INTERVIEWEE: A.R. “Babe” Schwartz (BS)
INTERVIEWER: Jessica Schoenbaechler (JS)
DATE: January 20, 2006
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
TRANSCRIBER: Rhonda Wheeler and Robin Johnson
REELS: 2387, 2388, 2389
Numbers refer to time codes for a audio tape copy of the interview, while “Misc.” indicates background noise or off-camera conversation that is unrelated to the interview.
JS: Well I have some questions for you that are kind of general and then get more specific. And then I have a few questions David Todd asked me to ask. And then at the end, I’ll just ask if there’s anything else on this that you want to cover.
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BS: Okay, sure.
JS: So, first, could you just describe to me what exactly is the Open Beaches Act and like as a bundle of legislation, instead of just one particular (inaudible).
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BS: Well, that’s exactly what it is. It’s a bundle of legislation. Most people believe the Open Beaches Act is that specific act which guarantees Texas citizens or all citizens for that matter, the unrestricted right of ingress and egress to and from the beaches. And the—the exact language of the statute is, that is—that it is the free, unrestricted access to the beaches. And that means that you can get to the state owned property, you
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can go across private property, although sometimes that’s limited in many ways but the state owns all of the land in fee title, from the mean low tide to the mean high tide. The case law since 1840 has set us up in Texas so that the average of the two mean high tides daily is that mean high tide which divides the state owned property from the private property. And the Open Beaches Act is nothing but a statutory definition of what became common-law, from 1840 to 1950 (break in recording) the Open Beaches Law was passed. Bob Eckhardt actually passed the Open Beaches Law and—and is—and is the rightful
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owner of that credit. What I did over the years, was worked with Bob when I was in the House in ’55 and in ’57. Then I ran for the Senate ’58 and lost that race so that I was not there in the ’59 session. Bob was in the House and I would’ve been in the Senate. As it turns out, Bob Baker passed the bill in the Senate and when I came back then in—as a senator, as I got elected in a special election in 1960, I was there then in ’61. And from that time on, I began to work on the additions to that bundle of law that became the Open Beaches Law. It actually became the—the Natural Resource Code Provisions from which the Coastal Management Program was developed.
JS: So what are some of the—what’s the scope of it now, with all these additional provisions
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BS: Well now—now they Open Beaches Law governs not only your right of ingress and egress and the word free is there too, it’s a free right of ingress and egress. The free is qualified because you’re charged for parking. Free means, in the law today, that you cannot be denied a free access to the beach if you can get there. There are so many places like Galveston that have restricted the immediate access for parking. And so, but the land office is authorized to regulate the distances from which and within which you can park and access the beach. Uh, basically the land office is protecting people’s right to park within a quarter of a mile of any place on the public beach. So that gives them the right—the ability to walk to that place, but always free.
JS: Well now let me ask you, could you describe—what is the situation when on barrier islands, with housing—with hard structures, what is it that eventually happens to the front row?
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BS: Yeah. Well, the—the beaches of Texas are in a constant, irreversible, eroding condition because of—the geologists say, a paucity of sand with which to replenish the beaches naturally. The delta of the Mississippi River has basically changed the flow of sand to the Texas coast. And the Corps of Engineers, of course, is responsible for some of that for all their work on the Mississippi. Nature really has provided the method by which the delta grows and presents a problem both to Louisiana wetland situations and to the sand supply on the Texas coast. The big problem is that the—the sand supply that
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used to come to the Texas coast in the littoral currents or littoral currents, that flow from Louisiana down to Texas has been denied because that flow now goes straight to the deepest part of the Gulf. And we are denied a sufficient sand supply to replenish the natural erosion, plus that—plus the fact that in Louisiana now, off the coast of southern Louisiana, between the delta and Texas, there’s a hypo—hypoxic zone in which there’s nothing but a body of dead water and that is because of the runoff. The pesticides and chemical runoff of the Louisiana coast has killed every living thing in that area. And
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that hypoxic zone of dead water, plus the ch—change in the channel of the Mississippi River because of the delta prevents us from receiving any sand supply. Now, without that sand supply, we have a minimum of two feet per year erosion on the upper Texas coast and on the lower Texas coast as well. The only stabilized area of the Texas coast according to the geologists and Dr. Jibeau at the Bureau of Economic Geology will attest to the fact that, that stabilized area in the mid-coast at Corpus Christi, is about fifty miles, maybe fifty to a hundred miles are from North Padre Island. And that is a non-eroding
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beach and may even be an accreting beach. All the other beaches are eroding, both the south and the north. Uh, the littoral current comes from the Mississippi to the Texas coast, which means it comes from north to south, to North Padre. The current on the lower coast comes from the Rio Grande in Mexico up to North Padre and the confluence of those currents is there at North Padre Island. So, that’s the—that’s the natural exchange, which causes the erosion. Under ordinary circumstances, the Mississippi
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pro—would provide sand to the Texas coast. That’s how the barrier islands were built in the first place, from the sand supply that was in the current. On the lower coast, that sand supply came from the Rio Grande. We don’t even get any of Rio—any water from the Rio Grande anymore. I mean, it’s—it over the last eight or ten years, the Rio Grande was dry when it reached the Gulf. And now, the Rio Grande is flowing again and our water supply is restored to the Laguna Madre and to a—a part of south Texas that needs it so
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badly for all the natural consequences in the wildlife propagation, but it has certainly not replaced the sand supply. And there’s been no provision in the construction of dams all over these rivers of Texas, whether it’s the Rio Grande a—or whether it’s the Brazos or the Colorado for a sediment bypass. The geologists talk about it in the sense that they say, you—you can provide for a sediment bypass and let that sand reach the Gulf of Mexico and if indeed, that were done or had been done, why, we would not have this paucity of replenishment sand. So now, if you want to restore a beach or replenish it,
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you’ve got to find yourself a deposit of beach quality sand in the Gulf of Mexico and you have to mine it. You actually have to set up a dredge system so that you can take that sand and put it on the beach. And that’s good for about a year or two and then it’s gone. Uh, it either winds up going back to the Gulf itself or it goes down the coast, so you replenish a beach in Galveston and maybe luckily somebody might get the sand in Brazoria County.
JS: Well, for some of these smaller communities further up the coast, like a Surfside or Quintana, is it worth it for them to have free beaches and oceans?
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BS: I don’t think so. I think the greatest waste of money that we’re indulging in is replenishing beaches that will indisputably erode in a very short time. Some of these beaches are not good for a year. Some of them may be good for two years. There’s not a beach out there in Texas that lasts more than two years that I have seen, where’s there’s been restoration or replenishment. The federal government, FEMA, has just approved a million, four hundred and thirty thousand dollars for beach re-nourishment of the Bolivar Peninsula. The Bolivar Peninsula is eroding at a rate up to fifteen feet per year. Now,
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you know, they have gone over there and built millions of dollars worth of sand socks, or these artificial tubes which contain sand and then they put sand on top of that and that’s supposed to be a dune and then they’ve all failed. First storm comes along, well they failed. Then you go spend another million dollars and you restore the tubes and then you put sand on top of it and then you put sand on the beach, and then next year a tropical storm comes along, takes it all away. So I—you know, I wonder who we’re paying that money to please.
JS: Even for, like, tourism purposes, is, you don’t think…
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BS: Well, it’s a great tourist attraction to have a beach and they equate this tourist attraction with dollars. And so they say, well, you know, a—a tourist is worth a bale of cotton and he’s twice as easy to pick. And so—so whatever—whatever numbers they want to put on it, the economists put numbers on tourism, a thousand tourists, worth a million dollars. Well nobody’s ever analyzed that in my opinion, sufficiently to say that they can guarantee it, a thousand tourists on Galveston Island are worth a thousand dollars. The old saying in Galveston is, they come to Galveston with a dirty shirt and a
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ten dollar bill and don’t change either one. And that’s not necessarily true. But so, we built our economy on tourism, so I can’t really fault the theory. But they’ve been coming to Galveston for bad beaches and they don’t come any greater—in any greater numbers for the better beaches. Well, I’m for that. I—you know, if we want to put sand on the beach in front of the seawall in Galveston and that attracts more tourists and that’s a good thing and I—and I bless it. Uh, but if you want to put sand on the beach in front of
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somebody’s subdivision, then those people need to realize that the restoration of the land which has been lost to erosion at public expense is still a restoration of public land because any sand that goes between mean high—mean low tide and the average of the two daily high tides is being placed on state owned land. Now these homeowners think that when their house suddenly is in the surf and in the mean high tide line, they think
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that they can get it restored while they’ve restored their property and that’s their property right and it’s your money and my money. And there is no way that under—under the Texas constitution, a political entity cannot be authorized by the legislature to make a gift of money or anything of value to any individual or association. That’s exactly what article one, section 52 says. And so these folks who think that restoring their beach gives them a property right or—are in the hole and are un—first of all, they’re uninformed. Most of the time they’re misinformed.
JS: Okay. Um, well, could you just describe to me what is the—the current situation with hard structures on the beach, like in Surfside or—or Treasure Island or…
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BS: The distinction between certain hard structures on the beach can only be made as to where they are, with regard to the mean high tide line. When a piece of property finds its footing, its footprint, within the mean high tide line on a beach, that part of the footing or that part of the house or all of it, or the structure, which is in the mean high tide line is on state property. It is subject to removal and all the case law, all the common law, all the cases since 1840, dictate that the Attorney General has a right to file a lawsuit to seek the removal of any structure from state owned property. You can’t go out and build a house in the park, nor can you re—maintain any structure in the park on state owned land. The
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same people who think they can live on a beach in the—in the high tide line, you know, understand full well that they couldn’t go build that house in the state park because it’s state owned land. They don’t understand that the land can transfer in its title simply by the forces of nature when it’s on a barrier island or on a beach. It is not necessarily true on the bay shoreline as it is on the beach, but it’s clear and unequivocal on the beach. Now the Open Beaches Act, which guarantees that right of access, that part was—was passed in 1959 does not apply to the bay shore properties. The Open Beaches Act only
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applies to beachfront property. Now, when the Attorney General files a lawsuit to remove a structure that’s in the mean high tide line, the Attorney General is preserving the right of the public to its land and the state to its ownership. And people whose houses are partially in the mean high tide line have not been sued yet because even though a hundred and seven houses have been certified as being on the public beach, which means they’re in the mean high tide line, the Attorney General’s only filed suit about, oh, over eight or ten of them. The worst are in Treasure Isle, where three of those
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houses are actually in the Gulf of Mexico. They have provided bulkheads and they’ve built all kinds of structures to maintain the little island in the Gulf or a little peninsula in the Gulf. Well, first of all, they never had a right to do that. The state let them do that, the Attorney General was lax in protecting the state rights and—and essentially, gave away state property for the term that these people have had those houses that were subject to removal. If the Attorney General had done his job back when the houses first went into the Gulf, they wouldn’t be there and the state property would’ve been protected.
