DT: Earlier we were talking about the Section 404 dredging and filling, and I thought we might talk about another portion of the Clean Water Act, which would be the Point Discharge program, NPDES [National Pollution Discharge Elimination System], I think, is the acronym.
One sort of unusual part of it was that that program was not delegated to the State of Texas for many, many years, and long after most states had already gotten delegation and control over that program. Can you explain why that decision was made to delay it?
AH: Well, the decision was made because that decision came down the pike before I even got there but it stayed in place a long time, and I totally agreed with it, is that the State of Texas never proved itself as far as caring about the environment.
What'd they care about discharge? They didn't care. What'd they care about air? They didn't care. So how can you entrust a state agency with that kind of power when you know they weren't going to do it right?
When I finally got the message that we had to now let them take charge of that program, I fought it tooth and nail. I didn't trust them. I thought it was wrong and I think part of it may have been budgetary, you know?
I don't know what it was but had it been my call, I would have never permitted them in those days, because they hadn't proven to me they cared about anything. So it was all politics at the end when they got it.
DT: Why do you think the State of Texas had this kind of disregard for environmental issues?
AH: Well because I guess, being a native Texan, there's an independence about Texans and nobody's going to tell them what to do, and nobody's going to tell them how to run their state, nobody's going to tell them how to run the city.
It's going on today. Listen to the presidential debates, too much government, and too much government. Well, I don't know where wed be without some of the government things. I'm not saying we have to have a lot but we certainly do to protect the health and welfare of our citizens.
And that's what State of Texas has never cared about, still don't. They rank fiftieth, forty-ninth, forty-fifth, in all the things that we should all care about, whether it be education, health, pollution, or whatever. So don't get me started.
DT: No, go ahead, you're on a roll.
AH: I just, I mean, for the governor of a state to tell somebody about voluntary compliance of air pollution is totally ridiculous, totally ridiculous.
For a governor of a state to say, "Well, the legislature wasn't in session," when the CHIP program was passed in Washington, which is a Children's Health Insurance Program so therefore, all these hundreds of kids, thousands of kids, can't have any health insurance this year, we can't get the program started because were not in session, that's what he says publicly.
When is it that a governor cant call a special session? So I am totally grieved, in mourning about thinking that our government is going to do less than they do now if, in fact, Governor Bush is President Bush.
And I'm not saying that Gore is going to do that much better, I don't know. At least, he has talked environment and that's better than not talking at all. But I don't know what's with the people.
When are they going to wake up with all the kids with asthma? All the kids and all the people, adults with lung cancer? My brother has it right now, my sister died of it. So if you say I'm a zealot about that subject, I probably am.
DT: While you were with EPA, one of the ways you helped push environmental protection was to help some of the non-profit groups that had been working on these problems. Can you help explain?
AH: Yes, I can tell you something about that. When, I guess Id been in office about a year and I decided to have a special little section that did research and work with non-profits. We even worked on lignite.
We did a big deal on lignite but I also wanted to work with non-profits and help them if I could. And so we gave grants to certain non-profits so they could do their work better. Whether it would be about the Lung Association, whether it be Sharon Stewart, some of her group of environmentalists.
I felt it was important to show that we cared and to be helpful. I don't know if we were the first region to do it but we did it on my watch here. And if we didn't have active citizens, I can tell you wed be in worse trouble than we are right now.
So I've always worked with the environmental groups, always. It did it on the council, did it at EPA. Still care about it. But I got to tell you about government a little bit
DT: Please do.
AH: if I can. In New Mexico, which was one of my states, I worked with Ladonna Harris, who was President of Americans for Indian Opportunity. She was half Indian herself. She was the wife of Senator Fred Harris of Oklahoma, and they since got a divorce or whatever years ago,
but I would go into that office in New Mexico and she said to me, "You want to see what goes on with some of the Indian reservations?" And I said, "Yes," and so one day we drove out of Albuquerque to some reservation, I cant remember which one, and we drove in and she said,
"This is a laundromat that the Bureau of Indian Affairs had built on the reservation." So I get out of the car and I look in there, man, clean as a whistle, clean as a whistle. I said, "Golly, they keep it so clean, it doesn't look like they've ever used it."
