No Nobel?
Brian Wallstin should be recommended for a Pulitzer ["Biological Disaster," by Brian Wallstin, August 20]!

David Schechter
via Internet

Doggone It!
I am appalled, reading your article about poor Bruiser ["Hound's Hell," by Russell Contreras, August 20]. I cannot believe the police would act in such an irresponsible manner. I understand they are faced with aggressive dogs from homes they enter, mostly those of criminals. But this woman was right there, and she was herself a victim. I do animal-rescue work, and I agree with the animal activists that she should sue. The authorities need to understand that these animals are part of our family and cannot be treated with such little respect for their lives.

Michelle Cote
via Internet

Having a Cow
I really appreciate you taking the time out to speak with Mr. Robinson regarding his claims of discrimination ["Stirring the Pot," by Hobart Rowland, August 20].

I am a 23-year-old black woman and can certainly identify with some of the things he spoke about. I work in the Galleria area, and I don't care how "well dressed" I am or how properly I speak, I frequently get glaring looks when entering certain establishments in this area.

Some people are just ignorant of the fact that people are people whether you're white, black or whatever. If God meant for it to be a big difference in us (other than skin color), we wouldn't be able to reproduce with different races. A cow can't have a chicken. Besides, I think life is more interesting since we all look different.

With every race of people, you have assholes, but in some people's eyes, black people will always be "the wrong element," except if you have money -- then you will be considered to be a "good ole boy."

Please keep me posted. I'd really hate to see him lose his club and his battle against this "bigwig" (Trammell Crow).

Meshaye Johnson
via Internet

Shepherd Loss
Your article on the Shepherd Plaza, "Stirring the Pot," is representative of white/black relations and how stupid white people can be. It is true that Shepherd Plaza was in steady decline by July of 1997, and as everyone knows, old clubs rarely have a second life.

Dan Robinson had the right idea (whether by design or not) when he went "dark." For the past 30 years (and probably more), blacks have flocked to where the white folk are, and in doing so, forever terminate the possibility of uptight whites returning. Shepherd Plaza, in its current form, will never be the cool scene.

If Trammell Crow and the bar owners at Shepherd Plaza had any sense, they would have gone along with the Voodoo Lounge and milked it for all it was worth -- a black Shepherd Plaza. Unfortunately, Trammell Crow and the remaining bar owners clung to a dream that they could resist the blacks and bring back the scene that they once had, a dream that will never happen. Now it is too late for all of them.

John Craft
via Internet

Primary Colors
In the lead of your fine article in the August 20 issue , you mention a racial mix -- white, black, Hispanic."

Hispanic is not a race. (It's a language-based ethnicity.) This is a very common error in these parts, because the overwhelming majority of Texas Hispanics are the brown variety. But there are white Hispanics in Spain, black Hispanics around the Caribbean and, of course, brown Hispanics in Mexico and other points south.

A racial mix -- white, black, brown -- would have been accurate.
Michael Dickson
via Internet

Going South
I have been going to Shepherd Plaza since 8.0 and Live Bait were the only bars there. During the height of the plaza, most of the patrons were college students, recent graduates and young professionals.

As the plaza matured over the past few years, the crowd started to change, and more undesirable people started frequenting the bars. When I say this, I am not discriminating against any one race. There were undesirable people from all races. These and competition from other areas contributed to the downfall of the Plaza. One thing for sure is, the Plaza was on its way down long before any of the downtown nightspots started opening up.

The Voodoo Lounge may have originally brought in an upscale black crowd, but it certainly went south fast! I live in the area of Kirby and Richmond. If you think police helicopters circling the area, sirens going off and subwoofers blaring from cars at 2 a.m. is a good crowd, you're crazy! I was putting up with this several times a week. I have no problem with a racially mixed crowd at any establishment. The problem is, it rarely maintains a balance, and usually goes one way or another. People normally do not feel comfortable going into a bar where they are the vast minority, and therefore stop going.

