Fill Potholes, Not Tunnels

Naim Alasaad would like Buzz to deliver the following message to mayoral candidate Laura Miller and anyone else with bright ideas about breathing life into downtown: This is Texas. It gets hot in the summer.

That's obvious, you say? You suspect she already knows that? Then why, oh why does Miller want to close the downtown tunnels, one of the few amenities that actually help make downtown livable? Obvious answer: Because she, unlike the countless office workers and others who use the tunnels every day, never actually walks downtown.

Miller's plan, as outlined in at least one of the 85 or so mayoral "debates" that have been broadcast in the past two weeks, is to close the pedestrian tunnels and skyways linking many downtown towers and force the people who use them onto the streets. (Eliminating choices is also known as coercion, a favored tool of tinhorn despots everywhere.) Miller didn't specify how she would close the tunnels, but people around here who know her suggested that dynamite, or perhaps flooding them with the people still inside, would be two options.

Presumably, the survivors would then flock to the streets, where their presence would attract businesses to some of downtown's countless vacant storefronts.

Alasaad, who operates a functioning, tax-paying Benny's Bagel shop in the tunnels, sees it slightly differently. "This is the most retarded thing to talk about," he told Buzz, after we spent some time walking the tunnels, soliciting opinions of the people who actually use them. (Imagine that. Sometimes our own genius surprises even us.)

"It's too hot...People are not going to go on the streets to look for a new sandwich shop," Alasaad said. Downtown needs clean streets, big department stores and apartment buildings and entertainment--not sweaty, cross men and women in business suits suffering dehydration.

A handful of office workers we spoke to were equally blunt: "It would make my life miserable," said one. "I would die," said another. Others said that they would simply order their lunches in, rather than venture on the streets in the heat and rain.

Apparently, these people are going to need a little more coaxing to be brought above ground. That's the trouble with letting people make their own choices: They'll selfishly choose whatever's best for them, not what makes downtown more picturesque for mayoral candidates and other tourists.


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