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Letters are posted as we receive them during the week, and before they are printed in the paper, so check back frequently to see new letters. If you'd like to send a letter to the editor, follow this link, or email your letter directly to mail@austinchronicle.com. Thanks for your patience.

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Disgusted With Affordable Housing Vote

RECEIVED Wed., Nov. 7, 2012

Dear Editor,
    Hats off to this proud "liberal" city. Of the seven bond propositions worth $385 million, the one Austinites rejected was affordable housing. At a time when Austin's rental rates are among the fastest growing in the nation and property taxes of once well-established minority neighborhoods continue to push families out to the city's edges, Proposition 15 was the one that legitimately screamed, "Help us." But no, the proud beacon of blue smugly flashing its righteousness in the face of a red state deemed it more important to, among other things, pay for a road transportation bond that sneaks in a 30-mile hike-and-bike trail that reaches into Hays County, and fund renovations to large city parks that are becoming less and less accessible to the public due to festival after festival after festival. Even horses for the mounted police got new housing in this election. I guess this city isn't "progressive" enough to help keep minorities and other struggling families in their gentrified neighborhoods.
Truly disgusted,
Ram Hinojosa

Thanks for Coverage

RECEIVED Tue., Nov. 6, 2012

Dear Editor,
    I'm writing to thank you for your coverage of local issues that have been voted upon on Election Day [“Election Central,” News]. I do not always line up with your ideal picks but your paper provides information – and a slant on that information – which I have found helpful over the years I've lived in Austin. I know that my vote counts so much more on local issues than could ever count on wider offices, and Austin is my adopted/adapted home, thus it's quite important to me to get out and vote.
    So – thanks, for doing what you do.
Stephen Nielsen

Failures of City's Utility Website

RECEIVED Tue., Nov. 6, 2012

Dear Editor,
    So I realized today that I needed to pay my utilities bill, which I usually do via bill pay from my bank account.
    Since I did not want to risk having to pay the exorbitant late fee, I decided to attempt paying my bill through the city's (new and supposedly better) website.
    Why was I hesitant to do this? Well, when the city released the new site, they did not migrate usernames from the previous site, so I had to go through the entire registration process again. Understandably, I was not happy to have to re-register my account and I sent my gripe to the city. I got a vanilla answer, "to serve you better … blah blah.” Again, my username that used to work was no longer functional. In the software business, that is a big no-no, forcing users to have to re-register. Why? If the previous user/password scheme was not as robust, why not force users to change their credentials after they log in, and associate their new user/password with the previous information? I even offered my software development skills for free to help them make this change. But I digress.
    So I'm at the city's website, and, alas, I don't remember my username. I tried a couple of logical choices from my past, but the new password was not sent since I failed to answer a couple of security questions correctly. Again, this is overkill. Usually, when a user forgets his password, a link to reset his/her password is sent to the email associated with that account. The user who initiated the password-change (if genuine) has access to that account.
    Anyway, I went to plan B. Let's say I forgot my username, which is completely true.
    Get this: There is no way to get it without calling the city of Austin. I attempted to re-register (I was trying to save myself a trip to H-E-B) to no avail – the error message I got was, "There was an error … blah blah …."
    I was peeved, so I attempted to write the above complaint, but unfortunately, the text limit of the email is limited to 255 characters. Needless to say, this was frustrating. Shouldn't someone be held accountable for these egregious errors in designing a billing system in a city with so many high-tech users?
Regards,
Haneef Mohamed

Austin Needs More Cabs

RECEIVED Tue., Nov. 6, 2012

Dear Editor,
    For years, I have worked at a business that depends on cabs to get people around the city and to the airport. Taxi service in Austin is fine unless something is actually going on – like ACL, SXSW, Halloween, Fourth of July, or the other hundreds of events that happen in this city. Then the service is next to worthless. I thought that maybe the problem was that cab companies were just a bit behind in a city that is growing so fast. I have been hoping for a while that something would change and that there would eventually be more cabs. Now I read that the cab drivers don’t want to compete with more cab drivers: "Council: Call Me 30 More Cabs?" [News, Nov. 2].
    Well, the cab drivers are shooting themselves in the foot – because the more they are unavailable and unreliable, the less people will attempt to even use them. During busy Austin events, my business has already given up on them and tries to convince people to make some other arrangement, either with a car service or car rental. So Yellow Cab, Austin Cab, and Lone Star Cab are already losing our business. There have been way too many times where even scheduling a cab for a pickup a day in advance does not guarantee that a cab will really show up. Yellow Cab really pushes for you to use their online service, but try that on any day and about three out of five of those cabs turn up on schedule. If there is something big going on like ACL, you can call and schedule Yellow Cabs but it’s a complete waste because they don’t ever arrive. And when you call them and ask what’s up? They act like you are nuts for expecting a cab when it’s such a busy time, and they claim to have no record that you ordered the cabs the night before. Most of the people that I deal with are world travelers and many complain about how terrible the cab service in Austin is compared to other cities. That’s a pretty terrible thing for a city that is growing and building and continually planning more and more festivals, conferences, races, and events.
    I hope the council will grant the new permits.
Paul Crowe
   [Editor's note: The council granted the permits last Thursday, Nov. 1.]

