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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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The Question Is Timing

RECEIVED Tue., Dec. 17, 2013

Dear Editor,
    John Langmore's willingness to misrepresent the arguments of the folks he disagrees with is insulting [“The Best Transit Plan Is …,” Postmarks, Dec. 20]. Who said we should "pull the plug on a $48 million investment the month before it opens"? The message he has heard from the citizens who disagree with him is clear: Do not build a rail line to Highland before putting rail on Lamar. Either start with a line on Lamar and move MetroRapid when the rail line opens a decade from now, or start with East Riverside so Lamar can come second.
    As an exercise for the reader, how often do you find yourself needing to head to places on Guadalupe and Lamar? How often for Red River? If you're like most of the Austinites who are forced to waste their time stuck in traffic on the Drag each day, it's clear that there are tons of people who want to go places along the Guadalupe/Lamar corridor. We should put rail there.
    The question before us is timing. Ideally, we'd start with Lamar, which has the jobs and housing that make it the highest transit ridership already. A good plan B would be starting with East Riverside, where ridership is high, and the zoning allows for enough density for the ridership to be even higher. Highland, however, doesn't have the density of people or jobs to make for a blockbuster first line, which endangers our chances of building a second and a third.
    The biggest issue with Highland is that there is no way voters will approve rail down Lamar once there's a line to Highland. A second line through Hyde Park before the rest of the city has seen any rail won't seem fair to most people, and I don't blame them. Rail to Highland means rail on our best transit corridor won't happen until the middle of the century. If the places that people want to go can only be reached by buses stuck in traffic, people will stay in their cars, traffic will stay terrible, and we won't become a city where it's normal to take transit for decades.
    This is the future that the citizens who have been paying attention are trying to avoid. We're not trying to "pull the plug" on MetroRapid. We're trying to avoid making the mistake of allowing the backbone of our transit system to remain slow for decades. Join us, and tell City Council that if they put a rail line to Highland on the ballot, you'll vote against it.
Niran Babalola

The Best Transit Plan for Austin's Future Is …

RECEIVED Mon., Dec. 16, 2013

Dear Editor,
    I appreciate your recent coverage of urban rail planning currently underway in Central Texas [“Urban Rail: Which Way to Connect?” News, Dec. 13]. If nothing else, the controversy over which corridors to serve first has generated interest deserving of this critical initiative.
    From my vantage point as an advocate for public transportation and compact growth, I arrived at my support of the broad outline of a first urban rail investment (emphasis on first, as opposed to final) based on the following: Lamar is undeniably an important transit corridor and that's why the region has spent the last 10 years planning to serve it with MetroRapid. We can't pull the plug on a $48 million investment the month before it opens. Furthermore, I can't fathom telling Austinites we're going to begin urban rail by taking two lanes of traffic off Lamar and subjecting that corridor to years of construction. That seems a more certain path to failure at the ballot than serving other corridors the data said should unequivocally do well with urban rail. Lastly, one of urban rail's most beneficial features is its ability to shape land uses. The Highland and East Riverside corridors offer dramatic possibilities in that regard based on development we know is coming from some of Central Texas' largest institutions (UT, ACC, and Seton Medical Center, to name a few). To support those planned developments with transit is at the heart of every plan we have for how Central Texas should grow over the next 20 to 30 years (namely CAMPO's 2035 plan and Imagine Austin).
    I can only hope the transit community will come together over the well-reasoned plan that has virtually unanimous institutional support as well as broad public support. To undermine urban rail's greatest prospects for success in the last decade would be a travesty we can ill afford. There's much work left to be done, and we'll need the help of everyone who wants passenger rail as part of our future if we're to succeed.
John Langmore
   [Editor's Note: John Langmore is vice-chair of the Capital Metro board of directors and also a member of the Central Corridor Advisory Group.]

Redistricting Plan Deserves Kudos!

