The Big Thicket definitely needs to be increased in size to protect and preserve its diversity, as you suggest in your May 2 Political Intelligence (“Thinning Thicket”). You note that “the Big Thicket’s problem dates to its inception,” when Congressmen Charlie Wilson and Bob Eckhardt “sold this patchwork” as a “string of pearls.”
Actually, it was the timber industry that tried to sell their miserly patchwork as a “string of pearls,” and Eckhardt called them on it. He argued that their 15,000 noncontiguous acres would not sustain the trees and wildlife. Eckhardt first supported Ralph Yarborough’s proposal for a 100,000-acre park; then he proposed a 191,000-acre park. “Hell, Eckhardt, why don’t you just go ahead and make it half a million,” Wilson told him. But together, Eckhardt and Wilson won approval for 84,550 acres, with the intent to add acreage over time.
Indeed, in later years it was increased to just under 100,000 acres. Yarborough, Eckhardt, and Wilson stopped the chainsaws; now we need to act again to preserve the Thicket.
In every other country in the world, except the U.S. and war-torn Somalia, the government has a legal obligation to make the best interests of a child a primary consideration in any decision affecting a child (“Children of the State,” May 16). In other words, the rest of us think that a government agency such as ICE, when federally run or state-run, should be taken to court to stop them from harassing child protection specialists. Perhaps the U.S. should come out of its ghetto and ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Mike Dottridge via e-mail
FOLLOW THE MONEY
As a former state employee with service at the San Antonio State Hospital, I can say that while low pay, disrespect of staff, and aggressive consumers are the reality, none justifies abuse by staff (“Systemic Neglect,” May 2). While it is easy to scapegoat low-paid staff, the real abusers are the well-paid bosses.
Shutting the institutions down is clearly not a solution. What is needed is major reform, beginning with cutting back on overpaid bureaucrats, paying workers decently, providing safer consumer-to-staff ratios, and prosecuting those who are clearly guilty of abuse.
Texas ranks among the bottom five in the nation when it comes to expenditures for our mentally ill and mentally retarded. One has to ask why.