July 13th, 2017 under West Texas Talk Highlight
In today’s political environment Shakespeare may have written Marc Anthony’s speech, at Julius Cesar’s funeral, something like this: “Friends, Americans, Countrymen, lend me your ears. President Donald Trump has come to bury Freedom of the Press, not to praise it. The evil that news media does lives after it. The good is often interred in their bones. So let it be with our news media. The Nobel Trump says all news media are crooked, except for Fox; if it were so it was a grievous fault and grievously have they answered it.”
I have recently read in the news of three Mexican news reporters murdered by the cartel. The latest one occurred in front of the reporter’s young son. Did this reporter seem crooked? Yet, Trump says they are all crooked and Trump is an honorable man.
You all did see that two news reporters of the Washington Post brought down the lying, “cover up” President Richard Nixon. Did this reporting seem “fake news and crooked”? Yet Trump tells us the news media produce fake news and they are crooked. And Trump is an honorable man.
I for one had rather place my faith in the news reporters who answer to the American people. They often risk their reputation, employment, and sometimes their lives to bring us their news as they see it. Right or wrong, the American people are the first filter and judge of the validity, the competitive news media is the second and I guess God is the third, because news people are people too. They answer within their own being and I am proud to say, America’s freedom of the press is one of the most superior in the world today. May it remain so!
Judge C. Stephenson
• • • • •
On Monday I appeared before the Presidio County Appraisal District Review Board to appeal my property valuation. The home appraisal had increased by almost 40%, which I thought was excessive. I was told by the board that one of the reasons for the increase was that my home is made of adobe bricks. Yes, I said, and it was made of adobe bricks when I bought it in 1995. Why the big increase now?
Adobe is perhaps the most humble building material known to man. It’s dirt and water. There are a lot of adobe homes in Marfa, hundreds. It’s labor-intensive to build an adobe house, and to maintain it. But there aren’t any trees out here for lumber, and the weather is right for making mud bricks, so adobe was the fall-back option for houses and businesses, schools and churches.
Now, according to the Appraisal Review Board, adobe houses are way “cool.” Newcomers are hankering to own them, sending the prices through the roof. That translates to higher property values, which is great if you want to sell, but not so great if you want to stay put. Too bad for you if you own an adobe house, like I do, and spent the past 22 years restoring it, like I did. Too bad for you that the upkeep on your house is constant and expensive. Too bad for you if you want to preserve a little piece of old Marfa and protect the memories of the Mexican immigrants who built the house back in 1910.
What are we adobe home-owners to do? We could shove over our mud houses and bring in nice, new mobile homes. That would solve the property tax problem. My neighbor, who does not live in an adobe home, thinks that those of us who live in, and love, our adobe homes, should be given a tax break, not a tax burden. Our homes are what ties Marfa to its history, he says. And our constant vigilance should be rewarded, not penalized.
Amen to that.
Marfa and New Braunfels
• • • • •
The July 6, 2017 issue of the Alpine Avalanche had a staff reporter front-page article and a letter to the editor from Ward 5 City Council member Rick Stevens about the $215,000 gift from Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) to kick off a walking path along Alpine Creek. Seems like the general feeling or sense is that folks do not agree about adequate or even any inputs from citizens, city council public hearings, or Alpine (the folks who live here) inputs to the Rural Business Programs at UTSA for some 22 rural cities, and even the formation of and inputs to the Alpine Downtown Association.
Seems to me there is a whole lot of smoke and mirrors going on here and even some lack of transparency going even as far back as 2001 with the Texas Water Development Board. Maybe a good plan would first be to ask the ETP if in fact the monies can be used for other concerns. If it can then an city-wide open public discussion not constrained or restricted by Alpine City Council meeting rules. If we can, keep the monies out of the general operating funds in an account only for the project and open posting of the monies as and how they are spent.
As a potential place to put some extra money one only need to look at the recent street repair/repaving of North 4th Street to see the several blocks that were graded, oiled, and graveled and how quickly it has gone to “pot”……how about getting a real paving machine that can put down real asphalt surface and getting some public inputs all around the city on a road repair priority. Don’t think we ever did any of that.
• • • • •
The proposed housing development at 11th Street and Avenue J in Alpine will have 13 buildings, comprising 49 apartments, with over two-thirds of those two- and three-bedroom units. This will mean almost nonstop car trips on 11th Street by residents, plus garbage and delivery trucks, school busses, visitors, etc. That traffic will completely overwhelm the historic Centennial neighborhood, and spill over to the rest of the old city South Side, including Gallego, Ave. F, Murphy, 7th, and 5th, especially when there’s a train blocking the 11th street crossing.
Add to that the possible closure of the 7th street crossing for a Quiet Zone, and you have a recipe for drowning the South Side in traffic, noise, and trash, along with the very real possibility of folks seeing their property values drop as a result.
This is not the way a city administration should treat a historic neighborhood. For every John Wayne story in our history books, there’s the untold story of Juan and Maria Jimenez doing the backbreaking work that ultimately allowed the settlement and “civilization” of our region. Festivals aside, our city administration seems not to care about destroying the community that has given Alpine its heart and soul since before there was even a Murphyville.
Like it or not, Alpine citizens must involve themselves in choosing our new city manager. The process must ultimately lead to a Town Hall meeting where citizens can question and vett the candidates to provide a better understanding of the priorities and values of our entire community.
Since 2001 we’re 0-5 on ethical City Managers. We can finally change this, but only if we take the time and find the courage to insist to our City Council members that our history and culture matter as much as future development.
Peter A. Smyke
• • • • •
I was surprised to read in last week’s paper that the position of city of Marfa treasurer (administrative assistant) had been filled with only one person applying, the person who designed the position while in office as mayor.
This is a well-paid job, and I am questioning whether the application process was thorough and fair. This is a job with the city carrying a hefty paycheck if the math in the article is correct.
Non-service industry jobs are scarce in Marfa and there was no one else who applied? That really surprises me.
I would like to hear an accounting of how we went from a city council meeting decision to “table” the subject with many in attendance to protest it, to the former mayor taking the job.
Mary Lou Saxon