I read with some bemusement your recent article on the difficulties encountered by Pasadena police when trying to get trucking companies to obey the law ["Semi Safe," by Bob Burtman, December 3]. A couple of years ago, the Internal Revenue Service tried to reach out to the local intermodal trucking industry. There were no audits and no enforcement actions.
The only thing the IRS did was compile a list of local trucking companies and begin inviting them to a series of informal public get-togethers, complete with coffee and cake. Educational materials were made available to them concerning their tax-related responsibilities, specifically concerning the treatment of drivers as employees versus calling them independent contractors. No names where taken, and nothing was on the record.
The reaction of the trucking companies to this kinder, gentler approach was extreme. They howled to every elected idiot they could pin down and got heard all the way up to the Cabinet level. Despite the fact that these educational efforts had dramatically increased compliance in the market sector, bringing in over $100 million above baseline in three years without a single audit, the program was ordered shut down.
The involved personnel were not only reassigned, they were dispersed to separate buildings so as to make comparing notes more difficult. And the information they gathered was ultimately destroyed without further review. All this happened as a result of the collective tantrum thrown by the trucking companies as they rebelled against the notion they should sacrifice even a penny in profits by being required to obey the law.
The motto of the story? Don't piss off the trucking companies; they've got a helluva lobby. After all, if they have the political muscle to shut down the IRS, what chance did the Pasadena Police Department have?
Name withheld by request
Give Us a Brake
Now for a lie!
To quote from the article: Pasadena DOT officers understand all this and cut the drivers more than a few breaks on violations, but that's not good enough for some operators -- especially those whose trucks are in disrepair and have received numerous citations. "How can you keep your brakes adjusted all the time?" says trucking company owner and repeat offender Luis Hernandez. "You've got to be under the truck every day."
Location, Location ...
Representative Talton, the Bob Burtman article does not do you proud. You rationalized your stated opposition to the weigh station as being in your district. The Houston Press says that it is not! I believe the Press. If its selected location is not the best choice, pick a better location. The lives of human beings are at stake in Pasadena!
May I suggest that you and Bob Todd would make a good comic team.
A.J. da Silva
Past Due on Pollution
What a fantastic story! Thank you for your research and for taking the time and interest to write a story that tells the truth.
Your article really comprehensively covered the issue. What I love about the Press is that you reach people all over Harris County, and they are going to start connecting what is going on here in East Houston with the chemical plants, etc.
The flip way we deal with chemicals here in Texas, in their manufacture and transportation, is going to come back and haunt us some day.
You might be interested in how chemical plants downplay their "accidents." We have had three incidents near El Jardin in the past six months, and we have some good, detailed facts about how the Chronicle downplayed them and how the chemical plant didn't report the incidents when they should have; I believe about 60 people went to the hospital. The news channels didn't even give the story the time of day.
Bill Dawson and Jim Morris with the Chronicle have run some articles regarding "toxic secrecy" and air quality, but the Chronicle keeps them on a leash. For example, Bill can write from dawn to dark regarding how dirty the chemical plants are in Louisiana, but I wonder if the Chronicle would let him tell the truth about Houston chemical plants.
Shame on Helen
I am perturbed about Councilman Bruce Tatro being considered "vulnerable" [Insider, by Tim Fleck, December 3]. I have lived in the Spring Branch area of District A for more than 20 years and have been very active in both the civic and political arenas.
Bruce Tatro succeeded Helen Huey and, in his first year, has demonstrated the ability to very ably follow in her footsteps by continuing to liaise with the businesses and his constituency, and by pursuing and finishing many infrastructure improvements. Bruce has been instrumental in keeping Spring Branch -- and to the best of my knowledge, the rest of District A -- moving forward at the same pace as his predecessor, namely Helen Huey. Therefore, it is absolutely incredible and ridiculous that she is trying to recruit someone to run against him, and I for one am appalled at her for doing so.
No TSU Student
For you to get your facts wrong by assuming African-American District F Council candidate Dionne Roberts is a Texas Southern University student [Insider, December 3] is as wrong as if you were to assume she was liberal; against individual responsibility, protecting families and property rights; or promoting home and business ownership simply because she is African-American.
Roberts is a college graduate with a B.S. and more than three years of law school from South Texas College of Law. She is a businesswoman who earned a place in a runoff against Driscoll and came closer to beating him than any other challenger came to beating any incumbent last year.
Every time I read a story like the Winterhawk/Cord story ["Need or Greed," by Brian Wallstin, November 26], I get sick to my stomach. How can one person get away with so much? How can so many people give so much money to someone they don't even know? How can people like the Melsons and Holcombs willingly participate in such a scam and then plead ignorance? Puhleeze! I hope they all get their "just reward" -- then everyone's prayers will be answered!
Live with Lead Poison
Ms. Crimmins and family volunteered to join the eclectic mix of the Heights when they purchased a newly constructed house on Harvard Street ["Abatement by Any Other Name," by Brad Tyer, October 15; "Grinding It Out," by Tyer, December 3].
Because of the influx, the Heights will continue to see renovations to the lovely homes that were built near the turn of the century. Crimmins and her family knew this before they decided to purchase a new house. They should also have known that such work could present a health hazard to children and, further, that such work will likely continue well into the next century.
Why is the owner of the lot to the north the only bad guy? It seems the work he is paying for will increase the value of Ms. Crimmins's house and the Heights at large. He could have let the peeling paint fall off the old house one chip at a time, thus exacerbating the potential harm to Ms. Crimmins's child and diminishing the look and value of all the properties along Harvard Street.
The real story is this: Is the Heights the right community for a family that seems to think they bought a new house in Fort Bend County, where everything is virgin?
Perhaps, the Crimmins family should just admit to a consumer mistake. They might be better off if they sold the house and packed off to the Woodlands where everything has been planned and approved by a committee, and everything is new.
Robert and Linda Parsons
KPFT Speaks Out
I would like to clarify recent remarks made by Houston Review publisher and editor Marc Levin as reported in the Houston Press. KPFT/90.1 FM does indeed receive taxpayer support in the form of a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). All qualified public broadcasters receive these grants.
But Mr. Levin is incorrect when he implies in a recent letter to the Press ["Levin Lashes Out," December 3] that KPFT receives $1 million a year from the government. Pacifica Radio, which holds KPFT's broadcast license, also operates other public stations around the country in addition to KPFT. The total of grants for all of these stations is approximately $1 million. KPFT's FY1999 CPB grant totals $99,500. This represents 15 percent of our annual budget.
Mr. Levin says he objects to KPFT receiving such support, because we "are rewarding a convicted cop killer" by airing commentaries by death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal. KPFT and Pacifica Radio take no stand on Abu-Jamal's case. We aired the commentaries as an exercise of the First Amendment, a move that was supported by many groups, including the Society of Professional Journalists. KPFT has a long and proud history on First Amendment issues (the same First Amendment that protects the Houston Review), and we will continue to air many different points of view.
General Manager, KPFT/90.1FM
Right in the Playbook
Lee Williams is welcome to read my copy of the production script from the original Broadway production of Funny Girl ["Not-so Funny Girl," December 3]. If she would, she would find the leopard coat, the lamppost and several other of the "movie" ideas come directly from the author.
It is now, as it has always been and always will be, the responsibility of all directors and designers to convey the author's concept. If she would like to read my copy, I will be happy to supply it to her free of charge. That's even cheaper than renting the movie.
Funny is Fab
I saw Funny Girl and loved it. I thought Holli Golden was fabulous, and what a voice! I was impressed by the entire cast. I say, "Go see it, you'll be glad you did"!
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