Preserve Town Lake
Alex de Marban's piece on the Council vote to request an alternative site for the Bloch cancer survivors' memorial ["Council Blocks Bloch," Vol. 16, No. 11] got the facts correct, but did not provide the reasons why most councilmembers voted the way they did. Here are mine:
The relatively undisturbed green space along the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail is a significant part of what makes Austin unique among American cities. Literally thousands of Austinites use it every day not only for exercise and recreation, but as a way to connect with Central Texas' natural beauty without having to leave the downtown area.
Visitors from other cities often comment on how this piece of nature in the heart of our city must truly enhance the quality of life we enjoy here. While they are of course correct, they do not realize that preserving this piece of nature takes constant commitment and effort.
This is why the Parks Board, the Arts in Public Places Panel, and the Arts Commission all recommended that the city council find an alternative site. Because of the hundreds of proposals the city has received for placing memorials and monuments along Town Lake and in other publicly owned parkland, we in Austin have a well-established process for reviewing and evaluating this type of request. In this case the Town Lake site was rejected.
I spoke recently with a Houston Parks Board member who worked with the Bloch Foundation when a similar memorial was installed by Hermann Park in Houston. She explained that the ultimate location of the memorial was not the donor's first choice and that the architect representing the donor worked closely with the Parks Director to site the memorial at a mutually agreed upon location.
I'm not sure why Mr. Bloch was willing to consider the Houston Park Director's recommendation to look at alternatives, but not the Austin Parks Board's. I do know, however, that Houston has received over 100 requests to install monuments in Hermann Park and decided to hold the line on the placement of this memorial.
We are in a similar situation in Austin. Town Lake Park is part of why Austin is such a singularly special place to live. It is part of our identity and our soul as a city. We too must hold the line if we are to preserve its integrity and continue to enjoy it as a magnificent respite from the stress of urban life.
Also, like the Parks Board and Arts Commission, I am worried about the fact that the Bloch proposal would leave a $23,000 annual shortfall in maintenance costs for the project. Though the foundation offered a $100,000 endowment to cover maintenance, the Parks Department foresees a $30,000 per year maintenance bill.
Austin City Council, Place 4
Milking the Bull
I'm ashamed to admit that I actually agreed with one point in Robert Bryce's idiotic diatribe about the "District of Austin" ["Environs," Vol. 16, No. 10]. Although it is for a different reason (i.e., I can count), I think that the City of Austin ought to annex every single MUD and suburb in the area. Since these folks are already paying for their own street maintenance, law enforcement, utilities, and emergency services; I see no reason why they should subsidize the City with their sales taxes in Austin businesses, comply with City regulations due to their location in the City's ETJ, and not be able to vote for City Council members who determine how these funds are spent and what regulations are made.
These "wealthy suburbs who desire to pay for nothing..." should be brought into the fold to pay and vote. Annexation of the MUDs which have long since paid off their bond debt was certainly the original plan (as the screams of anguish from your esteemed publication and our political leaders about Circle C must demonstrate), so why not just suck in Springwoods, Anderson Mill, Lost Creek, Milwood and all the rest. It's quick and easy, just a couple of public hearings, a unilateral Council vote and they are in the City. This would add hundreds of millions in "tax base" and 10,000 to 20,000 registered voters (they are mostly those yucky suburban conservatives, but it is their money we want). This might have an effect on Council elections which have typically been decided by less than 5,000 vote margins, but, as Mr. Bryce points out, it must be worth the gain in "tax base" (and the Council wouldn't worry about petty political stuff like this anyway).
I hope the Chronicle can spare "Let 'em Burn" Bryce to assist the paid City lobbyists and the ever-rigid Mr. Bunch at the State Capital when the Legislature convenes in January. Hopefully he'll bring along copies of this brilliant article to show those old bullies exactly how Austin ought to treat the State Legislature and their ol' Jim Bob-lovin' University if they don't do exactly what we tell them to do (and those marshmallows of his to toast on the fires they start).
