The Fort Bend Parkway Toll Road (Other potential names: the Fort Bend Street Avenue and the Fort Bend Boulevard Highway), which connects Highway 6 and Beltway 8, has been open a little less than four years.
During that time, drivers have had the choice of either paying via an E-Z Tag or plunking a dollar's worth of change into the basket at a tollbooth.
Come this spring, though, it'll be E-Z Tag only. Why? Because the villainous scum who live in Fort Bend can't be trusted to pay the tolls. At an alarming rate, they've been happily skipping through the booths for free, ripping off the tollway authority — not to mention those (apparently idiotically naive) drivers who fork over a buck.
How is this possible? Because the Fort Bend road, a mom-and-pop operation compared to the Harris County Toll Road Authority's Wal-Mart, can't really stop anyone from not paying.
"The violation rate has been extremely high," says FBCTRA spokesman Bill Jameson. "We don't have full gates [at the booths] because it's not a manned booth, and if someone gets stuck there for any reason — for a malfunction, say — they wouldn't have any way of getting through the lane."
The people who have been happily skipping through, however, are not the victims of malfunctioning machinery.
"There's not much question it ain't broke; it's just people violating," says Jameson, with a sigh that carries the lost innocence of one who has seen his faith in human nature shaken to the core.
Having video surveillance is too costly and ineffective, he says ("On video, it's very hard to discern whether it's a malfunctioning gate or people actually not putting in money"); so is the option of manned booths, since the facilities were built without air-conditioning or restrooms.
He says the tollway authority always planned, at some point, to go E-Z Tag only. The process has simply been moved up because of the rampant violations.
You thieves out there better crank it up — you have only until the end of March or so before the cash option (such as it is) is taken away.
Until then, we guess, keep on sticking it to The Man, you outlaws, you.
No Such Thing as Bad Publicity
Most people around the country don't give much thought to the Spring school district. To be honest, not too many people around these parts do, either.
But when people think of Spring ISD these days, they think mostly of one thing: randy female teachers getting it on with their students.
Shannon Hrozek, 42, was recently arrested after she was discovered going down on a 16-year-old student of hers. She was the second female in three months to be found having sex with a kid.
Males all over America, when these stories get posted to Fark or a message board, automatically do the following: 1) Find a mugshot of the accused teacher; 2) Discuss her relative hotness or lack thereof; and 3) remember for a long time any district where these things happen often.
Spring ISD spokeswoman Karen Garrison says the district doesn't regret its decision to aggressively publicize the incidents.
"Of course we've gotten a lot of media coverage," she says, "but we are committed to weeding out this kind of behavior. So even though it's painful right now to deal with all the media attention, we think we are doing the right thing."
Even if it results in messageboard headlines like "School Says It Won't Molest Your Kids, Much"?
"We're even in the process of looking if there are additional ways to make [reporting incidents anonymously] more accessible to students and staff," she says. "And when we hear of those things we are going to conduct a thorough investigation and, if need be, we will expose it."
Noble, to be sure. But cross your fingers, Spring ISD: remember, three strikes and your reputation is set for life.
In a tone that might have been sad, might have been enormously relieved, KHOU announced recently that Whitney Casey would no longer host Great Day Houston. Casey is leaving in order to write a book.
Shocking news — not that she's leaving, but that she's going to write a book. For months now Houstonians have been reveling in the incoherent babbling of "Relationships With Whit," a column she's been doing for the Houston Chronicle.
Anyone who's read the column would find it hard to believe a book deal could come from it; on the other hand, the book will be titled Manopoly, which is precisely the sort of horribly strained punning that she feels passes for entertaining writing. We're sure the book will be filled with dubious press-release surveys on male-female relationships and self-serving quotes from publicity-hound doctors and lifestyle consultants.
We just hope it lives up to the gems we've enjoyed from the column, like: "Another famous forgiver — Elizabeth Hurley. When beau Hugh Grant was caught with a Hollywood prostitute in '95 she 'Divinely' stood by her man (The prostitute's name was Divine Brown.)" There's nothing like cracking a lame joke and then explaining it.
Or then there's Casey's maniacally zealous compulsion to drive every metaphor into the ground, and then some: "Finally, sinning is always a gamble. Just ask former Republican activist and virtue magnate William Bennett, who admitted to a gambling habit that cost his family millions. His luck was a lady, though: His wife stayed with him even after he 'folded.'"
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In a fawning profile that accompanied the debut column, Chron writer Clifford Pugh wrote that "Casey reveres the written word."
Lord. We'd hate to see what her writing would look like if she didn't.
Feeling a Bit Rusty
Legendary local attorney Rusty Hardin, never far from the headlines, is in the spotlight once again. Hes representing Roger Clemens, who is either being slandered about whether he used performance-enhancing drugs or wildly painting himself into a corner by vehemently denying he ever did so. How does the Rocket stack up with others whove dealt with Rusty in the courtroom?