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and a way, and it shall be called, The way of holiness; the unclean shall not Jacobs shared her prophecy with Pastor Steve Hill of Dallas’ Heartland World Ministries Church. They recruited other churches for a proselytizing effort centered on 1-35. They call it the “Light the Highway” movement \( In late October, the coalition launched “35 days of highway holiness,” a series of 17 prayer rallies, beginning in Laredo and heading north along the interstate to its terminus in Duluth, Minnesota. Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network recently aired a breathless profile of the effort. When the highway illuminators found a particularly sinful spot, an abortion clinic, a gay bar, a strip club, they swarmed into “purity siege” mode, assaulting the business and its patrons with powerful bursts of prayer. “You drive down any interstate, there will be signs for the porn shop,” said Hill. The devil will display his goods and invite people to pull in. I just believe the church needs to be a little bit more aggressive sharing the greatest news on the planet Earth. That’s what I hope will come out of this.” Enter a different set of believers with a different agenda. To the anti-NAFTA superhighway crowd, 1-35 could never be considered holy. It is evil incarnate with exit ramps. Conservative groups such as Schlafly’s Eagle Forum suspect 1-35 is part of a sinister plan to create a NAFTA superhighway, part of a “monster of a project that will expand 1-35 and add dedicated truck lanes and rails for both passenger and freight,” reads a recent message from GrassTops USAa right-wing “values” group that once called for a boycott of the movie Bad Santa because of its Christmas-themed vulgarity. The conservative Web site even wrote over the summer that “increasing international trade truck traffic on Interstate 35 through Minnesota raises concerns that NAFTA Superhighway traffic contributed to last week’s collapse of the freeway bridge in Minneapolis.” How can you square such contradictory views of the same road? Is it holy or evil? “They’re looking at the natural commerce; I’m looking at the spiritual commerce,” Hill said. “You speak commercial, I speak spiritual.” SAFE AT HOME? The real estate bubble never fully enveloped Texas. Even the state’s priciest cities, such as Austin and Houston, didn’t experience the huge leaps in home values seen in Florida and California. As housing markets collapse across the country, it turns out that wasn’t such a bad deal. Missing out on the boom has helped the state avoid the real estate bust. That likely won’t last. A recent report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Mayors predicts that continued calamity in the housing market may soon become a drag on Texas’ economy. Risky subprime, adjustable-rate mortgages have spurred a rash of foreclosures nationwide. Those loansgiven to buyers with bad creditdraw in homeowners with low teaser interest rates that skyrocket two or three years into the mortgage. When that happens, many homeowners can’t make the higher payments, and the only way out is to sell the house. If the home’s value has dropped and selling it won’t pay off the mortgage, foreclosure follows. Texas has its fair share of subprime loansin fact, McAllen has a higher percentage of subprimes than any city in the country. What’s saved the state so far is that housing prices have remained high. Because the real estate boom passed over many Texas markets and houses never became hugely overvalued, home prices have either remained stable or even risen. In Austin, for instance, home values increased by 9.6 percent in the past year, according to federal estimates. Meanwhile, home prices nationwide fell in the third quarter of 2007, the first decline in real estate value in 13 years. The Houston and Dallas markets have also bucked the national trend. In many Texas markets, homeowners still can escape a risky mortgage by selling their house. The Conference of Mayors commis sioned a study of what a continued housing market collapse would mean for the nation’s cities. The report, prepared by economic forecasting firm Global Insight and released in late November, predicts that home values will fall by $519 billion nationwide in 2008. That decline will deflate the economies of most of the nation’s 361 largest metro areas, according to the firm’s economic models. In Texas, the report foresees that housing troubles will cause a $4 billion drop in Dallas’ “gross metropolitan product,” the third-largest decline in the nation. That eye-catching dollar figure generated some alarmed headlines in Dallas. But it’s hardly the worst news for Texas. Because Dallas is expanding so rapidly, the $4 billion drop represents just a 0.8 percent decline in the city’s economic growth. In fact, the report predicts similar or greater slowdowns for other Texas cities, including Laredo \(0.9 local economies are currently booming. also see drops, according to the report. Ironically, the study predicts that the only market immune from the housing woes will be the area with the most subprime loansthe McAllen-Edinburg -Mission area. A thriving economy and stable housing prices may yet insulate the Valley economy. CALL FOR SILENT AUCTION DONATIONS Once again, the Observer will have its renowned silent auction along with the upcoming Fat Cat Schmoozefest & Rabble Rouser Roundup music celebra tion on January 20, 2008. If you have an item or service to donate, please let us know. It’s a great way to get the word out on your business, and to help the Observer. Contact Julia Austin at 512-477-0746 or DECEMBER 14, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5