311 Story in Error
"...The 311 club, which the Austin Police department says may have a lax door policy and therefore be responsible for serving an intoxicated 19-year-old who later fell off the Iron Cactus' second-story outdoor deck, sustaining serious injuries." The owners of the 311 Club spoke with the [Public Information Officer] of the Austin Police Dept. The police dept. did not make the statement in the article. Also, the door policy at the 311 Club is not lax. We have received three congratulatory letters from TABC on the good performance of the doorman. Also the doormen are TABC-certified. We do not appreciate the Chronicle making these untrue remarks without checking with the owners of the 311 club.
Joe Valentine, Velma Marshall, Sue Arledge
[Ed Reply: The aforementioned statement from "Welcome to Sixth Street... Where Live Music is Dead" (Vol. 16, No. 6) was in fact made by an unidentified police officer working the Sixth Street beat. The APD itself made no official statement regarding the incident in question. The Chronicle regrets the error.]
To the Editor:
Bunch Sticks to Core Values
Thanks for the thoughtful article about Bill Bunch ["Oh No, It's Mister Bill!" Vol 16, No. 7]. Because so many of the people usually on his side seemed to tippy-toe around in their assessments of Bill, I thought I would throw in my much less than 2cents worth.
I'm glad Bill is here and I hope he continues to pursue his chosen causes with even more energy than he has in the past. Bill has a wonderful ability to make us all focus on the issues at hand, whether we are on his side, the other side or somewhere in the vast middle. Like many people who don't hesitate to call the shots as they see them, Bill also from time to time causes his opponents to focus their energies on Bill rather than the substance of the issues at hand.
Let me use a simple example to try to make another point. If a neighbor wants to use an herbicide to kill weeds adjacent to your drinking water well, have you truly reached a compromise if you convince the neighbor to use less of the herbicide when even a little of the herbicide is probably going to pollute your water? Would it be a better compromise to remove the weeds by a non-toxic means? Or would it be a better solution for everyone to acknowledge that the weeds aren't hurting anyone and leave them as they are? The point is, many people, including his sometimes allies, seem to vilify Bill Bunch because his definition of compromise is not the same as theirs. Too many of our leaders and too much of our media would have us believe that the very act of compromise is a good thing.
Barbara Jordan spoke often about compromise. She said that smart men and women enter situations willing to compromise unless their core values are at stake. In my regular conversations with Ms. Jordan from 1991 through 1995, the subjects of Bill Bunch and Austin environmental issues never came up, so I'm not trying to imply her endorsement. But it is my impression that Bill is very confident in his core values. I think that's why Bill is so frightening to some people. He's just not willing to play the games under other people's rules.
To the Editor:
Barton Springs Eternal...
SBCA's problem with Bill Bunch is that he has been able to incorporate sound principles to achieve measurable goals without compromise ["Oh No, It's Mister Bill!" Vol. 16, No.7]. SBCA's contribution to the protection of Barton Springs over the last 10 years is what? Let's see, SBCA was opposed to the concept of S.O.S. because it felt that its autonomy was at stake and therefore it could impede SBCA's ability to compromise on a proposed non-degradation ordinance... hum, interesting. So, what is SBCA's charter?
SBCA's Cromack suggested that Bunch is stubborn, which polarizes the issues because he refuses to negotiate with parties that have a history of not living up to prior agreements. I would suggest that coherent replace stubborn, and that Cromack have another drink.
Bill takes a very binary and educated approach to his work, and clearly understands the relationship between protecting the public's money, and environmental protection; which is, when you stop subsidizing the developers by building roads, schools and utilities in areas that are environmentally sensitive, then development will move elsewhere.
The upside to this approach is, when an agreement is reached, it will truly be based on its effectiveness in protecting Barton Springs, and the city's financial resources will be used within the city limits. The downside is no agreement and the fight will continue... not much of a downside.
To the Editor:
Marshall Kuykendall credits Bill Bunch with inspiring him to initiate the so-called "takings" bill in the legislature. It seems I read somewhere that conservative legal foundations, funded by agribusiness interests, were the catalyst for the takings bill introduced in legislatures all over the country. Come to find out, Bill Bunch is behind this stuff?
SBCAer for Bunch
In 1990 I met this handsome, intelligent young man with clear eyes and a warm but brilliant aura. Over tacos, and not long into a life-changing conversation, he says to me, "Let's preserve Barton Creek and Barton Springs for future generations." Sounded great to me. Shouldn't take long to get the elected officials back on the right track. Surely lessons had been learned from witnessing the negative impacts of the construction of Barton Creek Mall and the southern extension of MoPac on the aquifer, the Springs, and the pool. Surely we could negotiate with reasonable people an end to the incremental destruction of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer. During that lunch, Bill [Bunch] and I shared some stories about Barton Springs and began to think about some first steps to halt the demise of Austin's "Crown Jewel." Most importantly, we became fast friends with mutual trust and respect that run deep.
Those in the land-development and business communities who denigrate Bill and his tireless devotion to the Springs sometimes do so because he's right so much of the time and because he fights on regardless of the pay, regardless of the 80-hour weeks, and regardless of his critics. Regarding "compromise," Alvin Crow said it best at an S.O.S. fundraiser, "Just how much shit is acceptable in Barton Springs anyway?" Bill's brashness is inconsequential compared to his dedication to the belief that it's proper and necessary for societies to enact and obey laws which protect the air we breathe, the water we drink and, yes, even the "birds and bugs" -- for the common good. He has earned a place at the "Philosopher's Rock."
