No Buzz, Big Worry
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
To the editor: In his “On Second Thought” column of March 14, 2007, Grayson Harper correctly states that water is the next gold in Texas, and many of us won’t have enough of it. But he begins by referring to an even scarier — and more pressing — problem: the honeybee disappearances.
Commercial migratory bees — those whose hives are moved from orchard to orchard, field to field, in order to pollinate the trees and plants — are dying or vanishing. The estimated death rate for some hive groups is 50 to 90 percent. Scientists are working overtime to find the reason for this unprecedented die-off, but they have no answers so far. There is no known disease or predator to blame.
Most people have no idea what a big part the lowly honeybee plays in our food chain. A drop in the percentage of crops pollinated this year equals a drop in food production. And it could be a big drop.
We live in a food-rich country, but that may change faster than you can believe. Unless scientists can discover the problem of the disappearing bees and fix it, we might not have time to get thirsty.
To the editor: What a pleasure it was to read the clear-eyed comments of Grayson Harper regarding the millions (or is it billions?) of gallons of water going down the gas drillers’ straws in these parts. His cynicism about the incredible waste of good water to fatten relatively few wallets is more than justified. This industry is not above the law, however. It wrote the damn laws! Where are the legislative heroes who can take Texas back from the oil and gas mafia? Like they say out in Parker County, “We can’t drink natural gas.” Thanks to the Weekly for keeping this ever-growing tragedy in print.
Friends of Tandy Hills Nature Area
A Lake of Gas Money
To the editor: Regarding your recent provocative story about the spending of gas well profits (“Mineral Rights Manna,” March 14, 2007), I want to clarify my comments with respect to Lake Worth.
First, the Fort Worth City Council has been gracious and professional in its attention to Lake Worth Alliance presentations. There is strong support (including from Mayor Moncrief) to clean and dredge the lake which, with an average depth of two to four feet depending on the drought, has been effectively neglected for 92 years. They are talking about it. What has been frustrating, however, is the lack of commitment to earmark funds for the job when over 50 percent of the total unrestricted Barnett Shale-related money that the city is projected to receive will be derived from minerals harvested from under Lake Worth (now conservatively estimated to be about $200 million).
Having said that, understand that there has been definitive progress and significant commitment. The council is working on that “earmarking” issue. One of the specific recommendations by city staff has been to establish criteria for allocating gas well revenues for required infrastructure improvements in and around Lake Worth.
It’s not just talk. Within weeks, a test dredging project will begin. And in early April, the council is expected to authorize a study that will provide meaningful cost estimates for the dredging program.
Second, as indicated in Fort Worth Weekly, this will be literally, but also operationally, “close to home” for many of us. Unquestionably, we who live out here will benefit eventually, but not as much as the larger body of citizens of Fort Worth. And we will be inconvenienced for years by this major project. Still, Lake Worth Alliance believes reclaiming Lake Worth for all of Fort Worth is, indeed, an extraordinarily important mandate. It’s not just that 25 percent of our water supply comes from this now-shallow, dirty reservoir. For so many reasons, Lake Worth is probably the most underutilized asset the city owns. The citywide implications are why the project has the support of a majority of the council.
I have attended several pre-council meetings at which city staff presented policy questions on distributing the Barnett Shale money. Without exception, council members’ questions and comments seemed to reflect an understanding of the magnitude of the opportunity and responsibility for prudent fiscal management of our “good fortune.” The stakes are higher and more complicated than for smaller towns or school districts. Circumspection is appropriate and has been in evidence. Appropriate, too, is a moratorium now on all spending of any new but not previously allocated gas-related revenue. Decide policy first, then spend and save accordingly.
As far as gas-related fund distribution goes, I support spending it on Lake Worth reclamation and a light-rail transit system, then using at least 25 percent of the money to provide a significant endowment and creating a small discretionary fund — 10 percent or so. I support all efforts toward soliciting and using matching funds wherever possible. I oppose using gas money for any contributions toward city operational expenses, uses designed for direct temporary tax reduction, or for downtown Trinity River Vision projects.
