Mow Down the Lawn Art
The fact is that in Houston deed restrictions are about all we have to keep our communities presentable ["The Mad Hatter vs. the Homeowners Association," by Jennifer Mathieu, April 1]. Remember: Some very well funded real estate interests have managed to defeat zoning every time out of the box.

Dr. Patt seems like a very concerned citizen, and I have a certain amount of sympathy for him and his position. Art, however, is very subjective. One man's Monet is another man's piece of crap.

If I want to see controversial artwork or leftover miniature golf props, there are places I can go to see them voluntarily. If I lived on Dr. Patt's street, I'd have to see them every day, like it or not. And if I should find it difficult to sell my house because of the lawn art next door, does that infringe upon my rights as a homeowner?

Dr. Patt now has a "cause" for which he can climb on a soapbox. His neighbors aren't "enlightened" enough to appreciate his "vision." This comes across as somewhat juvenile selfishness.

Dean Newton
via Internet

Taste and Waste
Deed restrictions are imposed on property before you purchase it, and if you don't want to live by the rules as established by the deed restrictions, perhaps you should find an alternative location to live.

There is no accounting for taste, but the deed restrictions should have nothing to do with taste. If Patt is not in violation of the deed restrictions and the community just doesn't think he fits in, then they are wasting time and possibly association money. You can't select your neighbors, but in a deed-restricted community, you can be assured of the things they will be permitted to do.

Protect the property values!
Pam Bailey
via Internet

Getting Exercised
As a board member of my homeowners association, I believe everyone should have the right to freedom of expression and the right to "improve" the looks of their front lawn.

But as a home owner with a $1,300 monthly mortgage, if the Mad Hatter moves on my street and puts his ten-foot bear in his yard, I'm going to kick his ass!

Thank you for letting me exercise my freedom of speech.
John R. Cobarruvias
via Internet

Go Carts
My husband and I recently shared a rare lunch together downtown (we both work outside the Loop). As we headed to an expensive sit-down restaurant, I asked him if Houston had street vendors ["Pushed Around," by Kimberly Reeves, April 1]. We're from New York, where pushcarts are as common to a street corner as the crosswalk signal.

I remember my mother's excitement at getting a "dirty old hot dog" beneath a yellow Sabaret's umbrella. There are some things -- praline nuts, a pretzel with mustard, a dog with sauerkraut -- you just can't get in a restaurant.

Restaurant owners shouldn't worry if I'm spending $2 on the street. They weren't going to get my business anyway, unless they planned on selling me half a tuna sandwich for that much. Give Mr. Lynch a break.

Name withheld by request
via Internet

Pulling for the Pushcart
Everyone who works downtown ought to visit Mark Lynch's cart at least once for the next two weeks, just to help this man out. Maybe he can sell Joe Roach wienie dogs for $1.

R. Young
via Internet

Good Call
Congratulations to Bob Burtman and the Press on another craftsmanlike job in your coverage of the demise of BCI ["Disconnected," April 1]. As one who was along on the ride -- and then the slide, I thought Bob's reporting was right on target. It's sad to think of what could have been.

Steven Long
via Internet

Telling Tale
Good story on BCI and Edwards. It's a story that needed to be told.
Greg Hahn
via Internet

I can't tell you how pleased I was by your two TAAS articles ["The Fix Is In," "Adding It All Up," by Shaila Dewan, February 28, March 4], even though they kept me awake at night. You gathered so much factual material; you have such a great way of reporting the education bureaucrats' denial; you add just the right amount of human interest to show that this is not just a theoretical issue. I just wish that somehow you could reach a larger audience.

Hilary Smith
via Internet

Taking HISD to TAAS
Being a first-year HISD teacher, I was intrigued by your cover story "The Fix Is In." I was prepared for another teacher-bashing, Wayne Dolcefino-type news story, but I was pleasantly surprised to find myself agreeing with many of Shaila Dewan's well-written points.

I wanted to teach the often-overlooked and underprivileged inner-city children. However, all HISD is concerned about are the TAAS scores. Why are these test scores so much more important than a child's future? The answer: money.

And in reference to Governor Bush's grand stand against social promotion, what a joke! He has offered no strategies, or the funds needed, to really give these students what they need in order to succeed.

What they need is more one-on-one attention. Parents need to be more involved in what their children are learning, and they too need to be educated about TAAS and what it represents.

Name withheld by request
via Internet

Minorities + Vouchers = Learning
Your articles are an outstanding public service. I've spoken to parents who tell me that public school is too hard. Yet, as you point out, the questions are often simple arithmetic. Even my prekindergarten five-year-old can calculate 5-2 = 3. Will it take him another 13 years to learn that 32-8 = 24?

The poor, many of whom are minority, suffer the most from the lie that our children are being educated. The rich already send their kids to private school.

For all those who argue against a voucher system, how could we do any worse? The most logical approach would be for HISD to rent space in public school buildings to private schools.

