By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Rich man's welfare
Ms. [Laura] Miller, thank you for your informative article ["That giant sucking sound"] in the December 11 issue concerning Ross Perot Jr. and his arena scheme. I believe that the whole idea is a bad deal for the citizens of Dallas, but until I read your article, I didn't realize just how unscrupulous young Mr. Perot really is.
I find it very interesting that Mr. Perot Sr., who normally has the answers to everything, especially to the proper role of government in private enterprise, has been so uncharacteristically silent on this issue.
Trudy L. Hess
I want to comment on your arena tax myth article ["Get real," December 4]. What upsets me is, this tax is also going to be real hard on the hundreds of residents of those cheap hotels that everyone abhors. I have many friends who work day labor and hope to earn enough to eat and pay $24.99 for a room. It is not fair that even a little added on can mean less food. It is time for those who use the sporting facilities to pay for them instead of honest, hard-working citizens. Thank you for your objective reporting and not being afraid to approach an issue.
You go girl! Dallas needs someone like you who can cut through all the legal rambling and red tape to decipher right from wrong ["Mr. Mayor, meet your nightmare," December 18]. It's a simple truth, but it seems to be lost in politics. Dallas also needs someone like you who won't join the butt-sucking machine every time the rich man farts! Good luck in the election.
Cat fight II
Re: Gene Reitnauer and Texas Exotic Feline foundation.
First, the Observer (and Ann Zimmerman) is the only part of the media in the metroplex that has had the guts to dig into the horrors surrounding the ousted director, Gene Reitnauer, of the Texas Exotic Feline Foundation.
But in a recent article, ["The cats of war," November 20] I was somewhat misquoted, saying that "We all know Gene did mistakes." From that, one can get the impression that Gene Reitnauer did something seriously wrong. The only thing she did wrong was to underestimate her opponents.
We know that Gene should have spent more time on the books and taken care of technicalities (hence, less caretaking of the cats).
I have never even for the faintest moment believed that Gene did ever misuse or embezzle any of the foundation's money. In fact, she was even using the foundation money so wisely, she didn't receive a salary until 1995 for all her work. And that was a very meager amount. Also, instead of hiring a lot of "hands," Gene managed a very dedicated group of volunteers that spent both precious time and money to assist in taking care of the cats and the sanctuary (yard work, maintenance, etc.).
I have never met anyone so dedicated and committed to her cause--in this case saving these large felines. Gene has spent over 14 years of her life, dedicating her entire workday to these large, beautiful, and unfortunate cats.
What does she get for this?
Being permanently banned from ever seeing her cats again.
Being evicted from her home in Wise County.
Being harassed by a legal process that she has no money to defend herself from.
Being restricted in her freedom of speech (in this case it is called "contempt of court").
All volunteers who have had the guts to support Gene, morally and financially, have been permanently banned from the TEFF property. What kind of justice is that? Why don't our hard work, donated money, and views count in this case? The "system" is, in this case, only listening to the voices of a few wealthy benefactors with deep connections into the innards of the metroplex!
Some people say that this case does not interest anyone. On the contrary, I think that if someone had enough interest, money, and stamina to dig deep into this mess, there would be a very interesting case, blatantly displaying where the Texas legal system does not work--unless you have unlimited funds to hire both lawyers and investigators. Maybe there would also be a few very interesting details about certain metroplex profiles.
Conclusion is that with money in Texas, you can buy justice, the system, and the truth!
The TEFF situation is one of the saddest miscarriages of justice I have ever seen. I have been following this story for over a year now, and the atrocities keep on building up. We all make mistakes, but the treatment of Gene Reitnauer could be likened to being shot at dawn for speeding. This case also showcases the declining state of our legal system and ranks right up there with the OJ trial and the au pair case.
Big cats have occasionally hurt people over the years; that comes with their nature. However, the way some people treat their fellow man these days (as in the TEFF case) makes the cats look pretty benign!
Gene Reitnauer is the victim of two men's millions and their desire to do anything to bring her down. Oh, the tangled web they weave--with Gene as the fly caught in it! Since the outcome of her case, I have lost total faith in our justice system. If you don't have money, you don't stand a chance.
Yeah, I have a beef...I can't believe the way Gene Reitnauer has been treated by the courts and media ["The cats of war," November 20].
Who will take her place? Where is the justice in taking her down? Look to the deeds Gene has done and not those of Robert Reitnauer. Gene is an example of Texas individuality in its most noble form.
Many faces of prejudice
Your story on hung juries ["Unreasonable doubts," December 4] might serve to further validate a fear held by many non-minority, law-abiding citizens of Dallas County. Namely, that there is always a distinct possibility that some particular menace to society, of minority persuasion, will be treated leniently by a jury member, or members, of the same race or ethnicity. Such validation, to their way of thinking, would clearly expose a serious flaw in our criminal justice system--a flaw which could ultimately threaten the process purposefully intended to keep "them" from "us."
Before jumping to such a conclusion, however, we might want to consider the issue a little more closely. And while the Simi Valley verdict has increased our awareness of decisions apparently made along racial or ethnic lines, hopefully it will not totally blind us to the possibility that other biases enter into the equation of guilt or innocence. Justice is rarely a matter of black and white--or brown and white--or any color, for that matter.
A number of years ago, I had the experience of serving on a Dallas County grand jury. The grand jury's job is to determine which defendants' cases go to court and which do not. Two days each week, over a three-month period, we heard a total of nearly 3,000 cases.
