Saturday, August 12, 2006


Our beloved megopolis, this unmatched experiment in car culture and concrete sprawl, is finally building a real mass transit system. A series of citywide referendums showed that a majority of Houstonians are in favor of expanding light rail. The Republican congressmen who tried to block light rail had to back down. One of the proposed routes even runs near our home, which I’m very excited about.

The opponents of rail, however, did not give up. Residents of a single wealthy neighborhood – Afton Oaks – have managed to dredge up all the old arguments against rail and delay progress on the new East/West line. This line would connect the heavily Latino and working class East side, Houston’s largest public university, an historic African-American neighborhood, the arts district, and the main shopping district. The Afton Oaks people have mounted a campaign to have a large section of the line shifted from Richmond avenue to a street where nobody lives. The US congressman who is supposed to represent me, John Culberson, has vociferously taken up this one neighborhood’s Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) fight.

Fortunately, the umbrella group for our neighborhood association and the city leaders in favor building a useful transit system have begun to build a broader and louder Yes In My Back Yard (YIMBY) support base to counter the NIMBY’s. Today there was a meeting at a park in our neighborhood. I walked down with BabyG in the Baby Bjorn. A large map showing the proposed route, and suggested alternatives, was hung from a fence. Yard signs and fliers in support of routing the rail along Richmond were passed out. I missed our lesbian city councilwoman Sue Lovell, but I did talk to the president of the Neartown neighborhood association.

When BabyG and I were walking back home, I sort of held up our new sign so people driving by could see what it said, “Where the people are: Yes to rail on Richmond.” No one was looking though. A bunch of Whatever-I-don’t-care-what’s In My Back Yarders or WIMBY’s. I think I prefer the Afton Oaks NIMBY’s to the WIMBY’s. I prefer people who bother to participate in local politics and who care about what happens to the cities their children will inherit.

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