RECEIVED Mon., Dec. 16, 2013

Dear Editor,
    The independent redistricting process has been overwhelmingly successful. I hope the Chronicle will generously congratulate the city auditor and each member of the Applicant Review Panel and Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.
Steve Bickerstaff

'It's an Egregious Lie'

RECEIVED Mon., Dec. 16, 2013

Dear Editor,
    Regarding “Urban Rail: Which Way to Connect?” [News, Dec. 13]: McCann and King tell us that "the Lamar/Guadalupe area will soon have MetroRapid, which was approved in 2010 as part of Capital Metro's ServicePlan2020." This is at best misleading; under the circumstances it's an egregious lie. The Lamar/Guadalupe rapid bus line was approved in 2004 as part of the same All Systems Go! Long-Range Transit Plan which included the Red Line rail proposal. At the time, Cap Metro promised to implement the rapid bus system first, prior to the Red Line. I was a longtime member of the Austin Urban Transportation Commission and questioned Cap Metro about the delayed deployment of the rapid bus system at every opportunity, from 2004 until mid-2008 when I left the commission. Why is this important? Because now Cap Metro is using the excuse of deployment of rapid bus in 2014 – an entire decade after they promised to do it – as the reason why the Lamar/Guadalupe corridor shouldn't be considered for a rail route. Had they implemented the rapid bus system when they promised, we would have been enjoying the benefits of rapid bus for almost a decade now, including commensurate densification of the corridor and commuter buy-in. That corridor would now be eminently ready for a high-speed, high-capacity, grade-separated rail system. Instead, they put the time and money into the nearly useless Red Line.
    As it stands, Austin won't be ready for a real rail system for at least another decade. The proposal to build a low-capacity, at-grade rail line on the Highland corridor would be laughable if it weren't so potentially damaging to those Austinites who depend on public transportation. Every single time a passenger steps on the Red Line in Leander it costs Austin taxpayers $17.50. Another rail system like this would siphon funding away from the existing bus system, greatly impacting service for those who depend on this system the most.
Patrick Goetz

King Is 'Way off on This'

RECEIVED Mon., Dec. 16, 2013

Dear Editor,
    Regarding “Point Austin: Lehmberg's Scarlet Letter,” [News, Dec. 13]: Michael King, you're way off on this. You name a list of elected officials with drinking problems and DWIs to show that Lehmberg was treated differently – yet not one of those was an elected law enforcement official. If constituents want to elect or keep legislators with drinking problems because they like his or her ideas, maybe that's their business. But when your sole function in our community is prosecuting our most violent crimes, you don't get to sit in jail for three weeks by your own doing and go back to work. You don't get to teach the public how not to cooperate with police officers and magistrate judges and go back to work. That is, unless you're a delusional alcoholic heading the Travis County District Attorney's office, apparently. Your failure to distinguish her case from the others on a law enforcement basis is intellectually dishonest.
Kerry O'Brien
   [Editor's Note: Kerry O'Brien is the attorney who filed the original removal lawsuit against D.A. Lehmberg. It was dismissed and superseded by the similar suit filed by Travis County Attorney David Escamilla. See "What Happens Next?" News, May 3.]

Why I Don't Trust Film Critics' Reviews

RECEIVED Sun., Dec. 15, 2013

Dear Editor,
    Marc Savlov's movie review of The Book Thief is why I don't read critics' reviews before seeing movies [Film Listings, Nov. 29]. How many people missed out on this very good film because of Marc Savlov's negative review (largely based on his disappointment that the movie doesn't live up to the book)? I had not read the book and wasn't planning on seeing the film, but I was aware of the 1 1/2 star rating in the Chronicle. At my daughter's insistence, I accompanied her to the movie and found a powerful film with wonderful acting and a gripping tale of a family living in Nazi Germany trying to do the right thing in the face of the horrors of that time. I really did laugh and cry, and my daughter and I had an excellent discussion about the powerful message in the film and the importance of understanding history and standing up for what's right. The only “torture” I suffered was reading Marc Savlov's review of the movie afterward. Do yourself a favor and ignore Marc Savlov and go see this movie.
Michael Simmons

'God Bless Us, Every One!'

