Jim Schutze's "Gutless coup" [March 11] catalogs the complete lack of educational ideas in the public discussion surrounding DISD. Because the superintendent search has been prolonged and controversial, whoever ends up with the job will be faced with ridiculously inflated expectations in addition, no doubt, to a divided school board. Big-city superintendents last about three years before their ambitions or their boards send them packing. It makes no sense to take a whole school year to find one.
Anyway, the place to look is not among superintendents of smaller districts, but among assistant superintendents of other large districts. Here is a pool of people who will not be harmed by publicity that they are being considered for a higher post in another city, who are actually closer to the nuts-and-bolts operations of their districts, and who can be expected to try harder since they would be moving up, so to speak, rather than over.
The various takeover scenarios neglect two facts, one historical and one cyclical. The first is that the history of urban education is littered with successful attempts to remake school boards: Small boards are expanded, large boards reduced; elected boards become appointed, appointed boards elected; at-large becomes single-member-district representation, and vice-versa. All in all, these metamorphoses have very little effect upon what happens in a district's classrooms.
The second fact is that a takeover mechanism is already in place--at the polls. There is no substitute for grassroots organizing if the people of Dallas want a new school board.
The top priority of this district ought to be the substantive affirmation by all parties--business, legislative, and civic--of the teachers, parents, and students who spend our days inside this disaster that "nobody wants to do anything about." We need more classroom resources and less of everything else.
The Big Stinky
Your article about the Dallas Plan ["Big Brother does Dallas," March 11] and Trinity River project was quite accurate. I attended a meeting on March 8 at the Townview Magnet High School. In attendance were a handful of citizens, less than 50, and a mob of consultants and city staff. The best way to characterize this meeting was an exercise in mass delusion. This meeting was to discuss the "lakes" option, bridges, and the recreational component.
The basic problem I had with this discussion was the vagueness of every item on the agenda. Lakes were described as big, medium, small, on-channel (in the middle of the existing river), off-channel (between the river and the levee), and so on. However, they could not tell us the size of the lakes, how deep the lakes would be, or if they would use river water or fresh water. Cost is very important, since the voters only approved $31 million for a lake. The source of water is even more important, since the river water in the summer is 90 percent treated sewage. When I asked about the problem of odor, since treated sewage does not smell very good, the consultant said there would be wetlands constructed to filter out part of the river. The kicker here is that if the river smells unpleasant, there are very few people who will go more than once to stroll by a river or a lake.
Then they showed the "signature" bridges soaring across the Trinity. Those pictures were very pretty, but in an ice storm, those bridges could turn quite deadly. Imagine a column of ice 60 feet or more above your car melting and plunging into an unsuspecting victim driving or walking by on a cold winter morning.
Finally, they talked about gateways to the river. They were extremely pleased that one gateway was adjacent to the 8th Street Dart station. What they did not realize is that a motel near the gateway is a major source of illegal drugs for the neighborhood.
In the final analysis, when I think of the Trinity River project and Mayor Ron Kirk, I am reminded of the old tale about the emperor's new clothes. The mayor is the emperor, and the Trinity River project is his new clothing.
"Big Brother does Dallas" exposes the Dallas Plan Inc. and its exploitative Trinity River boondoggle as a tool of the construction industry and The Dallas Morning News. We hope the author, Jim Schutze, had previously exposed the money influence of big business on some members of the Dallas City Council.
Thank goodness the Dallas Observer is helping to restore democracy and fairness to what could be an ethically governed city.
Edward C. Fritz
Editor's note: Jim Schutze wrote about the influence of the Dallas Citizens Council, a pro-business civic group, on city council members in a November 5, 1998, cover story, "Peep-hole power."
Thank you so much for the article regarding the corruption at Samuell Farm ["Crying fowl," March 4]. I think Dan Michalski wrote a comprehensive piece on the disgusting activities taking place there. As a resident of Dallas, I am appalled at the lies and deceit and the municipal fraud perpetrated by the farm management.
