Robespierre Hails a Cab
The city of Houston is correct in mandating cabdrivers adhere to a minimal dress code ["Crimes of Hygiene," by Randall Patterson, September 12]. Its legitimacy is not diminished simply because of the intrinsic impossibility of enacting perfect laws and regulations.
The American tradition is wisely premised upon the realistic acceptance that the virtue of prudential judgment must ultimately guide the thinking and actions of citizens and their political institutions. We strongly rejected the inane mindset of the French Revolution's nihilistic demand for an all-or-nothing, perfectionist, no-loose-ends set of utopian laws.
The uneasy tension between finding the right balance between the extremes of authoritarianism and undisciplined freedom is frustrating. We prefer that awkward dilemmas such as dress codes remain tacitly understood propositions requiring no further explicit attention. The practice, however, and very meaning of democracy is about the brokering of differing opinions into an ultimate search for some sort of compromise. Houston's cabdrivers have the right to participate in a checks and balances political system that will devise a sensible dress code. Nothing more than that can be promised.
I am a regular reader who usually applauds your aggressive reportage of the failings and follies of our elected officials and city elite, such as the expose of Controller Lloyd Kelley months back. While I deplore the use of anonymous sources in that and other pieces, they generally are balanced and undistorted.
I write today because I found the piece on the Parks Department little more than a very unbalanced ad hominem attack on its director, Bill Smith ["Field Day!" by Bob Burtman, September 12].
I have never met Smith and have no agenda here; I simply wish to express contempt for the style of this piece. The various cost overruns and procedural omissions are serious issues worthy of investigation and discussion. They were deplorably diluted when mixed with allegations of little credibility, innuendo concerning "close friend" Deborah Douglas and what can only be termed snippy complaints about your unreturned phone calls and eight-hour delay in getting responses to your faxed questions.
By the way, Susan Christian, with whom I have dealt, is a busy woman, and you should be pleased you got a one-day turnaround from her. What do you think department spokespeople do with such inquiries? They investigate, formulate a response and where appropriate run it past superiors -- all of which takes time. In my dealings with various offices, Ms. Christian is more responsive to community inquiries than her counterparts in Planning and elsewhere.
I am disappointed in your piece and hope what I see as its faults do not become the Press' normal style.
Paul LeRoy Crist
In his "Field Day!" article about Parks and Recreation director Bill Smith, Bob Burtman mentions interviewing past and present disgruntled employees. What type of response would you expect to receive from someone who is disgruntled? As for the punishment of longtime employees Roy Witham and Lalitha Raman, ask them where they were during the Whitmire administration while the grass was growing in our parks, trash was piling up, employees were sleeping in the vehicles and the warehouses were filled with supplies and playground equipment rusting away. Ask prisoners who are presently incarcerated if they are innocent, and more than 90 percent would answer yes. The majority of the parks department employees are unhappy because after years of not working under past director Don Olson, they finally have to work.
Bob Lanier is known for his can-do attitude and has made many long overdue improvements within our city. Of course he has hired directors who have the same attitude. People complain that so much is being spent, yet others complain not enough is being spent on their parks or services. You cannot make everyone happy. There is only so much money to go around.
Mr. Burtman, one day while you're out driving around Houston, more than likely charging the mileage to your company, notice the paved streets, new streetlights, children and families playing in the parks, new businesses popping up and new or renovated homes in inner-city neighborhoods. You mention the difference between a responsible director and a political director. You fail to mention a caring director. A director who sees a need and fills it the best way he knows how. A director with a vision for improving the lives of the children within our community. A director who works long hours and weekends, and gives 200 percent to accomplish his goals. A director like Bill Smith.
Name withheld by request
Editor's note: The above letter, as best we can determine, was not written by Bill Smith.
My stomach churns everyday at about 5:15. Why, you may ask? Well, there is this horrible picture that comes into my view at I-59 and 288. What purpose does it serve to show an ad with a bloody, decapitated animal? I am not a crazy animal rights activist, but your billboard is very offensive to me and my co-worker. Surely you people can develop advertising that does not alienate your readers! It seems that the Press is advertising for some group that advocates animal cruelty. Does the Press advocate cruelty toward animals? Perhaps you can eliminate the offensive advertisement.
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Editor's note: The horse, as best we can determine, was already dead when he posed for our advertisement.
Best Best (Lighting Not Included)
I thoroughly enjoyed your issue on the best in Houston. ["Best of Houston 1996," September 19]. Mainly, I thought the "Best Theater Company" item was very accurate. The Press rated Theatre LaB as the best theater in town, and I totally agree. It is great to see a smaller theater doing such exciting productions as Passion and Poor Super Man, and both were quite good. My only problem with the theater is that the parking area, while secure, is too small, and I feel a bigger, well-lighted area would be safer for the theater's patrons and their cars. I hope the owner of the theater finds a solution to the parking problem and that he accommodates all the people I am sure will come to discover that Theater LaB is the "best" theater in Houston.