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WHAT!! the Houston Barnacle and a political agenda!! I am shocked!!

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Dec 29, 2002, 5:27:15 PM12/29/02

From the Houston Review- Ahh..the Houston Barnacle and yellow
journalism- as Houston as Ninfas...


Document: Houston Chronicle Memo on Metro
[Editor's Note: This memo was originally posted to the Houston
Chronicle's website but subsequently removed. The original memo
appeared at,
which now says "no such article" exists. The following is what did

A Houston odyssey: DeLay, Lanier and light rail
Next November, voters in the city and across the Metropolitan Transit
Authority service area will cast a truly important vote: They will
decide whether Metro should be permitted to expand our rail rail
system beyond the 7-mile South Main line.

There isn't a more critical issue on the horizon. I propose a series
of editorials, editorial cartoons and Sounding Board columns leading
up to the rail referendum, with this specific objective: Continuing
our long standing efforts to make rail a permanent part of the transit
mix here.

The timing, language and approach of the paper's editorials would, of
course, be the decision of the Editorial Board. But I suggest that
they could be built upon and informed by a news-feature package with
an equally specific focus: Telling the story of rail here by examining
the long term relationship of the two key players in the local transit
wars -- Rep. Tom DeLay and former Mayor Bob Lanier. For better or
worse, (mostly worse, I would argue) no two have had a more
significant impact on transit decisions here. Our readers deserve to
know how they've operated to fund and promote an anti-rail agenda for
the past two decades. This would be vital information for voters as
they come to their decision on rail. It would also be highly
entertaining read.

We in Houston have our own version of the "Chinatown" story of the
early 20th century Los Angeles, when the currency of power was water:
Who controlled it; who received it; where it came from; and where it
went at what price. Since World War II, Houston's currency has bee
concrete-- millions of cubic yards poured for freeways.

DeLay and Lanier have been the two central characters in our local
drama. This urban-suburban, Republican-Democrat odd couple is bound by
the belief highways and poured concrete are the path to a profitable
future for this area, and its converse--the belief that mass transit
must be stopped in its tracks.

The broad elements of the news/features package could include:

• The story of how the Lanier-DeLay relationship began (in the early
1980's when Lanier was chairman of the state Hiway Commission and
DeLay was a young congressman)

• Lanier the land man: Through his privately held Landar Corp., Lanier
has long shown his prescience in purchasing land where roads would
ultimately go. Where are his holdings? Specifically , where are his
holdings along the Grand Parkway? How has he benefitted by the
building of roads.

• DeLay's steady rise to power in Congress. How it come about and,
more importantly, how it was funded (by the highway lobby).

• Lanier's rise to political power. His rift with former Mayor Kathy
Whitmire that turned into a determination to run her off (he did and
she was never heard from again); his controversial shifting of transit
funds into the city budget in the much discussed "Metro transfer."

• Bob Lanier, public kingmaker. For almost a decade, the path to
public office in Houston has wound through Lanier's den. Mayoral and
City Council hopefuls, congressional candidates, would-be Texas Texas
legislators and county commissioners--all come to kiss the great man's
ring and bid for his approval. What is protocol? Who makes
introductions? What is the quid-pro-quo? And, the $64 question: How
has Lanier managed to promote himself as the patron saint of inner
city Houston while working with DeLay to promote a relentlessly
suburban/freeway/anti-rail funding agenda at all levels of government?

• Ground zero for November: The campaign led by DeLay and Lenier to
defeat rail expansion. Who is doing the funding? What is the history
of the San Antonio-based think tank doing the the research to
discredit rail?

Any number of sidebar topics also come to mind:

• The Fort Bend mayors who are bucking DeLay and Lanier to bring
commuter rail to the thousands of Fort Bend residents who work in the
Medical Center.

• Laniers involvement in the lawsuit brought by former Houston
Councilman Robb Todd to hold up the South Main light rail project.

• Elyse Lanier: From jewelry salesperson to Houston political insider.

• The Greater Houston Partnership and the clean-air saga. When the
Environmental Protection Agency put clean-air deadlines on the Houston
region in the early 1990's, the Partnership resisted mightily. The
thinking was: We have the political connections in Washington--from
George Bush and Bill Archer to DeLay and Lloyd Bentson-- to stall and
stonewall until this all goes away. What went wrong? What was the
Chronicle's role in supporting this approach?

• A primer on highway building, Houston style: Why the Southwest
Freeway turned south and west rather than continuing due west
(developer Frank Sharp had a hand in this).

• Why Texas highways have frontage roads (a key to economic
development) in the first place. Sam Rayburn added them to the
language in President Eisenhower's landmark legislation creating the
Interstate Highway System in the 1950's. At whose bidding?

This is a story in urgent need of telling, and an editorial position
of equal urgency. Voters deserve to know the history of how Houston
came to be a city of freeways well before they decide about rail's
future next November. They need to know who has wielded the power to
pour concrete, who still wields it and to what lengths the concrete
pourers will go in order to stop rail.

[Taken from the web 11/20/02 11:07 PM]

and you will still find:

Nov. 21, 2002, 11:05PM
Document mistakenly posted to site

An internal Houston Chronicle document was mistakenly posted to the
editorial/opinion area of the Web site early Thursday morning. We
apologize for any confusion it may have caused.]

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