To the Editor:
I tried and tried to find a suitable anagram for "Robert Bryce" but could only come up with "ignorant moron." As a Ph.D. student in the University of Texas' Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, I find his remarks in the November 8, 1996, edition of the Chronicle ["Environs," Vol. 16, No. 10] both inaccurate and offensive. To fault a fire code that was legislated by higher powers than the UT system and William Cunningham is wrong; to imply that the City of Austin is better off to disregard emergencies on the UT campus is callous and insensitive.
As an environmentalist, I hate to rush to the side of one of our society's more morally and ethically bankrupt citizens, but it is clearly not William Cunningham's (or Freeport-McMoRan's) doings that allow the UT system to follow their own rules as far as safety regulations go. A bit of responsible reporting might have helped here, Robert. Give credit where credit is due. Freeport, Jim Bob, Cunningham, and their ilk are responsible for a lot of things, but their actions do not warrant a boycott of human services provided to those in need. The same logic that you apply in calling for denying emergency services to the University might well apply to those who fall ill while disregarding our laws and, perhaps, common sense: Would you stiff the poor, the uninsured, and the ignorant who contract life-threatening diseases "by accident," as was the case at Welch Hall?
My fellow students are competent and intelligent. The faculty and staff in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department is top-notch; otherwise, our graduate program would not be ranked among the top 15 in the nation. Accidents happen. Research also happens. It might be one of our organic or biochemists who discovers a cure to bail your stupid ass out of a self-inflicted medical emergency one day -- you never know. One thing's for sure: We don't need a reactionary, half-assed writer making policy for us when it comes to our safety. We pay our taxes, our bloated rents, and deal with our ever-increasingly congested city just as much as y'all do. If our elected officials are making policy that you don't agree with, take it up with them at the polls. Do not call for the endangerment of family, friends, and coworkers as a "rider" on the usual anti-Moffett ticket. Get a different cause.
Todd J. Minehardt
A Modest Consultant
Reading "Naked City" in the Chronicle always leaves one feeling more informed of the rumblings and shakings of our elected and appointed leaders. In addition, it leaves one feeling as though one can do anything. In this spirit, I have decided to hire myself to the city as a "consultant" (I thought that by hiring myself, I would save Mr. Garza the trouble of having to hire another consultant himself).
What did I discover? The Lamar Street bridge is very crowded. Using different approaches, I discovered that whether I was in my car (gritting my teeth), on my bicycle (fearing for my life) or on the sidewalk (feeling claustrophobic), I discovered that it was still crowded. I also discovered that it was especially crowded during rush hour.
Feeling rather sure of my findings, I would like to offer the following suggestions to ease the traffic problem:
1. Tell Motorola, Samsung, AMD, and their ilk to take their businesses elsewhere.
2. Do the same for the new Whole Foods/BookPeople Cathedral and the monstrosity it has spawned next to it.
3. Tell people to stop moving into Austin.
Should the City decide to not pursue these options, my only other suggestion would be to build a new bridge.
Granted, the current one is an aesthetic marvel of concrete that can only be compared to other marvels such as those that grace fine metropolises such as Gary, Indiana; Erie, Pennsylvania; and Youngstown, Ohio. Its "historic" designation compares only to that of the big sombrero building on the Drag. Such architectural marvels are meant to live forever!
Therefore, the city will need to find alternatives. Ferries or pontoon bridges should be considered, or possibly an aerial tramway.
Whatever the case, I feel as though my job is complete. I will be sure to bill the city accordingly.