JS: Well, how is it that when you see and try to explain, because, technically, they still own the property, the—the public—there’s just a public easement, so even wi—if it is actually submerged?
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BS: Well, somebody’s told you wrong. If it’s submerged, it’s state owned land. If it is even in the mean high tide, as I’ve explained, and the mean high tide doesn’t have to be there everyday. If the mean high tide line covers the property in and out over the year and it’s determined that that is under the flow of the water and it is effectively submerged land some of the time of the year because of tidal influences, then that is no longer private property. Now they may have a deed to it and they may proclaim they own it and there may be part of it that’s not subject to the mean high tide and that is still absolutely their private property and they can go sit on it and enjoy it. And if there was enough left,
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they could build another structure until it becomes a part of the mean high tide. But, the law has been the same since the second century. There was a—the Annals of Gaius or the Annals of a Roman named Gaius back in the second century. That law became the Justinian Code. And in the Justinian Code, the sovereign owned that soil, that submerged land and the mean high tide began to evolve as the distinction between sovereign soil and private ownership. It became English common law; it became Spanish civil law, in the thirteenth century. It became the law of Mexico as Spanish civil law and it would’ve
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been the law of Texas. And Texas became a s—republic and it became the common law of the Republic of Texas. So, the homeowner that you’re going to interview is going to damn the Open Beaches Act and he’s going to damn Bob Eckhardt, he’s going to damn Babe Schwartz. The truth is he’s got to damn Gaius, who recorded in his Annals that there was a distinction between sovereign soil and private property.
JS: That was actually my next question on the history of the common laws that the OBA was based on. But let me ask you, in 2006, why would—why is that common law still relevant? Why is it—why should it still apply (?) the public?
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BS: Okay, common law is based on the law as set forth in cases. Statutory law is passed by the legislature. So case law becomes a basis and a predicate, year in and year out, for every case in the future. That’s called the Stare Decisis. For those people who watch the confirmation of Supreme Court Judges, each Supreme Court Judge candidate has made it clear that a court is bound by Stare Decisis. And Stare Decisis simply means the precedent is there—I don’t know that that’s the translation, but it means that all the case law prior to this case, leads me to the conclusion that the law of this state or the law of the land is such and such. And a judge doesn’t have a right to deny what the precedent of law has given us over decades and centuries of courts and laws. So when Judge Alito seeks confirmation to the Supreme Court, he works diligently to convince the members of the United States Senate that he understands Stare Decisis. They also say that it is not
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an inexorable command that cannot be altered. You can bend and twist and expand and contract principles and still stay within the principle of Stare Decisis, but that’s the bottom line. So the fellow out there on the beach that says well, that’s 1840 law and it doesn’t mean anything in two thousand and six, you know, has forgotten that it’s second century law. It’s Justinian Code law, it’s English common law and it’s Mexican Spanish law and it’s Texas common law. And until the legislature changes it, that’s what the law is and that’s what it’ll be. And he bought his house understanding that principle and
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even if he didn’t sign that document in 1986, he had a lawyer and the lawyer told him. And if the lawyer didn’t tell him, the lawyer committed malpractice because there’s never been a question about it and it’s got nothing to do with the Open Beaches Law. The Open Beaches Law didn’t change a thing. It codified common law.
JS: Okay, so—so what does that mean if all these houses have been on the open beach since 1998 and are still there?
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BW: Well, it just means that Attorney Generals by and large are politicians and they’re kind of playing to the idea that they’re going to let these people have their folly until they really are all in the water. And I guess, you know, I’ve been mad about it for fifty years, but the truth is that—and I did get to legislature fifty years ago, so I’ve been mad about it for fifty years. But the truth is, I don’t know that there’s any damage done except in
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those areas like Surfside, where you—it’s so obnoxious and so insulting to the general public who want to use public beaches, to go down there and find structures on the beach, glass and nails and lumber. Uh, the last time somebody tore down a house on Surfside, they just burned it and all that trash—if you talk to Ellis Pickett, he’s got baskets of glass and nails and screws and—and the damaging articles to people who might want to use that beach and—and who would be hurt doing it. Matter of fact, somebody was hurt last year I think on Surfside, trying to use a public beach that had been destroyed for effective purposes for at least natural use purposes by the rubble that came from houses and structures.
JS: Well, since—I mean, you say—you’ve been in this—you’ve been involved in government for fifty years, how has Texans’ attitude towards conservation changed in that period?
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BS: I think that the—that the public attitude is better today than it was fifty years ago. But fifty years ago, we had a pristine condition on the beaches, as far as barrier islands and peninsulas. The developers it—with their avarice and with their complete disregard for public rights, heading…
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BS: The—fifty years ago, as I have indicated, the—the beaches were really pristine by nature across the United States except on the east and the west coast, where the population growth had already overcome the ability of the states to manage their—their laws. And we began working on the projects that would preserve that state of the beaches and give us an opportunity for the public to have free access and complete use. It was, as I said, it was 1959 before Bob Eckhardt got to the specific beach law that began the Open Beach Law concept and began the addition of this Natural Resource Code that became Open Beach Law or—or became the Coastal Management Law. So, all of
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that transition brought about an awareness in the public that they had this ownership and they had this right and if anybody was going to protect that right, then it had to be done in the legislature. Believe it or not, the legislature will protect the public rights in that regard if they are aware of what they’re doing. The problem is that all these inland members don’t really understand this concept either. And you have to tell them, and we have to tell them repeatedly, every legislative session, guess what, this is public land. Would you give them the Big Bend, you know, would you give them—would you give
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them the river and its banks in your home town? Would you give them the state park and let them call it private property? All of these things have to be explained to every new member of the legislature who’s not from the coast. Somebody’s got to tell them, those folks don’t own that property at the mean high tide line, that’s your property. And then twenty-one, twenty-two million people in Texas have a right to use it. And when you give it away to Joe Blow, because he had enough money to buy a beach house, you know, you’re violating the constitution in the first place. And in the second place, you know, he’s not entitled to the gift.
JS: So would you say the Open Beaches Act is still under attack and if so, like from whom and why?
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BS: The Open Beaches Act is under attack every day from every developer, every beachfront homeowner who thinks they bought an exclusive piece of property from which they can prevent any other human being from using and enjoying. And it’s the most ridiculous thing in the world for a person to believe I’m rich, I bought a beach house; I don’t want anybody eating fried chicken and watermelon on my beach. And if you look them in the eye and tell them, when the hell did it become your beach or when did you decide that because you’re rich, that you can prevent…
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BS: What—what has to be made clear is that nobody has the right to—because they’re rich, to buy and own public property, unless the public property is for sale because the state decides to do so. There’s a doctrine called the Public Trust Doctrine, which places a trust upon government to protect public rights to its property, real and a—it’s real
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property and the air rights of that property as well and the water rights for that property. And it’s very, very restrictive, again, through common law, in itself, from the beginning of time, that the state has no right to deny its citizens the use of public property except on rare circumstances. And has no right to sell that public property to somebody who will deny those rights to citizens. So, it’s basically an idea that if you’re a human being and you’re alive and you live in a state, then the state’s got to protect your rights. And the developers don’t understand that. The developers are born with a lump of avarice in
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their heart and nothing can persuade them that they don’t have a right to buy everything and own it and make it exclusive, because they can’t make as much money off of something that might be utilized by the public and the private sector. If they make it exclusive, the—then they can sell it to people just like them. And that’s going on in Corpus Christi today.
JS: Well, what kind of development do you think would be appropriate for coastal areas? Like setback or…
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BS: Well, I think that setbacks have their value, but they’re limited in time. Ellis Pickett would like to have a two hundred and fifty foot setback on new construction. Well, you’d have to do that in areas that are not yet developed because you can’t put a setback line in a subdivision, can’t impose it on a subdivision where everybody else is on a dune
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line. And that would be a denial of due process and would fall to a lawsuit. You can create a setback line on all new developments and I think that would be an excellent thing to do because it gives us an opportunity to—to protect the forefront and the foredune in these areas that have not yet been developed. We needed a setback line fifty years ago. All these folks have built on a dune line now and now the dune line’s behind their house in Galveston. Many of these subdivisions are just—they are in the mean high tide line and the Attorney General’s not doing anything about it. The Attorney General’s attitude,
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I think, is that if it does de—not—if it does not deny public access to the state owned land and if it is not a health hazard constituting a nuisance—defined as a nuisance, then the Attorney General does not sue to remove the structure, unfortunately. But those are the conditions that have been imposed on the Attorney General’s office, that is, the staff who might want to remove eight or ten more structures and the General Land Office in the same conditions. The General Land Office takes the view that if it is not an impediment to the access and it’s not a public nuisance, then they simply are not asking that those structures be removed.
JS: So, when this moratorium expires in June, what will happen next?
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BS: Well, Jerry Patterson, the [General Land Office] commissioner, has a duty to enforce the law. And he has a duty, in my opinion, to ask the Attorney General for the removal of more houses than are being sued to re—be removed now. The three at s—Treasure Isle are under a lawsuit today, several in Galveston are under lawsuits today. I think that Jerry’s just going to have to look at the hundred and seven that were previously certified as being on the beach, have the Bureau of Econo—Geology—Economic Geology do that survey again, make a determination of the worst offenders and ask the Attorney General to file a lawsuit against those people for removal. Now, the commissioner’s idea is that he would
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like to provide an economic incentive for those people to remove their own homes and therefore avoid the costs of these lawsuits. He’s made a good case and I agree in part, that the cost of these lawsuits is almost prohibitive. You take on ten lawsuits to remove ten structures; you’re liable to spend a million or two million dollars trying the lawsuits. So, you may want to give that money or half of it as an incentive for those people to move their own structures. And I agree with that in part, as long as that’s not public money. Now how do you raise money that’s not public money? I don’t know, I
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think maybe if we put a tax on a—put a tax on the real estate ventures that take place on these barrier islands and peninsulas and created a fund for those purposes, then the very people who get that money back when they have to remove their structure could apply to that fund for that money. But we’ve got to create something better than taxing people who buy clothes and—and who buy things at the store and who pay sales taxes in this state out of minimum salaries that they earn in order to support some millionaire to pay for the removal of his house. You know, basically, I say that there’s not an equation
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there. You can’t tax a guy who’s buying clothes for his kids and use that money to give some rich guy who knew in the first place that his house would be removed, and give it to him a—for removal of his house. We’re already subsidizing his insurance. We’re already subsidizing his flood insurance and his windstorm insurance. We’re already replenishing the beach in front of his house. We’re already doing all these things that are gifts to him, which I think violate the constitution anyhow. But most of what we do, we do because it’s good politics for the commissioner. It’s good politics for the Attorney General but it’s bad for the public at large.