With Bill's help and with your help, this community has an opportunity to alter the course of history, to do something too few communities on the globe have done: stop the willful, unconscionable destruction of their natural environs.
Programs Manager, Save Barton Creek Association
Count on Bunch
While Austin is fortunate to be blessed with so many conservationists, it would be painful to imagine the level of pollution in Barton Springs today without the efforts of Bill Bunch. Let's give Bill Bunch his credit: We are still able to swim in the Springs most of the time with minimal silt and bacteria. Bill Bunch is good for Barton Springs.
The real enemies of the Springs are not the nitpicking, second-guessers from the SCBA: It is the profit-driven developers who hire the lawyers who then meddle with and try to divide the conservationists into "good" (read: malleable) and "bad" (resistant to bad development projects which will pollute).
We cannot always count on the political and judicial systems to save the Springs. Only a broad-based, highly vocal opposition to destructive building projects will cause developers to recalculate their balance sheets. Bill Bunch has helped to build broad support for the Springs. When the chips are down, the lovers of Barton Springs can count on Bill to do what is good for the Springs. The whimsical politics of the day is not a good barometer to make policy for conserving the timeless geological wonder that we know as Barton Springs. We are lucky to have a courageous lawyer like Bill who also has a degree in biology from the U. of Colorado. I believe Bill knows just how precarious the future is for all of us creatures who depend on the Springs to sustain and heal us.
It is far better that Bill has ruffled some feathers, or bruised a few swollen egos, than for Bill to have fought with any less zeal for the beauty of the Springs, the creeks and the aquifers.
Al St. Louis
Bartons Springs Polar Club
Dear Louis Black,
Fight the Future
Your "Page Two" editorial of October 10th is worth replying to, because it is a concise statement of the mainstream opinion on traffic planning. The mainstream opinion is that we don't have enough roads for our cars. There are going to be more cars, maybe five times as many as we have now. There will be no change in driving habits. In 30 years, most people will still get around by single-occupancy motor vehicles. Gasoline will still be cheap. Speed limits will still be high. Public transportation, if it exists at all, will still be inadequate and incompetently run. Many roads will be closed to bicyclists and pedestrians, but all will be open to cars. Barton Springs will be closed, due to pollution from cars. Our air will be bad; we will be publicly advised not to exercise outdoors, but to stay indoors or in air-conditioned cars on Ozone Days. But if we spend many millions of dollars on widening existing roads and building new ones, at least the cars won't be standing still. They will zoom all over the city, making a few people rich. This is the inevitable future, and we must plan for it.
Actually, this is the future planned for Austin by the car companies, the oil companies, and the land speculators. These groups have put and work to keep laws in place that make it very difficult to reduce speed limits or hold drivers responsible for their actions. It is due to their influence (and public inaction) that there is no attempt whatever to discourage the use of single-occupancy vehicles or reduce driving. These companies are also opposed to public transportation. They dismantled the transit systems we once had. They will not stand idly by while the systems are rebuilt.
But you don't have to buy their rhetoric and plan their future. If you and others stop driving your cars, there is nothing they can do about it. Imagine: you Louis Black, not driving! It would be the most revolutionary and progressive thing you could do for your city.
Dear Mr. Black,
The Growth Debate
Dredging up the old growth vs. no growth cliché, as you did in your last column, does nothing to advance the debate over traffic planning in Central Austin. Your contention that the issue hasn't changed in 25 years is true only if you define growth as an increase in the number of cars moving through an area. If you define growth as an increase in the number of people living in an area, the issues change dramatically. In the situation around Sixth and Lamar, the roles have been completely reversed: The neighborhood activists are trying to encourage growth in town, while the Public Works powers are trying to push growth to the outskirts.
Forget about waiting for a light rail line to influence growth patterns; the growth patterns have already changed. Lamar at Sixth and Fifth has been converted from car lots to a thriving business district, with high-density housing on the way. The immediate question is, should we force those builders to waste valuable downtown housing space and millions of dollars on parking for cars? Or should we force the Public Works Department to paint a crosswalk on the street so the residents can walk to the Dillo stop? Time and time again, our traffic problems come down to choices like that, but Public Works and the Highway Department would rather do nothing than try a cheap, quick traffic management solution.
What was so maddening about the Public Works proposals for the Lamar Bridge was their denial of the most basic principles of traffic engineering. The cars back up at the intersections, not at the bridge. If the bridge were 20 lanes wide, the cars would still have to stop at Fifth and Sixth and at Riverside and Barton Springs. Instead of wasting time and hundreds of thousands of dollars on bridge designs, we should be arguing about whether we need to tunnel Lamar under those streets, thereby eliminating the intersections. If you really want to make "the terms of the debate conform to the realities confronting us," cut your patronizing little lectures on citizenship and examine instead the Public Works Department's inability to address transportation problems in a systematic fashion.
The most disturbing thing about your column is its descent into the genre of establishment editorials. The spooky slogans, like "The cars are going to come," tell us that our automobiles (or our electric appliances, or our lawn sprinklers, or our unrecyclable garbage) are an alien force that we are powerless to resist. The discouraging tone deepens when you note that having an opinion on growth is "like having an opinion on the weather," you yourself "have no answers here," and you don't even know what you think about the bridge. Then you admonish those citizens who do have opinions to stop "polemicizing" and enter a discussion "with all viewpoints represented," except, of course, those viewpoints outside your "terms of debate" because they don't "conform to the realities" of this hopeless situation. Your may think you were calling for citizen involvement; the message that came through was just the opposite.