Mark Della Corte
via Internet

Spare the Sympathy
This letter is in reference to Erica Sheppard ["Of Life and Death," by Muriel L. Sims, August 13]. I am sorry that our judicial system in Texas is inadequate, that her lawyer did an incomplete job and that she never received the help she should have gotten for such a sad life. But I know [murder victim] Marilyn Meagher's children, and the pain Erica caused is indescribable. If Erica is as faithful as she claims to be, then why wasn't she listening to God while she held Marilyn down? Where was God then? Duress, my ass! People under duress do not brag about these things later. Oh, and the Reverend Jackson's help is not a sign from God, it is merely a political courtesy call. Maybe she shouldn't die an early death, but maybe Marilyn shouldn't have either.

Andrea Fowler
via Internet

Brutal Imbalance
I have never written a letter to the editor, but after reading your unbelievably sympathetic portrayal of convicted murderer Erica Sheppard for the appalling murder of Marilyn Sage Meagher, I feel compelled to ask for some balance in the reporting of events. Marilyn was a generous spirit, as witnessed by the hundreds of people attending her funeral on the July 4 holiday weekend five years ago.

She also had a difficult life, as all who knew her will attest, but she worked several jobs to take care of herself and her children as a single mother. She never robbed or murdered anyone. I will never forget looking at her battered body at her funeral. Erica Sheppard did that to her, even as she pleaded for her life. I hope you will find space for this letter in a future issue. Marilyn would appreciate equal representation.

Nan Hall Linke
via Internet

More Disgust
Your cover story made me pause: What are you trying to say? That Erica Sheppard deserves a new trial? That she is somehow innocent of the crime she confessed to? That her upbringing somehow excuses her from being responsible for her part in a senseless murder? She made a stupid decision to participate in a crime and, by her own admission, was at the scene and threatened the woman with a knife, then proceeded to rob her. She admitted to her part and was sentenced to death. That is our system at work. To constantly second-guess it and have the likes of Jesse Jackson weaseling his way into none of his business makes me want to puke.

My dad beat my ass raw more than a few times, and I've been broke a few times. Yet I have never once considered robbing or killing anyone ... or jacking them or whatever.

These people are thugs, and don't deserve to walk around with law abiders. They won't change. She is not worth a front-page story. Otherwise, keep up the good work.

Tom Zane
via Internet

No Mamm Fan
While the article regarding the Ninfa Laurenzo family was interesting ["Mama Ninfa and Her Comeback Kids," by Brad Tyer, August 6], your reference to Ninfa as "Mama" was rather irksome, since no one calls her Mama except her children.

No one in the Hispanic community refers to her as Mama. What your article did not state was that Ninfa and her corporation never did anything for the community. She is not an icon of the community.

The new Ninfa's owners should sue her and her family for violating the non-compete agreement they signed.

Frank Roldan

History Buff
In a word -- fantastic. After reading your article on the Ninfa Laurenzo family, I felt like I had lived in the environment you described. It's an interesting story, without a doubt, but your writing style made it all the more intriguing because of the details and insights that you included in your article about this piece of Houston history.

Lloyd Dawson
via Internet

Immigration Laws
As an attorney here in Houston who practices immigration law, I applaud your efforts to make Houstonians more aware of the harshness and arbitrariness of our immigration laws ["Deporting Disparities," by Russell Contreras, August 6]. However, parts of your article were misleading or inaccurate.

There should be more coverage of these issues, for the simple reason that immigrants, even illegal ones, contribute enormously to our economy and to our culture. It is appalling how we permit our government to treat both legal and illegal immigrants in the name of upholding the law.

Your article implied that legal permanent residence and temporary residence were guaranteed to certain aliens, which is not the case.

Unfortunately, misinformation in the immigration context is rampant, and the majority of my clients rely on word-of-mouth. Your story will undoubtedly spark a wave of telephone calls to immigration lawyers from people who will want to know why they must file an application for adjustment of status under NACARA since they were "granted" legal permanent residence status.

M. Nicole Morrison

Editor's note: Morrison's three-page letter detailed legal requirements and application procedures for immigrants. The article focused on legal disparities that allow some Central American immigrants to remain in this country while others are deported immediately. It was not intended as an examination of the laws and did not intend to imply that immigrants do not need to follow the application process or meet eligibility standards.

Derailed Plans
Enjoyed your article on John Kelley ["Going the Distance," by Richard Connelly, August 6].