Follow the Money

RECEIVED Mon., Nov. 5, 2012

Dear Editor,
    I have written before to urge Austinites to vote against charter amendments No. 1 and No. 2 on the Nov. 6 ballot ["Nov. 6 Elections: The 'Chronicle' Endorsements," News, Oct. 19]. Proposition 1 would change elections to November, and Proposition 2 would lengthen terms to four years. I think November dates will turn local elections into partisan events, and that the November cycle will reduce run-off election turnouts to laughable levels. I also think four-year terms are too long for accountability,
    Since I last wrote, journalist Ken Martin of the Austin Bulldog has released an online story showing the Real Estate Council of Austin and the Austin Board of Realtors have given almost 90% of the money to the political action committee supporting these propositions, more than $52,000.
    Have these special interests suddenly turned populist? I suspect not. Rather they are looking for a system that can maximize their influence and reduce the chances for independent grassroots candidates. I believe the real estate lobby waited to the proverbial last minute to dump money in this campaign so their contributions would not become an issue.
Sincerely,
Paul Robbins

Separation of Church and State Crucial

RECEIVED Mon., Nov. 5, 2012

Dear Editor,
    Simply put, the Tea Party crumpets and the religious right zealots are maneuvering for power and control mostly for the next presidential election in 2016. They are making strides and already have power and clout in most of the “red” states. They are trying to get into Washington to eventually make Federal changes in how states may gain more power to take control over our lives.
    Here in Texas, Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott encourage giving power to the extremists and offer protection to the two forces gaining control over our lives. It should be obvious – but not in Texas – that the Christian religion has no business in government or in public education, nor in dictating how the majority of us live our lives. I wonder how these good Christians would feel if we pushed Judaism as the powerful religion and political entity?
    Let's hope the Supreme Court of the U.S. maintains the true separation of church and state. If not, we will continue to lose our precious rights and freedoms in favor of one religion surpassing everything and everyone. The last time the church had so much power, it supported the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition.
Peter Stern

What About a Barack Obama 'Death Watch'?

RECEIVED Sat., Nov. 3, 2012

Dear Editor,
    As long as we're running a “Rick Perry: Death Watch” [“Two More Executions Set for November,” News, Oct. 2], we may as well do the same for Barack Obama. Several states have asked for a waiver on the “ethanol mandate" due to the drought – the EPA has repeatedly deferred coming to a decision, at the cost of about 200,000 lives of the malnourished in Third World countries per month.
Meredith Poor

Questioning Statistics

RECEIVED Sat., Nov. 3, 2012

Dear Editor,
    Re: “Then There's This: Cracking Down on Homelessness” [News, Nov. 2]: Several years ago, I tried to get traffic and jaywalking statistics from the city in response to police harassment of homeless newspaper vendors. I was told that traffic and misdemeanor tickets are quickly delivered to the municipal courts, where they are no longer subject to the Open Records Act.
    Among the public, myself included, the word "crime" refers to major offenses such as murder and robbery that grievously affect individuals. We use the phrase "breaking the law" to refer to minor offenses such as jaywalking or sitting on the sidewalk that normally do not directly injure any specific individual, but merely ruin civilization if allowed to persist.
    Most of us don't need a whole lot of statistics to understand the situation. If we were homeless, would we be criminals? Maybe, perhaps, but probably not. At the same time, crime generally doesn't pay very well, and some criminals do end up becoming homeless. Yes, there are criminals among the homeless, but most of the homeless are not criminals.
    I'd like to state that most of the homeless are generally law-abiding citizens, but, well, at least they're not criminals, and they're doing the best that they can to survive, cope, and even put their lives back together. Neither the criminals among the homeless nor the general, unfocused police harassment of anybody who's homeless makes it any easier.
    Downtown already has stores that sell $70-80 dress shirts and a thriving Whole Paycheck grocery store. It's possible that without the homeless Downtown, rents would be even higher, property tax receipts would be even higher, and merchants could charge even more for the goods that they sell. However, there doesn't seem to be any need to move social services from Downtown at this time. We just need a new police chief.
Kirk Becker

