Thursday, April 24, 2008

Long-Term Memory Loss

We read with interest the letter to the editor from Bob Lanier that was published in Tuesday’s Houston Chronicle, wherein the former mayor chastised City Councilman Peter Brown for telling the newspaper that if elected mayor in 2009 "he will go to the state Legislature to avoid allowing Houstonians to vote on [a stricter development code].” Such a move “circumvents the right of our citizens to decide the course of Houston public policy,” wrote Lanier. “… It would be a mistake to limit the public’s role in any policy that seeks to shift private property rights to City Hall.”

We agree whole-heartedly, but as a long-time resident we found Lanier’s defense of the democratic process somewhat, shall we say, ironic. Let us return now to those halcyon days of the late 1980s, when the city was trying to shake off the Oil Bust hangover and Lanier, a bigfoot developer, was among the movers who forged a compromise between road-building suburban interests and mass transit advocates under which Metro would pursue construction of a light-rail system while devoting a portion of its revenue to streets and thoroughfares. The plan was put to a referendum and was approved (by how much we forget---no time for this “fact-checking” business this evening) and Lanier became Metro chairman, presumably to carry out the voter-approved plan. But not too long after taking the reins of the transit agency Lanier began raising doubts about the viability of the rail plan, based on numbers assembled by an outside expert he had hired who deemed the proposal highly cost-ineffective. When it finally became apparent that Lanier was out to kill rail and not carry out the wishes of voters, the then-mayor, Kathy Whitmire, had the old boy 86'ed from the Metro board. In what turned out to be a supreme act of vengeance, Lanier ran against Whitmire, initially basing his campaign on the idea that voters should be allowed to have another say on the rail plan, based on the “new information” that had emerged since it had been approved. But once he had ousted Whitmire and assumed her job, nothing more was to be heard about the need for a new referendum, or about the old referendum for that matter, and when pressed Lanier said that his election as mayor had been a referendum on rail and there was no need to waste money and time on more of this voting business (even though rail, pro or con, never was much of an issue with voters and was quickly subsumed by Lanier's put-more-cops-on-the-streets platform).

And that’s our history lesson for today. There will be no homework, but you must answer this sample TAKS question before dismissal:

When the author of this passage uses the phrase “shake off the Oil Bust
hangover” in paragraph 2, line 3, he:

A. Is using a simile.
B. Is using a metaphor
C. Is hung over himself.
D. Is up past his bedtime.

Don’t forget to use your strategies!

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