Letters 07-27-2000

Beach and Learn

As a lawyer, I represented a number of property owners, including John Arrington, in lawsuits, both as defendants and as plaintiffs, against the state's efforts to enforce the Open Beaches Act ["This Sand Is Your Sand," by Brad Tyer, July 13]. The events of that litigation might shed some light on the present enforcement policy of the attorney general.

After Hurricane Alicia moved the vegetation line back behind people's homes, we contended that it happened not from erosion but because Alicia was an avulsion, a dramatic temporary event that changed the property boundaries.

We argued that all of the beach's features except the vegetation line had recovered after Alicia and therefore some time had to elapse until the true vegetation line could be determined.

This argument lost until a federal lawsuit was filed and Judge Lynn Hughes agreed.

This decision was overturned on appeal on a procedural issue, then the policy was changed and property owners were given some time to determine the true location of the vegetation line. This was especially the case after Tropical Storm Frances, which occurred in the last year of Dan Morales's AG term.

The difference now is that we know that in the vast majority of cases, the vegetation line has in fact moved and has not relocated to its original spot prior to Frances. Frances, for some reason, was not an avulsive event but an erosive one. All efforts to move the vegetation line seaward have failed. It appears that following Frances, the various topographical features of the beach have moved landward and thus so has the vegetation line.

The bottom line is that beach engineering is a modern version of alchemy. It doesn't work, but people buy into trying it to preserve their property. The ocean is nature's most powerful erosive force, and if it's going to take your beach, you can't stop it -- period.

The only alternative is to prevent further development. Galveston's city limits extend to the entire island, except Jamaica Beach. Galveston can no longer issue building permits for such homes, and laws should be passed that prevent such property owners from transferring their property by either sale or probate.

While these limitations will undoubtedly cost money because the government action is in effect a taking of property, it is not as much as you might think. Remember that you are not buying land in perpetuity as you would any other piece of property. You are buying land with a maximum period of enjoyment of around 50 to 60 years. In other words, it is a long-term lease, and like most such leases, it doesn't cost as much to buy it out. It is far cheaper to restrict development and the private sale or transfer of property than it is to engage in the kind of beach engineering contemplated by most property owners.

I think your article highlighted most Open Beaches Act problems well. Thanks for the insight.

Mike Charlton

I enjoyed your article on the Open Beaches Act, but you were way too kind to the beach property owners. These people purchased their property well aware of the obvious problem: the ocean. Now that nature has done what it does best (change things), they want the government to bail them out, or in the alternative, move their problem to the next beach community.

After reading your article, I found myself longing for an attorney general like the thoroughly obnoxious Jim Mattox. Old Jim would have taken care of this situation quickly, and you can be sure the owners of the structures would have paid for the houses' removal.

I was appalled on my first day trip to Surfside. The filth and clutter was unbelievable. If the people of Surfside feel they are being harassed by outsiders, perhaps they should take a step back and smell their beach. The place is a toxic waste dump.

American taxpayers subsidize flood insurance on beach houses. I have no problem with someone living near the ocean, but why should I help support this lifestyle through my tax dollars?

Mike Bentley
Sugar Land

As to Surfside, who is more right? The person who protects his property with bulkheads, or the Corps of Engineers who moved the mouth of the Brazos? I have heard from several informed sources that the moving of the Brazos is the sole cause for the erosion problems at Surfside.

Is it okay to bulkhead Galveston Island (with the seawall) and refurbish sand there and forbid others to do the same? Why don't you spend a moment and inform yourself of the true cause of erosion.

Saving Texas beaches makes economic sense way beyond the 100, more or less, homes currently affected by erosion. Try for some balance, please.

Larry Kelly

Bugged by the Bug

Although your article "Cassandra's Revenge" [Insider, by Tim Fleck, July 6] was intended to slam good unions and a good Allied Printing Trades Council, we have received many calls of support and offers of assistance from current and former members and employees of Texas Printing. The article is one-sided, inaccurate and starts in the middle.

Texas Printing had multiple complaints of noncompliance with both CWA and GCU 71-M collective bargaining agreements. When the Allied committee attempted to approach the management with questions and solutions, it was met with hostility and noncompliance of the License Agreement. This caused Texas Printing to lose the right to print using the Allied label. Ms. Washington's "appeals" were demands and ultimatums, not appeals.

Texas Printing has a history of denying employees required health and pension benefits and not timely submitting dues withheld from their pay. The company was suspended, meaning no union members were working there. One requirement to having the Allied label is that work must be produced only by union members.

Texas Printing violated copyright law by continuing to the print the Allied label even after the license was revoked.