President, Lake Worth Alliance
To the editor: I’m writing in reference to E.R. Bills’ guest column, “Conduct Unbecoming” (March 7, 2007). I think he is completely missing the point. Playboy wouldn’t even have considered photographing Mrs. Manhart if she was not in the military. I mean, come on — she might win a bikini contest at a local night club, but is she Playboy material? She used her status as an Air Force staff sergeant to dishonor the uniform. Serving in the military is about honor and integrity. She willingly threw away her career just for the money and attention.
Mrs. Manhart had a leadership role in the Air Force, similar to a grade-school teacher. How would Mr. Bills feel if one of his kids’ teachers posed nude in Playboy? Similarly, how would Sgt. Manhart’s Air Force subordinates take her seriously after she posed nude in a magazine?
Bills’ description of the brothels in Thailand reminded me of a question I once asked my father. He was a USAF fighter jock flying the F-4 Phantom II, based at Ubon, Thailand, during the Vietnam War. I asked if he ever visited “Boystown.” He laughed and said, “No way!” Apparently when military personnel get “in country,” they are required to watch films about the nasty diseases one could catch from prostitutes, and it scared the hell out of him. Besides he was married with three kids at the time. Once again, it’s about honor, integrity, and just plain not being stupid.
I remember as a kid back in the 1970s, when my parents went shopping at the local Air Force base exchange, there were nude magazines for sale. Didn’t seem a big deal to me then. I don’t know why Mr. Bills is having a cow over the idea now.
I find the idea of felons serving in the military due to recruiting shortfalls a bit disturbing myself. However, I’ve heard numerous stories of judges giving criminals the choice of jail or the military. What’s the difference, Mr. Bills? I’m sure there are tons of stories of judges giving people a chance to turn their lives around in that way.
Truth, Lies, and TTC
To the editor: The public has quickly figured out the reasons behind the rush to build private tollways and the 500,000-acre Trans-Texas Corridor and the decisions to convert already-paid-for roads into toll roads.
TxDOT needs the quick up-front money. Private toll roads are the quickest way to get resources for other projects. Threats of “delayed projects” have started making the news. Have you seen the $1 “invoice fee” at the bottom of a toll bill? What about the rumored $1.50 “camera fee”? What other hidden charges or increases can we expect from these for-profit companies?
Gov. Perry has said that the TTC is the only way to relieve congestion on I-35. Now, we finally hear publicly at the March 1 hearing from TxDOT leader Ric Williamson that that problem will not be relieved! Has someone publicly called Perry’s attention to the fact that his lead guy has the direct opposite opinion from him and says the TTC will not do what Perry promised? Who is telling the truth, and who is fibbing?
I have three form letters from Perry’s office saying that “to convert an existing [free] road into a tollroad, the public has to vote on it.” Is it true that a vote has to be held to convert, and is this being done or circumvented? I don’t think voters in Plano got to decide on changing Hwy 121 into Toll Road 121. Is this letter referring to the vote back in 2001 in which the governor loves to say that “we voted for tollroads all across Texas”?
There are other forms of taxation or revenue that the state needs to look at first. Don’t we have a $13 billion surplus? Also, if we’re embracing public-private partnerships, why not let corporations “sponsor” our roadways? Example: the ExxonMobil Interstate 35. Corporations already sponsor their businesses on our exit signs. Let them pay millions, while we get to keep our state road system.
It took decades for our Texas highway system to become as outdated, mismanaged, and ignored as it is now. We’re not buying the threat of “delayed projects” as an excuse for TxDOT and politicians to get in bed with for-profit companies.
Private toll roads and the TTC are the biggest and most shameful land-and-money grabs that Texas has ever seen. Why do you think so many people (Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and formerly apathetic Texans) are furious and loudly speaking out?
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