people politics business fashion news media

Keep Texas Ugly
Plano’s Florence Shapiro stalls bills to improve scenic highways


More billboards marring the landscape will bloom on Texas highways this year. And Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) is the major reason.

You’d think that uglifying the roadways would cause a political backlash. But Shapiro did it so deftly (draping herself in the mantle of fiscal conservative and protector of the driving public) that it takes a bit of sleuthing to figure out how she managed it.

In a nutshell: two bills beautifying Texas highways were introduced in the 2001 legislative session. One required the Texas Department of Transportation to spend 1 percent of its $3 billion budget on highway landscaping and banned new billboard construction on highways. (More than 120 Texas cities, including Dallas, have prohibited new billboards. But outside those city limits, billboards are unregulated.)

As chair of the Senate’s transportation committee, Shapiro made it known  she was against taking money from highway construction for such frivolous things as trees. More to the point: the bill faced fierce opposition from the billboard industry, which contributes heavily to legislators. A compromise bill limited landscape spending to $10 million (the amount the state is already spending) and gave counties jurisdiction over billboards. If this passes, billboard foes will have to fight in each of 254 counties to outlaw the ads.

But Shapiro didn’t stop there. As chair of the state affairs committee, she stalled the hearing of the second bill until late in the session, when it has little chance of passing. This tactic ensures the bill’s death and provides political cover against angry constituents. ("But I voted for it.")

This bill would make Texas part of the National Scenic Byways program. Shapiro used the excuse that it might allow the federal government to block transportation dollars. But of the 50 states, 48 have joined or are joining the program. Only Texas and Montana are holdouts. Every road in Montana is a scenic highway. In Shapiro’s Texas, the billboard industry rules.

top 10 deadbeat dads

Who in Dallas owes the most child support

1
Harvey Joe Herndon
$172,602
This Wylie locksmith was convicted of theft and carrying an unlawful weapon.

2
Kenneth McMillen
$100,314
This dad of three is a grounds keeper from Mansfield.

3
Jerry Don Posey
$86,174
Last seen in Kansas, mechanic Posey owes for two.

4
Frank O. Martinez
$40,676
Martinez, last seen in Longview, owes for two.

5
Roy RenÉ Villareal
$33,829
Villareal owes for two; his last known address was in Irving.

6
Ricky Earl Hall
$27,673
Hall was convicted of possession of cocaine, assault, and  auto theft.

7
Marvin Edwards Suratt
$22,026
Construction worker Suratt was also convicted of DWI.

8
Rayfus M. Wesley
$17,825
Wesley, a route salesman, owes for one.

9
Harold Walter Johnson
$15,966
Johnson was convicted of DUI, DWI, theft, and possession of a controlled substance.

10
Henry Dale Williamson
$8,866
This repairman’s last known address was in Mississippi.

Source: office of the attorney general,state of texas


quotables

"Sometimes I don’t like progress."
—Lisa Ochoa, about the closing of the Mrs. Baird’s plant on Mockingbird Lane.

people politics business fashion news media

 

Teen Dream

Deserea Wasdin, Blaire Stroud, and Katie McNeill are, for the most part, just normal teenage girls. They hang out with friends from L.D. Bell High School in Hurst, where they graduated last month. They worry about what to wear, who to date, and whether or not their first single will hit number one on the country music charts.

Welcome to the world of 3 of Hearts, the latest spawn of the teen singing group phenomenon. Their self-titled debut album on RCA hits stores June 5. Byron Gallimore, who has worked with big-name talents such as Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, produced the  album. Their first single, "Love Is Enough," made its way onto the Billboard Country Single Top 10. And with the album’s tendency toward pop, it could catapult 3 of Hearts into the annals of crossover glory, like another girl band from Texas, the Dixie Chicks.

Though the trio has been friends since grade school, they  first sang with one another at a friend’s funeral in the 9th grade. Afterward they made a demo tape, which ended up in the hands of Peter Svendsen, the man who kicked LeAnn Rimes’ career into gear. That was two years ago. Since then the opportunities, from product sponsorship to acting in their own TV show, have been pouring in. They have already worked with prominent LA casting director Melissa Skoff, and they are currently in negotiations with a major network for a series development deal. Blaire, Deserea, and Katie are finishing up a 30-city Seventeen Magazine-sponsored mall tour this summer and have postponed any immediate plans for college. But they are optimistic about their future. "This is our dream," says Katie, "and we really just want to see how this singing thing works out."

 

Local steakhouses get pinched by the economic slowdown.

Empty tables at many of Dallas’ tony steakhouses speak volumes about the economy. The question isn’t "Where’s the beef?" It’s "Who can afford it?"

"We’re not struggling, but we’re not packing them in like we were last year," says one waitperson.  Other big beef purveyors, who were setting records last year in food and liquor sales, echo the sentiment. With stock prices down, layoffs on the rise, and consumer confidence weak, once-loyal patrons are eschewing pricey steaks for more affordable dining.

Likewise, you won’t see businessmen and conventioneers running up high-dollar tabs on the company anymore. "Our customer base hasn’t declined any," says general manager Judd Fruia of Pappas Bros., "but we have seen a decrease in private parties and convention business."

That doesn’t mean, however, that Dallas’ entire restaurant scene is waning. Though nationally this year’s restaurant real sales growth is expected to rise only 2.7 percent—falling short of 2000’s 3.2 percent increase—Texas will contribute an estimated $26.3 billion in sales, the second largest in the nation. More than $5 billion of that belongs to Dallas, up 10 percent from last year.

Smaller steakhouses, with their fervid clientele, seem best prepared for harder times. Bob’s Steak & Chop House, Chamberlain’s, and Al Biernat’s still maintain a nightly parade of filet fanatics.

For the bigger boys such as the multi-acre behemoth III Forks and Pappas Bros., which boasts a 1,700-bottle wine cellar, oversized chandeliers, and a heliport, empty tables mean less profit. "We’re really hands-on here, so we notice when people aren’t coming through the door," says Rick Stein, general manager of III Forks.

"The tables might be full, but people aren’t eating and drinking like they used to," says one waiter. Which begs the question: just who is paying for that heliport?

people politics business fashion news media

What People are Reading

wedding bells reading

Lou Ann Campbell owns Campbell Stationers in Preston Center. Her grandfather started the business in 1946.  Campbell is reading Jewel, a novel by Bret Lott, one of the Oprah selections. "It’s an intimate portrait of a woman written by a man," Campbell says. Does he get it right? "Yeah," she says. "It’s strange. He does."

Janice Ollenburger is managing director of Frosted Art, the official wedding cake baker of Neiman Marcus. She’s been in the wedding business for 30 years. "I’m reading
The Best of Martha Stewart Living Weddings," Ollenburger says, "because the brides bring it in." She is also reading Maria McBride-Mellinger’s The Perfect Wedding. "She’s done a new book on wedding dresses and flowers every couple of years."

The wedding coordinator at Chapel of the Bells in Irving, Lindy Winnett, 22,   is the youngest  in Dallas. She  started when she was 17. "Younger brides relate to me," she says. "I get ’em down the aisle." Lindy is also an ordained minister. She’s reading Even the Stars Look Lonesome by Maya Angelou. "It’s an inspirational collection of stories," she says. "I’ve read everything of Angelou’s."