JS: It—what—well, I mean, I’d like—talk to me about should—because then these homeowners want compensation. So, and you talked a little bit about setting up a fund, right, (inaudible) before, but an—let’s—we’ll talk about that again, but tell me more about how you respond to these homeowners who want to be compensated for having to take down their house.
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BS: Well, I co—I’m—I respond to them, who would you like to pay you for your leisure. I mean, you have public leisure—you have private leisure at public expense. What you’re asking for is a gift from people who are barely living and are paying sales taxes all over the State of Texas, to put in your rich bank account so that you can enjoy
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your leisure at their expense. If you look at it that way, I mean, let’s take—let’s take the ghetto and let’s take the barrios and let’s take the poorest sections of any community and figure out how much in taxes they pay to the State of Texas and then take these folks living on the beach and let them make a case for taking that public money for their private leisure. I want them to sit there in—in a television camera view and I want them to say, well I did sign the document when I bought my home and I did read it, they always say they didn’t read it, and they didn’t sign it and their signature’s right there. And I—and I believe that even though the law of this state since 1840 has been that a
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structure within the mean high tide line is subject to removal by a suit by the Attorney General, and that’s what that piece of paper said. I would still like Joe to contribute his money, which he earns at the rate of minimum wage per hour and give me his money so that I won’t have to pay to remove the structure, which I placed there knowing that it would be removed. And I want that person to do that with a straight face and tell me—I’ll walk them through the poorest sections of town and say, you want all these people to subsidize your leisure. And if they say yes, then I just want everybody in the general
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public to be able to see that. I think every one of them ought to go in television before they ask for money; we ought to have a camera view of them, the picture. We’re going to show that picture to the leg—to the legislature. And even let them pick out who they want to subsidize their leisure. And I think their embarrassment at being proven to be the most avaricious of the avaricious would—would make some—would make some weight with members of the legislature. Jerry wants to do it because it’s good politics. He also wants to do it because it’s the cheapest way to remove those houses. But being cheap ain’t always the answer. First place, it ought not to be expensive to begin with because these people are all violating the law and they all know it, they all know they going to lose their lawsuit. And the more of them we try and the more we win, the less money they’ll be willing to spend to defend, quote unquote, their rights, which don’t exist.
JS: So, why don’t you tell me again that suggestion about establishing a fund based on development tax.
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BS: Well, I have no objection to the people who are going claim the funds at some time, creating that fund. If they want to pay the tax to provide a fund and that would mean that you could have a transaction tax on all properties that are sold on a barrier island—bought or sold on a barrier island or a peninsula. Or you could take it only the—only the first two thousand feet of those barrier island real estate transactions. You could create a pretty good fund from a transaction fee. And that fund could be maintained by the General Land Office and when a house was caused to be removed, an application could
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be made by the owner. The owner could set the conditions which they believe entitle them to a part of that fund and then an allocation would be made after a hearing by the General Land Office. And you could go through due process and decide—we’ll give them two hundred thousand dollars. And if they take the two hundred thousand dollars, they remove the house. They don’t take the two hundred thousand dollars; we sue them and remove the house. They get nothing. That’s the kind of attitude that has got to come about sooner or later to deal with these people. I’ve dealt with them for all these years and some of them are really good friends over a period of time, but they—they hate me and they don’t mind telling me because of my attitude. And I’m trying to impose those same attitudes on a generation of new people who will be the folks that fight them at the (?) works and bomb them—bomb them in the water.
JS: Well what would you tell someone who was thinking about buying a house along the coast?
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BS: I give people advice on that all the time. They call me and say what should I do. And I say, well, go down there, pick the house that you like, ask how much it’d cost to rent it for three month, pay the price every year, give it back to them at the end of the hurricane season and move on. And in the long term, number one, you’ll never have to worry about the hurricane that wipes it out. You’ll never have to worry about the beach that goes away. You’ll never have to worry about the maintenance that comes about through salt water in the air—salt water and salt—salt air. You won’t have your boat stolen and you won’t have—you wouldn’t—you—you won’t have all the stuff that goes on down there twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. And it’ll only cost you that three months’ rent. And they say, well, I could buy a house at the same time and I say yeah, if you buy a house and you pay the same amount of money that
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you pay for rent on your mortgage, well then you’re going to maintain the house, you’re going to protect the house, you’re going to repair it when it’s destroyed, you’re going to take care of—going to replace the furniture when it’s stolen. Wh—I mean, the—the biggest gag in the world used to be that everybody that had those beach houses down there fifty years ago had to replace their furniture, buy a new boat, buy new lawn furniture, you know, everything that you leave at one of those places in the winter when you’re gone, belongs to everybody that lived down there. We used to call them the
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nesters. And they—there’s just no—I mean, no—no immorality about it to the people who were doing it. You know, if you’re dumb enough to leave all that stuff down there all winter long, we know it ain’t going to be any good next summer anyhow. So we might as well take it and sell it. There was a lot of that that used to happen. When I was in the District Attorney’s office and we spent half our time chasing down people stealing boats, we knew who were stealing them, but if they’re up under one of those houses, it’s gone, you know. So I—that—that’s a part of what they need to learn and so in a—in a
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word, rent what you want, pay the price, enjoy it and leave it to the owner who’s got it there simply for that purpose. Most of those people own those houses to rent them and they occupy them, you know, couple months a year.
JS: Well, I—I mean, why do you think people are still buying up land, developers, especially down around Corpus when—when the forecasters say the storms are just going to get worse and more frequent?
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BS: Well, because they know that the insurance is subsidized, that the cost of insurance goes into the cost of doing business. If they get the property insured against a loss, they risk nothing. The cost of the insurance goes into the cost of doing business and the people who enjoy the leisure pay the price. What aggravates me is they’re not—they’re—they’re not satisfied to have all the subsidies and to have all the rights and to—and to have the property which they occupy at any given time. But then they want to deny the public a right that the public has always had and they will tell you that well, we’ve got to deny the public that right because otherwise my rich folks won’t be able to
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enjoy their leisure. And I repeat, you know, private leisure at public expense has never been a doctrine of this country as a—as a rule, but it’s rapidly becoming a doctrine of this country where beachfront areas are bought and developed and where these developers can stand up before city councils and county commissioners’ courts and say oh, you’re going to collect a million dollars worth of taxes on this property. It’s a beautiful development, it’s wonderful. And I would echo, it is beautiful, it is wonderful, but it ain’t got any right to be private. You know, you’re going to—you’re going to rent to the public, you’re going to charge the public for the use of your facilities. Those people are no different than the people that want to use the beach in front of that facility. They belong to the public too. You got no right to charge them because you own private property. You got no right to charge them or limit their use of the public property, so, get
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over it, you know. But, you—you can’t say that to developers. Developers, as I said, are born with this lump of avarice in their heart. They—they don’t care about anybody. The only people in society worse than developers are homebuilders. If they can cheat you, they’ll cheat you. You know, if they can deny you some right that you might otherwise have to a sound structure that’s livable, why, they’ll do something to make it less livable, but they’ll charge the hell out of you for having it. And I—I realize that I’ve got a ver—kind of a radical attitude about this, but I’ve also been practicing law for fifty-three years. And I’ve seen the very people I’m talking about in their worst posture.
JS: Well, you touched on insurance there. Would you tell me a little bit about what you did when you were a senator to make insurance available to coastal areas?
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BS: Well, it may have been the worst mistake I ever made, but it was probably the best piece of legislation that I ever passed. It took me three legislative sessions after Carla to pass a bill which we called a Windstorm Catastrophe Insurance Association. And the—the genius of that idea that came from my insurance agents in Galveston and which they educated me about, was that we would create an association of all the insurance companies in Texas. It would be mandatory. Every company that wrote windstorm insurance in Texas had to take a percentage of their windstorm insurance risk on the Gulf Coast. Now, in order to explain that, they had quit writing it voluntarily after Carla because of the losses in Carla. So if you owned a home, you couldn’t buy windstorm,
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particularly in Galveston County, mostly the—the penalties were to us in Galveston because of Carla. Corpus had not yet had Camille, I think it was, or one of them down there in—in the sixties and Beulah had not hit the valley yet. So I didn’t have any valley members or any Corpus members supporting me until we had two hurricanes after Carla and then I was able to pass this bill. We provided that these companies all had to take a percentage of their risks off of the coastal counties and it worked well. Galveston County though wound up with fifty percent of that pool. So in se—in a sense, I’d
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created a Windstorm Pool that wrote fifty percent of the windstorm insurance in Galveston County and accepted the rest of it from the rest of the coast. And—and it was good. It worked well and it’s working to this very day. That Windstorm Bill is being considered for change and we went through it this last legislative session and we’ve gone through it in three or four previous sessions. And I’ve lobbied for the Galveston area group to maintain an adequate but—but livable rate for that insurance. In a sense, there’s a tremendous risk out there that we’re not charging a great enough rate to take care of the
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kind of losses that we might face today. If we had a five billion dollar loss or a twenty billion dollar loss as Florida has experienced, we’d be in deep trouble. Our rate is actuarially sound for the time the—the pool has been in business, since 1971 and the rate is one and a quarter times the manual rate. The manual rate is that rate set by the insurance commission for windstorm insurance on the entire coast. And we’re only in the pool a quarter of a s—quarter of a per—percentage over that and that’s taking care of
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the losses. However, I passed another bad bill which I was persuaded was necessary to keep insurance companies from going broke in case of a catastrophic loss. And that bill provides that if there is a catastrophic loss, the insurance company, for that percentage of their catastrophic loss, and when we started, it was over a hundred million dollars, they could deduct and not pay the premium tax, which the state levied on policies for a period of time so that they could recoup their loss. Well the first time a hurricane triggered that premium tax withholding to the company, it cost the state twenty-seven million dollars in
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general revenue. And I mean, Bob Bullock called me and called me every name that he could think of and some that hadn’t been invented because that’s a pretty good tap on the budget. And it’s, you know, for who? For the residents of Galveston County. So, given that’s—scenario, why there’s been a—an attempt ever since then to find an alternative method to fund the Windstorm Pool against catastrophic losses. And last session we dealt with the possibility that we could fund a fund against a catastrophic loss. There’s six—no, there’s three hundred and sixty million, I think, in the Windstorm Pool reserve
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now that’s been accumulated from various sources. It was proposed that we’d have an assessment for every policy written on the Gulf Coast and that assessment would presi—would provide a—what we call a pre-event assessment. That means you’d have an assessment before the hurricanes, you’d start right now with an assessment. You’d have it every year. Then you would have a post-event assessment. After the hurricane, you might double that assessment. But then we added to that the fact that the assessment
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would be statewide and that drove them nuts. You know, the folks in Wichita Falls who have hailstorms that we pay for in the rate, went bananas. And the folks in Waco, who had a tornado once that wiped them out, went bananas. And the folks in El Paso said, you know, what the hell are you doing to me, I mean, why should I pay an assessment for Coastal Windstorm Insurance? It didn’t pass and so now we’re stuck with my law, which is inadequate on a rate basis to take care of a major catastrophe. And we’re stuck with an
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Assessment—not an assessment, but—but a credit that the companies can take against their premium tax, which might cost the state a hundred million dollars in general revenue. And it’s scary. You know, I don’t like to be blamed—I mean, I don’t like to know that I’m the culprit.