Journalists who know what is happening in a city define the terms of debate by writing about the issues; they don't wait for a public official to spell it out for them. I read the Chronicle for that kind of writing, not for bland reports from people who have nothing to say. The next time you find yourself writing, "I don't know what I think about this issue," please turn your column over to someone who does.
Lorraine L. Atherton
Yum Yum, Eat 'Em Up
Shame on you, Robb Walsh, you're genus-centric ["A Certified Shame," Vol. 16, No. 7]. According to the latest government release, America is obese! If you want marbling in your meat, don't look for it in the pasture, it's walking down the street. Yum yum, eat 'em up. Four legs good, two legs -- better?
The Problem Is Us
I'm very sorry to hear that Robb Walsh is having trouble finding a good cut of beef in Austin. I am forced to wonder, however, if this issue really merits a cover story. The Bill Bunch profile, I think reasonable people can agree, had a little more, um, meat to it. Taken together, however, I think the two articles give a pretty good indication of the editorial drift of the Chronicle. I wonder, in fact, if 10 years ago anyone on the Chronicle staff could have imagined themselves contributing to a paper which seems to argue (if I have this straight) that two of the most pressing issues facing Austinites today are a shortage of prime rib and a core of environmental activists who are too diligent. Or (harking back to an equally portentous September cover story) that an imminent "bagel war" merited four pages of free advertising for Fifth Street businesses.
Reflecting on the good old days in his "Page Two" column a few weeks ago, Louis Black noted how different the Chronicle seemed to him now. How he and the rest of the editors had all grown up, weren't so desperate and naïve. A more objective observer might recognize this as a process commonly referred to as losing one's edge. You get your foot in the door and you get complacent; you gain a stake in the corrupt system you used to snipe away at, and suddenly it doesn't seem so black and white to you anymore. It's a familiar story, but sometimes it's hard to recognize when you're at the center of the changes. But this is how it looks from down here Louis, from the clear perspective of someone who's foot is nowhere near the door. Bill Bunch is not part of the problem, he is part of the solution. "The problem," as Johnny Rotten used to put it, "is you."
Pervasive Media Blackness
I am increasingly dismayed by the Chronicle's approach lately to reporting on issues relating to preserving Barton Springs and the Edwards Aquifer. Most recently, your excessive focus on controversy in your article on Bill Bunch is as misleading, insidious, and destructive as our daily paper and TV stations' abuse of us with this unpleasant brand of journalism. Most of us who care about the environment appreciate what Bill Bunch has done for us all. Has the Chronicle invested in development property over the Edwards Aquifer? Or is there a personal grudge against Bill Bunch? Or...? In any case, it doesn't serve what is dear in our city to deliberately and mistakenly portray Bill Bunch as a marginalized extremist. In fact, we in Austin (two thirds of us at last count) all have Bill Bunch to thank for what we have managed to preserve of our beautiful Springs. He is a hero. His courage, intelligence, and dedication deserve respect and appreciation.
I urge you to do some soul searching... and return to being a friend to our environment and a beacon in the pervasive media blackness.
Austin Sierra Group
Vote Green, Vote Nader
Can't quite stomach Big Brother Bill or Grumpy Olde Dole? Wish you could vote "none of the above"? Disaffected voters, you now have a chance. Two candidacies have qualified for official write-in status in Texas (meaning that, if you write their names in, your vote will be legally credited to that candidate, not ignored or lumped in as "other"). These are Green Party candidates consumer advocate Ralph Nader and running mate American Indian activist Winona LaDuke; and Socialist Party candidates Mary Cal Hollis and running mate Eric Chester. Let me make the case for the Green Party candidates.
Refreshingly, theirs is not your usual campaign. You won't see TV ads or hear slick sound bites. In the words of VP candidate Winona LaDuke, they are "interested in reframing the debate on the issues of this society -- the distribution of power and wealth, the abuse of power and the rights of the natural world, the environment and the need to consider an amendment to the U.S. Constitution in which all decisions made today will be considered in light of their impact on the seventh generation from now."
Austinites who care about the environment have most recently felt the treachery of the Clinton Administration firsthand with the weakening of the Endangered Species Act through such actions as Bruce Babbitt's final solution to the endangered species problem, the BCP; and the political decision not to list the Barton Springs salamander. To reward that kind of behavior with another term would be unconscionable.
Don't be deceived by the Republicrats who say that voting for a third party is throwing your vote away; not voting at all is throwing your vote away. The best part about exercising your write-in option is that, instead of walking away from the polls feeling kind of dirty, you can feel positive about your vote.
The procedure is simple: The last entry in the presidential candidate column will be a blank line. Simply darken the oval immediately to the left and write in the names Ralph Nader/Winona LaDuke on the line. Your vote will be counted.
Doggett Must Go
I used to think that the Democrats were the ones who tried to make things right. They seemed to be our watchdogs -- looking for injustices, and trying to make this country a nicer place to live. What happened? When exactly did our Democratic representatives stop watching out for us? Take our very own Austin representative, Lloyd Doggett, who is now running for re-election. This guy actually voted against the $500 per child tax credit and the proposed adoption tax credit. Why?? What is wrong with these proposals? Sure, they came from Republicans, but Doggett should not have let ideological differences overshadow his view of the larger picture. Because it is the Republican who are making so many just proposals, maybe Austin should give them more of a chance. Doggett also voted against lawsuit reform. Why? We need lawsuit reform! So much of our money is going towards court costs for frivolous lawsuits -- money that could go instead to help save our almost bankrupt welfare system. (Another reform proposal that Doggett voted against, by the way.) The only reason that I can think of why a Democrat would actually vote against lawsuit reform is because of the huge amount of money that the Trial Lawyers donate to Democratic campaigns! Doggett should have been serving our interests in Washington instead of his own. It's time to get him out of there!
