Friday, September 14, 2012

Dem bones

I've lived in and around Houston all my life. Now Houston will never be a tourist destination like Austin and San Antonio are. Folks come to Houston for business and to see family. And that's fine for me.

Houston's lack of zoning has created a plethora of eclectic neighborhoods inside, and outside, the Loop. My office is smack dab in the middle of one of the most famous - The Heights.

But one thing about Houston disturbs me. We have very little sense of history here. It it's old, it's in danger of being knocked down by a developer. The rush to build cookie-cutter loft apartments, McMansions and trendy shopping areas spells doom for historic properties in and around this city.

Currently the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is overseeing construction of a river of concrete that will connect the Katy Freeway and the Northwest Freeway out in the far west reaches of Harris County. You see, it's not enough that we built a loop around the city. And it's not enough that we built a toll road surrounding that loop. Now we seem to have the need to build yet another ring road even further out. All in the name of making it easier for developers to convince folks to leave the city for the suburbs.

Of course the solution to the traffic mess in Houston has never been to find a better way of moving people around; it's always been about pouring more concrete and creating ever larger flood dangers where the bayous converge near the Ship Channel.

Well, in the course of pouring all this concrete, workers found some old bones. It turns out that they had dug up a 2,000 year old burial ground. Then they dug up another burial ground estimated to be 9,000 years old. Just think about those numbers for a second.

The Harris County Historical Society (talk about a fish out of water) thought it might be a good idea to do a bit more research on these burial grounds before filling them with concrete. You know, they just might be of some sort of historical import. Not that that mattered to the developers or TxDOT. They just wanted to know how long it would take to move the bones so they could get back to pouring concrete.

And so, back in July, they filed a lawsuit asking the court to let them dig up the bones and move them so they could get back to the very serious work of pouring more concrete. The case landed in Judge Reece Rondon's court. Before being appointed to the bench, Judge Rondon worked for Andrews Kurth (a big white shoe corporate firm) and for Reliant Energy (a bunch of rotten scoundrels Houston's primary electricity provider). In other words, he came from the same world as the developers.

I guess I don't need to tell you how Judge Rondon ruled in this case, do I? If you know anything about Houston, you know the HCHS never stood a chance. And, sure enough, Judge Rondon ruled for the developers and told the world that pouring more concrete is far more important than studying the history of this little part of the earth we call home.

There is far more to the world than building roads and developing cookie-cutter subdivisions with no trees and all of three floor plans. In the overall scheme of things, I would argue that building a road is a tad less important than studying prehistoric burial grounds. But if you think you're going to convince the powers that be in Houston of that, you might as well just beat your head against the roadbed.

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