Willy Pat Krishock
Make Us Work for It
Both [Amy] Smith's article ["Co-opting Wheatsville," Vol. 16, No. 10] and the Co-op itself sadly fail to recognize the fundamental purpose of cooperative food stores. At their core, cooperatives are not about being "counter-cultural" or making political stands through food. While these things have a place in cooperative enterprises, the central purpose of co-ops is to provide good, cheap food. Wheatsville's current troubles clearly stem from the fact that they now face competitors who surpass them on both accounts. If you were to ask Austinites to name their town's "trendy gourmet and natural foods supermarket" (an epithet Smith applies to a Wheatsville competitor), Wheatsville would be as good an answer as Central Market or Whole Foods. I myself know many people who support the idea of cooperatives, but do not shop at Wheatsville because they cannot afford it. Wheatsville makes no effort to utilize the collective labor of its members and does not provide the benefits of lower food prices and community cohesion that collective work yields. Consequently, Wheatsville excludes the very people that cooperatives should benefit -- those who want good, cheap food and who are willing to work for it! As a Wheatsville member, I do not feel like a part-owner of the store, nor do I have any effective channels for participating in its organization or maintenance. Voting for a board of directors or submitting an occasional written comment to the staff are hardly adequate tools for democratic participation. Nor do these methods give Wheatsville's management any way to gauge the sentiments of its membership. If Wheatsville wants to survive as a co-op, I suggest they become one in a truer sense of the word. Rather than searching out a new market "niche," they should restructure their store to include cooperative work structures and cooperatively minded people.
Kinks Appreciation Society
I enjoyed your article on the Kinks ["The Li'l Green Aggravation Society," Vol. 16, No. 11]. As an ex-Austinite, founding member of the Skunks, and unrepentant Kinks fan, it's good to see people in Austin still appreciate the Kinks. Keep up the good work.
She's Kinky too,
I hate it when this happens. Okay, so how come Tim Stegall ["The Li'l Green Aggravation Society," Vol. 16, No. 11] didn't ask me anything about the group I was in for the better part of a year in the Seventies? I, Maryann Price, toured and recorded on the album Preservation Act II with those guys... Check it out. C'mon, guys, I know I crossed fools' hill a while back, but so did Ray.
Love n' Kisses,
Methyl, er I mean Maryann Price, you fools!
Chuy on This
As a native Austinite who grew up in (and worked for) a few Tex-Mex restaurants over the last couple of decades, I can honestly say that absolutely none of the six restaurants that your readers selected in the "Best Tex-Mex" category ["Restaurant Poll," Vol. 16, No. 11] would even be in my Top 20. Tell your readers to quit missing out on some exquisite food and try going East of I-35 sometime. If you want a great plate of enchiladas, try the $4.50 lunch special Fridays at Tio Tito's. As for Best Interior Mexican, one plate full of carne asada at East Seventh Street's Los Comales will change their tunes fast. If Chuy's is their idea of good Mexican food, they might as well also vote for Taco Bell. It's a telltale sign that most of your readers are missing the boat (or somebody is stuffin' the ballot box).
Assistant Editor, Hispanic Magazine
Apples & Oranges
After talking to your film editor Marge Baumgarten about the movie review The LoveMaster received [Vol. 16, No. 10], I just had to write.
I saw the movie at the Lakehills and noticed two things; 1) Everybody in the theater was howling. Continuously. Wiping their eyes that only a seasoned comic genius could evoke. And 2) There were a few personalities from Austin in the movie.
I went home and opened the Chronicle and read the review (by Alison Macor I might add parenthetically) to find out who those Austinites were. She never mentioned the Austin connection and to my surprise -- she gave the movie a bomb. Couldn't believe it. The first movie with an Austin touch that I liked and it gets a big thumbs down by the Chronicle.
In Macor's review she states that she went to Craig Shoemaker's The LoveMaster thinking she was going to see "an engrossing full-length feature film" which says right off she did no research before seeing the film. It's like she's comparing his work to Tom Hanks' or Martin Scorsese's! She even admits thinking very few comedians can make it in the movies! At one point in her review she struggles to find a trace of the "Hollywood formula" and completely fails to mention Shoemaker's incredible knack for imitating everybody from Mayberry, in slow motion, on drugs having sex.