She said, "Well, how can you use something if they never brought water to it? They just tell the Congressmen what they've done for the Indians but its too expensive to bring the water there. Congressman never comes and looks."
Then, she shows me this little hospital they built, like a six or eight bed hospital, never been used, no water. So I testified in front of the Udall Committee and boy, the Bureau of Indian Affairs could have killed me.
Another thing that bureau did was they would make the contracts for the Indians when uranium was being mined, when the uranium belonged to the tribe and, or coal, there were big coal deposits in certain of the states that the Indians owned and they wouldn't get five cents on the dollar of what they should have got.
But, they sell this uranium, and I cant think of the name of this big corporation, it was mining the uranium, and the uranium tailings going in the streams.
So I get a call that the cattle are dying, the drinking water, they cant drink it and so I go out there and find out, indeed, that corporation knew exactly what they were doing.
So, I not only stopped them, but I made them bring big tanks of water into all the people so they could have drinking water, clean up the streams, and do all that stuff. Well, you know, I think that's a crime. This is a federal agency, the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
They was just screwing and tattooing those Indians all the time. And you cannot tell me those Congressmen didn't know that. The guy that was the Chief - McDonnell(?), I think, was his name - he ended up in prison. You know about him?
Very bright guy, had an engineering degree from the University of Oklahoma but he also was taking advantage of his people, you know? But he makes a big deal in Washington about EPA didn't try to clean up the water from the uranium, when I was killing myself.
So I called him and let him have it. And he met me in Las Vegas, where our water research laboratory was, and he brought a big entourage of people with him and I brought some with me.
And near the end of our day, I said, "Would you mind asking your people to leave the room and Ill ask my people to leave the room," which we did.
And I said, "Listen here, you SOB, if you ever tell a lie about my region, about what we didn't do, you know were the only ones that ever came in there and helped you." Well, next thing I know, he goes to Washington, tells them how wonderful I am. Big friends.
But he went to prison because he was stealing money from the tribe. So everybody stole from the tribes. Everybody did, which I thought was very sad.
DT: Speaking of the reservations and the fact that they didn't have water service and waste water I imagine as well, can you tell anything about the colonias in Texas and how it came to be that often times they didn't get much infrastructure either?
AH: I don't know how it came to be. I just know that no governor every, ever cared and, and no state legislature every cared, and the first time it got a real big airing was with Ann Richards, who tried to help them. But, supposedly, I don't know, but from what I read, it's not too good yet.
So therefore, nobody still cares about that. I can't tell you any of the technical facts on that. In fact, I'll be honest, when I was at EPA I didn't even know about them because, you know, things had to come to me.
I mean, I couldn't go out in the region and find the stuff. I had enough on my desk that came to me, that I sure wasn't going out looking. Not that I didn't want to, I didn't have the time to do that.
DT: Were there other issues that came on your desk from Texas that you'd like to discuss?
AH: Well, you know, I had a lot of people like Catherine Perrine that came to me all the time about water quality and, and what wasn't happening. And any time I could help her and give her information, I was there to do that.
There was some people out near Plano, Texas, that came to me because Plano contracted with a private firm to bring in water out of wells or something, and it wasn't clean and so I got that issue.
I got issues in Oklahoma about the lead smelting plants and the kids weren't doing well in school. And so we marched down there and cleaned that place up. So really every day you could find twenty-five glaring things that would happen. And I was very responsive. I never fluffed off anything.
We worked hard. We worked long hours. I don't, I don't know that any other Regional Administrator before me in, in that Texas office ever listened that much, or ever carried a big stick. And I'm not saying that in a braggadocios way, it just needed to be done.
DW: What about the uranium mine in Kingsville? Did that ever come up?
AH: No no, don't know anything about it as a matter of fact.
DT: Did you get involved in any of the early stirrings of Superfund?
AH: Yeah, I did. In fact, the early announcement, I went to Houston and we met Bob Eckhardt, who was a great Congressman, I thought, he cared about the environment. I met him and a deputy administrator, who's picture you saw on that wall, Barbara Blum,
and we had a big press conference, and wore yellow slickers, and the whole nine yards and, in a way, Superfund, I watched it some even after I left. It was sort of disappointing, I think.
DT: How so?