[End of Reel 2387]
JS: Now the, I mean, the legislature has an archive (?) do you regret—or why you say those are bad bills and what are their effects on development?
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BS: Well, I always refer to most of what I did in the legislature as being bad. And of course, most of what you do in the legislature is done to promote your own political programs within your district. The things that you do for your district are the things that get you elected. Most of what you do for your district is good for your district but it may not be good for everybody. And I use that expression a lot when I’m being interviewed because one of the worst things I ever did, and I say this about these things in their time, but using the same ex—expression. I passed a constitutional amendment legalizing Bingo and it was—and it’s the sorriest piece of legislation in the history of mankind
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because from that, we wound up not only getting Bingo, which has turned into a racket, but we got horse and dog racing. And I lobbied for dog racing, I lobbied for the greyhounds. And I thought to myself, well, how in the hell did the authorization for horse and dog racing come under this Bingo amendment? But what I had done was alter this definition of a lottery. Now, then we passed the state lottery, I didn’t but others did and I was already a lobbyist then. And now we’re considering gaming legislation. Well, as I review the people who are in the horse and the dog racing today and their attitude
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about wanting video lottery—video lottery terminals or video poker in—in their tracks, they’ve become a bunch of people who selfishly believe that because their business is bad, that they ought to have the exclusive right to the next gambling method, which would be the video poker. So I, you know, I learned that great lesson. Everything you do
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that’s good for somebody, has got some part of it that can be seized upon by folks who want to do something bad or want to do something selfish. And they will pervert your intent and they will pervert the legislation you passed to suit their purposes. And I don’t always agree with the purposes that—that have wound up being a part of somebody’s genius by coming along and saying well, I’ve got this law, but if I twist it this way and add that to it, well, then I can be a millionaire. And I don’t object to people being millionaires, but I object to the perversion of a lot of good law occasionally. And
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that’s when I re—reflect on the things that I’ve done that have been expanded to include all the things I don’t like—or I don’t like the way they’re being done, then I like to reflect on that as being a bad thing in the first place.
JS: So tell me how that—how that applies to the insurance laws in particular, because I’m…
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JS: …thinking it’s developers (?).
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BS: …sure. I have invited—by the passage of that law, I have invited everybody to take risks at public expense which they shouldn’t take at public expense. If they want to take a risk, it ought to be a private risk. If you want to live on the beach and you want to enjoy living dangerously when you know that the erosion rate is two feet per year minimum and you know that the storm is going to come as certainly as the sun’s going to rise and you buy into that game, then you don’t have a right to ask me to subsidize it. And although my pool thing subsidized it from the very beginning for—and I was doing it for my senatorial district with benefits to those other districts on the coast, of course, to
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everybody. It still boils down to the fact that it was a good idea and it provided that—an excellent basis for development. And all those houses got built and all got insured and it was just beautiful until it cost the state twenty-seven million dollars. And when it costs the state a hundred million dollars, you know, it ain’t going to be near as good as I have thought it is. So we’ve got to provide that pre-event fund; we’ve got to create it with assessments on policies. And we’ve got to be ready to pay the assessment after the event. Much of that now is taken up by buying reinsurance, but reinsurance is a very expensive
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insurance policy to buy. The reinsurance companies are, you know, all English companies, Lloyds of London, whatever else and when you have to take a substantial part of your premium to buy reinsurance so that this risk is not all on the back of the companies in Texas that write this business because they could go broke too. And there is a guaranty fund against insurance companies going broke. If they exceed—if their
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losses exceed their ability to meet those losses, then they can dip into the Texas guaranty fund. Now I, you know, all of this works together and it’s not as bad as I envisioned, but I know if I invited all these people to take this risk because they can insure it. And the federal government with flood insurance has invited everybody to take greater risks. And the flood insurance program nationally, in my opinion, is on the verge of being a disgrace. The subsidy that’s going to be required after Katrina will eventually, you know, tell the Congress that there are some limits to how much you can give in
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assurances to people who want to live in a hazard zone. I mean, if you want to guarantee somebody the right to live on the riverbank and guarantee that when a house is washed away in the flood, that you’re going to rebuild their house and when it disappears on the beach, that you’re going to rebuild their beach house, you know, you got to look at who you’re doing this for and with whose money. So, you know, the e—the equation’s there that sometimes there’s a benefit. There’s always a detriment that goes with the benefit. And those of us who have been legislators and who are legislators need to worry about
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well, did I do that for the most selfish of my constituents, did I need to do it, is it sound business now? And now we got the people who have the insurance, windstorm, have the flood, they have the sand sock in front of their subdivision, which was paid for by public funds, and they have the beach restoration and replenishment, which is paid for by public funds. And they are saying, well, if the tide takes me, now I want the public to pay me to move my house. Now, so there’s a never ending element of greed here that goes with—
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with having enjoyed some public—some leisure at public expense. It—it’s a—it’s an addiction. The more they get, the more that want. And that’s not a new formula. I mean, it di—didn’t just happen yesterday. People—human beings have—are naturally greedy and naturally want to protect their rights, their property, what they believe in and they don’t give a damn who pays for it, just as long as they don’t have to pay for it.
JS: So, what do you think the next like ten or fifteen years will bring for federal and state subsidized insurance and homeowners?
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BS: Well, I think the insurance is about to get straightened out in terms of cost. I think that the—the windstorm insurance, for instance, is going to become more expensive and self s—and self—self-proving. In other words, the pre-event assessment is going to come about. I mean, there’s no way to avoid it. Policies are going to have to have not just a rate that is actuarially sound, but an assessment in order to create a fund against which a catastrophic loss might be paid, because you’re paying reinsurance costs now.
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Instead of having the fund, you’re paying an enormous amount of money for reinsurance. When you create the fund reserve, then you have to buy less reinsurance. And that fund itself accumulates interest and so if you live ten years without a hurricane loss, you know, a billion dollar fund is a two billion dollar fund. And you eventually create that cushion against that ultimate loss. So I think that—the next movement is create the fund, fund it through assessments of coastal policies, have a provision for assessments of all policies in the state where there is a catastrophic loss in excess of a certain amount of money. And that’s what we’re working on and that will replace my tax credit for the premium tax, which is an abomination because it goes right to the general fund and takes, you know, money out of the treasury to pay for these losses.
JS: How will that impact what the average homeowner pays? Or
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BS: Well in coastal counties it—it will—it will affect them to the extent that those who are on the barrier islands and exposed to the windstorm risk and whose policies are in the pool, will have an assessment on their policy. It may be ten dollars, it may be fifty dollars. It will be some number that the legislature decides on. They will pay a rate which is established by the insurance commissioner and for Coastal Insurance Windstorm. The assessment will be established again either by the commissioner or by law and then there’ll be that post-event assessment which will be provided for in the
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event of a catastrophic loss from a hurricane, that’s Windstorm. Secondly, the federal government’s going to have to do something about the flood insurance program. They have proposed that they only replace a house twice. Third time, you’re out or maybe they propose that a three time loser cannot obtain flood insurance again. Well, that shows you how absurd politicians are. I mean, why in the hell are we going to replace it the second time? I mean, if—if—if you’re lucky enough to get your house replaced once at public
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expense through a subsidy, why do we have to do it twice? You know, this guy Stossel, on national television, what is it, 20/20 or? Stossel was on television about two, three months ago pointing out the folly of their rep—of the Federal Flood Insurance Program replacing his house. I mean, he’s on the beach, he bought the house, the house has been destroyed, it’s going to be replaced. Now, doe—does the federal government do that again? I mean his house is going to be destroyed down there in—at Hilton Head in the Carolinas or—or on the upper coast somewhere periodically, once every five years, eight
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years. Yo—we going—is the Federal flood Insurance bu—going to replace it? Look at all the houses that are being flooded today nationwide. Now, some of them—people have to live where they live. They live in downtown blankety-blank and they get flooded and it’s a hundred flood, why you give them a replacement and unless there’s some condition which they had a right to know about when they built their house, why, they can still buy the insurance. But you don’t do that for somebody that builds on the bank of a river and—and knows that the house that was there before this house, was
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washed out and gone and so I’m going to go build there and wait for the flood to wash me out. Anyhow, that—those things have to change but they’re—we’re dealing with political minds and—and they’re as shallow as mine and they will take care of their constituents.
JS: Well, what—I mean, speaking of the rivers, what do you think of the—the Army Corps of Engineers? Because, you know, I don’t know much about them, but it seems like their mission is sort of to control nature and make it safe throughout (inaudible).
