Betty in charge
I read with absolute delight the aptly entitled article "Betty's in charge" [March 27]. Frankly, I got a kick out of "hearing" Betty again. You see, I was once one of her trusted mid-level managers until I ran afoul of Betty and found myself on the outside looking in.
But, I'm not writing to gripe. She, in fact, did me a favor. I had a very interesting experience in Dallas County government, one that I shall never forget. However, your story caught the essence of Culbreath. She is fresh, invigorating, smart as hell, and will cuss you out in a New York minute. I do not want your readership to get the idea that Culbreath is an incompetent, foul-mouthed fool. She's just the opposite. So fellas, as Bette Davis would say, "Don't fuck with her." She will cut your throat.
And a word to the wise for Ken Williams (Grand Prairie) and Tom Hatfield (Richardson): If you want to tangle with Betty, you better come stocked, locked, and ready to fire, 'cause Betty don't play that! If you are so interested in establishing and keeping contact, I strongly urge you to make the phone call. 'Cause if you're waiting for Betty to call you, it sure ain't gonna happen now. And when you do finally get her, I suggest that you cover your ears, cower in the corner, and pray for rain!
I have yet to unravel exactly where the article was supposed to take us, but I sure enjoyed "hearing" Culbreath again. Betty, keep up the good work. It's hard (dare I say impossible) to take a scrapper down.
G. Keith Harlin
Wait a minute--in her article "Betty's in charge," Rose Farley writes about Dr. Ron Anderson: "Although Anderson would never say so, he, more than anyone else in Dallas, understands how severely limited the county commissioners are in terms of understanding--or even caring about--public health issues." Whoa! If it is true that Anderson would never say so, how could anyone else know that this is what he understands? How could Farley know?
Is this article based on verifiable facts or on mere wishful thinking? Is this journalism or speculation?
Betty Culbreath says, "Ain't nobody not being served." What definitely isn't being served, obviously, is the English language.
I found Betty Culbreath's grammatical error in her memo on grammatical errors ironic but subtle. Rose Farley points out that Culbreath had written "This type activity is unacceptable..." omitting the 'of' after type. It was equally ironic to find two grammatical shortcomings in my cursory reading of Farley's article.
Farley writes, "But Culbreath's clout extends even farther than that." Although this might be an acceptable use of the word farther, further might have been the better word to use according to Strunk and White in The Elements of Style. They say, "farther serves best as a distance word, further as a time or quantity word."
I can give Farley the benefit of the choice of farther versus further, but then Farley writes, "...Culbreath hasn't bothered to inform him who he should call in the event of an outbreak." Shouldn't who be whom in this case because it is the object in the predicate clause?
Writing correctly is hard work so I criticize neither Culbreath nor Farley, who wrote a balanced piece. No one is perfect. In fact, if you reread my first paragraph, you will find I too have shortcomings.
Rose Farley was right about a couple of things: Dallas County could have done a better job explaining our Health Department reorganization, and Betty Culbreath's passion sometimes gets the best of her.
However, your story does not convey the depth of Culbreath's commitment to delivering better services. You mention her personal sincerity, but not her management record of expanding and improving services to indigents, the homeless, senior citizens, and HIV-positive clients of the Human Services Department for the past six years.
Culbreath was promoted to lead the new Health and Human Services Department because members of the Commissioners Court believed unanimously that she will provide able and effective leadership for our Health Department.
Dallas County posted advertisements several weeks ago for a medical director and epidemiologist to provide the necessary medical leadership in our department, and Culbreath has met with the Dallas County Medical Society to discuss future plans. Dr. Charles Haley, the department's former epidemiologist, has been retained as a consultant until the position is permanently filled, and Culbreath has tendered an offer to a local physician to fill the medical director's position.
One statement in Rose Farley's story was obvious hyperbole. I agree that members of our Commissioners Court are "moral conservatives and fiscal fundamentalists," neither of which sounds like an insult to me, but it is a silly distortion of our county government for Farley to say that court members "never saw a social program they didn't want to gut or a salary they didn't want to freeze." She presents only one bit of evidence to support this jibe, an admittedly very bitter fight over condoms and bleach kits which was a very atypical issue.
