Regarding "Billy Clayton's Flying Circus" (Vol. 16, No. 20), it is naïve to demonize Austin general aviation pilots as fat cats and jet-setters. Less than half of us are aircraft owners; many rent or instruct or barter for training, or chauffeur the fat cats around. You'd be amazed at our salaries.
"It's a rich man's sport and a poor man's profession" -- an old saw, and true. Ask a flight instructor, a charter pilot, a leaseback owner struggling to afford a small airplane. For those who recruit, equip, and train America's future commercial and recreational pilots, it's hand-to-mouth barnstorming in restricted airspace. So why do we do it? For love. And it's the only civilian path to an airline job.
The move to Bergstrom will push some of us out of aviation and many others to Austin Executive Airpark, whose uncontrolled, already crowded pattern is surrounded by burgeoning residential development. Witness the Parmer extension underway a half mile south of the single runway. While city and state crouch and hiss, new hangar construction is at a standstill. Our protests arise far less from Exec's location than from matters of present and future space, cost, safety, and neighbor relations. Some of this sound familiar?
Flying is as wholesome as apple pie and as archetypal as the ancient myths. It's a frontier, a reservoir of misty-eyed wonder and delight. Snicker and strafe that romanticism with PC zeal, but it is still so. It was more accessible to the average person before the advent of oil price-fixing and outrageous liability claims and yes, a wad of safety-related federal regulations. Private pilots are a dwindling species nationwide, vulnerable to the downside of expanding urban life. You evoke a world where only the wealthy get to fly; do you want to see it happen?
We've been cast as an everpresent shadow over folks on the ground (the 1-17 issue cover is classic) because, sadly, an occasional pilot is bitten by misfortune or stupidity in the air. You may not know that the rest of us review those accidents with unrelenting honesty. We're far safer and more conscientious than the I-35 crowd to whom Austinites habitually consign their frustrations and their fates.
For 10 years I've lived on the flight path in an old and humble neighborhood. I used to hate airplanes. Before I changed my mind, I cynically opined that San Antonio would be a good location for Austin's new airport. That's the sort of self-interest you obviously understand. The city has long expected general aviation to retreat to Executive, and in violation of the spirit (at least) of federal funding for the move to Bergstrom, it is making the new municipal airport GA-unfriendly. The Pooling Board raised a stink about its dubious new digs and is negotiating a better deal, they've gotten the city's attention, which the less privileged in the GA community have failed to do. Do we welcome the local support? You betcha.
Manager, Bell Flight Training
I object to the dumb article, "Billy Clayton's Flying Circus" by Mike Clark-Madison, in the January 17 issue of The Austin Chronicle (Vol. 16, No. 20). The reasoning in this article is so sloppy that I cannot possibly address all the fallacious points that were raised. Let me just say that I am a private pilot and have an airplane (Mooney) at Mueller. I plan to do a lot of instrument flying, so it is important to me to be based at an airport equipped with ILS (Instrument Landing System). This means that I can base my airplane at Mueller, Bergstrom, or San Marcos. San Marcos is pretty far away and I would prefer a closer location. The trouble with Bergstrom is that it is a real pain, and perhaps even dangerous, to have to take off and land a small plane in between big jets. The approach speed for the jets is a lot faster than for small planes, making it a nightmare for the controllers to sequence the planes, and there is also the danger of wake turbulence. Since there are going to be a lot of jumbo jets flying out of Bergstrom, it would be better to have a separate airport for general aviation and small business jets. Austin is a rapidly growing city, and I am sure that there would be enough general aviation, business, charter, and military use of Mueller to justify keeping it open. Mueller has always existed to serve all varieties of aviation interests, not just the airlines and some elite clique of rich "political fat-cats" and "hobbyists" (as the author of the article imagines). I think Mueller should stay open so that it can continue to serve all of the aviation community, minus most of the airlines (which can move to Bergstrom).