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BS: Yeah, well, the Army Corps of Engineers was originally provided for public works projects which were of general benefit to the communities, areas and aid to navigation essentially, the—the major Corps responsibility. For instance, in Texas, deals with—aids the navigation, the channels have all been dredged by the Corps. The Corps maintains those channels. The Corps builds earthen embankments. The Corps builds anything that—that Congress authorizes them to build or directs them to build. So they’ve dammed the Mississippi in a variety of ways. They’ve tried to prevent floods in a variety of ways, with a variety of structures which they designed and create, which all serve the
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purpose that they were intended to serve until they fail. That’s what happened in New Orleans. The Corps of Engineers built all those levies and they dug all the channels and the federal government paid for it. But the flaw in that formula down there in New Orleans was that every levy district has a different board, a corrupt bunch of people who maintain and oversee those levies and who, I think, in many instances, have perverted justice by—for profit. And so the levies haven’t been as good as they ought to be and when they fail, the federal government’s got to come along and apologize. You know, the Corps did the best they knew how. They provided the levies to withstand a three hurricane and they didn’t withstand a three hurricane. They failed because they were engineered poorly. So, if you judge the Corps by New Orleans, it’s a complete failure, in
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my opinion. If you judge the Corps by the Galveston ship channel, it’s a hundred percent success. If you judge it by the Houston ship channel, it’s a marvelous organization and entity which has provided billions of dollars to the economy of Texas through a ship channel to nowhere. Nobody ever intended a merchant vessel to go fifty miles inland nor did they anticipate there’d be thirty or forty chemical plants and oil refineries and processing companies on that ship channel. I’m sure there were smart people who believed that it would lead to unlimited industrial growth, but they did not then know the
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kind of growth it would—it would—that’d take place on the Houston Ship Channel. Nor did they know the destruction and pollution to the environment that those industries would create. And so we had to come back thirty years, forty years later and worry about the salvation of Galveston Bay, which again, the Congress has taken care of. It is a nationally designated estuary and—and it’s cleaned up. And the pollution is cleaned up. We had to catch everybody that was violating all the laws, which was every plant on the Houston Ship channel, but over years, it has happened and we are relatively in good shape now.
JS: Well, I mean, how sound do you think this policy is of damming up the rivers and preventing the sediment from passing?
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BS: Well, the failure to prevent a sediment bypass—the failure to provide a sediment bypass has adversely affected the beaches of Texas. But the Corps wasn’t designing the dams with any view in mind to provide a sediment bypass. That came about through conservationists and associations and people in colleges studying what could and could not be done to better the condition of the beaches and they came up with the idea that one of the problems was that there was no sediment in the rivers that flowed to the—to the coast. And they combined that with their knowledge of what happened to the
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Mississippi. And the Mississippi again, is, you know, largely a—a factor of nature and the cr—creation of the delta, but it also is largely a factor of how many dams there are along the Mississippi that prevent that sediment flow.
JS: Well, I just have like two more questions for you and then we can talk if we want to go over data, but as a lobbyist, tell me how are you continuing your work on behalf of the public trust and on behalf of conservation that you did when you were in office?
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BS: Well, I upset people over there a lot by showing up at the Natural Resource Committee hearing, which I go to all the time. And I testify against bills by members and they always, you know, are insulted, you know, what the hell gives you the right to come up here and testify against my bill, I mean, who are you lobbying for. And, you know, I have to look at Dennis Bonnen and say, Dennis, when you introduce a bill to let those folks in Treasure Isle steal state property, you know, it’s my duty, having been around here forever, to point out the fact that that shouldn’t occur. Those people are under a
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lawsuit by the Attorney General and you’re trying to give them a right which they do not have. You’re trying to give it to them legislatively. It violates the constitution for you to do that. It is not a good bill and you’re a great guy and I taught your wife in my law school class on Coastal Management and Ocean Law. And she will tell you that what you’re doing’s wrong. And all he did was get more insulted. She was a great student too and is a great student, probably a great lawyer. But it—it just, you know, you—eh, you got to talk to a guy who’s a State Representative and he’s doing what I used to do but I
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hope more intelligently. He thinks he’s doing something for his district that just must be done. And you don’t have to do anything that violates the constitution to get re-elected. I mean, it’s—I didn’t vote for the segregation bills because they were unconstitutional. And I used to tell people, you know, you just—you took an oath to defend the constitution, to uphold the laws and the constitution of this state and the United States. Now, why are you forgetting that—that oath of office, you know, you didn’t take an oath to make gifts to your constituents and that offends them, too. But I—I do—I do that and what I’m explaining is basically that I think those of us who have taken on a project for
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life, like I have in this Coastal Management Ocean Law protection of public property, all of that—why I owe some duty while the legislature’s in session and while I’m alive to show up at these meetings. I’m here anyhow. And Ellis shows up all the time, he ain’t here, he’s got to drive from up on the coast somewhere, Beaumont and—but we do, we—we testify that the things that we find wrong with these ideas that members have to take
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care of their little problems in their districts. But we—and we try to convey to the legislature at large that there’s a greater duty on their part to protect the public rights everywhere. One chairman was heard to say by one of my friends, that—said, you know, I don’t know why Schwartz shows up here all the time, he acts like he owns the beaches. And of course, my response would be, I do, you know, so do you, so does the chairman. When you—when she wants to take her grandchildren to the beach, she better damn well
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have somebody defending her right or they going tell down in Corpus Christi she’s got to check in that hotel and pay somebody some money and then she can use that beach in front of that hotel. Well, that—that’s basically what keeps you here.
JS: Okay, so, what work, as a legislator or as a lobbyist are you most proud of?
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BS: Well, I think the proudest thing I’ve done in—in the legislative process is—well, we can clean that one up. I think the proudest thing I’ve done in the legislative process or what I am proudest of is the fact that I built a twenty-five year reputation amongst the people who observe the legislature and care about the environment and particularly about the coastal environment. And I have got all the awards to show for that attitude a—and not limited to the coast, but my attitudes about nature in general, my attitudes about conservation, my attitudes about pollution, my attitudes about everything that society does that is an injustice to the environment or to a public right has to be brought to public
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attention. And somehow we’ve got ha—everybody’s got to be knowledgeable about this. And the reason I started teaching coastal law in 1970 when I was—no, not 1970—I started teaching when I was 70 years old and I taught eight semesters at the University of Houston Law School. And the reason I did that was because I thought well; I’ve got a chance to influence the minds and thoughts of fifty people a semester in coastal law and in environmental concerns and ocean concerns. And I can do that simply by teaching a law school course. And everything I tell them can be true and I can tell them all the
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funny stories and—and all the sad stories as well. And in the final analysis of what they’ve learned, they become lawyers who are good lawyers but who have a different attitude about the coastline than other lawyers who haven’t had the opportunity to be enlarged in their view of what’s good and bad in public rights and public access and antipollution measures. See, they don’t know that Dow Chemical Company pollutes every day, all day long and could care less. They don’t know that Texas (?) Refinery spews junk into the air 24 hours a day that causes cancer. They—you know, they—
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unless they’ve worked in a plant, live in a town that depends upon that kind of economy, they have no idea that all of these plants have violated every pollution law, antipollution law that has ever been written every day of their existence. And they do it because they know they can pay the fine and they can get away with it. And that—you know, I love to see them brag about the fact that they have reduced their volume of particulate matter in the air by fifty percent in the last ten years. And I think to myself, well you bastard, ten
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years ago I was breathing that crap that you have now reduced by fifty percent. And the fact is that you’ve poisoned millions of people when you had the intelligence and the authority, the ability and the money and the knowledge with which you could’ve prevented it. And so all those lung cancer cases down there on the Houston Ship Channel and all those skin cancer cases and all those brain cancer cases that these hospitals spend all their time keeping people alive because of, you know, could’ve been prevented. You knew and I was making speeches damning you and—and telling you publicly that you
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knew—in Texas City, when you were in my district and now you tell me you reduced it by fifty percent in the last ten years. Now you tell me that what you were doing to me when I was making speeches against you and cursing you to the high heavens, now you tell me that you were doing exactly what I said you were doing and, in fact, you did have a remedy when you said you didn’t have a remedy. And the—the power companies, you know, soon as we went to coal—why coal was the greatest pollution—and all of the coal plants had to get waivers for everything they were doing for the last twenty years because they were putting mercury into the air. Mercury comes down with the rain,
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winds up in the streams and all of a sudden, kids have got mercury poisoning. Lavaca Bay, I think it’s Lavaca Bay, but it’s right at Port Lavaca, has so much mercury in the bay bottom from the Alcoa Aluminum Plant, that there have to be signs all over that bay front that you’re not supposed to eat the fish or the crabs or any of the seafood from that bay because of mercury content in the bottoms and in the water. And you go over there and
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you see big fat happy people, pregnant ladies sitting on the—sitting on the banks of the bay and sitting in boats fishing and eating all that stuff and the signs don’t mean anything. And they’re destroying their children, they’re destroying themselves and it’s all because of Alcoa. Alcoa has never paid a dime in penalty to the State of Texas for that. So, it’s not just that I worry about the beaches, but Ed Harte from the Corpus Christi Caller lectured or spoke before one of my committees and he point out to me and he got me on—on the program early, that it was a complex system that began with
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the Gulf, encroached upon the shoreline, became a barrier island or peninsula as it rose from the sea centuries ago, created a bay or estuary, which was the producing cause and producing habitat for all of the life that emerges from the bay system and goes to the Gulf. The baby shrimp have to spawn in the shallowest water, in the salt grass where the water is freshest at the edge and where the sunlight reaches the shallowest portions. And he goes on at length, he’s just a pied piper, telling us how we better protect the bay or there won’t be any shrimp. And we better protect the salt grass and the habitat and the
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wetlands or there won’t be any waterfowl—I mean, won’t be—there won’t be any fowl, there won’t be any ducks and geese and there won’t be any habitat of the—for the birds that fly. And you got to protect the redfish and the trout from the commercial people, who will, as a predator, destroy the population to the extent that they can’t restore their numbers. And you have to protect the oyster reefs because the folks that put oyster shell on the roads are taking live oysters from the oyster reefs. And they believe that they have
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a right to do that and they’re paying the state twenty-five cents a yard, which is absurd. Even in those days, twenty-five cents a yard was a gift and the Haden family got rich off of it. And I can name four or five other families who got richer maybe than the Haden family. But that’s the kind of thing that Ed Harte said and he said, and then you reach the shoreline of the coastal plain where all the wetlands are and where all the farmland is and where all the rice is grown and where all these things take place, right on into the second or third tier of counties. And you have the rivers and you have everything that flows to
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the bays and to the Gulf and you’ve got to protect the freshwater inflow. If you don’t, you destroy the bay and the estuary. And so, if you’re going to degrade nature in the process of development and the process of doing all these things that man wants to do, then you’ve got to take the consequences of it. So this little thing like my worrying about the beaches because I was a beach bum and surfing because I love to surf and—and building a fire on the beach and boiling shrimp in a number three washtub, you know, all those things become relatively minor at—compared to the overall picture of what the
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coast is and why the coast needs protecting. So, more than just being the beach bum, Ed Harte’s responsible for convincing me that I had a greater duty and that’s how I got into the whole—in legislating after the first Open Beaches Act and legislating all the other things. Bob Armstrong was the first to propose a Coastal Management Program after the federal government created the Coastal Zone Management Act in 1972. And we’ve built a Coastal Management Program from the legislation that was passed, from the Open
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Beaches Act until that very time. But we couldn’t get a governor to certify it to the—to the feds in order for it to take effect as the Coastal Management Program. We couldn’t get Clements to do it, we couldn’t get Briscoe to do it, we couldn’t get Mark White to do it for whatever reason. But when Gary Mauro became commissioner and Ann Richards became governor, Gary Mauro proposed a new Coastal Management Program to comply with the 1972 federal law and put us into the other states who had adopted Coastal Management Programs. There are only three coastal states now that don’t have a
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coastal Management Program. And Ann Richards was ready to sign off on it and she got beat. And I thought, well, we’re dead again. But what happened is that Gary Mauro took on George W. Bush as a project to get him to sign onto the program and ultimately convinced him that the program was worthwhile and good and it was good for George W., because it made him kind of an environmentalist of the moment. And so we have a Coastal Management Program certified by the federal government from which we receive countless numbers of dollars and—and the coast is protected and that’s why G—Gary
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Mauro did it. And then Jerry Patterson, who’s commissioner today, has carried on the effort, I think, very well. He and I disagree on some of these things that I think are more necessary to protect as a public right than some of the private rights that he worries about protecting. But we’ve got a Coastal Management Program and it—and it works well.