AH: Well, they got some sites cleaned up, you know? But, other massive sites, they didn't, and there was just too much red tape that went on. Now sure its better to have done some than none at all but it was a very expensive program and Congress didn't want to fund it as much as they needed to.
So if you don't have the funding, its hard to do all of the things you ought to be doing. So I guess some of it was successful but not nearly enough in my opinion.
But strictly a funding problem, not necessarily that no one cared, because citizens understand that. They understand those clean up efforts and they want them. But I was there early in the game.
DT: Can you tell about when you left the game in a sense? In 1980 the Reagan Administration came in...
DT: ...and there were new appointments made and a pretty dramatic change in the course of EPA. Can you talk a little bit about that changeover?
AH: Yeah. Ill tell you the difference. When Carter won, the Regional Administrators that sat there were Republican appointees. When Doug Costle took over and appointed by a Democratic president, he looked around at those administrators,
and if he found that several of them had done a good job for a long time, he left them alone. When Reagan came, he cleaned out everybody except one guy in Chicago that was a Republican that was there before, who was a deputy administrator and then became an administrator.
I got called to Washington because there was a big article in the Herald where I said Reagan would just ruin everything, because all the gains that were made would go down the tubes. And I got called to Washington by some of his people, and said, "Did you say this?"
And I said, "Yes, I did because that's what I believe because the President couldn't, doesn't care anything about environmental protection." And, so, I was one of the first to go. It took about a six-month time to get rid of most of us.
DT: And what happened in the years to come during the Reagan/Bush era?
AH: Nothing good. I'm not trying to be partisan about it because I didn't start out as a partisan to begin with. I was in city government and didn't take sides, didn't, wasn't active in political parties. They got by with the least they could get by with. And people had pretty fair rein, free rein of things.
And its a shame because before I got to EPA, and that's, I guess EPA was only about eight years old or something like that when I got there they'd already cleaned up a bunch of streams.
I had fishermen tell me that streams they didn't fish in they could go back and fish. They made very rapid progress on cleaning water. That just all went by the boards.
DT: Any thoughts about how or if environmental protection became more polarized and partisan? I understood that Nixon helped set up the EPA and passed
AH: Yeah, that's what's a shame
DT: the Clean Water Act and so on.
AH: because it was Nixon that started the Environmental Protection Agency and he had Ruckelshaus, I guess, first. He cared about it. And, and they tried. Don't ask me why all of a sudden it became a Democratic thing and the Republicans didn't want it.
In fact, Domenici was a big advocate of the Clean Air Act at the beginning. He was Republican. So I don't know what happened. I really don't know what happened.
Maybe there was big pressure from corporations that had problems, whether they be refineries or paper mills or, you know, I had a paper mill in Louisiana, International Paper, and they built a big plant in Louisiana,
and they were wonderful because they decided to do some innovative things about environmental problems with paper mills. They put in very expensive environmental controls and I went there for the opening of that plant because I was thrilled with what they had done.
And Senator Long was there. And so I get up first and congratulate the people and all that stuff. Then, he gets up after me and he makes a big joke about environmental stuff and,
"Big deal," he says, "you know, so the dust goes up and it comes down," and, "ha ha ha," and people in the audience, good old boys laughed and everything. And there was no way I could rebut that because I had already spoken.
And I'm sitting right next to the Executive Vice President of International Paper, I could feel him bristle. Because here he'd spent fortunes for this modern plant that was going to be state of the art, and here's this Senator, instead of saying, "Thank you and its great," he's making with the jokes.
So, after the ceremony, there's a big barbecue, you know, under a big tent and I see Senator Long getting ready to leave, and his private little plane is not far away, and I stand up and I had worked with him, okay?
He was my Senator, and I said, "Senator, I want to tell you that I took exception about what you did. Here we encourage people to have good environmental controls and International Paper should be congratulated.
And for you to make jokes about what gives people lung cancer and asthma and bronchitis is wrong, and I resented it." He apologized. My husband says, "You've got to be crazy. He's one of the, you know, strongest Senators there."
I said, "I don't care. Let them fire me. I don't care," and that was my attitude, let them fire me. You know, I had Bird of West Virginia all over me about something on coal, and, and he wasn't even in my area.
