the grounds that the courthouse, though damaged by fire, is of sufficient value to merit continued protection as a state archaeological landmark and that its destruction would not be in “the best interest of the state of Texas.” The committee decided that preservationists should be given at least a year to seek funding for the rehabilitation of the courthouse. A plan submitted by the preservationists’ group, Historic Bowie County Inc., called for raising $189,000 in the first year of a threeyear fundraising and reconstruction effort. If the group is unable to raise that amount of money after a year, the committee will then consider granting a demolition permit. But it is not within the power of the committee to force the county to spend funds on preservation of the courthouse, or even to allow preservationists to take control of the property the committee’s only authority is in preventing demolition. It is now up to Bowie County officials to decide if they wish to cooperate with the upstart preservationists and put the past acrimony aside. D.A. John Miller gave no indication that he was seized with the spirit of compromise after the Antiquities Committee’s decision. “The tragedy of the whole thing is that the monument we’ve made is simply to the frailty of the human mind,” he said. He declared that he now intended to take the matter to district court to prove that the committee had acted unreasonably in restricting county decision-making. The first responsibility of county governments, he said, is to determine what the public interest is; historical preservation should be secondary. “They have inverted that,” he said of the Antiquities Committee. Bowie County Judge Carlow was not as ready as Miller to take the matter to district court. “I hate to make that comment without consulting with the [commissioners’] court,” he said. But he said he didn’t expect that county commissioners would be inclined to strike a deal with the preservationists. Miller said he would challenge the state’s laws that protect historical landmarks. The laws protecting county courthouses, he contended, were not meant to cover decrepit or damaged buildings that were no longer used as the seat of government. “They meant the functional courthouse [should be protected],” he said. “This is an abandoned courthouse. This is merely a ruin.” Miller said he has already discussed with at least one member of the legislature the possibility of changing the law to exclude courthouses from protection if they are not the “functional courthouse.” Historian T.R. Fehrenbach, who chairs the Antiquities Committee, said he did not fear a court challenge to the committee’s authority. “As a major constitutional case, I’d welcome it,” he said. Paul Addington, president of the Bowie County preservationists’ group, said he doubts the county will pursue the matter in court. “What’s it going to cost the taxpayers if the county appeals?” he asks. He said members of his group have traversed the county, urging citizens to tell their commissioners they do not favor additional tax money being devoted to the fight over the courthouse. The preservationists have also been assuring the public that they do not seek to restore the building with money from the public till. Instead, they will be seeking private donations and grants to meet their immediate $189,000 goal, and to eventually raise a million dollars to turn the old courthouse into a museum. For the preservationists, preventing the building’s demolition was a long fight against the odds. Now comes the hard part. -DAVE DENISON Activists Urge Move from Military to Social Spending DALLAS For one weekend in January this city became a hotbed of progressive activism, as the Boston-based Peace Development Fund sponsored a gathering of social justice activists from Texas and Oklahoma. Twohundred Texans and Oklahomans most who described the term liberal as too conservative to apply to themselves attended the three-day gathering. Keynote speaker Jew Don Boney, a Houston civil rights leader and spokesperson for the Free Clarence Brandley Coalition, criticized what he described as widespread racism in the sentencing of criminals. \(Brandley is a former Conroe school janitor who was convicted of the rape/slaying of a white high school student although important evidence that might have exonerated him was never presented in court. His death sentence has been stayed and his trial according to Boney, is notorious for unequal treatment of and violence against black arrestees. Racism in the penal system is a symptom of prejudice and discrimination still prevalent in society. De facto segregation is still common, Boney said. He challenged peace and justice activists to take a critical look at their own movement and ask why people of color are underrepresented. Is the peace and justice movement for only one segment of society? Boney asked. Issues that brought participants to the gathering included affordable housing, homelessness, nuclear nonproliferation, and Workshops on coaliti-li building, selection of boards, grassroots organization and fundraising, and dealing effectively with the media were designed to make activists more effective in their own communities. Discus sions among representatives of groups involved in the same type of work provided for an exchange of ideas and the potential for building stronger political movements. The general theme of the conference was the linking of reduction in defense spending with increased social spending reversing the Reagan Revolution. No one suggested that that broad goal was likely to happen soon on a grand scale but most expressed their commitment to continued work toward changing current policies. Education, though it was not a highlighted issue on the agenda, brought a more spontaneous response than other topics. Why are one-third of Texas high school students dropping out of school? Why can’t one in five of the state’s high school graduates read? The problem, many argued, is one of money and its unequal distribution not only in education but in all areas of society. Racism and poverty serve to instruct children that they will have to accept lower standards of living and lower expectations of finding decent and rewarding work. If children are alienated in the educational process, it was asked, what can be done to resocialize them? -ELISA LYLES Elisa Lyles is the Observer Social Cause Calendar editor. vb .s Ee TErv …er Available at the following locations: Old World Bakery 814 W. 12th Street Austin Crossroads Market 3930 Cedar Springs Dallas FW Books and Video 400 Main, at Sundance Square Fort Worth Brazos Bookstore 2314 Bissonett Houston Sun Harvest No.2 4904 Fredericksburg Road San Antonio Books and News 301 State Line Ave. Texarkana THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5
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