JS: I wanted to ask you what—re—real quickly though, who, I mean, I’ve read a little bit about Ed Harte and—and Bob Eckhardt, but who do you see carrying on the work that you’ve done? I mean, who is in office now that’s continuing to advocate for coastal areas?
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BS: Well, I think we’ve—I think we’ve missed the boat in not—in not enlarging—those of us who are active today by not incorporating within our—within our group of people socially somehow folks who would perpetuate this idea in the legislative process and I created a nonprofit corporation called Protect—Corporation for the Protection of Op—of the Open Beaches, Public Lands and Public Rights. That nonprofit, in my opinion, can grow into a pretty decent sized group of people who would then become advocates legislatively. My first board of directors of that group, which hasn’t begun to function yet, include Bob Armstrong and Gary Mauro, include Mike Martin, who passed
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a Coastal Management legislation when he was a member of the legislature and who used to work for me, practices law in Houston today. He was my clerk on the Natural Resource Committee. I—Sharon Stewart, who is from Brazoria County and is an environmental consultant who worked for me as a dollar a month person in the legislature when she first started, Jamie Mitchell, who is the surfer—former employee of the—of the General Land Office and good friend and myself. And I’m trying to think—and Patty Gray, Patricia Gray, who was a former state representative and a very active coastal
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person. If I were going to turn this over to somebody, I’d turn it over to Patty Gray because she’ll—or I’d turn it over to Gary Mauro and Bob Armstrong in a minute. But there has to be somebody like Patricia, who’s young enough and vigorous enough and involved enough, having been a legislator, to carry on this battle in the legislature. And then the Jamie Mitchells and the Ellis Picketts have to provide the foundation and—and the breadth of—of surf riders, fishermen, folks who will become involved if they’re stimulated.
JS: David wanted—had this—had a really big question here, you talked about how—since Texas reps and senators have such small staffs and—and you said public policy is really influenced by lobbyists and industry, how has this affected environmental policy?
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BS: Well, environmental policy has been adversely affected by industry from the beginning of time. What has to be done is, there have to be—there have to be people who focus on these agencies and who focus on the lobby attempts of industry to destroy these agencies or prevent these agencies from doing their job by public acclaim and by public denunciation. They’ve got to pat these folks on the back that do something good. They’ve got to condemn to hell anything they do that’s bad. And that will reinforce the agency’s ability to do what’s right. Given the situation in which the agency…
JS: I’m sorry.
JS: Just pick up where you left off.
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BS: No, given—given the situation these agencies are in, they can only function in an environment in which they know if they do what’s right, they’ll be commended for it. And the folks who don’t want them to do what’s right, would be condemned when they oppose what they’re doing. But all that comes about by the public outcry. That’s what comes about when the Sierra Club says, you know, damn you, you know, what you’re trying to do would destroy the environment in a given area, would adversely affect this many things in our—in our natural environment. I mean, I don’t care nearly as
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much about the yellow-bellied woodpecker as I do about the fact that they would also destroy every stream there is with pollution, if they could do it without limitation. The water boards and the E—EPA and the folks that govern all of that have to—have to monitor everything industry does, twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year, or they will do what they want to do, which will never be what’s best for the environment. So, it—it is always public acclaim or condemnation, which gives the agencies the best ability to do what’s right. Jerry Patterson is a political animal, like every bo (break in recording) agency. The land office is commendable, in my opinion, but when they do something that I disagree with, I like to go to legislature (break in recording) with it. I d—(break in recording) because it’s useless. (Break) Hell, the
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Attorney General’s not moving anybody’s house anyhow, you know, they weren’t—the Attorney General wasn’t doing anything (inaudible 16:19 left). (Break in recording) expression. So, you know, why’d he have to have a morato—(break in recording) good stuff. I mean, this is Jerry patting these people on (break in recording).
JS: Oh, I love the expressions.
BS: …man in an ass-kicking contest. You can use either one, or both.
JS: Um, (break in recording).
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BS: This is awful hard to put into record. By and large, they’re a step above (break in recording). …them as Republicans because I know that really, they function just (break in recording).
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BS: That’s why I gave you such a long answer to your question. Doesn’t make any difference whether they’re Republicans or Democrats.
JS: I think I—(inaudible), you can’t go wrong with this, but just…
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BS: Oh, I’ll do whatever.
JS: …briefly for this last thing and just comment a little bit more on that one thing you said about there’s some—coastal management is not a—a partisan thing, it’s a public thing.
00:53:16 – 2388
JS: So, just tell me a little bit more about that, just finalize your thoughts.
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BS: Well, the whole i—the whole idea of having Coastal Management Programs came out of a commission called the Stratton Commission in the 60’s. And it became a program legislated in 1972 called Coastal Zone Management. Uh, Bob, I’m sorry, I forgot—Bob Kinect became the manager or the—or the director of the Coastal Zone
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Management Program. And his vision was that every state would adopt a Coastal Management Program that had to pass muster with the federal government. And if it was good enough for the federal government to approve that program, then it became certified. And when it became certified, certain funds from the federal government would flow to the states. And by that—by that mechanism, all but three states have a Coastal Management Program. And the Coastal Management Programs are dedicated and they’re required to be, by the federal government to the preservation and—and—
00:54:33 – 2388
well, the preservation and en—and enhancement of the coastline and the coastal states within the costal management area, coastal management area is defined by the state. In Texas, basically, it’s the first tier of counties from the Gulf of Mexico inland. That single county tier is the coastal management area. A different set of rules, laws and governance takes place in that area for permitting of certain aspects of construction and projects and occupation and utilization of the lands and the water and the air within that area. So that Coastal Management Program is dedicated to the entire coastal area within the coastal
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management program within—within the rules adopted by the General Land Office here in Texas. And we benefit immensely in every respect because the permitting system has to go through processes through which all state agencies, through the Coastal Commission, meet and there’s a—an appointee from the Railroad Commission, from the Transportation Department, from the oil and gas—from the railroad—I said railroad from every agency, from Parks and Wildlife. And every agency person who’s nominated
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or designated to that board, sits on that board and so when a mat—when an item that concerns that coastal area comes up for consideration before the commission, all the state agencies have their input and they even have to sign off on those matters approved or disapproved. And this is a very general proposition, but you get an interagency reaction on all coastal issues through the commission and through the fact that there is a Coastal Management Program which guides them. The genius of the Coastal Zone Management Act was that it provided that if a state received an approval and certification of their program, then the federal government programs had to be consistent with the state
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program insofar as practicable, which just simply means that within—within the realm of reason really, the federal government has to match its programs to the state and abide by state regulations where—where that is a practical thing to do. And that had never been done, in my opinion, in the relationship between the states and the feds. Feds always tell the states what to do and tell them if they don’t like it, we won’t give you anymore money. And here we got a program that says the federal government has to have programs consistent with the state programs.
BS: How much time you got?
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BS: Let me do three minutes on Open Beaches.
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BS: The single thing that needs to be remembered in the passage of the Open Beaches Law is that the phrase, the free and unrestricted, ingress and egress to the beaches is what is protected. And that phrase has never been altered. When I was in the legislature, in the Senate, every session of the Senate, somebody tried to take out the word free or somebody tried to add or subtract from the ingress and egress. But free is still in there. I have drawn a line through the elimination of the word free as many times as—as I’ve drawn any line through any phrase or—or word in a piece of legislation. Everyone I saw
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when they took that free out, I’d write it back in and scratch out whatever they took out. But it’s only free for the public to access it, parking is provided for both free and paid, but that, again, using this overworked term of mine, that was the genius of Eckhardt and it—it was the basic right which I tried to protect for all these years. Get it in three minutes? I didn’t think I did that as well on the beginning, opening up as I…
[End of Reel 2388]
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BS: and the only three people who are still alive, who were in the Senate or who were governor or lieutenant governor at that time, are myself, here, and Bill Patman over here and Doyle Willis over here. Doyle is ninety-four or five or six years old, lives in Fort Worth and I talk to him about once a month. Every other person on that panel has passed away since then except Charlie Snable, who was Secretary of the Senate and he lobbies here in Austin today. Our four children became mascots because this was my first legislative session and there’s John Schwartz, who now writes for the New York Times in New York. This is Bobby Schwartz or Robert, who is a lawyer in Houston.