But Jack Brooks from Beaumont, was a Congressman who cared very little about environmental stuff and, I guess, he was from seniority standpoint, was one of the biggest in power
and he wanted this port permitted at Galveston to let the tankers come right into port, instead of taking the oil off off-shore, and I wouldn't permit.
And so he called Bob Strauss and said, "Listen, you got that woman that job," which he didn't, I mean, Bobs a friend of mine and he certainly, they called him, he said, "She's great," but, I mean, it was really Marshall Kaplan that did it.
So, he says, "You tell her I'm going to get her fired man because we want that permit for that port." And so, Bob Strauss calls me out of a retreat that EPA's in outside of Washington. Where was it? The houses are old, the place you stay is old, the...
AH: No, it wasn't in Williamsburg, wasn't that far. Anyway, and you had to go up, I bet, about three flights of stairs to get to the lobby because we were down in the bowels of that place, and I get a little note to call Bob Strauss.
So I go up the stairs and I call him and he says, "Listen, you are in deep trouble with that guy." He says, "I don't know what its about," and I said, "Bob, Ill tell you what its about. I'm not going to do anything about it." And he says, "Well, you're handling it, handle it, I'm just giving you a warning."
And so I called Jack Brooks office and they said, "He's just getting ready to go to the airport to go to Belgium," and I said, "Well, if he wants to talk to me about that port in Galveston, he'd better come to the phone."
And so he comes to the phone, and I said, "I understand you've got a problem. What is it? What's the problem?" And so he tells me and I just flat tell him why its wrong and I'm not going to do it. And he never did a thing, he never did a thing.
So, I mean, you don't have to cave in to these people. They have a lot more respect for you if you can tell them why you wont than if you cave into them. But, boy, he just hated me and we became friends.
Its an amazing thing, same thing with Schmidt in New Mexico, who was the astronaut who became a Senator, in what's the name of that city that has that big copper mine there in New Mexico? Silver?
I don't know the name of it, I cant remember but I ordered them to clean up and do all his stuff and he got angry, and just raised Cain. And I bumped into him in the Albuquerque airport, and he just blasted me. PS: we became good friends.
In fact, on the Udall Committee, he said I was the best administrator that he'd ever worked with. Because I helped his staff. I helped him do a lot, improve a lot, and I just found it rewarding really. I found out the Senators were much better than the Congressmen. They really were.
They were exceptional compared toto most of the Congressmen. And that doesn't mean all Congressmen but they were brighter. You could really talk it out with them, and they'd forget about their power and, if you could prove your point, they left you alone. So I still have hope.
DT: I want to go back just briefly before your EPA days, before your Dallas City Council days and talk just briefly about a book that, I think, took a lot of peoples notice, that Rachel Carson wrote, Silent Spring. I'm curious if it had any impact on you and your thoughts of pollution and the environment and our vulnerabilities. AH: Oh, I'm sure it did, among other things. As I told you early on already, my father taught me the importance of protecting nature and the beauty we have here and all that. And so any old scrap Id hear about any environmental problems, you know, I was on it.
Certainly, that was a magnificent book. It was wonderful. So, I garnered things from that and everything that I did. I mean, she had a way of writing that most people never did. I just, I just knew you didn't mess up things, I don't know. And, and I would see kids that had problems.
I used to even say to executives of petrochemical plants, "You know, I wouldn't be a bit surprised because of where you live, that when you left home today you had one kid with bronchitis or asthma or something.
Now you ought to think of this as a health issue and quit trying to dodge doing the right thing." It just amazed me because the areas they lived in were awful. When we did our research study on that triangle of Houston, Beaumont and Port Arthur...
DT: The Golden Triangle?
AH: ...it showed the great incidence of cancer in those areas. I mean, unbelievable. And, if that wasn't enough, look how many years ago that we put out all those research papers on that. And I think the progress is too slow, I really do. And I think politicians have a lot to do with it.
DT: In what way?
AH: Because, if they cared more, they would make certain that their state agencies were better. They'd make certain that the Federal Government was stronger to help clean up their states, whatever their problems are. And I think lobbyists get to them.
The most effective people in Washington are the lobbyists and they're so afraid they're not going to be elected again if they do the right thing, that they end up doing the wrong thing.
