Duncan snuffs the pests

I have just read the article "Tribal vengeance" (July 20) and am sick of yet another example of a person sticking up for themselves and literally getting pushed over the cliff. I, as well as others, would have reacted the same way as Melton Barnes had my own property been at risk. The Barneses had every right to speak to the Dallas Observer, or anyone else they had to, if they were being unfairly represented.

It is hard to believe that Larry Duncan had nothing to do with excluding the Barneses. Why did Duncan believe that he had to be "so nice it hurt"? Isn't being nice how we all should treat one another? Why didn't he stand up for the Barneses to begin with instead of singling them out?

It is outrageous that the city of Dallas treats taxpayers of our city with such a lack of respect. It seems that the city council wanted to punish a child (the Barneses) by withholding help and doesn't want to admit they were wrong by fixing the Barneses' property. Since the facts are clear that the property is eroding, even more now that the pipe is directed at their property, the Barneses are due an apology from the city council and should have their property fixed immediately.

Thank you, Observer, for pursuing this and other issues on behalf of Dallas citizens.

Jeanne McGlothlin

In response to your article "Tribal vengeance," I must say that I--the "wheel that makes no noise" neighbor of the Barneses on Woody Branch Creek--was appalled at the verbal display of disrespect toward law-abiding, taxpaying citizens of this city. The Barneses, as well as others, have undeniably been injured by a gross injustice in the selection process for erosion control from the city. Former Councilman Larry Duncan and other city officials have verbally admitted to total disregard of a citizen's right to freedom of speech. When was the First Amendment abandoned by our city leaders? Moreover, how is it that our elected officials are allowed not only to admit disregard for an amendment, but to actually enforce disregard of it?

For 23 years, my husband and I have sat quietly watching the property of the Barneses, as well as ourselves and others, being washed away down Woody Branch Creek while city officials have shifted these clearly damaged properties down on the list of "nice people." It is very difficult, at best, even to see the validity in a council decision to spend taxpayer funds on properties that have not been personally inspected by the decision-making body. How can decisions be made based on biased opinions of others (frustrated councilmen, city engineers, etc.)? The proof is in the pudding. If the council took the initiative to see these properties, all doubts about need vs. greed would be eliminated.

Please ask Mr. Duncan to answer this question: Why were we also left off the list considering that we never "bugged the staff"?

B. Canady

Even though the city of Dallas seems to have had more than its fair share of governmental shenanigans over the last few years, this matter seems to me to be nothing more than a pure vendetta by City Hall politicians and bureaucrats who took offense because a citizen complained to the media about decisions relating to his property. There is definitely a potential for the chilling of free speech, particularly involving citizens seeking redress from the government and then speaking out when they have been ignored by that government.

Seems to me that the Barneses ought to take the city to court for not giving them due process, let alone a host of other violations. Betcha they would win--certainly if a jury hears the case!

Clayton Vieg
Mannheim, Germany

It is terrible to discover that the city council could be so petty and mean-spirited when they are supposed to be working for the citizens of Dallas. I pray that something can be done soon to help the Barneses.

I love reading Jim Schutze's articles. He tells the truth exactly like it is with humor and honesty. How about a photo posted next to his article? You are doing a great job, Mr. Schutze, defender of justice and truth.

Shun Smith

Your story "Tribal vengeance" by Jim Schutze demonstrates an astounding, reprehensible attitude on the part of various city of Dallas employees; a rather childish attitude, which appears to invite acrimony and litigation rather than reasonable resolution of a problem. If your story is correct, one can only conclude that because Mr. and Mrs. Barnes exercised their constitutional rights, and these employees responded by retaliating against them, treating them in an arbitrary, malicious fashion and denying them equal treatment under the law.

Some people on the government payroll, elected officials and bureaucrats alike, sometimes forget their duty to serve all members of the public as fairly and equally as possible, even those members who may be a bit pesky. A sad, ironic thing here is that while not willing to openly admit and seek to correct a mistake in the beginning, some of these city employees are now seemingly willing to admit that they do not care if they were wrong before because Mr. Barnes should not have had the audacity to be so "public" in trying to get them to correct their mistake. And now, because he did just that, they will arbitrarily take him and his wife off the list and cut them out of the picture.

Mr. Barnes may have been "pesky," but apparently not without cause; he was told that something was being done about a problem, and then nothing was done. And I don't think he can be written off as an irrational crank.

Unlike some folks who love to complain about government with nothing to back up their complaints and no solutions to offer, Mr. Barnes supplies credible evidence to support his complaint. His photographs and other documentation tell a tale that does not require a hydrological engineer to understand. Most commonsense jurors--and there are some of those in Texas--would get the picture without too much trouble.

James Ottinger
Waianae, Hawaii

Thank you, Jim Schutze, for the fine article "Tribal vengeance" regarding the plight of Cora and Melton Barnes and the inadequate way the city of Dallas and particularly Larry Duncan have handled their situation. Despite Mr. Duncan's perception that these people are pests, they are nevertheless defending their home, which has almost been destroyed by a poorly conceived city project. The honorable thing to do is fix it despite the politics and the my-feelings-are-hurt attitude, which is petty. Our Auntie C and Uncle Melton are the finest people we know. The city and Mr. Duncan should be ashamed of themselves for not overcoming their differences and doing the right thing.

Vicki Batman and Tony Batman

Road warrior

Thomas Korosec's hit piece on me demonstrates an intensity of slanting that calls into question the journalistic ethics of the Dallas Observer. He misrepresents my credentials and mischaracterizes my Atlanta transportation study ("Highwaymen," July 17). He quotes a critical Atlanta Constitution editorial, but fails to note that the Atlanta Journal (unlike Dallas, Atlanta has two daily newspapers) ran a full-length editorial in support of my study. He obtains quotations on my policy proposals from people who disagree with me, but specifically refused in our interview to discuss any issue of policy with me. Regrettably, it is nothing new for those unable to substantively dispute an analysis to seek personalization of the debate through ad hominem attacks.

As for my motivations, I would have told him if he had asked. Our corporate mission is "to facilitate the ideal of government as the servant of the people by identifying and implementing strategies to achieve public purposes at a cost that is no higher than necessary." (This has been on our Web site, at www.publicpurpose.com, for nearly five years.) Spending $3.1 billion extra in interest to advance light rail construction five years fails that test. That the light rail has had and will have virtually no impact on traffic congestion makes the unnecessary additional spending all the more unwise. But it's worse than that. Those who favor light rail have even more reason to oppose long-term debt for DART. The extra $3.1 billion in interest payments could be used instead to expand the light rail system. It is unfortunate that Mr. Korosec and the Dallas Observer are so threatened at there being too sides to an issue.

Wendell Cox
Principal, Wendell Cox Consultancy
St. Louis

Wichita Falls murders

Thank you, Carlton Stowers, for your well-written article "Burden of proof" (July 13). You convey the deep feeling of responsibility felt by many in law enforcement to the victims of violent crime. Recognizing the service rendered by investigator John Little, other officers, and district attorneys was very well done. Thank you.

Art H.

The story "Highwaymen" in the July 20 issue of the Dallas Observer incorrectly attributed a newspaper editorial critical of highway proponent Wendell Cox. The editorial in question appeared in the Atlanta Constitution. We regret the error.