Paving paradise
Somebody ought to give Jim Schutze whatever award of excellence you journalists get for his story on the Asian Gardens of East Dallas ["The garden of life," December 3]. It is a beautiful, moving piece that chronicles the endurance and triumph of valuable refugees-turned-neighbors, brought here from Asia by turmoil and war.

Their gardens not only symbolize their struggle, dedication, and success; in a much broader sense they call us to come back to a sense of community and awareness. They remind us that in a city with so much pretension and haste there are too many values that we are allowing to escape our notice and our grasp. Without question, Schutze's piece is one of the best I've read in your paper.

That brings me to my second and related point. The letter from Bob Rissing, the Albertson's Inc. real estate manager [Letters, December 3], defending his company's proposal to plop a 62,000-square-foot Albertson's in the middle of residential East Dallas made me want to choke the cat. If you believe the rubbish about residential sensitivity and economic opportunity, you don't know much about Albertson's. Look to New Orleans, where Albertson's developers sued residents who vocally opposed Albertson's attempt to erect a store in one of that city's historic districts. Or look at the October Albertson's-endorsed public attack on East Dallas residents who oppose the current project, recently discussed in this paper in an article by Rose Farley ["It's your store (like it or not)," November 19].

Likewise, Rissing's claim that such a venture will create jobs is bogus. Forget for a minute that neighborhoods are meant to be lived in, not worked in. That aside, it's widely known, even by Rissing's own admission, that this neighborhood albatross will put at least two of our area's larger grocery stores out of business. Countless other shops will fold, according to local merchants, leaving nothing but hollow carcasses. You know, the Wal-Mart Effect. The ultimate result will be to eliminate jobs, not create them.

And what about this concern for working people? Talk to the thousands of Albertson's current and former employees who are suing this corporate Goliath for forcing them to work "off the clock" and for threatening them not to file insurance claims if they are hurt on the job. Or better yet, take a look at the U.S. government's recent civil indictment of Albertson's for consistently "interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees in the exercise of [their guaranteed] rights." The truth is, if the bottom line on the balance sheet doesn't look good to the boys in Boise, and if skimming from workers or adding a gas station or mini-store to the parking lot (as they are doing in many locations) doesn't pick up the numbers, then what was at first "your store" will become an "underperforming asset," standing vacant.

Of course, they can close it if they want. It's their store, and don't forget it. The only thing that Albertson's is committed to is your grocery-buying dollar. Rissing doesn't quite get it. This is not about architecture. It is about evicting people, destroying residences, vaporizing and injuring important diverse communities, increasing traffic congestion, threatening historic districts, killing small businesses, establishing a terrible zoning precedent by converting residential property to commercial use when vast commercial properties lie only blocks away, demolishing historic property, and eliminating livelihoods.

I think that one of Albertson's reasons for selecting this site is precisely that this corporate titan believed that the residents nearest the location--many or most of whom speak no English and have little financial wherewithal--would be powerless to stop them.

According to the Asian community of East Dallas--the creators of the priceless gardens of which Schutze writes--Albertson's "strong commitment" means the very destruction of these gardens and the annihilation of the community known as Little Asia. I assume that's what Rissing is talking about when he casually says, "Unfortunately, we will have to move a few people."

Ken Molberg
Via e-mail

Crime and punishment
I was delighted to read in the Observer's November 26 edition that Walter Waldhauser a.k.a. Michael Lee Davis is again in custody ["Arresting development"]. Somehow 3.3 years per person murdered did not seem a reasonable punishment.

Jason P. Kazarian
Via e-mail

I read your article about Mr. Davis, who has been convicted of a triple murder. Mr. Davis did his time and legally changed his name after he was let out of prison. Mr. Davis has not done anything illegal since his release but find a job and pay taxes to the city and federal governments. While Mr. Davis did kill three people, it was the state of Texas who let him out of jail, allowed him to change his name, and allowed him this mail-in parole option. It is the state of Texas who is to blame for this mess, not Mr. Davis. It should not be a crime in Texas for a convicted and punished man to start his own business, even with other convicted and punished men, if they are not doing the state any harm.

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