In fact, Dallas County has consistently supported and expanded its other Health Department programs including the Sexually Transmitted Disease Clinic, infant immunization, tuberculosis, and other communicable disease control programs. Outside of the Health Department, Dallas County has developed one of the best public hospitals in the country and its award-winning neighborhood clinic system, a very effective Ryan White AIDS services program, a network of 21 senior nutrition and recreation centers, a Rape Crisis Center, and a wide array of well-regarded programs for the homeless, juvenile delinquents, mentally ill and mentally retarded, victims of domestic violence, and runaway youth.
If you'll give Dallas County and Betty Culbreath a chance, I think you'll see similar good results in public health.
Lee F. Jackson, County Judge
Betty Culbreath is the executive director of both the Departments of Health and Human Services...and can't even speak English well! Or maybe she can, but won't. She makes a somewhat diminished executive role model representing the city of Dallas, complete with double negatives, among other slips of her tongue. And she's just been appointed chairwoman of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport Board...another opportunity to display her polished literacy!
Dr. Ron Anderson, CEO of Parkland Hospital, says that she "votes her own conscience" without regard to suggestions from Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, who has been instrumental in placing her where she is today. With genuine respect for Dr. Anderson, for the top-notch administrator he is, who is he kidding? Can he prove it?
Isn't Culbreath the one who, when she was Price's administrative assistant, spoke of his bargaining prowess as "Jewing down" merchants for hours to get the price of something he wanted? Didn't he also help her buy a home and a car? Price, over the past years, has been quietly and cleverly achieving one of his top objectives: placing blacks in positions of power and authority so that when he wants their support, he can call for it--and get it. Examples? Betty Culbreath? Dr. Ora Lee Watson? He tried it at Parkland Hospital, and he's still trying at the city police and fire departments. If he were to succeed, he could have the power he seeks to bring the city of Dallas to its knees; he wouldn't have to take to the streets with guns!
Price has already been largely successful in intimidating most, if not all, of the prominent blacks in Dallas into silence by admonishing them that "soul brothers don't criticize soul brothers" no matter how racist, how bigoted, how anti-Semitic, and anti-white he may be. Examples? When was the last time he was taken to task--or even mildly chastised--for his racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-white remarks or letters-to-the-editor by Barbara Mallory Caraway, Comer Cottrell, Don Hicks, Rev. Zan Holmes, Dr. Wright Lassiter, Al Lipscomb, Drew Pearson, General Hugh Robinson, Bob Ray Sanders and the ministers and imams of all the black churches and mosques in Dallas?
Does Culbreath owe him? What do you think? Will he be able to cash in his markers with her? The collection, apparently, already began when she promoted Zachary Thompson as her "bureaucratic-in-chief." One of Price's political friends, Thompson went from a $36,060 salary to $68,124--in four months! Sound like payoff? Price tried it with Watson, unsuccessfully, in the Townview Magnet High school brouhaha. However, the awful truth is that Betty Culbreath has probably been promoted to her level of incompetency. Watch what happens in the Department of Health and Human Services under her aegis over the next year.
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Einstein of sewers
A few comments about Miriam Rozen's 'Tension Fund' article [April 3]:
1) To refer to I.M. Rice as "a former sewer worker" is like referring to Albert Einstein as a former postal worker, and is particularly offensive to those of us who are aware of Dr. Rice's (Yes, he is a Ph.D. engineer!) tremendous contributions to the City of Dallas as assistant director and then director of the Water Utilities Department. The fact that Dallas and its many customer suburban cities have a plentiful and safe water supply today is due in no small measure to his vision, leadership, and managerial skill--a rare combination around City Hall today. It should be noted also that he served with distinction for this country in two wars and contributed with acute insightfulness to the Dallas Employees' Retirement Fund as a trustee.
2) As a trustee of the Employees' Retirement Fund, I find myself wondering if Rozen asked any of the trustees or the administrator for an explanation of the travel that is in question. The fact is that if trustees and staff did not travel for fiduciary educational purposes and due diligence review of our investment managers, we would be in serious breach of our fiduciary responsibilities. Also, a service would have been done for your readers if you had pointed out that the travel expenses were a little over $2,000 per year on average for each trustee.
3) I have known Randy Stalnaker for many years, and he is no egomaniac as implied by Rozen and some of her sources. He is an intelligent, fiduciarily knowledgeable and responsible trustee and was courageous in his service to the members as board chairman.
Charles G. Griffith
Board of Trustees, DER Fund