Why the Chronicle would send a person who doesn't like stand-up comedy in the spirit of Pryor or Murphy to see The LoveMaster is bothering. That would be like sending Julia Child in to critique Threadgill's (#2 on your best restaurant list). Or like comparing El Mariachi to Gone With the Wind. Apples and oranges even come to mind.
I called Marge Baumgarten and got essentially the same review for the same reasons. Who knows, they probably went to see it together.
Bad Journalist! Bad! Bad!
In regard to your review of the new Tobin Sprout record [Vol. 16, No. 11], I would like to make a couple of comments. I am confused by your description of the artist as "the dreadlocked Angus Young wannabe."
First off, Tobin to my knowledge has never had dreadlocks, apparent in the CD and album photo, as well as seeing him live with Guided by Voices in the last year. The Angus Young comparison confused me a little as well. Where did you get that from? Not the press kit, I hope.
If anything, I think you are describing Mitch Mitchell, the tattooed, long haired (maybe dreadlocked) guitar player in GbV. I could see that being an oversight. Perhaps the press kit had a name under the wrong face. This is not meant to be picky; I am tired of sloppy journalism, especially in the vein of music.
There is such crap out there, as you well know, and when a completely unpretentious musician or band gets slagged unfairly, it could mean somebody that might dig a certain artist or band, may read a review such as this and not give it an objective listen based on misinformation.
In summation, Tobin Sprout is definitely not a wannabe of Angus Young, Paul McCartney maybe, but not that other guy. I would never argue your opinion of the music on the record because it is your opinion, but the misinformation is another story. Bad journalism!
Thank you for your time,
M. Savage Hollister
From the Home Office
Alas, the time has come again to submit to South by Southwest, and as I sit here in my new home in Minneapolis, I have to stop and wonder what better use I could put that $20 to. So here goes: Top Ten other uses for the (late) SXSW entry fee of $20.
10. Six sets of guitar strings at South Austin Music (I think they still have that "three sets for $10" deal)
9. 400 flyers at Kinko's (at 5cents a copy) --that's a lot of publicity
8. Six issues of Rolling Stone, and I could paste my own picture on the cover
7. 100 20cents stamps, which I could use to send out cards to every record label saying "Sign me, I'm real good"
6. 10 days worth of breakfast tacos at Tamale House, if I were still living there
5. Could call David Geffen personally (this accounts for the number of times I would have to call, plus the time I would be put on hold)
4. One-sixteenth of an inch of ad space in the SXSW guidebook
3. One "crazy" night in a Motel 6 (a cheap one)
2. Start a subscription to Music City Texas (not)
1. Three words: Pay-per-view.
First Comes Winik
What gives with Messieurs Graham and Standiford regarding Ms. Winik's piece ["Liquid Muse," Vol. 16, No. 8]? I for one appreciate her shamanistic bent, willing, as she is, to fantasize a little with art and life. Since when was it taboo to ramble in public? One assumes the subjects of alcohol and writing may be too volatile a combination for these gentlemen and thus the rest of the Chronicle readers should be spared such "blasphemy." I'm wondering what pray tell is the breadth and scope of Graham and Standiford's collective opuses. Frankly, a vicarious romp on Winik's heels is what captivates many of us who are apparently more plebeian in our tastes. So she gets Venice mixed up with Spain, grander errors have been made by men of letters. So she discusses Hemingway and Fitzgerald. If this is an inherent comparison, perhaps we should all refrain such sacrosanct meanderings because we are unworthy.
Truth be told, some folks are just a little uneasy with Ms. Winik's personal disclosures and perhaps a little too impatient with her growth as a writer (again, I'm waiting for Messieurs Graham and Standiford's work). But this ground's been covered more adeptly by Sandra Cisneros in the Texas Observer. To the critics I say fuck you -- read the food column where culinary discourse should hold little potential for blasphemy. Winik's melting mascara, nascent letters, and occasional stumbles are the guts of life, fellows. It may be messy and not up to your collective standards, but then you'll always have Ernest and Scott to bury your nose in. Had they shied away from imperfect disclosure you'd have much less lofty prose to cite.