She Enjoys Driving Ms. Shelia
I write in order to express my disappointment with Tim Fleck's "Driving Miss Sheila" [February 20]. I was under the erroneous impression that his interview would be fair and include some semblance of journalistic value. After reading the article, it is apparent that the London tabloids have made their indelible impression on the Houston Press.
As the chief of staff for Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, I must point out the glaring inaccuracies in this non-factual article. This is highlighted by Fleck's attack on the congresswoman's family. He states that her husband, Dr. Elwyn Lee, is vice president of student affairs at the University of Houston. Luckily, Fleck got the title correct. His attempt to belittle the position and responsibilities of Dr. Lee by stating that he only deals primarily with minority students is incorrect. Dr. Lee is responsible for 410 employees, supervises a cluster of support services including student housing and health services and campus food services, and also is responsible for a budget of $26 million.
Fleck mentions that various other members of Congress who live in Congresswoman Lee's building in Washington are seen walking to work, while she is being driven. He fails to include the fact that only male members were seen walking to work. As the person who continues to drive the congresswoman to work every morning, I have never observed female members of Congress walking to work, and consequently have never asked other members if they needed a ride. Tim Fleck is not interested in the truth about Sheila Jackson Lee. It is apparent that he is only interested in unsubstantiated rumors.
There is no doubt that the congresswoman tirelessly works on behalf of the constituents of the 18th Congressional District. She also shares the support of the Texas delegation. This is most evident in that she has been selected to receive the next available position on the Commerce Committee.
It is my hope that the Houston Press will seek to present a factual representation of Sheila Jackson Lee by printing this letter. She effectively carries out her duties as the representative of people in the 18th District. The current employees are instrumental in assisting her in doing this and should have their view and comments printed in the Houston Press as well.
A Testimonial from Someone Who Doesn't Drive Ms. Shelia
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had a hard-driving congresswoman with the intellect of a Yale graduate and the drive, natural stamina and will to succeed of a Lyndon Johnson? We do: Sheila Jackson Lee. I was disappointed that your article did not even faintly praise these qualities, and mentioned her intellectual caliber only obliquely.
Your article did not portray the Sheila Jackson Lee whom I have known as a lawyer since 1980. In fact, I was in her congressional office in mid-January. Before she arrived, the atmosphere among the several staffers nearby was cordial and friendly. After she arrived, it was the same.
It is clear that Lee is a person who wants to expedite conversations, to cover the most territory in the least time and to be clear and direct in her questions and comments. During the hour that I was with her, she was a whirlwind of activity, but very efficient and effective at conversing with me on the issue I raised. She did so primarily during a fast walk to a Capitol vote. Afterward, she asked direct questions and gave responses in a very forthright manner.
I had occasion to speak alone to three different staffers. Each one was clearly proud and eager to be involved in the ongoing work of the office. I spoke by telephone with or observed a total of three other staffers in her office. Each was poised, pleasant and relaxed while carrying on the business of the office.
Though I am not in her congressional district, I am delighted that a person of her energy and ability is pursuing the public interest in Congress, and no doubt, beyond. The closest your article came was the comparison to a young Lyndon Johnson. Otherwise, your article missed the vision she personifies.
David F. Webb
Editor's reply: Go back to Lee's office in a few months and see if the same staffers are still around.
Following Ms. Shelia
I found Tim Fleck's article about Sheila Jackson Lee totally one-sided and misleading. I worked with Congresswoman Lee's campaign in this last election and my comments are from my personal experiences with her. She is determined to meet with her constituents -- she would shake hands and talk (sincerely talk) with everyone in her district if she could. She has an extremely high energy level and a calendar that would make mincemeat of most people. She has high expectations and knows what she wants to be done. If those expectations are not met, she will let you know. If people working for her can't take criticism, then they better get a job where expectations are low.
I can't see what is wrong with any of these characteristics. Most people want the person they elect to be assertive, be visible, to be hard-working. We did not elect her to go to Washington to have tea and play cards with other congressmen.
Mr. Fleck should have followed me as I followed the congresswoman around my part of her district. Everyone was familiar with her, and as a result felt like they knew her. They would hug her, tell her they loved her, would call her Sheila. They were thrilled that in 1996, in the age of big-money politics, that she truly wanted to talk to people without money. Maybe Mr. Fleck may find it self-promoting for his congressperson to attend the funeral of someone in his family, but many people appreciate this and find it very comforting and showing great respect to their family.
There aren't any freshmen in Congress who make a great impact on legislation. Fleck failed to mention that Lee helped to secure a U.S. General Store for Small Business in the 18th District, the first in the nation. Regardless of his protest, Fleck would not have written this article about a man.
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Thank you for a wonderful review of Bursting with Flavor [Static, by Hobart Rowland, February 27]. It's really great to see your publication support this phenomenal local band. Carolyn Wonderland and the Imperial Monkeys do the best blues rock shows I'll ever see. Will KLOL please keep this new album in heavy rotation for just a little while?
Pinin for a Cinema Scoop
One of the Press features we enjoyed most was the table of movie ratings by Roger Ebert, the New York Times, the Houston Chronicle and others. It seems to have disappeared. What happened? We really miss it. Please bring it back. We'll be watching for it.
Gary & Marcia Johnson