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 http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/editorial/1671002,
which now says "no such article" exists. The following
is what did exist.]
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 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
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
• 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
• Elyse Lanier: From jewelry salesperson to Houston
• 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
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