John Flato
via Internet

Paige Boys
Thank you for your article about Don McAdams [Insider, by Tim Fleck, March 4]. It put into rather chilling words the atmosphere I've sensed around the district for some time now. My gut feeling has been that a small cadre of people (primarily McAdams, Cathy Mincberg, Terry Abbott, Harold Hooks, Al Haines and Rob Mosbacher) have been running the district as they -- and only they -- see fit.

The policy of board approval of administrative appointments was changed to give Paige total power to appoint and set salaries. A few minority board members cried foul, but I'm told they were strong-armed pretty good by the downtown types.

The biggest spoils of today's HISD's self-interest, politics and cronyism go to corporate "partners" which make big bucks off district contracts and provide service that is not only more expensive but also less efficient.

People in high places who think they have all the answers to impose on everyone are not just patronizing snobs, they are ultimately scary and very dangerous.

Not that your shedding light or my venting will change anything, particularly with Paige's new contract and board members simply falling all over themselves to praise him as the best superintendent since, well, ever.

Name withheld by request
via Internet

Out of Bounds
Don McAdams may have been bluntly correct when he suggested that, under the current districting plans, many local politicians have "a political incentive to champion ethnic interests."

The HISD district boundaries are distorted by the effort to corral Hispanics into separate districts from blacks and to keep whites out of minority districts. White folks in Lazybrook and northwest Houston are linked to a white district centered on River Oaks and Memorial. Blacks in Acres Homes are linked over to join blacks in Fifth Ward, thus avoiding Hispanics on the north side. This is precisely the sort of racial representation that the Supreme Court has recently criticized.

Douglas E. Markham
via Internet

Hand Over the Keys
Very good article on the Internet campaign-finance reports (or lack thereof) ["Contributing Factors," by Stuart Eskenazi, March 11]. You guys are definitely hitting the hot button! Expansion of this material could lead to Pulitzer Prizus Majoris.

But you totally missed the point in the Judge Eckels speech [Insider, by Tim Fleck, March 4]. For once in the entire political history of this city, someone (the county judge, no less) has the courage to speak up about campaign-finance criticism. And all the media gives is time to the wannabes who help perpetuate this bogus system.

You can do better than that. You're supposed to be the freedom-fighting brigade.

This guy you have, Richard Connelly, is he a breakthrough journalist or what? Whatever you are paying him, you need to double it immediately. A new car might also help him to concentrate better.

When I pick up my Houston Press, his column will be the first page I turn to (right after I read This Modern World).

Kel Roberts

Sorry State
Regarding your article on Chris Boone ["Fire Alarm," by Wendy Grossman, March 18], just wanted to commend you and the Press for exposing Mr. Boone's employer as a bigot. His defense of Mr. Boone's experiences was laughable at best. Just another intolerant good ol' boy in a state full of the same. We need a lot more people like Chris Boone and a lot fewer people like his boss.

Jennifer B. Hoff
via Internet

Boone Backer
I salute Mr. Boone for his courage in standing up to some ignorant people in Houston. When will we learn that sexual orientation, religion and gender do not matter on the job?

Please keep your morale up, Mr. Boone. Not everyone is like these people.
Nora Cantrell
via Internet

Make It the Law
Thanks to Wendy Grossman for her well-written article on sexual harassment.
Unfortunately, as a board member of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, I'm not shocked by such allegations. The NGLTF hears every day from innocent people who have been harassed on the job and in many cases fired only because of their sexual identity. Chris Boone's horrible experience is yet another example of why the work of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is so important. It also illustrates why we need hate-crime laws as well as civil-rights laws that ban discrimination on the basis of sexual identity.

We've come a long way as a society, and we obviously have a long way to go to achieve freedom, justice and equality for all people. Thanks to the Houston Press for continuing to point that out.

Clarence Bagby
via Internet

Concrete Solution
I read with great interest the letter titled "Running Off" [Letters, March 4] regarding Brian Wallstin's story ["Inner-city Shoot-Out," February 4].

A February 16 civic forum sponsored by the Rice Design Alliance was an excellent awakening for me regarding what is going on in my neighborhood. I was deeply offended by Robert Litke, city director of planning and development. When asked about permeability (the runoff of rain water), he said something like that he grew up playing stickball in the streets of New York and, in doing so, developed a real fondness for concrete. In fact, he liked it better than grass!

He also made a remark about the lack of or little permeability (storm runoff) that we were getting -- take it or leave it. In short, my interpretation was tough s--! I was offended by him, and I find it appalling that this man seems to be making plans for our (my) hometown with reckless disregard to its past, present and future. Thanks for the great story and the forum you offer with the letters!

Judy Kugle
via Internet

Burn the Negatives
I thought the "City Pork Project" article [by Brian Wallstin, March 11] was an unfair hatchet job.