As an animal-rights activist, I was shocked to discover that farm personnel have been engaging in a Civil War reenactment for the last several years. Any shelter or rescue group will tell you to keep your animals inside during the 4th of July because the noise from the fireworks will scare them. Can you imagine the horror the animals experience from the blasting of guns and cannons and exploding dynamite? Not to mention the migratory wildlife nests being disturbed, which would be a violation of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Migratory wildlife also will not stay in a place where it thinks it's being hunted. Two years ago, the bluebirds left and never came back.
I fervently hope that our city council and park board come to their collective senses and fire the Samuell Farm management and personnel and replace them with people who are trained to take care of animals and, most important, care about animals.
Of gods and goddesses
I think you guys were a little hard on Jay Farrar in your recent article on Wilco ["The only one," February 25]. Listen to Son Volt's Straightaways cranked, and then tell me that Jay isn't a musical genius. I think it remains to be seen whether Jay or Jeff is God.
Why do reviews of Wilco or Son Volt always have to become a Beatles vs. Stones argument? Can't we agree that both bands represent some of the best original American music to be recorded in a long, long time?
In the recent article on Wilco's performance at the House of Blues in New Orleans, I couldn't help but laugh at the description of a particular audience member. You talked about this pacifier-sucking, rhythmically swaying, Bjsrk-looking girl as though she were a goddess who is sweet, innocent, and in touch with the music.
Two friends and myself were at that performance, right up front, and unfortunately very close to her. That girl was a ho if I ever saw one. And I've seen a lot of hos in my time.
On the bright side, she and her friend did get me one of Mrs. Tweedy's cookies.
I was inspired by "The rules of rock" [March 11], so I thought the critics could also use a few pointers. So if you wanna be a rock and roll critic, listen up:
1. I love The Band. Most people love The Band. Most people know of The Band's significance. Consequently, nobody needs 10 references to The Band in each week's music section. We get the point--move on.
2. Same goes for Ronnie Dawson.
3. Hanson, N'Sync, Backstreet Boys, and the Spice Girls are easy targets. Don't waste your time criticizing them--it's like shooting fish in a barrel.
4. Don't make insipid jokes about drummers. As Levon Helm (oops--I broke my own rule), Ginger Baker, and Earl Harvin proved, drummers are just as important as any other band members.
5. And don't tell us that bassists are unimportant. Paul McCartney and Bootsy Collins proved you wrong 30 years ago.
6. Do not ever describe a band by alluding to 10 other bands. If you find yourself writing something like "they remind me of Pavement mixed with Neutral Milk Hotel, with a little jangle from early R.E.M. (by way of Uncle Tupelo)," hit the DELETE button and quit your job.
7. Terms that should never be used to describe a group: "meta-", "post-", "indie", "lo-fi", "art-rock", "avant-garde."
8. Nobody cares about music-label mergers except musicians and music critics. You're a music critic, not a music-industry critic. Assume that we're smart enough to know how shady the music business is.
9. For that matter, don't be so damned cynical. Every generation has its share of crappy music. Likewise, every generation has a few groups that blow our minds and make it all worthwhile.
10. Don't lump Phish, the Grateful Dead, Blues Traveler, Dave Matthews Band, Medeski Martin & Wood, and Widespread Panic into the same category. Don't lump any band into a meaningless category just to fit the needs of your article.
11. Don't use "noodle" to describe the fans of any band. In fact, don't waste our time by describing music fans.
12. It's OK to wax orgasmic about a particular band. It's not OK to actually write "orgasmic" in your article.
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13. Don't refuse to write about bands with turntables or bands without guitars. There's a reason nobody knows about Dallas' hip-hop scene.
14. Don't wear a goatee. Don't wear black. Don't chain-smoke. And don't drink coffee.
15. Don't waste your readers' time with snide, cynical "how-to" lists. Nobody cares how bitter you are, and we'd rather be listening to some good tunes.