the right to question and to try to bring about change. Historically HISD would expel students with serious offenses because facilities were not available to these students.
What do these two parents want the district to do with the other 7,100 students who have completed their suspensions for serious offenses committed on school property -- pretend other students have not been helped at CEP?
What do we do with other students when they are suspended from HISD -- allow them to wander all over Houston doing nothing or, even worse, committing crimes?
What we can do as taxpaying citizens and parents is to improve HISD and CEP instead of burying our heads in the sand and pretending our children don't have to be responsible for their actions. That is not HISD's or CEP's responsibility -- it is our responsibility as parents.
Why don't these parents go inside and ask CEP this: What can we do to help you help our kids?
Alternative school limbo: I wanted to compliment you on your great article. I can relate to parents like the Fulks and Ms. Anderson and Ms. Jones. In 1993 my son went to a Tomball junior high, and the school system there had an alternate school. This school's dean was an ex- probation officer, and the kids there were treated just like they were on probation. They had all rights taken away and were shunned by the community.
It didn't matter what the circumstances were. If a student was disciplined a number of times, he or she was going to the learning center. I had to take matters into my own hands because my son had given up and the district had given up on him. In desperation, I sent him to a boys' ranch in Amarillo, where he graduated and has become a very confident, successful family man. We can make a change in our teenagers by acting as a team, committed to shared goals. These kids will sense that the community is acting as a whole and that they cannot manipulate the adults. But how can parents get the cooperation needed to help our teenagers when we don't feel connected enough to our society or to the CEP problem to participate in a solution? What kind of help are the CEPs offering? Apparently not the right kind.
I wonder who grades those HISD records of progress? Students graduate who can't read -- I guess they are "unintended consequences." Until the TEA steps in and tells our school systems how long they can send students to an alternative program, the key to the solution will remain in limbo.
Look up "satire": Great story ["Immodest Proposals," by Lisa Gray, April 19]. I disagree about the Olympics, though. I think our weather is too hot. I think the death of a few marathon runners in our sweltering heat might be another blight on our image.
Sizzler: I just wanted to tell you that I loved reading your article! I giggled all the way through it, particularly when I read your line "Sell that sizzle." Great stuff! Keep up the great work.
Goosing for Gras
Oh, foie! I usually enjoy the restaurant reviews by Robb Walsh, but the review of Tony's left me disappointed ["Still Your Father's Tony's," April 12]. I was saddened to read how he adored foie gras.
Mr. Walsh states that when people of his generation go to great restaurants, they go to learn as much as to eat. Maybe he could begin by informing them that foie gras is actually a fatty, diseased goose liver that is the result of cruelly shoving tubes into the stomachs of geese and force-feeding them several times daily. After living in excruciating pain, and before dying from the resulting liver malfunction, the geese are slaughtered and the liver is shipped to upscale restaurants like Tony's.
No rest for the best: Brilliant! I'm so happy to see someone not perpetuate the Southern tradition of blind adulation for venerable institutions. I am writing to commend you on excellent reporting, as well as to preempt the unwarranted criticism I assume you will receive.
If Houston wants to believe it's a bona fide restaurant town, it needs to evaluate restaurants objectively. Every Houstonian will rank Tony's as one of the top ten restaurants, regardless of their experience. The name itself carries so much weight it supports another half-dozen mediocre restaurants serving various fare.
In New York every restaurant knows it cannot rest upon its laurels. Even Alain Ducasse had to change his carefully choreographed enterprise within months of opening. Houston is obviously not in the same league. But if it wants national recognition in culinary circles, its citizens should not fear criticism of even their toniest of restaurants. Thank you for bringing some much-needed refreshing objectivity to Houston.
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