The fact that a major thoroughfare will be extended earlier than the City of Houston otherwise planned does not rise to the level of even a minor conspiracy, and it does not warrant the negative tone of the article or the negative comments about the developer. Mr. Wallstin's technique of finding a strident tax protester and writing down his most negative comments is not balanced journalism.

I know from first-hand experience that the developer's attorney, Mr. Rackleff, is a very honest and capable lawyer who is genuinely concerned about ethics and helping developers build projects which are beneficial to the community. Mr. Rackleff attended a community meeting and voluntarily answered questions from an "angry mob" of residents. This should have been commended and not attacked. Positive comments about the development from residents should also have been included in the article.

Jeff Gilman

Brian Wallstin responds: I was at the February 24 community meeting (and even watched a videotape of it later) and did not see Mr. Gilman in attendance. At the meeting, Rackleff read a statement written by client Greg Baxter, then he announced that he would not be taking questions. And he didn't. Baxter may have found that "commendable." Everyone else thought it was a waste of time.

Bad Spell
As long as you are going to make a regular feature out of attacking Neal Rackleff, the very least you could do is pay him the courtesy of spelling his name correctly! His first name is Neal, not Neil (as you have reported on at least two occasions).

At least you avoided the obvious blooper of referring to him as Ratliff or Ratcliff or Raglaff or half a dozen other common misspellings he has had to contend with.

Dave Green
via Internet

In the Hunt
In the article "Biggest Game in Town" [by Brad Tyer, February 11], you stated that there were no "good guys." You have chosen to judge these people on the basis of good or bad, when you have no idea who they are.

Granted, I as a mother would never have allowed my children to go off hunting a tiger. But maybe these people were a little excited about an escaped tiger. It's Cut and Shoot, and I'm sure not a lot happens there. The only clear-cut "bad guy" would be the parole officer, who sounds like a real bitch!

The clear victims, of course, were the tigers. I wish they had used tranquilizer guns as opposed to shotguns, but then I wasn't there, and neither were my children.

Angela Crary
via Internet

That's the Gospel
A word of warning to Lone Star Spirits ["Kindred Spirits," by Wendy Grossman, March 4]. All departed spirits of men are in either Heaven or Hell. The only spirits outside flesh bodies on Earth are the Holy Ghost, angels and demons.

What you guys are encountering are demons. I know it's not "politically correct" to say this, but the Spirit realm is very real and not to be played with. If you continue seeking these manifestations, you will be destroyed and end up in a very real place called Hell. You have been warned.

You wanna see a ghost? Seek the Holy Ghost.
Greg Babineaux

Pick Me Up
I am not sure which of the articles in the March 11 Press I enjoyed the most. Your News Hostage column is the reason I started picking it back up again.

Tom Tuttle
via Internet

Those Demons at Play?
Great article [Insider, by Tim Fleck, February 25]! Thank you for printing an accurate account of the trial that fate had deemed was never going to end, but, as fate is often fickle, it did. It was amazing to see the most honest of therapists, doctors and administrators, as well as the most dedicated of individuals, be indicted by a Houston grand jury.

By the time the trial ended, none of the government trial witnesses admitted going before the grand jury. One wonders where the government got its information to pursue such an indictment. Perhaps it came from plaintiffs' attorneys callously eager for us to be imprisoned so that their nests could be feathered with yet more malpractice suits against caring, compassionate and competent health-care providers!

Gloria T. Keraga, M.D.
via Internet

Poetry in Motion
Expand your verse!
So. You think you're a poet.
Now's your chance to prove it.

April, sometimes referred to as "the cruelest month," is also, by sheer coincidence, National Poetry Month, and we're celebrating by having the first ever Houston Press National Poetry Month Contest.

Enter and win a prize, to be announced, as well as publication in the Press. First-, second- and third-place winners will be spotlighted, as will other noteworthy poems received, if space allows. There is no entry fee.

Here are the rules:
There are no subject, topic or form restrictions for the poems. Rhyme, free verse, sonnet, sestina, haiku, we don't care. Just make it good. (Hint: Walt Whitman, good; Jewel, bad.)

Poems must be the sole property of the person entering them and must be previously unpublished; plagiarism is obviously prohibited.

Poems must be typed and double-spaced and can be no longer than two typed, double-spaced pages (approximately 400 words).

Each entrant may submit only one poem.
Deadline: 5 p.m. April 19.
Publication date: April 29.
Your poem will be judged by editors and staff writers at the Houston Press.
No poems will be returned; do not send us your only copy.

Send typewritten copy to: Poetry Contest, Houston Press, 1621 Milam, Suite 100, Houston, TX 77006, attn. Kirsten Bubier.

Include a cover sheet with your name, the title of your poem, and your address and telephone number for verification. Or e-mail it, along with all of the above information, to feedback@houstonpress.com with "Poetry Contest" in the subject header.

No phone calls, please.


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