Your paper is just as Western-oriented and Eurocentric as the daily. Not one of Robert Bryce's Top Ten Environs of 1996 [Vol. 16, No. 19] addressed issues concerning other parts of town. What about the Onion Creek flood plain in southeast Austin? How about PODER's fight to have more public involvement with ATS funding and projects? And what about my favorite subject, freeway drainage tunnels in south-central and southeast Austin? Addressing issues related to the aquifer and Barton Springs is important, but other issues also need attention.
Only $15 million of the $114 million needed to construct the Ben White/IH-35 interchange has been funded, with no additional funding available until 2001 and final funding possibly not available for 10 more years. Yet this initial small percentage of funding is for construction that will tie all additional funding ($100 million) into a design that has had no public scrutiny. We are about to be stuck with another excavated underpass and this one includes a 96-foot-deep, 15-foot-wide, mile-long drainage tunnel! But the Chronicle obviously does not have time for issues concerning Williamson Creek and McKinney Falls State Park.
Gallery of Ideas
Just read through y'all's Top 10 lists for 1996. Couldn't help but notice that -- once again -- Wild About Music, the distinctly New-Austin, new, fine arts gallery on West Sixth Street has been left off of Cari Marshall's list of new galleries opening in 1996. This is just the latest (albeit minor) blatant omission by the Chron of our nine galleries of artspace, showcasing over 300 original works of incredible art by more than 50 artists (half from Texas, including legends like Sam Yeates, Guy Juke and Robert Hurst), all on a music theme.
Why? Who knows. One can only imagine. Must be that totally-full-of-its-own-hype "Austin Factor" once again. That is, if you haven't struggled on the local scene for a minimum of 10 years (20 preferrably), at an absolute poverty-or-less level, and developed a frothingly-rabid following among tattooed mongrel potheads, your efforts simply cannot be deemed worthy.
Coming up on our first anniversary (at SXSW time) with this globally unique concept, the Chronicle has suckcessfully managed to ignore our every existence throughout the past year. Clearly none of your own staff must read your rag; otherwise they might have at least stumbled across our ads (since they obviously don't travel to our "upscale" part of downtown, here, directly across from ATC/MHMR). Clearly you are unaware of our pioneering efforts to help revitalize some dead blocks of our neck of the central city by laboring to package underpromoted cool areas via group advertising efforts in your pages like "The Best of the West End" (thanks for all your help, Carolyn P.!), replicated shortly thereafter by your financially opportunistic ad sales staff with similar Fourth & Colorado and South Congress "area/neighborhood" themes.
Hey, it's okay, though, kids. Honest. If we were "honored" with the Chronicle's acknowledgement of Wild About Music's existence, we'd likely fear that somehow we'd slipped into the realm of the hopeless slacker's sphere of prosp... er, disparity.
Wild About Music
The Real Problem at Pease
I'm as cynical as the rest of us, but to read that the City Council is spending any amount of time debating a lengthened driveway in Pease Park astounded me ("Council Watch," Vol. 16, No. 20). I consider the single identifying characteristic of Pease Park to be the sexual activity that occurs in the park's bathrooms during daylight hours. This occurs not "at night" nor in "secluded enclaves," as de Marban states, but 50 yards away from where children are riding bikes and having picnics with their families. On any mild-weather day your readers can drive to the bathrooms at the south end of Pease Park and count eight or more parked cars with a lone man at each wheel, waiting for his turn.
As a nanny, I used to take the children to Pease Park until someone warned me not to let the little boy go into the men's restroom. I'm sure it would make former Gov. Pease sick to know what his namesake is being used for. I don't care about these men's sex lives. I care about the fact that it's done in a public park used by families and children. It makes me sick that our city government is spending more time worrying about a driveway than about Pease Park's real problem.
