Regarding Bob Burtman's article on the subsidizing of the Professional Players Club by Harris County ["Sweet Deal," September 4]: Tax abatements to attract private enterprise -- phased out gradually in a specific term and to compete with surrounding counties -- are acceptable government practice. Relieving private developers of property taxes ad infinitum is shocking and unacceptable. What a precedent! What an open door for every developer in Harris County! What a tragedy for the financing of the local school districts!
Our elected county commissioners have demonstrated amazing ineptitude in guarding the public interest by favoring a for-profit with a public subsidy.
Alice May Berthelson
Down on the Up Stroke
So lawyer John O'Quinn thinks he's down with black folks? It seems so, according to Tim Fleck's August 28 Insider ["The All-Too-Human Family..."]. O'Quinn figured if he threw a soiree for the black Kennedy Heights residents involved in the suit against Chevron and invited big names in the black community to speak, perhaps the residents would stop questioning the way he was running the case. It appears some residents aren't convinced the petroleum wastes buried in their southeast Houston neighborhood made them sick.
So what's wrong with questioning your lawyer? Maybe the residents aren't really sick, or they are sick and tired of the case and just want to end it. O'Quinn should not be bullying them into unconditional approval, and should start to treat his clients like humans with brains.
Lisa M. Chmiola
I found Paul Galvani's "The Art of Cooking" [Cafe, August 21] quite confusing and a bit heavy-handed. I have had the pleasure of dining at the Restaurant at the Art Institute of Houston on quite a few occasions and have found the experience to be a most enjoyable culinary interlude when compared to the fare doled out at many of Houston's finest eateries. It is that comparison which Mr. Galvani seems to have missed.
Whereas he seems to be positive toward the food, he appears to have trouble with the service and ambiance. Granted and agreed, sir, with no ifs, ands or buts. One enters the fourth-floor Restaurant through a black school door and is met by a staff of nervous and unprofessionally wonderful people who are there to learn one thing, the art of professional cooking. They are neophyte chefs learning and plying their cooking art. They are far from the restaurateurs to whom Galvani so very much wants to compare them. But he is right: It ain't Tony's.
Comparing a five- or four-star restaurant which serves comparable fare to the Restaurant at the Art Institute would be like comparing the New York Times to, say, the Houston Press. Yes, both give one very tasty morsels to chew on, but the delivery and comprehensiveness of the former puts it in a much different class than its distant relative.
Charles I. Sitomer
Paul's Good Deed
My sincere thanks to Paul Galvani for his column on the Restaurant at the Art Institute of Houston. My wife and I, together with friends and family, frequent the Restaurant, and we never forget that it is a school, and those attending are learning. We choose to go to the Restaurant because of the quality of the food and the value offered.
People who dine at the Restaurant seem to be having a good time and enjoy their food and one another's company. But then most of them don't have to worry about writing something that will please the editor and "sell" newspapers.
But I am thankful for the article, as it may encourage some people with similar inclinations to go elsewhere. Unfortunately, the week after the article was published, we encountered a full house on two occasions.
Robert L. Kimmons
Simple As Elvis
Serene Dominic's simple-minded approach to evaluating Elvis's art by taking him out of the context of his time and evaluating the work using today's nihilistic, cynical attitude reads like a freshman term paper from a student searching for something provocative to say, no matter how silly [Music, "Colonel Tom's Folly," August 21].
In his time, Elvis's career was equivalent to, or exceeded that of, the Beatles, Kiss, U2 and Michael Jackson. And one can see the significant differences among these icons, reflecting the times when they were in the spotlight. If Elvis smashed a guitar on stage, it would have looked as silly and out of place as Eddie Vedder crooning to the circle of wide-eyed sorority girls from Vassar. So why critically examine his entertaining albeit lightweight movies using today's moral (or lack thereof) standards and composition?
Which brings us to the incessantly recurring suggestions of pedophilia. Is it conceivable in a simpler, more innocent time, children were looked upon as an engaging, appreciative audience instead of twisted sexual objects? If he can't imagine that, I would worry more about Serene Dominic's proclivities toward children than Elvis Presley's!
Alex Procyk and Sherri Seville
A Rare Letter of Praise
Good job on your Rice School piece ["What Went Wrong at the Rice School?", by Tim Fleck, August 21]. Being such a convoluted puzzle, I find it amazing you were able to discern so many of the pieces without having had a child there the entire three years. I thought you dealt with all aspects in a very evenhanded and fair way. It is a very impassioned subject, so it was amazing for me to read such a calm, unbiased report.
We left the school this summer after being there three years and returned to West U Elementary. We felt we couldn't afford to lose another year academically. I did not see any hope of the school improving this fall.
On paper, the school has many good concepts, but the majority of the teachers are light-years away from knowing how to effectively implement them. And without a strong leader at the helm, one well-versed in multi-age, experimental teaching techniques, the problem is compounded.
Name withheld by request
I beeline for what Peter Rainer has to say every week. I am paid off by descriptions of Christopher Walken's "village-of-the-damned glowers" and someone else's accented voice as "verbal blues, a sleepy-time patter that comes out of a richer and freakier movie than the one we're watching." Thrilling.
Does P. R. live in Houston? Is he stalkable, I mean, talkative?
Editor's reply: The answer to your first question is no; we aren't sure about the second.
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