So, unless they live in a very environmentally sensitive state, meaning the people are sensitive, I don't mean they have any more problems than others, but the people demand environmental protection so they don't have to worry about the lobbyists.
And I will tell you the lobbyists, by and large, are the culprit and the gutless politicians are taken over by them.
DT: Can you tell any of your experiences dealing with lobbyists on pollution problems in Texas?
AH: Yeah, but, I'm not going to name, I don't want to name names...
DT: You don't have to name names, I'm just curious what kind of relationship you might have and what sort of pressure they try and bring.
AH: Well, they brought it in the city of Dallas, too, let's start with the city of Dallas before we even get to the Feds.
AH: I mean, I was a big advocate of sign control. So we had experts come in and talk to us about the First Amendment rights and Kevin Lynch, had you ever heard of Kevin Lynch?
AH: Kevin Lynch was our consultant and I worked with him a lot. And yet I had lobbyists for these sign companies just chewing me up, and calling me, and pressuring me.
And finally, I that was when I was on the Plan Commission and somebody gave me good advice that I ought to get Bryan Gumbel to chair this sign committee.
And Id sit on it and wed have sign industry people on it, and lay people on it, and whatever. You never saw such pressure in your life from these sign companies.
DT: And was it sweet talking pressure? Or was it pretty hard-nosed pressure.
AH: Oh, oh, it was sweet at the beginning and plenty angry at the end. That's how it was. And, then, we passed a good sign ordinance, another mayor came in down the road, to see, way down the road, because I was on the Plan Commission then.
We did sign ordinance, the Council passed it. So, I wasn't on the Council yet. I may have been, I may have left the Plan Commission and may have voted for that that I helped write. But way down the line a mayor comes in, okay? And this big lobbyist is a friend of his.
They gutted that sign ordinance to fair thee well. Same thing happened with wetland ordinances here. A mayor came in, a developer, gutted it. That's a local level, it's a local level.
DT: Or are the lobbyists just more clever or do they wield a lot of power?
AH: Well, they sat at the country club, smoking cigars... (misc.)
DT: Could you finish what you were saying about the lobbyists you dealt with?
AH: Yeah, the lobbyists are friends of these good old boys, you know? They may have a drink together. They may play gin rummy together, whatever, whatever. And its hard to beat that because who's going to turn down a friend?
DT: Well, as a woman did you feel somehow invulnerable or outside the old boy network?
AH: Oh, I was never with the good old boy network and they made certain that I wasn't. I guess if I sweet-talked them and caved into everything they wanted, I still wouldn't be accepted, because look, I came on very early.
When I was on a Plan Commission, I was the only woman on it. I stayed there eight years. By the time I got off, there were a couple more. That didn't really bother me. I mean, they didn't intimidate me.
One wonderful architect, who became my friend, was on a Plan Commission with me and he had never served under a woman chairman, and I chaired a certain section of the Plan Commission and what, and we had lots of disagreements.
Well one day he says, "You know, I really like you. You think just like a man." And I said, "Is that a compliment?" you know. Its you know, how can you help but after, now, young men today, for awhile I thought young men were just as chauvinistic because women were a threat to some of their jobs,
because the job market was lean in the 80s but women were coming on and, you know, some people hired the woman that had good background, experience, and they could hire the woman cheaper. And, so, young men start fearing for their jobs. I think now that's over with mostly.
I think young men understand that both can cook, that both can take care of a kid, you know, and its sort of a 50-50 deal. This guy I've got here, that just came through the door, my husband, is wonderfully supportive of me, wonderfully. But, he still would like dinner on the table, see?
Because, as a volunteer, maybe if I were out earning money, he would then not expect it. Now he wont say anything to me about going out to dinner, hell go but I know he'd rather not. But he's from way back there and I think younger women have it easier today. Now, yall can correct me if I'm wrong, I don't know.
DT: This leads into something I'm curious about. It seems that many of the environmentalists, in Texas at least, I think of Mary Vogelson, you've mentioned Catherine Perrine, Terry Hershey down in Houston...
AH: Sharon Stewart.
DT: ...Sharon Stewart. Many, many people were women, and I was curious why that was. Was it because they had the option to volunteer? What was it?