Greed & Callousness
It's too bad that the economic success that the Chronicle has received in the past few years has gone to your collective heads. I can live with adult advertising under the guise of First Amendment rights, and that the first seven odd-numbered pages are full-page ads, but the full-color inserts are an insult. I know others have written in before me, but obviously you don't realize how many people you piss off with these things. It screams of greed and carelessness. True, your writing might be better, but your methods reek of all that you seemingly rail against.
Ahh, what's the point...
Grain of Sex
This is in response to Cheryl Dragel's letter to the editor ("Get Rid of Sex Ads," Vol. 16, No. 20): If everything that is found to be "offensive" (oooh) were to be "gotten rid of"... we might as well give up the right to read, watch television, see movies, look up, etc. I didn't read anything in her letter about the ads that portray men in the exact same ways... implants and all. As disgusted as Cheryl might be, I am more disgusted with these people that can't lighten up and take our First Amendment with a grain of salt and everything it protects, such as sex ads.
In reference to Cheryl Dragel's desire for "renewed debate" on the ads for gentlemen's entertainment ("Postmarks," Vol. 16, No. 20) -- Cheryl, get a life.
Dear Mr. Black:
The Max Factor
I have to agree with Linda Curtis' letter this week ("Postmarks," Vol. 16, No. 20). While Max may not win the election, he is at least a constant reminder, a campaign barometer if you will, that Mr. Watson and Mr. Reynolds are not interested in any sort of campaign finance reform. This issue, which is arguably the most important political issue right now, is at a critical juncture. If we wave away Mr. Nofziger, we are waving bye-bye to any real reform. I'm not saying that he is a political knight in shining armor, just that he is the one non-politico running.
The founders of our country intended there to be many political parties, not just two. A system that recognizes only two candidates is looking for trouble. Two candidates create a war, they battle, but with three or more, it becomes an exchange of ideas. Max is putting the idea of true campaign finance reform into the field, and we as educated voters should recognize that. As for divisiveness (Max taking votes from Kirk), I am damned tired of choosing the lesser of two evils. Because special interests control politics, we typically have a choice between two fat-cat-backed cronies.
If 20 people ran for office each with the same budget, you'd sure see a lot more of the candidates at your doors than at $1,000-a-plate dinners. Instead of knocking Max for taking away votes from Kirk Watson, we should be finding other candidates to run, and make it a real campaign, Texas-style.
Today I received my City of Austin utility bill complete with a yellow flyer outlining the terms of the Recycle or Pay program (with a non-valid telephone number listed).
As I understand it, from originally receiving a twice-a-week pick up I moved to what is, in essence, a once-a-week pick up with yard trash on Monday and kitchen trash on Thursday. Since I have yard trash possibly three times a year, I have been paying more for less service.
Now I am being asked to pay even more for less service.
The flyer suggested that I recycle. I do -- and have since the recycle program began -- all paper printed on one side goes to the local elementary school; cans, bottles, plastic bottles, and acceptable paper and cardboard go to the curb for Thursday pickup; vegetable waste goes into the compost pile to be used in the garden. If there were a legal and acceptable way to recycle the wash water for use in watering the lawn and irrigating the garden, I would do that as well.
I have no need for a commercial waste account since I have plenty of room for material in the now-empty Monday can.
I am over 60, on a static and limited income, and resent this new imposition of charges. I feel that the previous assessments were more than adequate to cover the "service" provided. Surely I cannot be the only one in this position and thus concerned. I have no quarrel with the employees who cover my street; in fact, find them hard-working, helpful, and cooperative.
Letters to the Editor:
Religion Caused More Atrocities
Regarding Ken Kennedy's letter, ("Postmarks," Vol. 16, No. 19), which comments on an earlier letter about atheists:
How can you claim to respect agnostics, yet be so absolutely naïve to assert that atheism has caused "atrocities far surpassing those caused by all religious hysteria?" Atheism is a religious philosophy! It's defined by the amount of belief in God (religion) it embraces, which is none. Whoever struggles against it must be religious. Therefore, all atrocities "caused" by atheism are caused by a conflict in religious philosophy. Further atrocities have been committed in conflicts between other types of religions, making the number of atrocities "caused by all religious hysteria" actually outnumber those caused by atheism alone. It's just sometimes the heathens won, sometimes they didn't.