Dear Austin Chronicle,
Lost without LaBernz
What happened to Mindy LaBernz? We haven't heard much from her since that School for the Blind article. The letters that criticized that piece were, in my opinion, right on in pointing out her ignorance. But Jesus Christ, don't stop writing and/or leave town! I always enjoyed Ms. LaBernz's sassy music reviews. If you see her, please tell her to get back on the horse.
[Ed. Note: Not long after her "Small Wonders" (Vol. 15, No. 25) piece (The "School for the Blind" story), Mindy moved to Washington, D.C., where she writes for their weekly, Washington City Paper. She also does freelance work for Raygun, and the online magazine, Sonicnet.]
To the Chronicle readers living in Williamson County:
Fight the Williamson Right
We have a great opportunity to put some fresh voices in government out here. And I mean fresh voices not aligned with the usual Williamson Co. religious right. Patty Eason is running for County Commissioner, Prec. 1. Patty would add a woman's point of view to the Commissioner board and could help offset those members aligned with the Christian Coalition. Jerry Graham is running for State Rep., District 52. It's time we really "cleaned house" and said goodbye to Mr. Krussee, whose past campaign ads actually tried to use his membership in the Conservative Christian American Family Association as a selling point! Elect Patty and Jerry for '96 for Williamson County!
Dear Editor @ the Chron:
That Giant Sucking Sound
I just want you to know that the giant sucking sound you hear is the vacuum of adequate daily journalism in this town. I have a great idea: why don't we all advertise in the Chronicle, send our announcements there, and subscribe... The Chronicle, in return can subscribe to the used-to-be-called-underground wire service, provide daily comic strips, and throw in some coupons. Then, we can be free of the daily annoyance of and reliance on a hopelessly banal and pedestrian "paper." Thanks for being an adequate source of real news most of the time.
Morales Played Race Card
About: Victor Morales. I thought Victor Morales' approach to politics was refreshing and deserved some thought. Then he played the race card, calling U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla a coconut (white on the inside, brown on the outside). Morales' meaning is quite clear -- there is something wrong with being white. I'm white. I also had to have two root canals (subsequently losing one tooth) coming to the aid of a friend getting pulverized by a bigot 20-some odd years ago. The bigot didn't like "longhairs or Mexicans." My friend was/is both. I didn't like racists then and don't now. I can hear the Victor Morales apologists now: "but he apologized!" So did David Duke. Would these same people come running to Duke's defense? I don't think so. Don't misunderstand me, I wouldn't walk across the street to spit on David Duke if he was on fire (piss on him... maybe). Why wouldn't I hold Victor Morales to the same standard?
Lee Radziwill: Beans Spilled
Sorry to be a bit late with this, but, in answer to Stephen Moser's rhetorical question in his article on Jacqueline Onassis ["Hopelessly Devoted to Jackie," Vol. 16, No. 5] in your October 4th issue, "Why... doesn't anyone spill the beans on Lee [Radziwill]?": Little Brown published an unauthorized biography of her, "In Her Sister's Shadow," within, I believe, the past 18 months.
Blueprint for America
What Austin and America needs greatly is a blueprint of what we can become. It is outrageous that we have recently decided that almost the worst offenders in America are small children that have been abandoned by their fathers -- these innocents do not even deserve $187 a month so they can survive... their welfare is no longer our concern. And expecting their untrained mom to feed them on a waitress salary of $2.13 an hour... maybe $400 a month is likewise nuts... Are you listening, Robert Dole or Governor Bush? Face the future... we have trashed these kids... and either they will be in the streets eventually or in children's homes... costing about $30,000 a year. Not the present cost of about $2,000. This is financial disaster, social insanity, government deformity.
Frank T. Bartlett
To the Editor:
Hard Work Gets Tips
I'd like to thank David Conrey for his complaints about the low wages and miniscule tips waiters earn here in Texas ["Postmarks," Vol. 16, No. 6]. As he hoped, it was for me a real wake-up call (though probably not of the kind he intended).
After more years of waiting tables than I'd like to admit to, I have become quite sensitive to the job's inherent irritants and numb to its joys and benefits. Reading Mr. Conrey's letter helped me focus again on the real purpose of my work, which is to give every single one of my customers a pleasant and memorable dinner.
Let me point a few things out to Mr. Conley, in direct response to his main complaints:
1. The hourly wage you earn here is not peculiar to this state, nor is it substandard on a national level (excepting, of course, California). Check federal labor laws regarding tipped employees, a copy of which should be posted at your workplace.
2. The superior and denegrating attitude you hold toward your customers goes a long way in making those people into rednecks and Neanderthals who can't figure 15 percent. A tip is a means of showing thanks. If your customers are thanking you very little, I'd say it's because they have very little to thank you for.
Contrary to Mr. Conrey's experience here, I've found that Texans love and appreciate being shown a good time. My sincere thanks to all you happy eaters.
