Pubdate: Wed,  1 Jan 2003
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2003 Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division, Hearst Newspaper
Author: Thom Marshall
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)


GREETINGS, 2003. Seldom has a new year been more welcomed or met with more 
hopes and expectations.

On this first day, cartoonists may depict you as a barefoot baby in a 
diaper. That is traditional, but you must pay it no mind. The harsh truth 
is, Ought Three, you won't get to enjoy any carefree infancy or childhood.

That battered old 2002 probably didn't say much as he passed you on his way 
out, but he left behind many emergencies that require immediate attention.

So, we will provide you with some quick orientation while you finish eating 
those lucky black-eyed peas, and then you must pull on your boots and 
overalls and go right to work.

War, corruption linger Let's start with world crises: The fuse is burning 
short on Iraq. President Bush's administration has been talking war and 
selling war and preparing for war, and now there may be only a few days 
left to find some way to avoid this war.

Then there is North Korea, making nuclear threats.

And we still need to find Osama bin Laden.

Now, Ought Three, for a quick lesson on life in the United States as you 
find it today, please take a look at Ought Two's Persons of the Year as 
selected by Time magazine. Three whistle-blowers. Two were honored for 
speaking out against misdeeds at the corporations where they worked. The 
third, an FBI agent, criticized the bureau for ignoring warning signs 
before the Sept. 11 attacks.

When Ought Two left, it still was unknown how many executives of how many 
corporations were aware of corruption and either participated in it or kept 
quiet about it. Equally mysterious were the matters of ineptitude and 
cover-up in government agencies.

Hopefully, while you are here, more courageous whistle-blowers will come 
forth to help set things straight.

At the state level, quick freedom for the Tulia 13 would convince many that 
you have the potential to become a Great Year. These people should never 
have been arrested and convicted on the word of the lone itinerant 
undercover officer whose methods and work record raised so many serious 

The Tulia drug bust sparked investigations into possible official 
wrongdoing at both the state and national levels. State law and policy 
regarding undercover investigations were changed because of Tulia. And yet 
the system cannot figure out how to release those 13 people still being 
held unjustly.

And along with the Tulia 13, if all victims of all bad busts by drug task 
forces operating in the state could be freed, Ought Three would indeed win 
a respected spot in Texas history.

HPD needs improvement Here in Houston, you would be counted as a good year 
if we managed to make some needed improvements to our Police Department and 
judicial system before you go.

The police chief is on paid leave awaiting trial on felony perjury charges. 
City officials still are trying to straighten out the big mess caused by 
the August mass arrests of almost 300 people outside a Kmart and other 
businesses on Westheimer. All charges soon were dropped, but arrest records 
have not been cleared, and the city faces lawsuits filed on behalf of about 
five dozen of those who were arrested.

And we all are waiting to learn the results of HPD's largest-ever internal 
affairs investigation into the debacle. Waiting to learn what steps will be 
taken to prevent that sort of mistake from ever occurring again.

All this is just for starters. There is much, much more that must be dealt 
with, Ought Three. So have some more of those black-eyed peas. We need a 
lucky, lucky year.

You may be thinking that your predecessor left far too many problems. Part 
of the blame for that may have been his name. It is pronounced exactly the 
same as what we say when we don't really think we'll get around to 
something that needs doing. We say we "ought to" do it. Too much was put 
off for too long.

The year of "ought to" is over. The year of "have to" is here.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom