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Houston 4 4 WAS SOLD on TMO [The Metropolitan Or ganization] by Sister Christine Stevens,” Herbert Hart tells the forty people meeting on September 9 in the parish hall of St. Francis Cabrini church in southeast Houston. “She told us institutions are shaping our lives institutions we have no control over.” Herbert Hart, white, in his. 60s, is telling the other representatives of southeast Houston civic clubs and parishes that the utility pass-through costs generated by the South Texas Nuclear Project should be an issue in this fall’s Houston mayoral race. “All our elected officials are disengaging themselves from taxation,” he says, “with commissions and tax equalization boards. It’s the same with utilities. You find on your light bill money for projects you have no use for. We should ask the candidates [for mayor] on pass-through costs for STNP, what’s their position?” SOUTHEAST Houston along the Gulf Freeway is predominantly an area of white, working-class neighborhoods. Strip joints appear here and there along some of the major thoroughfares. Eighteen-wheelers carry the goods of the petrochemical industry on Loop 610 and 1-45, the main artery of the industry, connecting the Houston Ship Channel to the refineries and factories along the route to Galveston and bisecting southeast Houston. Just beyond the neighborhood surrounding St. Francis Cabrini church rise the brightly-lit steeples of refineries. The neighborhood itself is flat and low-lying, as is most of Houston. On the evening of September 9, people were out working in the yards in front of their frame and brick houses. “I have lived in southeast Houston for fifteen years,” Dr. Anthony Collins told the Observer. Collins, who chaired the TMO meetings, teaches drama at the University of Houston. “This area has flooded more severely in the last several years, particularly in July 1979. And then.with two rains in ‘September of that year, there was water in hundreds or thousands of homes. I joined TMO at that point for [action about] flooding. TMO connected flooding with unbridled building with no runoff controls. Since that time, we have been working to address flooding in the southeast part of Houston. The residential flooding in the past five years is getting worse [because of increased development]. In 1980, TMO got the city council to pass ordinances requiring runoff controls for any construction in the Berry Creek Watershed [in Southeast Houston]. Under the ordinances, runoff from [developed] property could not be greater than it would have been in its natural, unimproved state. What we were denounced as radicals for the city has now accepted.” The Houston City Council recently adopted runoff ordinances for the entire city. Because of the central role TMO has played in the development of Houston water policy, because of the importance of water issues to TMO since its inception, and perhaps most significant, because of the disproportionate size of the Houston vote in the upcoming statewide constitutional vote, proponents of the proposed state water plan are courting TMO support. Because the Houston mayor’s race will be the only race in a large Texas city to coincide with voting on proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution, Houston turnout will be pivotal in the vote on the state water amendments. \(There will also be September 9 meeting of TMO leaders was one of ten such meetings being held around Houston to establish a set of issues that TMO wants addressed by the Houston mayoral candidates. But the meeting was also organized to give the organization an opportunity to consider the state water plan and what it means for water development and flood control in Houston. Steve Stagner of Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby’s office addressed the meeting, as did Gerry Pate, of Pate Engineers, who had directed a study of Houston water planning for the Houston Chamber of Commerce. Both were pushing the proposed water plan. Stagner told the group that, unlike previous water plans, the current proposal should be looked at as addressing state water development “not as a problem of irrigating agriculture but as a problem of the urban infrastructure. . . . The heart of this plan is a commitment to regionalization. Any city that comes to the state for money must have a conservation program. All cities will have an incentive to take a regional approach to water quality.” As if to insure his listeners of the special attention paid to Houston, Stagner added, “The flood control portions of the plan were written in my office by Paul Colbert [D-Houston].” Pate told the group, “We’ve. never been able to say about a state water plan that it had any impact on Harris County.” He said the regional detention center provisions would relieve Houston developers of current on-site detention requirements. It would allow “development to occur and allows detention at the same time.” The TMO representatives listened politely, asked a few questions, and committed themselves to further study of the plan. WITH the water issue out of the way, the leaders of parishes and civic clubs turned to a discussion of the issues they want addressed by Houston mayoral candidates Kathy Whitmire and Louie Welch. What emerged was a list of largely middle-class, homeowner-oriented issues. What TMO represents, at least for this part of Houston, is the means for a middle-class rebellion. In most parts of the state, the community organizations of the Industrial Areas Foundation affiliate, are best known for issues such as educational equalization, indigent health care, drainage in low-income neighborhoods. The most prominent leaders of IAF campaigns in the Capitol are usually brown or black. But in almost all IAF organizing efforts, there ctA l itt il l STAY ONE NIGHT AND THE NEXT NIGHT IS HALF-PRICE except Friday & Saturday P.O. Box 8 Port Aransas, TX 78373 Organizing Neighborhood Clout By Geoffrey Rips THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5