Virginia B. Beck
Surely there are few things in life more tiresome than the whirrings of disgruntled musicians. Having more than once been one myself, I can only say in my defense that it is probably less potentially harmful socially than being, perhaps, a postal worker of similar attitude. From this perspective, gained from much painful experience, I am forced to conclude that Austin's manifest failure as a musical Utopia is rooted in this fact:
Those in charge of musical venues are by the nature of their business required to some extent to be donkey butts. Musicians are forever frustrated in their aspirations to become successful donkey butts. Being a "wannabe" donkey butt can only breed disgruntlement at best, never mind embarrassment.
Kung Fu Flighty
I am only now, after half a year, able to articulate my dismay at Marjorie Baumgarten's failure to note Tom Jones contributed his version of "Kung Fu Fighting" to Jackie Chan's Supercop. How, Marjorie, could you have overlooked this vital cultural news item? I have been too dismayed with Austin's cultural elite to write on this essential subject until now. Please atone for your collective shortcomings.
Scott Andrew Gordon
To the Editor:
On October 19th from noon to past midnight, radio station 101X and Austin Music Hall conjointly launched an attack on all of downtown Austin and everyone living within a five mile radius. The "music fest" sponsored by 101X and held in the outside lot next to the AMH was a 12 hour barrage of noise pollution imposed on everyone living or working within miles of the event.
I have paid passing attention to the arguments about noise on Sixth Street and whether music coming out of downtown bars can be heard at too many decibels on the street. I have witnessed neighborhood parties on my block -- parties I hadn't even realized were going on until the police arrived with lights flashing -- being busted for noise level. There must be a joke I'm not getting. The music from the 101X-Fest was so incredibly loud at my house, three miles away, that it could literally have been going on in my own yard.
The man who answered 101X's phone at 10pm that night cheerfully told me I only had "two more bands to suffer through" and that the assault should be over around midnight. The helpful woman at Austin Police Department's non-emergency number told me to call 911. I lost a day's work and was not permitted to sleep until after midnight. I love music and have enjoyed many a fest, but that anyone is allowed to impose that level of noise on an entire sector of the city (for any amount of time, let alone twelve hours) is an outrage.
Have y'all noticed a recent trend in mainstream media and bureaucracy to bash buses, bicyclists, and trains? The great Texas Eagle is being wantonly cancelled and won't be carrying its thousands of passengers to and from Texas. Thousands of passengers who can read books instead of stressing on white lines and oncoming 18-wheelers. Thousands of Texas kids taking their first cool train trip. My first was a cool blast to Chicago and back. Then we moved to Madrid, Spain where the trolleys, subways, and buses were everywhere and cost less than a penny (government subsidized). With 50 museums to visit on weekends this was choices city for us kids -- or we'd bicycle.
I think Capital Metro is being kicked in the head and does not deserve the dissing. Sure there's always room for improvement but at least you don't have to buy insurance, pull into stinking gas stations or worry about falling asleep at the wheel or getting pulled over by flashing red lights. Buses are free on ozone poisoning these days (thanks, cars) and the bus drivers seem always competent and mostly friendly.
As for bicyclists it seems almost war. For the city council to so blatantly discriminate against the practitioners of the most Earth-friendly mode of ground transit by suddenly mandating helmet-wearing, calling it an emergency, is so mean, stupid, and oppressive that I have to wonder what they have against their planet (especially their rapidly dissolving ozone layer). Mandating helmets for passengers in stink-mobiles would conceivably save more lives than there are community bicyclists and the slaughter goes on year after year, the cars killing pedestrians, pets, bicyclists, wildlife, and other drivers right and left.
Speaking of slaughter, I'd like to relate a recurring dream I had for months after getting out of the *@!# Army 26 years ago. Dressed in black I'd be bicycling around at night with a .45 caliber pistol, executing cars by firing one armor-piercing projectile through the engine block from above. It's a little ol' sleeping hood. "Que maten los pinches carros."
Earn Your Tips
In response to the letter written from the guy complaining about the low wages for waitpeople ["$2.13/Hour Sucks," Vol. 16, No. 6], please shut up!!
I know plenty of waitpeople who make good money from their tips. Granted, $2.13/hour is low, however, you can bank on tips, it's just what you're willing to put into your job. If the article you wrote has any reflection on the service you provide your patrons, I can see why you're complaining.
It's a good thing you didn't mention what restaurant you work for, because after reading your letter, I don't think there is a "Backwoods Neanderthal Redneck" around who would offer you their pocket lint, much less their pocket change.
So please, go back to California, make twice as much an hour, and pay twice as much for your rent. I'm sure the surfer-dudes will tip you much better.
In response to Lance E. "Backwoods Neanderthal" Ellisor's response ("Postmarks," Vol. 16, No. 7) to David Conrey's complaint that $2.13/hour isn't a sufficient wage ("Postmarks," Vol. 16, No. 6):
I'm thankful that Mr. Conrey had the intestinal fortitude to say something, because, frankly, $2.13 is not a decent wage. And I believe Mr. Conrey is speaking not only for himself, but also for the thousands of other waiters, waitresses, bartenders, bussers, and cocktail servers who do everything for you, yet still are consistently underpaid (read: undertipped). His statement was obviously wasted on you, Mr. Ellisor. So you see, it wouldn't do for Mr. Conrey to go back to California, because it wouldn't solve the problem. It would still leave the rest of us here to suffer your 10-12% excuse for a tip.
David R. Gärtner
May or May Not Tip
Three cheers to David Conrey for his letter "$2.13/Hour Sucks," [Vol. 16, No. 6]! He is so right about the base hourly rate for waiters in Texas being so low, and even more right that Austinites do not know that 15% is the proper tipping amount.