Remember the Victims

RECEIVED Fri., Nov. 2, 2012

Dear Editor,
    I read your snippet in last week’s Chronicle regarding the upcoming execution of Mario Swain [“Two More Executions Set for November,” News, Nov. 2]. I wanted to tell you a little bit more about this man and his victim, Lola Nixon.
    Lola was a good friend of mine. She wasn’t a gangbanger or drug mule. Ordinarily, in her daily life, she would have never come in contact with a dangerous person, much less a killer. Nor was she a prude or religious fanatic. She was simply a normal, everyday person who worked hard and enjoyed the occasional cocktail. Kind, caring, and considerate, she left a lucrative career in Dallas to move back to Longview and be near her aging mother. Lola was a college graduate with a masters in business who ran an outlet shoe store. Single, she lived by herself.
    Mr. Swain was a career criminal and coward who stalked single women driving nice cars, keeping a log of their comings and goings so that he could attack and rob them when they were alone and at their most vulnerable. This was not a crime of passion, nor was Mr. Swain drunk or on drugs when he murdered my friend. He was simply a cold, calculating bastard who preyed on small women because they were weaker, and thus easier to overcome.
    On the day of the murder, Lola had gone home at lunch to check on her new puppy. Apparently, she interrupted Mr. Swain burglarizing her home and he struck her from behind with a tire iron. He could have run out the back door when he heard her enter the house, but he chose to attack. After clubbing her, he could have still run off and left her dazed and bleeding, but instead the crime scene indicated he chased her throughout her home, bashing her in the head repeatedly. All she wanted to do was get away.
    I’m not sure how I feel about capital punishment. Wrongful convictions occur, and we must do everything in our power to see this does not happen, but this was not the case here. Mr. Swain confessed, and all the evidence pointed to him and him alone as the sole participant.
    Mr. Swain’s death will certainly not bring my dear friend back, nor will it provide any sort of justice. If true justice existed, Mr. Swain would run into a murderous NFL linebacker with a tire iron in a dark alley, so that he might know the terror my friend felt in her final moments of life. But I do know this: Mr. Swain forfeited his right to walk among us, and I, for one, will sleep better knowing that if the state does put him to death, he will never again be able to beat to death someone else’s wife, mother, or daughter.
George Bronner

Concerns About the Homeless

RECEIVED Fri., Nov. 2, 2012

Dear Editor,
    I would like to take a moment to speak about the concerns with the homeless population in Downtown Austin. I think that Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, business owners, and Downtown residents discuss this issue in a very insensitive way.
    Consider the population this actually involves: the homeless. Most of the homeless do not choose to live this way. It is a matter of misfortune or mental illness. Homelessness has risen in this country because the cost of rent has risen. Downtown Austin couldn't be a more gleaming indicator of that. Talking about the homeless like an infestation is ignorant to the hardship that this increasingly large population is going through. As a teacher in Austin ISD, I teach homeless students. They come to school every day and work harder than most of my students with homes. Just like all students deserve the right to an education, all people deserve the right to try to live, regardless of what that means or looks like. Exporting the homeless, or attempting to relocate them, is just a sign of how the city has lost touch with itself. As Downtown glimmers and shines more with each new high-rise, the homeless are seen as dust to sweep under a rug.
    The new Downtown homeowners have the most vapid concerns, complaining that as taxpayers they are entitled to a homeless-free area. There are many flaws with this reasoning. If Austin wants to continue claiming that it is a treasure trove of diversity and "weirdness,” then they may want to take a look at who is moving Downtown. It is one kind of person – a wealthy person – and apparently a person who has little to no regard for the other residents in the neighborhood. The homeless population has existed far longer than the glass-wrapped condos peeking over the skyline, and regardless of who is or isn't paying taxes, a level of respect should be adhered to for all residents of Downtown. Living in an urban area comes with living alongside a diverse multitude of residents. If people do not want to live with people of various lifestyles, then they should move to the suburbs.
    As your article stated, most of the safety concerns Downtown come from intoxicated college students [“Then There's This: Cracking Down on Homelessness,” News, Nov. 2]. If the homeless were buying drinks, like the college students are, then I wonder if the business owners would be complaining so much. This city is for all of us.
Sincerely,
Nathan Langfitt