I found Ken Kennedy's analysis in "Atheist Zealots" (Vol. 16, No. 19) more "laughable" than the letter he criticizes, which I agree with him was a little silly. But Ken, c'mon, you criticize Kelly for being "ludicrous," and in the same breath claim about atheism that "the social application of which (in Russia, China, Cambodia, etc.) has produced atrocities far surpassing those caused by all religious hysteria." Ken, that statement is ludicrous in more ways than one. Religious warring over the history of humanity has produced a magnitude of atrocities the likes of which Russia, China, and Cambodia combined do not even begin to compare. I do not mean to imply that China, Russia, and Cambodia have not committed horrible crimes in great volume against humanity, but your analysis is way off base. Also, the atrocities committed by Russia, China, and Cambodia did and do not stem solely from a view on the nature of creation. It is a little more complex than that. Finally, to claim that atheism is "at best, an arrogant assertion," is a very sorry attempt at logic. Like the letter you criticize, you resort to empty statements of no credible value, either logically or historically. I suggest you read a little more and have a little humility, then come back to the table. Atheism, atrocities against humanity, and the like are important issues, that need lots of thoughtful analysis (right here at home too!).
Sue Criminals, Not Owners
As a homeowner, I am concerned about people who sue landowners and private property owners just because a crime occurs on that property.
It is high time we make those responsible for the crime pay the costs, not the innocent store owner. Unless the store owner knew there were problems and then didn't do anything about it, should he be held responsible?
We need to give judges more authority to dismiss people from meritless lawsuits before they have to spend a life's savings in legal fees. Either that, or we can fine those attorneys who sue everyone first and ask questions later.
This is an issue that will be addressed this next legislative session. I suggest you write our elected officials if you are interested.
This Is God's Country, Son
I've learned long ago that to be silent when a lie is told is to give tacit approval, affirmation, of the lie.
So when I read Howard Thompson's letter ("Postmarks," Vol. 16, No. 18), containing deliberate falsehoods, I was compelled to respond.
Thompson wrongfully states that our Founding Fathers formed a secular government deliberately, without reference to the supernatural, and our Constitution cites, "We the People" as the only source of authority.
Has Howard ever looked at the Declaration of Independence? Therein he would find statements that:
I. We must return to the laws of nature and nature's God.
II. We have a Creator who blessed us with life, liberty, and...
III. There are 30 reasons we needed dependence on God's law.
IV. Emphasizes the power of prayer to the Supreme Judge of the world.
V. There is a need for a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.
George Washington wrote, "the propitious, (favorable), smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation which disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained."
There are many more examples that our Founding Fathers had a deep respect for God and they placed our nation in His hands.
Style, Zeal, & the Cosmos
Reading "Postmarks" weekly, I am always struck by the large number of intelligent, informed, witty, and passionate residents in the Austin area. Michael Ventura (whom, I suppose, doesn't hail from here) continues to astound me with his depth of style and zeal, although our world views are polar.
I can appreciate very well the position of anti-religionists; and they are not alone among Americans who will never elect a televangelist to the Presidency, because only a tiny fraction of folks, even among Fundamentalists, want our government to be a theocracy.
"Sixty-eight million" lives lost to Christian repression is horrendous, no less so because hundreds of millions of murders were committed by Stalin and Chairman Mao in pursuit of a materialistic ideal. In reality, the latter were more significant in terms of sheer numbers of casualties and threat to democracy, but in principle, the atrocities of a "Christian" Hitler are more tragic due to the score of their hypocrisy. However, Hitler, who could more accurately be described as an Anti-Christ than a Christian, was motivated by culture, not theology.