AH: Well, Ill tell you several reasons. Most of those you mentioned didn't work, some of them did, so they had time. But I don't want this to sound the opposite of being a male chauvinist but I think women, by and large, have more courage. They don't mind taking on a fight. They don't mind muddying the waters.
And men just don't because maybe its going to hurt them in their job, maybe when they go play golf, somebody's going to think they're terrible if they take a side with something that's controversial. I don't know what it is.
Women are like bulldogs, they really are. They get a hold of something and they wont let go. I had a city attorney tell mea Dallas city attorney, we went to Ft. Worth to sort of have a communication pow-wow with the Ft. Worth City Council over some disagreements between Ft. Worth and Dallas.
Why he took me I don't know, because he knew Id stand up, I guess. He had plenty of men to choose from. So coming home in the car he said to me, "You know, women are just like unions." I said, "What do you mean?" And he says, "They never let go." And I think they don't.
I'm never going to let go of that Trinity, I'm never ever going to let go of that Trinity. I never let go of anything at EPA. I mean, I didn't care who pushed me to do what, I didn't. But, you don't win friends that way, I can tell you that. I think all of us would rather be liked than disliked.
But, somewhere down the line, I made up my mind that if I had to sacrifice like for something that I thought was important, Id just have to sacrifice it. And, therefore, a lot of people felt intimidated by me and some of them would even tell me that.
And when I would hear them say that, Id say, "I didn't intimidate you, just go back to Eleanor Roosevelts book. There's a quote in there, The only one that can intimidate you is yourself, and that's the truth." I mean, they don't have to pay any attention to what I say or do.
They don't have to be intimidated but if they are they are. And people don't like you when they feel intimidated.
DT: Let me ask you about another chapter of your life where you've been in a position of power, and that's at DART, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Agency.
DT: Authority, I'm sorry. What was your experience there in trying to introduce the idea of mass transit to Dallas?
AH: Well, first of all you've got to understand how I became chair. I had no intention of being chair. In fact, when the City Council asked me to represent them on the interim DART Board, before it became a permanent authority, each one of those Council people had a, you know, an appointment
and I said, "I don't want to. I don't want to do it because nobody's interested in mass transit here. I've had my battles at EPA. I've had my battles at the City Council. I've had all kinds of battles and I don't want to." "Oh, no, you've got to do it," I said, "Okay."
So I come to the first meeting and its like an organizational meeting, all these different people from twenty-one communities, I think it was at that time, had a representative. Dallas had more than anyone because of population.
The first thing they did was elect an acting chair, you know, just to run meetings until it got organized. And they put the Mayor of Plano, I think it was, Edwards was his name, last name, as an acting chair that wouldn't stay permanent.
And he, in turn, appointed a nominating committee for the permanent chair and vice chair. I had nothing to do with it. I wasn't on a committee. And I got a call and, from two people. One was a guy I had worked with in the community a long time and one was a Councilman from Dallas.
And they said, "You know, I know when you came up to that meeting today, a lot of those suburban or smaller city reps that you knew came up to you and said, We don't want, we know Dallas is going to get the chair because they'll have the votes.
We know and its probably appropriate that they do the first time around. And we saw people come up to you and say, We don't want so and so to be chair. Were telling you that well fight it tooth and nail. And wed just as soon you take the chairmanship if you would because well trust you.
We'll trust you to do the right thing." I said, "I don't want it. I don't care anything about being chair." That night I get a call that nominating committee was meeting and they said,
"We'd like you to be the chair," and I said, "Boy, so and so is really going to be disappointed and I don't want to get into the politics of that." He said, "Well, hell just have to be disappointed." And I said, "Well, the Mayors going to be disappointed too, Mayor of Dallas, because that's his pick."
Well, I come to the next meeting and they announce the slate, there I am, as simple as that. I never lifted a finger to get that chairmanship and, of course, I don't think the other guy believed that but its true. And I said, "I'm sorry you wanted it so bad and you would have been good.
But I said, "they didn't want you, I cant help it." In the meantime, I was the interim chair for a couple of years as we went through putting a plan together for all those cities.
You talk about a zoo, trying to keep all those people together, and we finally got a good plan and it came up to the election to make us a permanent authority and about, I think, five of them dropped out.