Last summer my college age son worked long and hard at a local restaurant. He was often complimented on his knowledge of the menu and being a good server. But many a night his tips would barely be enough to fill his gas tank. The occasional "mom and pop" out to dinner, or students on a tight budget, can be forgiven for not leaving a proper tip, but his budget disappointment came one night when he waited on [a well-known Austin politician]. The bill came to $36. [The politician] left him a $3 tip. That is not even 10%.
Austin is supposed to have the most highly educated population per capita than any other city in the country.
Austin, please get educated about tipping.
$2.13 an Hour Still Sucks
I don't want to turn this into a debate across the Chronicle's pages, but I felt I need to rebut a rebuttal. To the person who told me that I should just get a new job instead of trying to do something about an issue that needs changing: First, I never said I didn't like my job [Vol. 16, No. 7]. I enjoy my job. I have a lot of really good customers that come in to be in my section on a regular basis. That is not the issue. The issue is that we (waitpeople) should not have to settle for such an embarrassing "minimum wage." In the time that you were contesting my letter, did you ever once actually think about what I was saying? Doesn't $2.13 an hour seem even a little absurd to you? Obviously, you were too busy trying to call me a whiner. Second, you said that I only expressed one question but said I had two. Well, if you really read my letter, you would have seen two questions. The first was about the "minimum wage." The second was about people who don't know about the proper tipping procedure. Maybe I was a bit harsh in my last letter, but I was pissed. The truth is, I believe that Greater Austin (Round Rock, more specifically) is ignorant to the idea that 15% is the norm for gratuity. Lastly, Mr. Never Worked in the Service Industry, did you ever think that maybe it is your type of mentality that I was referring to? Obviously you have a guilty conscience, or you wouldn't have tried to defend yourself or this town. That's all I am going to say. Thanks for listening.
To the Editor:
Racism in Austin
I know a lot of people read the Chronicle every week and I want lots of people to read/know this. On Saturday, October 12th, I, a 25-year-old Latina female, my best friend, also a Latina and my little brother, a 16-year-old Latino male paid a visit to a new clothing store located at 360 and Bee Caves Road. We shopped and purchased well over $200 worth of their merchandise. As we waited in line I noticed how friendly the cashier was with all of the predominately white clientele, the cashier was very attentive, talkative, and nice, that is, until it was our turn to check out. When we reached his register he looked at us only once when we walked up, and as long as we stood there waiting for him to ring up our many items, not once did he smile or did he really acknowledge my presence until, for some odd reason my check had to be called in for approval. This was the first check I had seen that needed any approval after we had stood in line 10 minutes in the store. My check cleared as soon as he called it in. I then asked him a question and he only nodded; I raised my voice and looked at him directly and I guess that's when he realized what he had been doing and the cashier, a Latino himself, changed his attitude. It was too late. [They] have lost a customer who would spend more than the average customer at their store. As we exited the place, my female companion realized she would go back in the store to get something she had wanted to buy but had forgotten to. I hesitantly told her my little brother and I would wait outside of the place. As we walked outside a man wearing a baseball cap was happily handing out passes for a free dinner at [a] restaurant. He watched us walk out of the store but he did not offer myself nor my brother a dinner pass. I look young for my age so I figured he was only passing the passes out to "adults". I think we stood outside for about 20 minutes waiting until my friend finally exited the store, all the while watching as the man (I think he was the owner of the restaurant) passed out passes to every white male, female and yes, even teenagers. We never got one and when my Latina female friend exited the store, she was not offered one either and neither was the African-American woman who exited after her... that is until her white male companion exited a few feet behind her... he was offered a dinner pass. I used to think that prejudice did not exist and that our world was getting with it on this issue and I was frankly sick and tired of all the whining and complaining made by minority groups. I am a brown-skinned Latina woman but I don't fit that gangster/ghetto stereotype that the white people have labeled my people with. I grew up in the barrio and I still have to drive 40 minutes to buy clothes that appeal to me, to in turn be treated the way that I was by these establishments. I hope they read this and that next time a Latino, African-American, Asian, or anyone who is not "Gringo" spends their hard earned money at their businesses, they get a lot more respect.
I was surprised and amused by Chris Walters' dim vision of the future of online city sites ["Media Clips," Vol. 16, No. 6]. Taking Walters' advice, I took a tour of the sites in the article. I started with Austin 360 and the Houston Chronicle site and have to agree that the experience felt very much like reading bite-sized versions of the print publications that feed them. Reading an online newspaper gave me the same headache I get when I drink a slurpee too fast (I tried really hard to make some connection between slurpees and online city sites -- but this is all I came up with).
Next I looked at CitySearch, which as Walters stated has not yet launched in Austin but offers a general introduction and an invitation to visit their other city sites. Because it was not spawned by the print media, it came the closest to meeting my expectations of a new, usable resource. I don't know what the Austin site will include, but if it is similar to the Raleigh/Chapel Hill site I would access it often and encourage those planning a trip here to check it out.
My search for a sample of Microsoft's CityScape was unsuccessful (although there were some articles in Internet mags predicting the big bad wolf would produce completion for everyone in the online market) as was my search for AOL's Digital Cities.
