A Matter of Inconvenience
In response to David Bearden and other members of the Houston Contractors Association who are now opposing the city's Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program ["Voluntary ... Or Else," by Brian Wallstin, October 9]: Their chief complaint of having to make calls to ensure the participation of minority-owned businesses in city contracts can scarcely be more than an inconvenience. Nor do the alleged threats by the city to deny them contracts for noncompliance amount to anything more than a logistical inconvenience, because selected low bidders still tend to get awarded contracts.

Other considerations also beg for a fairer sense of proportion in assessing Mr. Bearden's unjustified complaints. Contractors like Bearden who complain about demonstrating good-faith efforts to include minority subcontractors are also the ones who gladly submit to other necessary administrative processes and protocols in order to secure millions of dollars of taxpayers' money in the form of city contracts. That contractors (who manage the numerous city-funded work projects) further benefit from underpaid and overworked workers makes it all the more difficult to take their complaints seriously.

In sum, Bearden's claim of inconvenience conveniently lacks a sense of proportion. It also pales in comparison with the really "inconvenient" exploitation that contractors in the construction industry visit on their workers in order to enter a low bid and maintain a handsome profit margin.

Incidentally, like most other critics of affirmative action programs, Bearden offers no solutions despite the persistence of obvious exploitation and inequality in his industry.

Emilio Zamora and Angela Valenzuela
via Internet, Houston

Why should anyone be surprised by the actions of Mayor Bob Lanier and the supporters of affirmative action as they try to dupe Houstonians into believing that Lanier's program is "voluntary" while at the same time double-crossing Edward Blum and the supporters of the Houston Civil Rights Initiative by rewriting it?

Affirmative action has always operated using deceit and deception. Its supporters have always advanced the ruse that it is a remedy rather than what it really is: politically correct discrimination. The benefactors of this racial spoils system see no problem in denying jobs, business contracts and educational opportunities using the parameters of race and gender, so long as they are not required to make the sacrifices. What is truly amazing is that it has taken so many years for the abuses to be exposed. If David Bearden and others had spoken out years earlier, affirmative action would have been eliminated or modified long ago.

William Carl Machmer

Missing Viewpoint
The Houston Press never ceases to amaze me with its recurring theme of "white oppression." Brian Wallstin's article on affirmative action may be accurate from the point of view of the white male majority; however, it was written only from that viewpoint. We still see only one side of the discussion.

I know it is the Press's constant platform to be the newspaper of the "underdog," and I also know that the white males who are still the majority in this country consider themselves the underdogs now. I would have liked to have read an article that at least attempted to understand and represent both sides of the issue.

Where is your responsibility to the public? This referendum could have serious repercussions for minorities. It seems that you do not understand that idea. Why should I read a newspaper that consistently denies the voice of minorities in this city?

Tamara Maze
via Internet

Non-Passive in Kingwood
It was very refreshing to read Brian Wallstin's report on the true nature of Mayor Bob Lanier's affirmative action policy. The members of the Houston Contractors Association demonstrated their intestinal fortitude by opposing the nonvoluntary status of the MWDBE program. It takes lots of guts to buck Mr. Lanier. For one thing, one automatically risks the chance of being classified as a bigot, and perhaps even a "male chauvinist" to boot!

Mr. Lanier doesn't like being questioned about his policies and decisions. Just take a look at what happened to us here in Kingwood when we tried to discuss his annexation of us against our will. Social planners like Mr. Lanier and his loyal followers in City Council abhor an active society. In order to impose their will upon others, they need a passive population. They think that they should decide how one's life is to be lived.

This time, however, we will have our chance to express our free will at the ballot box, and we will do so. Thanks to the media, there is an open debate on the affirmative action question. I intend to vote for Proposition A. Why? Because it is the right thing to do in a free society!

Eduardo A. Peniche

Collaborative Work
Jessica Cusick is a remarkable woman and an asset for Houston. We are lucky to have someone of her insight, intelligence and skill in town. The article on Ms. Cusick and public art was clear and marked by enthusiasm unusual for the Press ["Art for the Masses," by Shaila Dewan, October 9]. I found the subject and the article refreshing and informative.

But there is a point that should be clarified about the July 23 mayoral candidates forum. The idea for the forum was suggested by Barry Reese, embraced by the 32-member Houston Coalition for the Visual Arts and realized by a larger group of individuals and organizations than was indicated by the article. The event was co-sponsored by HCVA, Business Volunteers for the Arts, Houston Dance Coalition, Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts, and the Museum District and the Theater District Association. It was presented at the University of Houston, thanks to the Blaffer Gallery and the School of Architecture, and broadcast by Access Houston.

Further, the questions for the candidates were developed by Jackie Alfred (Theater District Association), Ms Cusick, Virginia Lang (Business Volunteers for the Arts), Jane Lowery (Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts), Joy Mullett (Houston Women's Caucus for Art/Firehouse Gallery), and me. The questions generated by these individuals and others reflect an extremely broad range of issues, of which public art funding was only one.

My point here is not to diminish Ms. Cusick and her many accomplishments, but to illustrate the unusual and powerful strength of Houston's art organizations, especially when they work together. Houston is distinguished by the degree of collaboration between its arts organizations. Strong individuals like Ms. Cusick contribute greatly to this mix. Thank you for your continuing coverage of the arts and culture of Houston.

Emily Todd, DiverseWorks Artspace
via Internet, Houston


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