Ode to Joel
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I am mortified that Texas Monthly would choose the cover heading “And on the eighth day, God created Joel Osteen” [“Prime Minister,” August 2005]. While Joel Osteen delivers a feel-good message and may be a good businessman, please reacquaint yourselves with Genesis, chapter one, of the Holy Bible—any version.
Osteen’s genius is that he distinguishes himself from the you-are-with-us-or-against-us form of Christianity espoused by many in the evangelical movement. Instead, Osteen’s sermons are based on the core American belief that if you want to improve your lot in life, you alone have the power to do so. In this respect, Osteen is simply repeating what well-known motivational speakers have been telling us for decades. A lot of these ideas have biblical roots, but more than anything, they are ideas that define the American experience.
The good news is that Paul Burka is thinking about ways to fix Texas [“Ten Ways to Fix Texas,” August 2005]. The bad news is that Paul immediately wants to collect more taxes with a personal income tax. To his credit, he mentions that the law requires that two thirds of the revenue from a personal income tax must go toward the reduction of school property taxes and the other third to education. But the truth is that this system has not worked in any state. Increasing taxes only creates more of a burden on businesses and citizens.
Burka’s wishing for increased spending by our school districts while also complaining about the school property tax elevates him to a politician’s mentality. The school voucher system is what we need to clean up the education fiasco.
I’d love to live in the Texas you referenced in “Ten Ways to Fix Texas.” Number four, boosting teachers’ salaries, is a great idea. The only problem is that the figure you quoted for starting teachers’ salaries in Texas—$31,874—was incorrect. That may be the state average, but it certainly isn’t the starting salary for a teacher in Texas. That figure is more like $24,240, for the 2004–2005 calendar year. I do appreciate Texas Monthly’s writers for being on the side of teacher raises. I guess it shows that the classroom teachers of your journalists did something right.
Paul Burka responds: You are correct. The figure we used should have been identified as the average starting salary for Texas’s teachers.
Texas Monthly’s illustration for “Borderline Insanity” [August 2005] is shameful and deplorable. The artwork you chose to accompany the article does not address the subject matter. Instead, it is a manipulative compilation of graphics that distastefully attempt to arouse a reaction of horror. What is most perplexing is that Jeff Soto would choose to identify those images with the name of Laredo, Texas. If the story deals with the violence being inflicted on Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, then the illustration’s tagline of “Laredo, Texas” is either misleading or simply inaccurate.
Reporting on the alarming violence across the border is relevant and justifiable. The implication that both sides of the border deserve the same depiction is very disappointing for a publication of your caliber.
Laredoans are affected and concerned about the events in Nuevo Laredo; however, as fellow Texans, we are shocked at the decision to use that inflammatory image. It suggests a complete disregard for the reality of Laredo—a city located in the state whose name you so proudly bear.
Patricia L. Taylor
City of Laredo Convention and Visitors Bureau
Editor’s Note: The badge in the illustration should have been labeled “Nuevo Laredo,” not “Laredo.” We regret the error.
I was disappointed that Patricia Kilday Hart’s article “Home Buyer Beware” [August 2005] did not discuss the many positive aspects of the Texas Residential Construction Commission. The TRCC was created to put in place a quick, efficient process for homeowners and homebuilders to resolve their construction-defect disputes. Before the creation of the TRCC, the state of Texas was without an agency supervising the building industry. Lawyers, doctors, and numerous other professions have regulatory bodies protecting consumers from misconduct, but the residential homebuilders and remodelers remained free from oversight. With the creation of the TRCC, Texas consumers now have a dedicated governmental entity charged with protecting their rights. Moreover, it costs the taxpayers nothing, as the commission is 100 percent funded by homebuilder registrations and fees.
Both the legislators and the reputable homebuilders of the state of Texas recognized the need for real consumer-oriented safeguards, and the Legislature responded by creating the TRCC. Though the commission is still a work in progress, just like any other newly formed government entity, Texas home buyers are safer now than ever before.
Chris E. Ryman
Your story about the sweetheart deal the homebuilding lobby received in 2003 hit the nail on the head. When we faced a $10 billion shortfall, our Legislature found enough money to create a new state agency to satisfy their single largest campaign contributor. As the only consumer representative involved with this agency, I have seen up close the hurdles Texas homeowners now face. We hear a lot about “red” and “blue” America these days, but the color green seems to matter most to our state lawmakers. Texans should be fighting mad about this special-interest giveaway.
Policy director, Texas Watch
If Sarah Bird was indeed a Catholic schoolgirl, she must have flunked religion class. In “Permission: Impossible” [August 2005], she incorrectly attributes the Immaculate Conception to the birth of Jesus. That’s the Virgin Birth. The Immaculate Conception is about Mary, but does not mean, as Bird infers, that Mary wasn’t born of parents in a natural way. According to Catholic dogma, Mary was conceived without original sin or its stain.