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This is Richard, who is a lawyer in Houston with his own law firm, and here’s Tommy who is a doctor in Sarasota, Florida. So, as we move down these panels, the next—the next page as my sons were—will be Jason Schwartz, who is the first son of Richard Schwartz and he was a—a page as well for one legislative session and you met him today, just before lunch, so, th—that’s—that’s history as we depict it here. When we get to the next panel, I used the same picture in the second panel in ’63 that I used in ’61 and I had a lot of hair and it’s the same. When we get down to 1965 and I’m up top
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because in ’65, I was president pro tiem of the Senate and I was governor for a day in 1966, which you’ll see way up there high where Senator Galloway and myself are both shown as being pro tiem or presiding third in line in the Senate during the first called session in ’59, for the 59th legislature. But, this picture, again—this picture of everybody who was there at that time. There’s several other living members now in this picture because it’s four years later than my original picture. Ralph Paul became a Congressman. Jack Hightower became a Congressman and a Supreme Court justice. J. P. Word is
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living here in Austin and a good friend. Jack Strong lives in Longview. Pete Snelson lives here in Austin and is a lobbyist. When you look through here, Murray (?), Murray Watson still lives in (?) in Mart, M A R T, Texas. And so as you look at all these fellows, you—you get—you get the idea of the history of this place and—and how long people’s memories will run. Bill Patman still lives in Austin, Texas. The—if we get—and as we get to the next legislative session, we come up on John Connally for the second time as governor and this is ’67. The—you see that—you’ll see that Patman,
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BS: there, is president pro tem, along with Ralph Hall. And then we’ve incorporated some new guys here. And in this picture, there’s a—there’s a number of these folks that are still alive and well and Barbara Jordan is there for the first time. Barbara became a member of the Senate by election during (inaudible). All these people that are here served in the Senate. We—we had our debates and we had our ups and downs, but of course, they’ll all be remembering—each one of us remembers all of the better parts of that service rather than—depending upon those arguments and fights we had.
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BS: Preston Smith, when Preston was governor and Ben was lieutenant governor, the members of this panel, I would say that you’re down to about a fourth of these members who are still alive. We’d pick up a lot of new people and most—the most famous probably is Charlie Wilson, about whom a book has been written called Wilson’s War, about the Afghanistan, Russian War. And Charlie was involved to the extent that he provided a lot of money through the CIA to the Muhajeen who fought the Russians. And one of whom became quite famous; whose name is Osama Bin Laden. And Osama Bin Laden today has probably got more of Charlie Wilson’s money than ever went to
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fight the Russians. And we’ve had a lot of it come back to us in—in arms, which were purchased with that money. Charlie probably wouldn’t be willing to admit it, but he has admitted publicly that he lives in fear that some of those shoulder weapons that were bought with the money he provided to the Muhajeen—if that’s the correct pronunciation—in Afghanistan are still being used against the enemies of Osama Bin Laden. There are a few people in there who could—like Barbara Ostamalzi, who became
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a Supreme Court Justice who are distinguished in their own right. Criss Cole, who was blinded in World War II and who became a juvenile judge in Houston, Texas, Harris County. After that fact, they’re all fine people and more of them—more of them were good guys I mean…
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BS: Well, I first came to the House in ’55, first came to the Senate in ’60, but 1961 was the legislative session in which I first served. My first session of the Senate, I was not too impressed with either the Senate or the senators, because, as I said, I was a—a young arrogant, minority Jewish member of the whole legislature, for that matter, and I was not well liked by my enemies and—and I didn’t like them very much. So, there were tough times. It was very difficult to serve the people who you didn’t respect in—in the first instance and who gave you no respect in return. So that was a tough time. By 1969, I had become friends with a—with a variety of these people who who were friendly and
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who were on the same side of the battleground that I was. By that time, when—when arrived and Jordan arrived and I can pick a few others here and there, there’s Ronald Bridges, Chet Brooks, Joe Christie, Criss Cole, I mean, the minority began—that—to carry some weight in the Senate. Before that it was a rock-ribbed, reactionary, right-winged, conservative organization. And when this—by the time we had this panel, we were beginning to come upon eight or ten liberal members, liberal or moderate and Red Berry, up there from San Antonio. The—so, that liberal or moderate minority came
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to be a controlling factor because of the rules, and once we got eleven votes in the Senate, we were making our own way and doing our own thing. And we were always a minority, but we—but we prevailed more often than we failed. I mean, this next one here, we are—we are into Preston Smith’s second session, I think, got a few more hands that
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came on board that are friendly and—and liberal to moderate. And if I counted that board today, I think I would find more than the—more than the eleven that it took to control the minority, maybe getting to the fifteen or sixteen that would give us a majority when we needed it. It’s interesting to note that Lindley Beckworth came back to the Senate after having been a Congressman and Lindley was an interesting fellow who answered all his mail i—in his own handwriting. He was from east Texas, his daughter—no, his son married Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby’s daughter, finally. And
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one of their children, I think is named after Lindley. But the other newcomers, by that time, Barbara had been around a while and she went on to Congress after this picture was taken. Uh, good time Charlie—my friend Charlie Wilson’s still there. My friend Charlie Herring, who is in this picture, I think has either reached his hundredth birthday or passed away last year. But that panel, again, you know, every time I look at these panels, why, they re—they reflect to me—they mean a lot historically and—and I remember each one
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JS: So (inaudible).
JS: This, the first picture here. Can you tell me about that?
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BS: I began to use my nickname about this time because it became a—a good political handle. More people were calling me Babe and—and I was less formal and probably I didn’t even think about putting my nickname on the panel—I’m glad you noticed it—until sometime around this time. I had a bumper sticker about this time, that I began to use, that didn’t have anything with Babe on it. It didn’t have Babe for the Senate or Re-elect Babe to the Senate, it just had Babe. And people used to kid me about it and I told them, I said, if they don’t know who I am—if they don’t know who Babe is, I can’t get
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elected anyhow. But the nickname is a good vehicle—good handle for politicians if the nickname kind of fits the person. You’ve been kind enough to mention that—not to mention that—that it was about this time I lost my hair, working into this 1973, why, I’d lost a lot of it. And by then Dolph Briscoe was governor and Bill Hobby was lieutenant governor. All these people have come to pass being elected in good races and being pretty tough people. And I think by then, we had a fifteen or sixteen vote liberal to moderate members of the Senate and we really began to take off and—and accomplish things that we wanted to accomplish. We were beg—beginning to be committee chairmen and people that had to be dealt with on legislative issues. We got tougher and tougher. But this is beginning to be the better Senate than we had experienced in the
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past. The majority of these members were really first class people and easy to work with, dedicated to their work, by and large, and it was a good time to serve. Getting over on the next side, I lost a little more hair, taken in a few good guys into the legislative process and began to add really just another woman Betty Anderhower of Fort Worth, who was a good member and sat on my left, just as good a—good a member as there ever was. And she was very conservative, married to a Dr. Andy Anderhower, who was a pathologist in Fort Worth, Texas. The rest of this crowd keeps coming along in different ways.
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They’re—most of them are still around. Lloyd Doggett, up on the top row, is a member of Congress today, from Austin, Texas. In that picture, I’m trying to find some other possible members of Congress, but I think that—think I’ve run out of—run out of Congressmen here. Max Sherman was Dean of the LBJ School here in Austin, Texas, the University of Texas LBJ School. The—one of these other people beside Doggett—Ray Farabee became counsel to the chancellor of the University of Texas system. I mentioned that Malsey became a—a Supreme Court Justice and over on Malsey’s left
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and up, is Bob Gammage, who at this time was running for governor. Bob Gammage became a Congressman, came back and became an Appellate Judge, a Supreme Court Judge and now is running for Congress. And he’s been out of office for ten or fifteen years but he’s got a good chance of doing that. This panel, again, from—picking up from 19 (break in recording). Majority from my standpoint, they were all dynamite people and again, we were in the majority by then and did very well and passed all the legislation we
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wanted. And I’m very—very happy to say that going through history like this, as I look back on these folks, I’m thankful that they were there. This is my last legislative session and the interesting thing about this session is that it brought Bill Clements in as governor. The Senate was staying pretty much the same. Roy Blake over here on the right has a son who’s in his forties or fifties now, who’s a house member, recently elected. Some of these people, again, have passed away and some are still living. The—the one I miss most is my friend Oscar Mauzy. Down here on the bottom, you can see that I
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finally lost all of my hair. All these good guys and—and—and the lady, of course, were friends. What you need to see most in this picture of my grandson, Jason Schwartz, who is now twenty-eight and is taking his Bar Exam next month. And that’s Jason’s childhood picture, of which he’s quite proud. And it’s too bad that I got beat in 1980 because his brother, Justin never got his picture in a panel. Justin’s the only—the only member of the group that didn’t make the panel. I’d also like to note for people that you will notice if you look at these panels in sequence, as we have here to—that I smiled right up ‘til about 1975, then I got grim. By ’79, I
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BS: Yeah. See, back in those days, I ridiculed the fact that Bill Clements got elected as a Republican. My—my old story, my line was, I loved using it, we hadn’t had a Republican governor for a hundred years and Bill Clements proved there was a reason for not having a Republican governor for a hundred years. Look at—this panel depicts the first session in which I served. It was a regular session of 1961. Traditionally your children can be pages one time and have their picture in the panel as pages in the Texas Senate for that session. My children are shown from the first John Schwartz, Robert
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Alan Schwartz, Richard Schwartz and Tommy Schwartz or Thomas Lee Schwartz. I always tell everybody that Tommy’s name is Thomas Jefferson Robert E. Lee Schwartz, but it’s not all that on his birth certificate. They were the four boys at that age and the twins are now fifty-two years old and forty-four, something like that and forty-two. I had a full head of hair. I was, you know, generally about the right age for the Senate. They were all older th—most of them were older than me at the time but Price Daniel was governor, Ben Barn—Ben Ramsey was lieutenant governor. And everybody in this panel but Doyle Willis at ninety-seven today and Bill Patman over there as a member lives
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here in Austin as well. The three of us are—are still alive, everybody else is deceased. Charlie Snable, there in the middle is still alive but he was a young man even then and he was secretary of the Senate. That—that’s the panel of Senators that I came to serve with and I can’t say much about many of them, except that a few were very distinguished people and a few were very difficult people. You may be interested in the fact that Henry Gonzales was in the Senate when I came to the Senate. He went to Congress and stayed from that time until he died three or four years ago. He was chairman of the banking
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committee in the Congress when he passed away and a very, very distinguished member from San Antonio. Fought the battles of segregation during the period that I was doing that in the House in ’55 Henry fought the battle here in the Senate and he fought it with Chick Gazan, who was from Laredo, who was from Laredo and who also b
JS: Senator, let me ask you What do you think your—your children and your grandchildren have learned by watching you (?) work in (?) here?