All this is moot unless Houston gets some rail transit. A letter to the editor in the Chronicle about a year ago was from a person who had been on the site-selection committee for some recent Olympic Games, and said the committee wouldn't even consider a city without rail transit.

Irv Smith
via Internet

Good Behavior
Mr. Earle Lilly represented me for almost three years during the Sarofim case ["Courtship, River Oaks Style," by George Flynn, July 16]. During my case, there were months on end that I spent ten to 30 hours per week in his offices. He never behaved in any way inappropriate toward me, his staff or any of his other clients, who were in and out constantly. His offices are run with the utmost dignity and professionalism and with the precision of a Swiss clock. He is simply an awesome litigator, and a consummate professional.

Mr. Lilly will no doubt be exonerated of all accusations (as he should be), and his practice will continue to thrive.

Name withheld by request

Labels Don't Stick
I too would venture to agree with a recent letter ["Smuck the Muck," July 30] from one of your readers, that your publication might want to consider a bit less "muck and ruck" and somewhat more "meat and potatoes" in the journalistic product you are offering to the people of the Houston area.

Your product must be presented as either the local tabloid or the local alternative newspaper, but not both, as the objectives are mutually exclusive, and you simply cannot give dual "service" in the area without causing considerable confusion among your readership.

Therefore, please clarify (once again?) for all of us out here: What is the purpose of (and the motive behind) your "paper"?

Given this understanding, we can all make a better, more informed "decision" on whether or not it is worth our time and effort to carry home your product each week.

Or, on second thought, maybe the "game" really is for us to "guess" from week to week where you really stand. Hmmm. Not a bad "marketing" strategy, if I say so myself -- touche!

B. Root
via Internet

Editor's note: The purpose of the Houston Press has been and will continue to be: to provide readers with a variety of in-depth news and feature stories as well as entertainment news, food and culture critiques and extensive listings. If you check the content of recent issues, you'll find cover stories included a look at the proposed nuclear dump for Texas, the shooting death of a Bellaire teenager on LSD and a homicide in Montgomery County that is not being investigated by authorities there. We are equally proud of stories like "Courtship, River Oaks Style" [July 16], which is fully in keeping with the Press philosophy in that it is brightly written and on top of the local scene. We stand where we have always stood -- committed to bringing you in-depth, compelling stories that other area media often don't cover.

Smoke Signals
My name is Tommy Edwards. I am a marijuana activist, just like many Americans who believe that using marijuana is a personal choice. I like how you said the short-term effects of DARE work ["Reefer Madness," by T.R. Coleman, July 9]. I wouldn't use marijuana until I was in high school, but then I made up my own mind that I wanted to try it. DARE does not have long-term impact.

I know, because I have been through it. Talking about drugs should start when parents think the time is right. Drugs shouldn't be talked about in school with kids. I didn't know what marijuana was until I heard about it in school when I was 15, even though my dad used marijuana a lot and smoked it with me when I was 17.

I think that the marijuana issue is a personal one that has a lot to do with family and nothing to do with the government. Thanks for the interesting article and I hope you get some intellect from my information.

Tommy Edwards
via Internet

Canadian Cop
I read your story on DARE, which buttresses so many other investigative pieces and scholarly analyses of the program. DARE is a multimillion-dollar failure by any rational standard except one: the police's need for positive PR and inroads into the school system.

As a police officer in Vancouver, Canada, and a parent who plays exhibition basketball games and coaches kids' teams, I also teach a course at a local community college.

Role models and public-safety expertise are essential elements of the police/school system partnership. Yet this is not what DARE does.

DARE presents an opinion -- held by many but far from universal -- that is eroded every day by medical and scientific research. The fundamental mistake is adults believing that kids can't see through it. As long as DARE is a sales pitch, the results won't change much.

The appropriate people to present drug information to children are a combination of educators and health-care professionals. Not only are the police not qualified, but our vested interest taints the process.

Don't be surprised, however, when police defend DARE against all reason, using smear tactics and conjecture. It's not because it does anything for the kids. It's because it does something for us.

Gil Puder
Vancouver, Canada
via Internet


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