The defendants, in the vast majority of cases, were not my peers. I was 40, white, college-educated, steadily employed, did not abuse either drugs or alcohol, and had no previous criminal record. The other members of the 12-person grand jury, recommended by commissioners of the court, were more or less like me in many respects. The majority were white. The majority were male. And the majority were over 50. There were four minority members: three blacks and one Hispanic.
Early on, one of the black jurors became ill, and we continued for the remainder of the session with a maximum of 11 members. It takes nine members to return a "true bill," meaning that a case will be prosecuted. In many instances, the remaining two black members (both female) and I decided cases along the same lines. It was soon obvious that our voting bloc could potentially no-bill any case at all, regardless of what the eight remaining members felt about the evidence presented.
In my opinion, it was also obvious that race and/or ethnicity played a role in many of the determinations. The frightening part of the experience for me, however, was realizing just how prejudiced my fellow jurors were. Worst of all, their prejudices were so ingrained, they rarely realized or understood how offensive their words or perceptions were. Even 15 years of working in the civil rights field had not prepared me for such narrow-minded ignorance--an ignorance which usually concluded that black and Hispanic defendants were wrong, while white victims were usually right. White teens who showed up with their family lawyers deserved a second chance, while minority teens were merely following their predisposed natures.
But the prejudices of that grand jury, my own included, went further than race and ethnicity. The ignorance was also sexist. Many of the male jurors concluded that many female victims provoked the violence against them. They felt that male perpetrators merely needed counseling to deal with their personal problems, not jail time.
Jurors were inclined to identify with a defendant or victim who looked like them. Female jurors tended to sympathize with female victims of abuse, or were more inclined to empathize with female defendants against their male victims. Older male jurors couldn't fathom the possibility of sexual abuse by an accused father or grandfather, despite compelling evidence of its occurrence. A divorced male juror, who had child visitation problems with an ex-wife, supported a divorced ex-husband clearly interfering with the terms of the court's child custody decision. Being a single parent myself, with custody of a young daughter, my inclination was to believe the mother, who was the custodial parent.
The point to all this is that we all have our own clearly defined prejudices. While race and ethnicity may be the most obvious ones, they may not be much more insidious than any other. And a hung jury is a hung jury, regardless of the bias upon which it is based.
I just read some of the remarks about articles related to Dr. Gonzalez and the DISD. The subject is getting to be dull. Just a few questions: Has the word "teacher" ever come into this? I have seen the word "children" once or twice in the last several weeks. Does anyone care about either of us?
I watched the bedroom furniture being removed, hoping there would be a chair or two so the teachers in our overcrowded elementary school could enjoy the luxury of having a chair for all of their students. Try sitting on the floor or a trash can all day! It would be great to have time to spend working for the students instead of spending 35 to 43 hours in useless staff development because someone was paid big bucks to think up a way to insult the teachers. Some staff development is good; most is a waste of time. It would be nice to get a raise that actually addressed the cost of living. Actually, it would be nice to get a raise that came close to the money we spend on our class! We would like to go to school each day and know we would only teach our 25 children and not have to take in six more because no substitute was hired for another class. Does anyone care about this?
This mess has torn down teacher morale. We are still there doing more than 100 percent. We would just like someone to remember we exist. Does anyone care? Are the teachers the only ones who care?
I find it somewhat amusing that the Dallas Observer has spent such extensive time reporting the DISD debacle so long after the facts. I always thought the job of an investigative reporter was to report a story before the general public already knew all of the facts.
The North Texas Leadership Council initially became aware of the scurrilous behavior of Yvonne Gonzalez in August of 1996. I received a call from a nationally recognized public interest law firm that was considering representing a former Santa Fe ISD employee who had incurred the wrath of Yvonne. My 30-day investigation revealed accusations of adultery, sexual harassment, alcohol abuse, retaliation against district employees, breach of fiduciary responsibility, and a well-crafted campaign of misinformation to the board. This is all in addition to the fact that "Yvonne the Terrible" committed Furniture Gate when she outfitted her Santa Fe superintendent's office with a set of Japanese-motif Rosewood furniture.
I do have to give the Observer credit for one earth-shattering revelation made during the Gonzalez saga. It was laudable that you pointed out the irony of the DMN reporting that Yvonne was a petite woman. The intellectual giants who covered this story on your behalf did neglect to mention the fact that the obnoxious skirts that Gonzalez wore while parading around in her short-lived empire were actually in violation of the district dress code policy.
I trust you do not feel too bad about missing the boat on the greatest scandal in school district history. You are in good company with the rest of the local media lackeys who all sat mute until they received permission to report the truth from the powers that be. I forwarded the results of my investigation to representatives of the Observer, DMN, KRLD, WBAP, KXAS, WFAA, KDFW, KTVT, Dallas City Council, Dallas County Commissioners Court, and last but not least, the DISD board.
To the best of my knowledge, Hollis Brashear was the only one responsible enough to follow up on the broad-ranging accusations coming out of Santa Fe. I know he followed up with every name and phone number that I provided. His subsequent public request to dispatch teams to conduct field investigations on the five finalists for the superintendent's position was squashed by the white downtown power brokers and their pawns on the DISD board.
The most disappointing point of the entire episode occurred with former DISD President Bill Keever. His lame response after I disclosed all the facts from my investigation was to say, "All that doesn't matter; we are hiring Yvonne anyway." It should be noted that this conversation occurred in October of 1996, well before the January hiring of Gonzalez.
Mister Nobody, Bill Simpson
Editor's note: Bill Simpson makes it his business to know everything about everyone. But tossing a few accusations isn't the same as having the facts. If Mr. Simpson ever had any solid information to offer to the Dallas Observer about our former Dallas public schools superintendent, no one here recalls ever receiving it.