Mea culpa
Buzz doesn't want to dwell on how we found this out. We simply want to warn our fellow motorists on the Dallas North Tollway. You may have, like Buzz, occasionally whizzed by the exact-change basket as you passed a toll booth even though you hadn't found 50 cents at the bottom of your purse, under your seat, in the car ashtray, or inside the glove compartment.

"We certainly tried," Buzz would murmur, trying to convince ourselves we weren't fare cheats.

The consequences in the past were negligible. A red light blinked atop a post; a buzzer sounded. But the cameras overhead weren't working--something Buzz only realized after inadvertently testing this theory more times than we care to admit in print. No one and no machine recorded the license numbers of the passing cars. Simply put, we were getting away with highway robbery.

Well, Buzz wants you know: Times have changed. Fare cheats will now get two-page notices in the mail explaining that the owner of "the non-paying vehicle is liable for the payment of the proper toll and an administrative fee." Violators must cough up $10 for a toll that would have cost 50 cents had they done right in the first place.

Say it ain't so, Phil
We don't know what's come over Sen. Phil Gramm, but something appears to be softening his stony right-wing heart.

Project Vote Smart, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research group, just issued its U.S. Government Owners Manual 1997, which details contributions to and voting records of members of Congress.

Buzz scanned the ratings for the Dallas congressional delegation and found few surprises. With the exception of Eddie Bernice Johnson, most Dallas congressmen are typical Christian Coalition lap dogs. Gramm is too, of course, but somehow he managed to vote with the ACLU's position on civil rights issues 20 percent of the time in 1996 and with the NAACP's 25 percent in 1995-'96. We figure either someone screwed up the math, or Gramm occasionally suffers flashbacks to his days as a Democrat.

Doubts aside, Project Vote Smart and its "owners manual" have tons of information to help citizens keep watch on Congress. Check out their Web site at

Let them eat pie
Buzz just hates to correct other publications, but we believe that D magazine missed the mark with this month's article about TCI Cable, "the most hated company in Dallas." Buzz's reason? Pie.

We were recently given a copy of a letter from TCI general manager Mark Morrison offering a free pumpkin or apple pie from Tom Thumb to "valued" TCI customers. The folksy letter with pie coupon enclosed even mentions Morrison's mother.

Oh sure, D detailed TCI's history of bad reception, crappy customer service, broken promises, and high-handed monopolistic pricing. But c'mon, we're talking free pie here. Who needs decent, affordable service? Besides, Buzz finds the notion that a cable exec even has a mother so astounding that we're willing to forgive and forget.

Feed the Buzz. Write us at [email protected]

--Compiled from staff reports by Patrick Williams

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams