publican challenger, and one source from the 1992 Richards campaign said that the former democratic governor’s opposition research included material about Bush’s membership in the club. “No one,” the Richards campaign source said, “showed much interest in the story, except the Houston Post.” It was in response to inquiries from the now-defunct Post that the property was reappraised in 1992, said Henderson County Tax Appraiser Jackson. Recently, Governor Bush’s talk of a new tax system that might reduce dependence on local property taxes has refocused media attention on the Governor’s East Texas tax haven, Several news organizations took a second look at the Rainbo Club, A wrongful termination suit filed by a former Rainbo Club caretaker, who has named the club and the governor as defendants, has provided additional information about the club’s membership and operation, In the lawsuit a classic “little feller v. Rockefellers” fightJohn Moseley, who alleges he was wrongfully terminated after he was injured, has taken on what looks like the Dallas Social Register. Named as defendants with the non-profit Rainbo Club Inc. are George W. Bush; Neal Bright; Clinton Murchison, III; Mary Ann Perryman; Kristin L, Perryman; and David Dean. In a deposition, Governor Bush described visiting Rainbo Lake with a friend in 1991, and discovering that one of the houses in the club was for sale. “I drove to RainboAthenswith my wife, met Mr. Pritchett, whom I had never met before, looked at his property, and decided right then and there that this is something my wife and I would like to purchase. Once we had agreed uponyou know, to settle the terms, I then had tolike any other member, would have to go through an approval process.” Bush described the process: “the president of the club circulates the name of the proposed purchaseepurchaserthe guy that’s going to buy the property, and there is a vote amongst the members as to whether or not I would be accepted. And I was.” “Are you aware if there are any AfroAmerican members of Rainbo Club?” the Governor was asked during September 4, 1994, deposition. After a technical objection by his attorney, he responded: “There are no African-American members.” In subsequent questions, he answered that there are no Hispanics, American Indians, or Asian Americans in the Rainbo Club. There was no suggestion that the organization had or would refuse admission to a black or Hispanic interested in purchasing property. And even if the eighteen houses and all of the club’s commonly held property were assessed by the same formula that determined the value of Vernon Ornsby’s trailer house and seven and a half acres, the net increase in revenue probably wouldn’t cover the $463,000 annual debt service on the new Henderson County jail. So Rainbogate this is not. An embarrassment for the governor it is, For thirty years, tax-poor school districts, many of them minority districts like the named plaintiff in the Edgewood v. Kirby education equity lawsuit, have litigated and legislated their way toward something that resembles a more just access to the state’s ad valorem tax wealth. The Governor, elected after Edgewood’s compromised conclusion in the Legislature, is one of many property owners using one of many mechanisms to avoid paying his share of taxes. In an exclusive, all white subdivision. And the obscure mechanism by which the Governor and a small group of wealthy landowners have avoided paying taxes reveals what is fundamentally wrong with the system of taxation he has promised to reform: While no one wants to pay taxes, only those with the wealth and wherewithal to do so can always beat the tax man,L.D. Better Living Through TNRCC Chemistry? ACCORDING TO THE TEXAS Natual Resource Conservation Commis sion, the burning of hazardous wastes by Texas cement plants is non-toxicto dirt. That, at least, was the exceedingly dubious outcome of a TNRCC study recently issued for the Midlothian area \(southwest of Dalair and soil are no more polluted than in other rural communities, and that “industrial operations in the community do not appear to be adversely impacting health or environmental quality.” The TNRCC, as reported by Hollace Wiener in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram completed a four-year “risk assessment” of the area, in response to citizen complaints that nearby heavy industry, including a large steel mill and three cement , plants, might be emitting toxic pollutants. More specifically, citizens groups charged that the cement plants, burning highly poisonous hazardous wastes for fuel, generate toxic air pollution that has adversely affected the health of people and animals downwind of the plants. Midlothian residents have been especially alarmed by an otherwise unexplained cluster of birth defects occurring in children born downwind of the cement plants. THE TNRCC STUDY at first appears to make short work of the citizens’ concerns. It reports that only normal levels of chemicals and metals are present in Midlothian’s air and soil, with the exception of sulfur compounds occasionally exceeding “the odor threshold.” It certainly sounds like good news, Unfortunately, there is more than one reason to doubt the accuracyindeed even the honestyof the TNRCC findings, In the first place, this “risk assessment” did not include analyses of a single human or animal subjectyet it is presumably people and animals that have been at risk, More disturbingly, the study appears to have relied upon a scientific method so superficial that it calls into question the TNRCC’s intentions as well as its results. Neil Carman, the Lone Star Sierra Club’s clean air director, questioned the study’s computer modeling and lack of direct human or animal testing, “It’s very, very difficult,” said Carman, “to examine the soil and the air and then extrapolate hard data and say there’s no problem.” Carman was soon joined by a group of independent scientists, who analyzed the TNRCC’s report and methods and concluded bluntly, “Without doing a full epidemiological health study on area residents it is impossible to scientifically conclude that the emissions [from the plants] do not pose a health threat to area residents.” The scientists noted that in three other U.S. instances, epidemiological studies done near facilities burning hazardous waste have in fact found health damage to area residents. Is the TNRCC guilty only of slipshod scienceclose enough for government work? Residents and outside observers think not, and say that the study appears to have been intentionally designed to find nothing. TNRCC spokesman Patrick Shaugnessy dismissed the critics, saying, “We don’t expect everyone will acept the results of our studies.” But the outside researchers note numerous instances where the study did not follow standard scientific protocols for finding pollutants, and avoided testing water, fish or vegetation for dioxin, or the food chain for other concentrations of toxins. Jim Schermbeck, staff researcher for the grassroots group Downwinders at Risk, charged a “cover-up,” and the Sierra Club’s Carman called for an independent investigation of the TNRCC and its “potential scientific fraud.” These are serious charges, and they go beyond the Midlothian study. The agencies in charge of protecting citizens have shrugged at citizens’ concerns, in effect staring down the evidence and muttering, “Who are you going to believeus or your own eyes?” For the moment, we’ll believe our own eyesand noses, and lungs, etc.before we believe the TNRCC’s bland reassurances based on politics-driven research. We join in calling for an independent investigation of the Midlothian study, and a full epidemiological investigation of the area’s health problems. It’s about time state aovernment realized that when it comes to poisoning the Texas environment, we are all downwinders, at risk.M.K. 4 NOVEMBER 17, 1995
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