Union of church and state entails a leader establishing a national religion and dictating adherence to its tenets. An invocation before a City Council meeting (which I do not endorse) does not meet that criterion, and was not an attempt to repress, bring to salvation, or alter the beliefs of Ms. Von Houser, Howard Thompson, or the hysterical David Kent. I believe a majority of Americans would not tolerate a law which "harshly punished" atheists (or Moslems) en masse.
Pointing out the arrogance of definitively declaring dumb matter to be the cause of human consciousness is not slander; suggesting that most atheists are as intolerant as some Christian zealots is not slanderous, hostile, or misleading, as Mr. Kent and Mr. Thomas have claimed.
Because Carl Sagan was a great thinker and pop astronomer of our time, I hope he was mistaken about his own lack of a soul, and that his mind is yet self-aware and pondering in awe the mysteries of this cosmos and its cause. I fail to see how this is such a malevolent human aspiration.
Suffering Makes Them Jolly
The jail overcrowding, abuse of suspects, and unnecessary expense for taxpayers ("Jailhouse Blues," The Austin Chronicle, Vol. 16, No. 20) could be avoided by arresting officers issuing citations for nonviolent offenses instead of carrying everyone to jail. Even those non-matching sandals cost money.
The law requires that a person being arrested be brought before a magistrate without unnecessary delay. If the arrest occurs after the magistrates have all gone home, then holding the miscreants overnight is "without unnecessary delay."
Another trick is to obtain a warrant from a minor magistrate, hold it off the computer so a lawyer cannot locate it, and serve it late Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend to insure that the culprit spends the weekend in jail.
According to the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics, an officer's fundamental duty is to serve mankind; to safeguard lives and property; etc., and most of them abide by that. But, we have a few who get their jollies from making people suffer.
Dear Mr. Black,
& Better in Bed
I've got a few ideas on how we might possibly live with this new bike helmet law. First let me say that I've been cycling in this city for over 10 years; not only for enjoyment, but also as a necessary form of transportation, so I feel that I can throw in my qualified two-cents. In fact, I don't even have a driver's license.
From my point of view, it is indeed a jungle out there, but I'm still here to tell about it. Why? Because I'm cautious and ignore every bicycle helmet law implemented for my safety. Ride in the road with oncoming traffic? Nay, stay on the sidewalk. Anybody dumb enough to get onto a highway and hold up traffic in the right lane truly deserves to get mangled... and run over a few times for good measure. I would never presume that people in cars are interested in my well-being, and consider myself wholly responsible for my own actions. That's why I don't need a bunch of overfed, out-of-shape hypocrites telling me to wear a helmet. Now, if Bruce Todd decides to go shredding some hills on his beautiful red Shimano dirt bike after a tough day at the Headliner's club, I would guess he could stand a little protection. Or if Ronny Reynolds decides to haul out that 20-speed touring racer and knock out an easy 120 miles in under five hours, some fiberglass to cradle his delicate thinking cap could be just the ticket. The point is, these people should wear a helmet... if they want to.
So, let's take this ridiculous law even further to make things really stupid. Let's make it mandatory for every able-bodied citizen to ride a bicycle and ban all cars from the city limits. Only natural gas vehicles maintained by the city would be allowed to operate. Think of the possibilities; instead of standing around pointing radar guns at fat little yuppies in BMW's, our police force could be out there pointing real guns at murderers, rapists, and developers. DWI? A scourge of the past. Believe me, cycling drunk is not easy. The first hill will take the wind out of you so bad, that you'll just fall over on your side and go to sleep. Stress levels associated with driving in congested traffic would diminish, making people happier, healthier, and better in bed. Folks could actually see the city from their $200,000 homes sitting on the aquifer instead of the smoggy mess it is now.
Come to think of it, the only way I'd wear a helmet would be if people that drive cars now started to ride bicycles tomorrow... it could get real dangerous.