And finally I stopped at The Austin Chronicle's site which is when the irony of the article started to sink in. What's so funny? First, to suggest that print media-produced sites are a yawner seems like a bad cause of fouling one's own nest. The Chronicle site, which is admittedly cute and graphically spunky, represents the same online rehash Walters' article criticizes. It seems to me that the introduction of a new generation of media sources has the Chronicle singing its familiar David and Goliath song. If anyone should know that the big guys don't always win, it's you guys! (Didn't I just read a really long article in the Statesman about the Chronicle's financial success and profitability??)
The real winner will be the group that offers current, usable information in a way that is more convenient and more fun to access than its traditional counterpart of yesteryear. I doubt this will be the media giants as their imagination is limited to adapting the newspaper to a new format that eliminates most of the things we sentimentally enjoy about handling messy newsprint.
You can't curl up in bed with a terminal and you can't line your bird cage with a web page, but there are good things on the horizon. And I'm glad Austin is in line to benefit from some of them -- even if it does threaten the Chronicle's underdog status.
P.S. Truly the best part of the article was the reference to writers' salaries. I challenge Walters to take a historical look into the Chronicle's payroll books from the early years when Texas Pride beer, 7-11 burritos, and an occasional concert ticket were the most common forms of currency.
[Ed. Note: Since the first issue Chronicle writers have always been paid at an agreed-upon rate. Chris Walters should know as well as anyone, as he has written for the Chronicle since that first issue.
No Council Payraise
Well, the spell-blinding energy flare emanating from the self-serving, self-aggrandizing, ego-centric pay raise the Travis County Commissioners greedily usurped for themselves has likely blinded our Austin City Council and daily newspaper, [the Austin American-Statesman] AA-S. Now certain members of the city council must be wondering how they can achieve the same amazing pay bonanza for themselves, without unacceptable political risk. How else to explain the rash of inanities plaguing the AA-S and council?
First AA-S inexplicably puts Ann Richards' picture in with an article on lawyers and with a bevy of pictured lawyers. She is not a lawyer.
Next, AA-S, mayor, and city council bewail Corpus Christi taking Austin's drinking water. Since Corpus wants to tap into the Colorado River some 90 or more miles downstream of Town Lake, obviously mayor, council, and the AA-S are into the rescinding of natural laws.
This is how it works. As Austin's unused water flows downstream and approaches the Gulf, (where once it enters, it is not usable at all as fresh water) it simply reverses course and flows back up to Austin. Can't let Corpus have any of this valuable back-up stuff. Austin should bottle it, when it comes back, and sell it to relieve the city budget problems. Promote it as some kind of miraculous elixir.
Well, why not? AA-S also reported that an inventor in India can mix a few leaves in water and, behold, get prodigious quantities of gasoline. That's easy compared to flowing rivers backward. Hey! Maybe we can make gasoline out of the backward-flowed water. A liquid fuel resulting from the conjoining of these two inanities ought to command an especially high price.
And, of course, while mayor/council and AA-S profligately expend time contemplating backward rivers, pay raises of colleagues and other inanities abetting, the alarming reduction in the number of police allowed the enforcement infrastructure to rot away like bone osteoporosis. Well not to worry! Major crime went down throughout Texas, but not in Austin. It went up here. Heck! That can be explained. Witness the lame change-in-record-keeping excuse. More logically, if the police force is cut to the bone, crime will increase concomitantly. Council inanely expected to rescind another natural law.
C'mon council. Don't be blinded by pay-raise, sugar-plum inanities. Forget about rescinding natural laws. Get with the basics of running this city effectively. Focus on the essential structural problems of this city. More street repairs and greatly expanded traffic enforcement (the city streets are bursting with drivers, totally oblivious to all traffic laws) should be high on this agenda. You know that with decreased enforcement, observance of traffic and other laws will decrease at an exponential rate. Another unfortunate example of council seeking to rescind natural law?
But council, don't even think about a pay raise!! You just don't deserve it!
David Allen Roth
Book New Bands, Dammit!
Most of the live music clubs that are doing the worst are missing the point. Cheaper drink and door prices are not the key. Not booking bands that potential patrons want to see is the problem. The college-age crowd are a crucial audience, as pointed out in your articles [Vol. 16, No. 6], and the kind of new original music they want to hear is almost absent from Austin clubs. This potential audience didn't grow up listening to 1980s Austin bands or blues music, they grew up listening to MTV and college radio. They want to hear the music that is happening on a national level. It seems that the people doing the booking are still looking for the next Christopher Cross/Stevie Ray/Reivers, while the national music scene has changed and developed far from those roots of the past decade. The incestuous nature of booking the same handful of bands over and over every week, and then wondering why nobody will come out to see them is the insanity of doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different outcome.
Austin is no longer an isolated burg that can ignore what is going on in the rest of the country; the technology of this global age has ended that forever. It's time for the club owners to realize that they are in business, and they need to do their market research and give their customers what they want, not what the club owners' past ties them to.
I was in Los Angeles earlier this month, and was amazed by the music I heard at one of my old hangouts, the Troubadour club in West Hollywood. The bands I saw didn't sound like the typical ones you would find on a weekend night in Austin, instead they were playing music along the lines of experimental Austin bands such as Brown Hornet, Bongo Hate, Booger 9000, Teratoma, Blort, ST37, and The Texas Philistines. The Troubadour was famous during the 1980s for giving starts to bands like Guns 'n' Roses, but they haven't spent the 1990s trying to find the next GnR, they have changed as the music and their audience changed.
