AS A FORMER RESIDENT OF DIMMITT and Lubbock, I was thrilled to see the great pictures and read about so many familiar places in “High Plains Drifting” and “The Plainsman” [July 1999]. Thanks to Joe Nick Patoski and Peter Brown, and may they visit the Panhandle again soon.
Greensboro, North Carolina
THE QUESTION POSED BY ANNE Dingus, “What Is the Panhandle?” probably elicits all kinds of responses depending on one’s perception. My beautiful wife, a Tyler native, thinks the Panhandle is a geographical area that you should drive like hell through on your way to more scenic vistas, such as those in Colorado. As for me, I grew up in the now-extinct company town of Phillips, outside Borger, and my impression of the Panhandle is that it is the most uniquely beautiful place on the face of the planet. Perhaps many fellow Panhandlers do not miss the sights, sounds, and aromas of the oil rigs and feedlots, but I enjoy the familiarity of these great Texas Panhandle landmarks.
Richard J. Kelly
AS A REPRESENTATIVE FOR The Fast Growth School Coalition, I worked often with Senator Florence Shapiro and her office staff on education issues, especially those affecting fast-growing school districts [“The Best and the Worst Legislators,” July 1999]. I found Senator Shapiro to be concerned about education issues and motivated to ensure adequate state assistance so that all school districts, not just those in her district, have the resources necessary for success. She was committed to the legislative solutions she determined to be in the best interest of schoolchildren. That ten fellow senators signed on in support of legislation she filed to assist fast-growing districts across Texas and that these provisions were included in the final education bill indicates agreement and respect from her colleagues.
Chair, Fast Growth School Coalition,
Superintendent, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD
I QUESTION YOUR CHOICE OF REPRESENTATIVE Norma Chavez as one of Texas’ worst legislators. I followed her work during the 76th legislative session and I am disappointed in your analysis of her performance. My first problem with your review was the Lorenzo de Zavala remark, criticizing Representative Chavez’s sponsorship of a holiday honoring Cesar Chavez. What right does Texas Monthly have to choose our leaders for us? If the general consensus of the Hispanic population calls for Cesar Chavez, why do you suggest someone else?
Representative Chavez is one of the few legislators who are really about people. Most legislators cater to their constituencies, but Representative Chavez actually cares about her constituents. She is not a professional politician, but that does not make her a bad politician. She is not there for the prestige of being a politician in the Texas Legislature, but for the effect her being there has on the people of El Paso.
I VERY MUCH APPRECIATE TEXAS MONTHLY’S informing the great unwashed proletariat that Senator Troy Fraser is one of the ten worst law-makers in the Texas Legislature. I rely on Texas Monthly and other elitist periodicals for guidance in matters political because I am almost always opposed to your philosophically liberal positions. Conservatives being bashed by statist-liberal-elitist periodicals such as Texas Monthly should regard such bashing as the sincerest form of flattery. Troy Fraser is doing a great job of representing his district in the Texas Senate, and it is to his credit that Texas Monthly and other detractors have taken offense. As A.J. Liebling said, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only in those who own one.” Keep ’em coming—saves me a lot of research time.
L. Glenn Dippel
YOU REFER TO ROB JUNELL’S simplistic view that state agencies should hire people only if they are going to be used in “field offices serving the public” rather than working “in the headquarters” as if that were an intelligent position to take. The people working in the headquarters are every bit as necessary, and overworked, as the people “serving the public.” Much has been made of the turnover rate of state workers, particularly those working in information or technology positions, citing pay discrepancies with the people working in equivalent private sector jobs as a major reason. Another reason is the low morale created by working in understaffed administrative departments of state agencies with little or no chance of relief because of legislators like Rob Junell.
I APPRECIATE THE INFORMATION you printed regarding our elected officials, especially that about Senator Drew Nixon of Carthage, who seems to have no respect for the office he fills, the people who voted him into that office, his fellow legislators, or himself. His asinine statement regarding nursing home residents is totally without compassion. People reside in nursing homes because of necessity and most certainly have not chosen to be there, as this dolt, Drew Nixon, states.
Katherine G. Bates
Founder, United People for Better Nursing Home Care
FROM THE REPEATED USE OF THE NEGATIVE term “dump” to a completely inaccurate parenthetical comment about Rocky Mountain Arsenal to fawning over “activists,” the article “Clean Living” was highly biased [Texas Monthly Reporter, July 1999]. Hazardous-waste sites and low-level nuclear-waste disposal sites are not “dumps” but highly engineered disposal facilities. Rocky Mountain Arsenal was never used to produce or store nuclear weapons or wastes. It was, however, used to produce chemical warfare weapons by the U.S. Army and later pesticides by a commercial company. The general public doesn’t really understand the exacting science and engineering involved in modern chemical and radioactive disposal facilities, and articles such as yours don’t help. It is easy for the uninformed to be frightened by what they don’t understand, but isn’t it the role of journalists to educate?
R. Everett Langford
PH.D., Registered Hazardous Substances Professional
WRITING OF THE GREAT PLAINS, Gregory Curtis asserts that because Walter Prescott Webb superbly explained the impact of “the West” (beginning at the 98th meridian) on settlers culture, Webb “made The Great Plains the single essential book for understanding Texas” [Behind the Lines: “West Is West,” July 1999]. Really? The one essential book on Texas? Which Texas? Since the time of Stephen F. Austin until today, an overwhelming majority of Texans have always lived east of the 98th meridian. Until recently, most of these people came of cultures shaped more by the American South than the fabled West. So, while reading Webb might steep one in the lore of the West, not much would be learned about the way of life of most Texans. The problem for Texas writers (Webb, Curtis, et al.) is that the South (defeated, poor, and racist) is anathema to Texas’ prevailing myth of the white man’s West (victorious, rich, and egalitarian).