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.
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.”
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 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.”