I love living in Austin, and being an Austin band gives you tons of recognition, once you are out of Austin. Our band is not giving up on Austin, and we are doing everything we can to improve our show and promote ourselves. As everyone else in this town who wants to keep a healthy live music scene should be doing, we are building for our future, and not burying our heads under the debris of the past.
The Texas Philistines
Freedom Is Existence
In "Postmarks" [Vol. 16, No. 6], Alan McKendree mocks the anti-helmet bicyclists as inconsistent dabblers in freedom, mere babes without principle. What he fails to understand is that freedom is less a matter of principle than it is a way of existing. But if he will die in defense of consistency, let him realize that his worst truth is out there. I, and perhaps many others, practice exactly what he laughingly suggests. If you don't like schools, home school. If you don't like cars, join Ms. Babich or avail yourself of the exquisite spontaneity of our city's bus system. If you don't like the federal taxation system, join the War Tax Resisters League or similar groups. If you don't like our Council's overweening helmet regulation, underwrite the expense of its bloodsucking tickets. Freedom is always to hand, as Tom Paine wrote, if you only grasp it. The next time McKendree is tempted to conjure a straw man for his argument, let him first rent and view The Wicker Man: His nightmare may be all too real.
David L. Kent
To the People of Austin:
Broken Heart Killed Jaroschy
A wake-up call to the supporters and appreciators of art in Austin. Austin has lost a pillar of the local arts community. Michel Jaroschy, the founder and artistic director of Capitol City Playhouse died this past weekend. People die every day, and many may not even pause to read the obituary, but the circumstances around Michel's death are noteworthy, and in my opinion, alarming.
Michel had a dream, and dedicated his life to fulfilling his dream, and in the process, giving Austin a first-class theatre. For over 10 years, Capitol City Playhouse has provided Austin audiences with shows worth seeing; from mainstream theatre and dance, to late night alternative performances.
I was fortunate enough to experience the Playhouse from every angle. As an art critic for KVRX and KOOP, and as a theatre-goer, I enjoyed many productions from the audience position. To pay off a traffic ticket, I completed my community service hours by folding programs and answering phones in the office, and even continued to volunteer after my required hours were completed. As an usher, I showed many people, maybe you, to their seats. And as a performer, I took to the stage with my participation in the late-night Phobia Productions.
Having recently returned to Austin from a stay in Europe, I was informed that Capitol City Playhouse was in search of a new home due to sky-rocketing rents and a mounting debt. Several performers were planning a fund-raising event organized by Rachel Heiken and SXIP, in which I was invited to participate. At our first rehearsal on Sunday night, the announcement was made that there will be no show; Michel is dead. Dead of a heart attack.
Dead of a broken heart seems more accurate. A man who had given everything to live a dream, just to see his dream taken away from him by money-hungry landlords and downtown developers. Rumor has it that a bar will be the next occupant of the space at Fourth and Lavaca. Another bar, just what Austin needs.
If indeed everything happens for a reason, let this awaken the people of Austin. Don't let another art space and an art crusader be victims of the greed and capitalism that is mutating the Austin Art Community. It might be too late for Michel and Capitol City Playhouse, but it is not too late to get involved and support the arts.
S. Alton Dulaney
Dear Chronicle Member,
Stop That Junk Mail
I read in your last issue of the Chronicle that there was this guy who was ranting and raving about "junk mail" and he couldn't get a response from any of the places he had been writing. I don't know if this will help, but I got this address off a flyer.
Mail Preference Services
Direct Mail Marketing Association
77 West 42nd St.
New York, NY 10163-3861
This guy was writing this in the "letters to the editor" or whatever it's called section. Maybe it was on "Postmarks" or "Page Two." Anyway??????
Apart from being totally incredulous at the way public schools are run and financed in the U.S. (I taught in France for 10 years), I also have trouble understanding how opponents of the Christian Coalition consistently fail to attack the character of their puppetmaster Pat Robertson. He is the friend of Mobutu, for Heaven's sake! Any public figure in France would be run out of town if such a relationship became common knowledge and were documented. Are you Americans incapable of seeing the obvious and acting on it ?
Clinton Is No Liberal
Three years ago I wrote to this paper expressing noisy discontent with Clinton for being even more craven in office than had been predicted. I got a lot of shit for that letter, and I heard a lot of defenses of how Clinton's heart was really in the right place, and how those mean Republicans were making him do Bad Things. So here we are now: A lot of progressives and liberals are going to hold their noses in November and vote for the most corrupt Democratic administration in history, led by the most right-wing Democratic president in 50 years, because the likely alternative looks even worse. I respect the logic behind this, and I hope you'll respect my writing in Ralph Nader, the only candidate that even remotely shares my views. But I do have one request: please, let's hear no more of this prattle about how, once he gets a second term, Uncle Bill is going to really cut loose and undo all the damage he's done. He won't. He can't. He can't take back NAFTA, he can't take back the forests and parks he handed over to Big Business, he can't take back his assault on civil liberties, he can't take back the Kristallnacht of a welfare bill he signed, and he sure as hell can't take back the bombs he dropped on human beings whenever his polls slipped too far. Vote for him if you must. But after the election, we need you people back here in Camp Reality; there's a lot of work to be done. And if this letter pisses you off, well, are you mad at me, or at a political system in which these are your only options?
Braced for impact,
P.S. The next person -- left or right -- that calls Clinton a "liberal" is going to get a midnight visit from the Fact Checker Militia and the Semantic Avengers. They'll be packing charts, graphs, a dictionary, and 20 years of clippings from Arkansas newspapers. It will not be pretty.