RECEIVED Fri., Dec. 13, 2013

Dear Editor,
    The first sentence in Michael Ventura’s piece on Christmas [“If We Make It Through December,” Letters at 3am, Dec. 13] really got my attention and propelled me into reading the rest of the article. I had to find out what made him focus on the death of Christ while looking at the babe in the manger. I confess that I usually don’t read Ventura’s columns through to the end, but this article had so many Christmas memories that I could relate to.
    My own memories are filled with angels, heavenly music, sweet baby images, and a general feeling of good will toward all my friends and relatives. I’m also prone to some sadness at this time of year, when I remember family and friends who are no longer celebrating with us.
    So, I read with great interest as he makes his case for writing that Christmas has no value in his heart. He has tried and failed to find that something wonderful that Christmas is supposed to give us. And when he writes about not finding a merry Christmas, I concede that it’s an especially lonely time for many people. I like the way he weaves in Christmas stories, movies, and music into his search for the meaning of Christmas. I like the poetry, too, and his last benediction from Tiny Tim, “God bless us, every one!” In the end, that’s probably all we can hope for.
Mary Lou Gibson

Failed to Report Two Very Important Numbers

RECEIVED Fri., Dec. 13, 2013

Dear Editor,
    I'm curious as to why the Chronicle failed to report what I think are two very important numbers ["The Farm Report: Both Sides Win, Lose," News, Dec. 6]. Out of the 480 people that signed in to speak at the Council hearing, 450 of them were in support of urban farms. Out of the roughly 300 people who packed the City Council chambers, at least 270 members of that crowd were there to support urban farms. They were easy to recognize since they were wearing green T-shirts saying "Support Urban Farms."
Delwin Goss

Term 'Appropiately Anorexic' Is Wildly Inappropriate

RECEIVED Fri., Dec. 13, 2013

Dear Editor,
    In your review of The North Plan [Exhibitionism, Dec. 13], you referred to Indigo Rael as “appropriately anorexic.” This is troubling and wildly inappropriate. Anorexic should not be used as an adjective to describe an actress unless it is central to the role she is playing, and even then, I would hope that language such as “passably anorexic” or “convincingly anorexic” would be used so as not to suggest that the actress herself was suffering from a debilitating mental and physical disease. Her character is not described in the script as anorexic; in fact, there is no mention of her character’s body or relationship with food. In the very same sentence you call her a babe. Which is it, anorexic or babe? Surely you are not promoting an anorexic appearance as a desirable one in your publication? While I am quite certain that Ms. Rael is not anorexic, what if she was? What if you correctly identified her disease by looking at her (which is nearly impossible) and then glorified it, saying that her disease was an asset to her successful portrayal of the character and touted her attractiveness in the same sentence? I don’t know why you felt the need to comment on her body first and foremost as part of the “perfectly cast” play. I grew up around a lot of “trailer park mom[s]” and they come in as many shapes and sizes as the rest of us. I’m worried about the incredibly inappropriate message that you are sending to all your readers. Anorexia is the single deadliest mental illness. Only 30-40% of anorexics will ever fully recover. Anorexic is not an adjective to describe a thin, or even gaunt female. Anorexic is a state of severe illness and this is irresponsible writing and publishing on your part.
Molly Karrasch
   [Arts Editor Robert Faires responds: Anorexia is a specific medical condition, one that has devastating consequences for those specific individuals afflicted with it, and for our society in general. As such, it in no way belongs in this context, as a description of either the actor or the character she plays. As Arts editor, I should have caught that in the original draft of the review and removed it before publication, but I didn't, and that is a failing of mine for which I am deeply sorry. I apologize to Ms. Rael, the rest of the Street Corner Arts company, and everyone who was hurt or offended by its appearance. It has been removed from the online version of the review.]