Ellis Pickett wants to be clear: Neither he nor the Surfrider Foundation acts out of bloodlust to see private property owners hurt. But the Open Beaches Act says what it says, and when the conflict comes down to private property interests vs. the long-held public rights of every Texas citizen, the law should win out. Property owners are already making themselves heard. The public needs to do the same.
"The public," says Babe Schwartz, "ought to be upset with the attorney general's office for not pursuing these violations with deliberate speed." But the Texas attorney general's office is only one enforcement option for the Open Beaches Act. Local district attorneys are equally empowered to bring charges against violators, and Schwartz thinks the General Land Office should be asking district attorneys to do just that.
Alternately, "The Ellis Picketts of the world and the public who pay attention to what's happening on the beach, and I'm one of them, are going to have to start going down on a piece-by-piece basis, taking pictures of the septic tank problems and the open beach problems, the litter problem, the denial of beach access problem, experience that problem ourselves, or take pictures of people experiencing that problem, and then we have to go to the D.A. and file the charges against those people as an injured party. That's the individual way it could be done by a thousand people. Surfrider has 600 members in Texas. Every one of them ought to file a complaint with a district attorney somewhere. Now if a hundred people filed a hundred complaints and the D.A. turned them down, what do you think the D.A.'s got on his hands the next time he runs for office? He'd have an opponent with an issue."
The district attorney for Brazoria County, which includes Surfside, is Jeri Yenne, (979)864-1230. Galveston County's district attorney is Michael J. Guarino II, (409)766-2355). Beachgoers who wish to file injured-party charges may also do so in their home counties. In Harris County, District Attorney John Holmes's office can be reached at (713)755-5800. In Dallas County, D.A. Bill Hill's office number is (214)653-3600.
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General Land Office Commissioner David Dewhurst invites public input on the question of "reopening debate" on the Open Beaches Act. Dewhurst may be contacted by phone at (512)463-5001 or via e-mail at email@example.com. Attorney General John Cornyn invites comment, at (512)463-2100, or firstname.lastname@example.org.