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Texas Observer TRIAL AND ERROR 4 Priscilla Owen consistently ruled against accident victims. One of them was Willie Searcy, a paraplegic teenager .whose case the Texas Supreme Court was asked to expedite. by Lou Dubose TORT DEFORM 6 Big business has turned the Texas House into its personal puppet show. Can we clip the strings? by Jake Bernstein, Jessica Chapman, and Dave Mann DEPARTMENTS DIALOGUE 2 EDITORIAL 3 Assault on Public Safety DATELINE TEXAS 10 Free at Last? A Tulia Update by Nate Blakeslee POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE 12 BAD BILLS 13 MOLLY IVINS 14 The Viceroy and His Friends JIM HIGHTOWER 15 While You Were Watching the War APRIL 25, 2003 BOOKS & THE CULTURE DIALOGUE BAD AIRS In your otherwise interesting story about El Paso’s mayor in the issue dated April 11 \(“El Mayor vs. Los Good Old factual error. After describing a false rumor that El Paso Mayor Ray Caballero’s anti-business policies had led a real estate company to take its business elsewhere, Nathan writes: Within hours, of a smarmy cloud of “mayor-discourages-business” rumors that waft through the city like miasma and are given credence by the media. Texas Monthly, for instance, published a piece last year that quoted Bobby Bowling III and other, unnamed, developers lamenting that Caballero is bad for business and that companies won’t relocate under his watch. Yet Expansion Management magazine… recently ranked El Paso near the topabove San Antonioon a list of 50 cities considered the friendliest for business expansion. Why don’t reporters check this stuff and challenge the rumor mongers? In my story in Texas Monthly \(“Ray’s check out the rumors. I specifically cited the example of developer Melvin Simon’s decision not to put a mall in downtown El Paso because of Caballero’s policies. This was not a rumor. I called Melvin Simon and ver ified it. The point I was making was that some developers were unhappy with Caballero and that this was a rea son they often gave for their unhappi ness. Nathan ought to take her own advice. If she had checked my facts she would have found them to be accurate. Sam Gwynne Executive Editor, Texas Monthly Debbie Nathan replies: Sam Gwynne should have known that just because some El Paso developers gave a reason for their unhappiness doesn’t mean the reason is fact. To get past the bull here, let’s first dispense with the strawman Melvin Simonthat Gwynne erects to make it look like he’s got an argument. I knew when I wrote my piece that mall developer Simon had opted not to build a new facility in El Paso. Simon’s negotiators said they would put up a new mall if El Paso would give them $20 million in sales tax rebates. Never in the city’s history has a developer gotten this kind of perk, and these days, cities of El Paso’s size and retail market position rarely agree to such giveaways. \(Mayor Caballero’s development staff say they did seriously and amicably consider the offer, but they consulted with prominent local businesspeople who said the deal wouldn’t be good for handed. But does this mean the mayor is an “extreme anti-capitalist”? Or “anti-growth”? Or “the worst thing that could happen to the city”? Those are the words not of out-of-towner Simon, but of El Paso builder Bobby Bowling III and several other local developers whom Gwynne quotes. Sure, these folks are pissed with Caballero. And sure, the quotes illustrate their anger. But their claims are so troglodytic and extreme that one would have expected Gwynne to take them with a Morton’s box of salt. Instead, he uncritically cites the El Pasoans claiming that “headhunters and consultants for big companies” say they’ll never relocate to the city while Caballero is mayor. This is a serious allegation that deserved serious verification. Exactly who are these headhunters and con sultants? Gwynne does not name or quote them. And who are the local developers purportedly speaking for the out-of-towners? We don’t know, because Gwynne keeps almost all the El Pasoans in the shadows of anonymi ty. The one person he names, Bowling, seems to have an endless capacity for confabulation.While reporting my arti cle, I heard him tell audiences that continued on page 20 POETRY by B.C. Cohen GOD’S LITTLE FAVELA by Jake Miller COMPELLED TO CREATE by James McWilliams CONFESSIONS OF A STONE WALL by Steven G. Kellman AFTERWORD Free Raspas by Dagoberto Gilb THE BACK PAGE Tort Deform Cover illustration by Doug Potter. 2 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 4/25/03 21 22 24 26 31 32