I'm trying to think. About five. They were little tiny incorporated little towns, not cities. I guess Mesquite and Duncanville were the most major ones that dropped out. Mesquite because of a racial issue and Duncanville probably the same.
DT: The racial issue being that they didn't want blacks having easy access to their suburbs?
AH: Yeah yeah yeah. And that's a shame.
DT: Well, can you tell me just briefly if the goal of the Authority was air quality or was it traffic improvement?
AH: Well, the, with most of them, the goal as traffic congestion. With some of us it was traffic and pollution. And, no matter what the motive was, the motive was to have a transit authority and to ultimately have a rail system.
DT: So that was an element of the plans. Something else that I was curious about, were they just pushing buses or were they thinking of light rail or fixed rail?
AH: No, they were thinking our plan had buses and light rail from the very beginning. And that's how it was presented to the public, and we've now got about twenty-three miles of light rail and it'll be about fifty some odd in another, I don't know, four or five years.
DT: And what was the publics initial reaction to
AH: You had to
DT: the idea of light rail?
AH: you had to work like crazy because you were talking about a sales tax. So, it didn't make any difference what their reaction was. You tell somebody some more sales tax, they're not too happy about it. And we worked like dogs.
I mean, we went to public meetings every night, we listened, we changed plans, you know, everything we could possibly do toto win, we did. And the, the people on the Authority could not run the campaign.
And Walt Euman(?) did that, he raised the money, picked the chairman but we could go out to all the public meetings, and talk about the plan and show them the maps, and, and do all of that. And it was a big struggle and we won. That was the most joyous night. It was just great.
And then the trouble started more because now were a permanent Authority and everybody wants to get into the act, you know? About where the development is and where this is and we don't want a tunnel and it was hard. I mean, I had five years of scars on my back but just the other, what was it?
August 11, I think, Dallas passed with - what - seventy-seven point something percent to allow DART to have long term financing. So, you see, the people have accepted it.
DT: Is ridership pretty good?
AH: Ridership is beyond expectations so far. Its never going to take enough cars off the street because, first of all, you know, a light rail line only runs certain places. Now, we have parking but not nearly enough. If you go by our Park Lane station, that lot is full.
Now, if they cant get their car in there, they're not going to town on the light rail. All the lots are full. And after I left DART, some wonderful engineer at DART who wanted more money out of the budget for something he wanted, went and sold some of the lots, parking lots.
DT: What do you think the biggest accomplishment of DART was while you were there?
AH: Well, the biggest accomplishment is that you can get that many people to sit down in a room and put a plan together. The second big accomplishment is you could sell all the citizens a sales tax, okay? The third accomplishment was almost overnight. We put tons of new buses on the street.
I mean, it was a metamorphosis compared to what the City of Dallas owned in that bus system. It was absolutely decaying, service was terrible, not enough buses and, boy, we didn't waste any time buying those buses,
getting them on a street and also starting express buses out of Richardson and Plano, which were these big comfortable buses that you see on the roads, you know. So we got those in force pretty fast and people knew we meant business. The light rail slower.
I mean, you cant have arguments and all that like some of the big cheeses downtown didn't want a subway, and we said, "Look, if you give us six miles plus of subway into north central coming into downtown,
we're going to move faster and were not going to get caught up in the state construction of Highway 75, because they're redoing north central. Well be underneath them. Were not in their way and they're not in ours." Well, PS: we couldn't get all the tunnel downtown.
They fought us tooth and nail but we got three miles of tunnel under north central. And we were open for business long before north central was. So I felt good about that. I thought that was a great accomplishment.
DT: Speaking of being open for business, what do you think were all going to be open for business, or what sort of challenges do you think were going to face environmentally in the years to come?
AH: Well, first of all, as you know, population increase is a challenge in itself. What are we going to do? I mean, I don't want to get into planned parenthood and all of that but more people ought to understand that because we cant take care of the burgeoning numbers in population.
How are we going to get infrastructure for that many people? More people, more industry, more pollution. If we don't wake up to the fact that we sell the people on environmental controls, birth control, which I didn't mean to get into in this but its all part of it,
God knows what my daughters going to live in. Its already bad. I mean, you look at statistics of how many people are ill because of the pollution. And doesn't that matter to the people that have the vote? I mean, I don't see it.