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BS: I think they’ve learned that you have a responsibility to participate in the affairs of government. I hope that they understand that means local government, state government, national government, on any level, and that all of us have some duty to contribute something to the society we live in, in addition to working for a living and being what we are. I mean, it might be enough to be a lawyer but it was never enough for me to just be a lawyer. And I know it’s not enough for my children and I hope for my grandchildren to just do whatever they do to make a living. And I’d like them to contribute in some way
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to the society they live in, and up ‘til now, they’re doing pretty good at it, although my first elected public official will probably come out of my grandchildren. There’s Johnny who is a writer for N—the New York Times, little noisy in here. Somebody coming down the stairs. There’s John Schwartz, who writes for the New York Times. Here’s Robert Schwartz, who is a lawyer in Houston. Richard Schwartz, a lawyer with a law firm in Houston and Thomas Lee Schwartz, a doctor, physician in Florida, whose real name is Robert E. Le—Thomas
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BS: We should’ve rounded up some other members for you. Should’ve rounded up some live members for ya’ll.
BS: That’s why I tell them
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BS: My district ran from Chambers in Galveston County, all the way down to Corpus Christi at different time. And…
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BS: JS: Dallas.
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BS: Thank you.
JS: Thank you.
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BS: Anyhow, I hope ya’ll get to do it sometime, you get yourself elected, it—it’s a good thing to do. I was just explaining to Jessica and Mike downstairs that what I hope my children or grandchildren will do someday is—is get elected to public office and render some service besides just making a living. Making a living’s hard enough, but – but
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there’s a lot to be done and if you ever have an opportunity to do it on a local level or on state level or any other place, why, get in there—get in there and do it. I am a lawyer, graduated from the University of Texas Law School in 1951. Have a grandchild who graduated a year ago and one that’ll graduate in May, from the University of Texas Law School. I have two sons who practice law in Houston and one (inaudible) University of Texas Law School but who writes for the New York Times and has never wanted to practice law. And I’ve kind of—I’ve kind of leveled down on my family to be lawyers,
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one of—one of my sons, who can’t read and write, is a doctor in Florida. So ya’ll haven’t heard that joke before? I always told him, if I could teach him to read and write, I’d send him to law school, but he turned out to be a pretty damn good doc
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BS: Well, I’m going down to show them my seat down there in the front of the Senate. As a matter of seniority, when you stay longer than anybody else, you outlive the devils, why, you get the front seat. So I had the front seat on the left and a fellow named Bill Moore had the front seat on the right. And we hated each other like the devil incarnate. And but it’s—it’s not really a—quite a good thing to have those kind of battles in politics, but they do develop and, you know, you develop friends and enemies and your—you make your best reputation through your enemies. The worse they are, the better you are. That’s al
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BS: Yes, oh, you see all that light in there, the—the—those are beautiful. The—the chandeliers are outstanding, this whole décor is a restoration project of the capitol building where they replaced and—and re—refinished everything to its original grandeur. And that all was done about eight or ten years ago, after there had been a s—a fire here in the Senate. And so when they restored the capitol building inside, then they built the extension behind us that is underground. If you go down to E1 and walk through there, you’ll walk out to what is the underground part of the capitol presently. And it was all
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dug—dug out of the—out of the—I guess it’s limestone, dug out of the limestone behind the capitol about ten years ago. And now the offices of the House and Senate that are not in the capitol building are there in the underground. There’s a cafeteria in the underground, offices, committee rooms and—and a lot of work space.
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BS: Yeah, you need to go. Where are you folks from?
JS: Thank you sir.
BS: Thank you.
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BS: Okay, what would you like to know about the Senate, Jessica? Every Senator has a seat on the floor. The lieutenant governor presides from…
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BS: Okay, every Senator has a seat on the Senate floor and a desk, of course. The lieutenant governor presides from the dais. And the parliamentarians sit next to the lieutenant governor, helping the lieutenant governor with issues of points of order and what have you. All the clerks and work—workers sit down here in these front desks. And the debate takes place here on the floor. There’s a microphone within this socket and the member can use the microphone or not, depending upon whether he thinks he or she can be heard. In my time, we did not have microphones and it was always our position if the gallery couldn’t hear you, you didn’t need to be a member of the Senate. And we—we made big jokes about people that couldn’t be heard, you know, they’d start talking or start saying something and all the smart alecs would start saying, you know, speak up.
JS: Well, how long did you sit in this seat and why don’t you tell me about, like, some of the biggest battles over coastal legislation.
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BS: Well, I think the—the—the major battles over coastal legislation took place in committees, believe it or not. Very difficult to get a bill out of committee. If the lobby got organized and—and could operate enough pressure on members to prevent them from doing anything. But the legislations I passed twenty-one years as a member of the Senate dealing with coastal issues, encompassed everything from littering, to speed limits where—where driving was permitted, to the protection of freshwater inflows, to the bays and estuaries, the Open Beaches legislation that protected the rights of the public to their access, free ingress and egress, keeping the word free in the statute that others wanted to
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take out, protecting the wetland areas of the barrier island complex and the peninsulas, protecting sand dunes. I remember the first time I tried to pass legislation to protect a sand dune, you know, it was—it was ridiculed. What—what a—what is a sand dune that’s worth protecting? And I remember Bill Heatley from Paducah, out in West Texas, said look, I can send you all the sand you want, you know, I got lots of sand and you—you pay for the railroad cars and I’ll send you the sand. Well, i—it—it’s hard to convince people that a sand dune is a protection against washovers and protection against
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destruction of a variety of kinds in hurricanes. Those dunes are barrier to the wave action and—and assist in erosion control because the dunes wash out, they wash back into the shallow waters of the Gulf and then they wash back up on the shore and then the sand blows back into the dune area. So, there’s a—there’s a re-nourishment in and of itself, if you protect your dunes and if you have dunes. And all this sounds pretty simple except that in the—in—the m—the most difficult thing we did was to try to pass enabling legislation for what became the Coastal Management Program. And that was a very
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complex system of laws and which would lead to rules, which the oil and gas people didn’t like because it might interfere with their rape, robbery and pillaging of the lands and the—and the air and the water. So everything is related. It’s a fight against pollution, it’s a fight against improper takings of public property, it’s a fight against the abuse of the land, which you have to live on and which has to support wildlife and has to support all of the ecology or the ecological system that leads to a healthy Gulf and a healthy barrier island or peninsula, healthy wet—wetlands, coastal areas, estuaries, bay systems, river
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systems and all that. And so I can’t really put my hands on what was tough, what was not, but there was something, eight or ten pieces of legislation every session that related to all those issues.
JS: So, how much of your job would you say, was based on having to educate your peers?
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BS: Ninety percent of it. Ninety percent of passing legislation is being able to educate the committee that you have to persuade about the legislation if it’s—if it’s not just routine. And when you educate the committee, then you get a bill out of committee where there’re seven members or nine members and you get out here on the floor and there are thirty-one members. And you need twenty-one votes in the Senate in order to suspend the rules, in order to take up and consider a piece of legislation. So you really do have to—have to lean on those twenty-one people in a complex situation and get those
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votes that you’re able to—to talk folks into voting for. It—it’s—it’s not—it’s not impossible, but it’s difficult. This seat I occupied in my last two or three years because it took that long to gain the seniority which enabled me to have this seat. And when I had this seat, why I was a senior member of the senate. Bill Moore sat on the other side, slightly senior to me. But basically when Bill got beat, why, I was the senior member of the Senate for a very short period. This seat belonged to Senator Aiken, who was in the Senate forty-two years and I moved into it when he passed away. What you need me to do?
JS: Could you stand up and sit down (inaudible)?
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BS: Oh, sure.
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BS: It’s interesting to note that from this chair, I had filibustered for two hours, ten hours, twenty hours at different times. On one occasion, Charlie Wilson and I conducted a joint filibuster for thirty-nine hours and could have broken the world’s record at that time, which was forty hours and I actually quit on purpose because we didn’t want to do that. One of out colleagues had held that record and Mike McCool from Dallas at the time, a really neat guy and neither one of us, who were playing around with this filibuster we were engaged in, don’t even remember the issue, didn’t think that we ought to do that to Mike McCool’s record. Later the record was broken by Don Kennard from Fort
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Worth, who spoke forty—forty-one hours. And his seat was over there in the back and Don’s a friend of mine, living here in Austin now and Buda eally. The other consequence of that was that Bill Meier, who now is in the Guinness Book of Records for holding the longest filibuster record in Texas was a fake. He filibustered for less than thirty-nine hours and wanted to go to the restroom, which is not permitted if you’re in a filibuster. You must stand and be in the area of your desk and you must not lean on your chair or do any of the things for which you could be removed from the floor on a point of order. Well, Bill Hobby let him go to the lady’s room, which is through that corner door over there at something under thirty-nine hours and he went to the lady’s room and then it was possible for him to filibuster another four hours and because that—and I consider that to be the—the biggest fraud on the Texas Senate in history because he made the Guinness Book of Records. He ought not to even be mentioned in the Senate Journal.
JS: What kinds of things did you talk about when you were filibustering?
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BS: We—we filibustered the city sales tax at one time, when it was first passed. The city sales tax is a—i—is a very important tax now by which cities—through which cities gain a lot of profit. But we, at that time, because it’s a regressive tax, tax the poor more than the rich, believed that, in my old radical days and liberal days, that we had other taxes which were more important than to impose a new sales tax on the poor. We had a—Don Kennard, when he broke the record was filibustering against a bill having to do with Arlington, the University of Texas at Arlington. He wanted it to be a four year college and it was a two year college and he was going to kill the bill if he couldn’t
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acquire the four year college. So we had a filibuster in which we had a lot of fun and during one entire night, by asking questions and dealing with each other in the debate, we created a Hall of Fame at the University of Texas at Arlington, where we would put a wax bust or statue of the most famous people in Texas, particularly the most fraudulent. And so we created a bust for John Sharp and he—as head of the School of Finance, the University of Texas at Arlington. He had created the best fraud then. We created a bust for Billy Snilestus, the manure king of the State of Texas in his era. We created a bust for our friend Woody from El Paso, who had been a Congressman and Woody had been a
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member of the legislature. And while he was running for Congress in a Congressman at large position, statewide, the United States government determined that he hadn’t filed any income taxes for twelve years. So we gave Bo—we gave Woody a place of honor. And that went on all night, we—I think we wound up with a hundred or more people of note for whom we created a bust and a school that they would—would be named in their honor if this university were so created. And that’s what filibusters do. It was good
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humor. We kept their intention very well and in the final analysis, I think we lost, but we had a lot of fun. And there’s been a lot written about those people whose school we created, but I don’t remember all of them.
[End of Reel 2389]
[End of interview with Babe Schwartz]