I read with interest the article Brian Wallstin wrote regarding Helen Huey ["Hammerin' Helen," August 25]. That article proves the old adage that a little knowledge is, if not dangerous, at least misleading.
The primary problem with the article is that Mr. Wallstin has no idea of the magnitude of the problem regarding the numbers of uninhabitable (by human standards) and dangerous buildings within the city of Houston that are actually occupied. The Neighborhood Planning and Protection Committee, chaired by Councilmember Huey, grew out of the Nuisance Task Force, which evolved from broad-based citizen concerns for substandard rental properties throughout the city of Houston (and not just the Spring Branch area).
The Task Force determined that a substantial number of landlords were taking advantage of less educated and poor people and were leasing (at high rental rates) residences which were not fit for occupancy. These landlords knew that under the then existing situation that they could get by with providing substandard housing.
This writer, in particular, noticed that Houston did not have a comprehensive ordinance dealing with maintaining minimum building standards. In checking around, I found that Dallas has such a minimum building-standards ordinance. I secured a copy of that ordinance and distributed it to Councilmember Huey and other members of the Nuisance Task Force. That ordinance served as a starting point for the city of Houston's CURB Ordinance, which was drafted to address Houston's unique requirements. The CURB Ordinance was passed after public hearings in which the needs of residents of the city as a whole were addressed. In passing the CURB Ordinance, the city of Houston was just playing catch-up.
Helen Huey and the other councilmembers on the Neighborhood Planning and Protection Committee, as well as the citizens and government representatives who regularly attend meetings of this committee, are to be complimented on the time they have spent to take coordinated steps to enhance the quality of life for all citizens of Houston, not just the wealthy.
These are the issues that are involved; not the simple picture that was painted by Mr. Wallstin.
Since I began working with the Citizens' Housing Coalition, I have seen the handiwork of the CURB ordinance, and it is an appalling grab for land without compensation to the owners. For those who own property but have very limited funds, the result is often demolition of the building, a lien on the property and eventual abandonment (reverting the property to the city). The supply of housing for renters is declining.
But do not think the bell won't toll for thee, for open compost piles are forbidden (forget what the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission says), as is outside storage of building materials (even if you're working on your house). Don't pile up branches in your yard or you're liable to get a warning, but don't put them at the curb unless trash collection is imminent because another city ordinance will get you.
By the way, it is very true that Ms. Huey is unusually sensitive to criticism for a public official, which I can attest to personally. In our only meeting, she launched into a diatribe about what she considered personal attacks by the Citizens' Housing Coalition and unspecified others. I was surprised at her vehemence, for at that time, I had not heard anything about her that could be construed as personal.
I have never spoken ill of her, because, no matter how power-grubbing and disingenuous she may appear to be (I'm being very careful here), remember that the vote on the CURB ordinance was unanimous.
People who want to use the power of the government to their own advantage cannot do so without a little help from their friends.
Secretary, Citizens' Housing Coalition
Beat It, Brad
Attention Brad Tyer: it really shouldn't surprise me that your critique of Lollapalooza [Music, "Alternative Notion," August 25] is totally off. After all, Houston boasts one of the lamest music scenes in the country. Obviously, the fucking idiots who live here, void of any musical palate whatsoever, are the cause of this disastrous soundworld (and yes, you are included in that bunch).
Anyone who can miss one of the best bands of the concert (Green Day), completely dismiss the top-quality show put on by the Beastie Boys and devote the rest of the article to indirectly bashing anyone with (gasp) the gall to find something worthwhile in the music of the Smashing Pumpkins has to be a Houstonian. You nose-picking yuppie, just stay at home next time and philosophize about the generation you live in instead of ours. Don't tell me you belong to our decade, because I just can't believe you.
When the highlights of Lollapalooza are bashing the crowd that comes to the show and sniffing the secondhand pot, something's wrong. You were probably one of those tame-asses who stood at the back and tapped your foot to the beat. Mr. Tyer, my advice to you is, next year, just don't go. You're a drag!
No Beating, Steve
In your article on HPD Chief Sam Nuchia ["Understanding Sam," August 18], Steve McVicker throws out the old canard that the disturbance at "Gate 4" is somehow related to Chief Nuchia and his policies.
As one of only two people who had an unobstructed and unbiased view of the entire situation (from the top of a two-story building located at the confrontation point), it was apparent that the HPD officers were goaded beyond endurance -- they were bombarded by pieces of the wooden barricades, filled bottles of water thrown, burning signs and other objects. The response of the mounted and foot officers was measured, albeit late.
The fracas, filmed by KTRK, did not show the use of excessive force, and in spite of the incessant aggrieved posturing put on by ACT-UP afterwards, they could never prove that any unnecessary force occurred.
HPD did not initiate the "Gate 4" incident; they had to respond to a bunch of agitators who were only looking for a confrontation and becoming out of control. They looked for an incident, they found it and they lost. I was there; Steve couldn't have seen it, and his comment is not justified in this context.
Eric A. Orzeck, M.D.
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