We better find good candidates that have guts and let them stand up and start taking care of this country and also the world because its not just here, its all over. And you can say, "Are you optimistic?" Not, not really but I'm not pessimistic enough to quit trying.
In fact, Doug Costle when we had a little game the first we all met the administrators and you drew numbers and he was my guy that was going to talk to me. I thought that's my luck, the first day at EPA, I got to draw the National Administrator.
And then you talk to each other and that EPA person would get up and say what they found out about the new person. And he said, "Adlene's the first person I've ever talked to that is a pragmatist and an optimist at the same time."
And I never thought about it that way. I'm not really too sure what's going to happen. I'm pretty realistic but I'm not going to stop trying and neither should anybody else who cares.
DT: What is your advice for people who care?
AH: Get involved with, either run for office where their vote can count or their voice can count or join groups that care about it and swell the ranks.
I mean, I'm going to give you a group I think that's made more progress, I'm talk, not talking necessarily about the environment, they care about that too, is the Texas Freedom Network. Do you know about that?
AH: The Texas Freedom Network was started by Ann Richards daughter. She was transferred with her husband out of state. A young woman whose last name is Smoot(?) runs it now out of Austin. They have increased their membership tremendously and they send out a newsletter with facts in it.
There's no bull in it and they make you aware of what's going on in this state, okay? That kind of group is worthwhile to give to and to join. They care about public issues. They care about health issues and health issues are environment. They fought like crazy for that Children's Health Insurance Program.
So you got to find groups like that that are very vibrant, that are very courageous, and be part of them. Because, as an individual, that's how you find your voice. You you cant just find it by yourself. I mean, I had a voice but how did I have it? I was, you know, I worked on bond issues first.
I worked with senior citizen organizations, with homeowners. I helped start the full first homeowners association so they'd have a voice. I got elected so your name gets out there. You're on television, people recognize you, they hear you so you got to make your choice of where you're going to do that.
If you cant run for office or you don't want to, then help these organizations that are good. Research them. Get involved. When you go back to Austin, is that where you live?
DT: Uh huh.
AH: You ought to talk to that woman at the Texas Freedom Network. I mean, you know, you can give her issues that the state should be doing or whatever and, if it fits in, I mean, she's a voice. And Republicans and Democrats alike belong to that. Its not a partisan group.
So that's the only thing I can say on what you do. I've never given up but, by gosh, I know how to open doors and, and I started way back there, I didn't know how to open them. It takes a lot of hard work if you're willing to work. (misc.)
DT: When you're tired of working and want to relax and put your feet up, or go some place you enjoy, where do you go? Is there a place in the outdoors of Texas that gives you special pleasure?
AH: Well, I can't (Talking at same time)
AH: well, I went to Big Bend and, and want to go back but that certainly just did something for me. It was like you saw canyons and you saw streams and you saw cactus and desert and you got a little bit of everything out there. It was peaceful, totally peaceful.
Sometimes we take drives down the road to see the wildflowers, for example. We used to go East Texas more than we do but I love to see all the pine trees. Anything that takes me out of the big city. And, as far as big vacations are concerned, we've gone to almost every national park in the country.
And this summer we went to Glacier National Park. It was totally glorious. I never saw anything like it. When I went to the Tetons in Yellowstone, I adored it, I still do, Id go back. But Glacier is even more so, if that's possible.
Course, my husband and daughter'll say every time we take a trip in the mountains I would say as we drove, "Look at that mountain, look at that," well, we just saw one, you know? Its like I never get tired of drinking that stuff in. Fortunately, they don't either, even if they kid me. (misc.)
DT: Would you like to add anything?
AH: Well, I would like to say that, that I'm grateful for what yall are doing. As a volunteer, its, I don't know how easy that is to troop around the country and, you know, and work hard and
I'm grateful to anyone that puts the environment out there in front of people. I hope the University of Texas at the Barker Center gets everyone involved and I hope your video is successful.
DT: Well, thank you. We appreciate the encouragement.
AH: Yeah, because, you know, I really respect yall, I do.
DT: Thank you.
(misc.) End of reel 2111. End of interview with Adlene Harrison.