The "manifestos" produced by Texas Printing are verifiably full of feeble attempts at claiming racism and are filled with innuendos, half-truths and out-and-out lies. The results of this attempt to discredit the organizations did not work, so contracts were made with sign painters out of Dallas. The legality of this is being checked, and its "bug" is not acknowledged by Allied Printing Trades. I can only hope that the people of Houston and the people buying union printing recognize the difference and continue to buy from the good union printers using the Allied bug.

Robert Weeks, GCU 71-M proud member

Memory Lane

Thank you for the continuing alerts concerning the disappearance of important historical and cultural landmarks of Houston ["Renovated Out of Existence," by Brian Wallstin, July 6].

As a former West U teenager who listened to the likes of KYOK and KCOH in the '50s, thanks to my brother's influence, I still enjoy the memories of Hotsy Totsy's and The King Bee's radio shows.

Several times a year I drive through the wards and cherish the rich heritage revealed, while wondering how this city has allowed them to fall into threadbare tatters. Where are those multimillionaires in their fine homes in Sugar Land? How can they let this happen! Don't they want to hold on to and restore these works of truly human art for themselves and their children?

We all need to help before the beauty of these people's lives and all they have accomplished has been covered over by high-rent tributes to money, money, money.

Freedmen's Town especially, with its narrow brick pavements, should become a parklike space for the residents to enjoy, not just endure. An all-out restoration effort would benefit this city immensely.

With everyone's renewed interest in their own history and the history of place, Freedmen's Town is a tourist attraction for all. Maybe the residents won't mind too much if their homes get badly needed repairs, a cheerful coat of paint and funds to further improve that precious place for its rightful heirs.

Judy Emerson

Hail Mary

The Night & Day calendar listing [July 13] for a debate called The Bible Only vs. The Bible and Catholic Tradition was a sad attempt at humor: "In the red corner, weighing in at just under 180 pounds after a wafer and a thimble of wine, undisputed chairman of his division at the Theology Department at the University of St. Thomas…."

This mocks the Holy Eucharist, which is at the center of Catholic faith and practice. Before dismissing this complaint as a cranky cavil at lighthearted humor, first try to imagine this paper mocking the holocaust or Dr. Martin Luther King. I don't think that would happen, but anti-Catholic humor remains the last publicly acceptable bigotry. Maybe it's time to stop.

Martin Notzon

Warmed-Over Musings

I always enjoy your restaurant reviews, but this one made me do a double take ["A New York Time," by Carol Rust, June 29]. The "Jewish country-and-western songs" Carol Rust's friend related while waiting for their food are from an Internet humor list for which I'm a contributor.

This is not the first time our material has spread beyond the Internet. Vice President Al Gore has shared items from this same list, and entries have been reported by networks and national press.

If you're interested in a daily dose of humor, check us out at www.topfive.com.

Doug Finney

Sheesh Kabob

Man, George Alexander sure knows how to turn the subject of food into a boring exercise in pompousness ["The Food Chain," July 13]. Where do you find these people? I couldn't be more put off by his writing style.

I am happy that he did well on the SATs, but no one wants to see the word "fulgor" or a mention of "cloudlets of near Proustian nostalgia" in one's weekly rag. Find another outlet for all those high-dollar words, George. Sheesh!

Roger A. Rippy

Ezra's Write-in Campaign

I couldn't help but notice y'all left Ezra Charles off the nominations list for the Press Music Awards [July 13]. Thanks and God bless. Perhaps if we continue to ignore the jackass, he will go away.

And by the way, who was holding a gun to that poor guy's head at the Bookstop ["Midnight Fire," by Wendy Grossman, July 13]? Why in the world would a kid his age dress up as Harry Potter? If he is still in high school, you can bet he is taking a beating a day. Someone needs to investigate Bookstop for unfair (if not cruel) labor practices.


Luke Giles

Age Rage

I want to complain about the advertisements for the Houston Press Music Awards shows in downtown Houston on July 16. I bought and paid for a wristband as described in countless radio and newsprint ads. However, I did not learn that almost all venues would be only for those age 21 and up until the moment I walked into The Mercantile.

Every one of the ads I had seen and heard had somehow neglected to mention this very important detail. I was denied entrance to the performance, even though I had followed every instruction given by the Houston Press, and was not able to see the performer I had come for. I did manage to discover that there were only two venues that would allow me in, and I did attend one of those performances.

I feel like I was tricked into buying a ticket to something I was not eligible for, and this has greatly decreased my opinion of the newspaper and Music Awards festival. I hope that this input will enable the Press to make clear announcements about future events and perhaps open up the events it sponsors to people who are not minors, but who are not able to buy alcohol yet.

Emily Cunningham

Editor's note: The Press advised readers of the age restrictions. The full-page promotions included a notice about the age limitations as well as a listing of the three venues for the "all ages shows." Those pages also marked the all-ages shows with asterisks and a footnote. Still, we regret that you had a bad experience.

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