You are either very ignorant, or you wish to willfully mislead your readers about my record as a city councilmember. You decry my "sad record" and lack of leadership, but you fail to be specific.
The fact is, I have an excellent record of accomplishment and leadership, and I am pleased to point out several specific examples: I was the only councilmember to support the S.O.S. ordinance and campaign for its passage. I took the lead in reviving our busted economy of the late Eighties; moving the airport to Bergstrom; building the convention center; shutting down the trash burner and providing city-wide curbside recycling; revitalizing downtown; renewing our franchise agreement with Time-Warner; putting endangered species on the local agenda for the first time; providing the first money for child-care facilities; leading the effort to provide more funding for police, fire, and EMS at budget time.
I was the champion of the arts in Austin on the council, including creation of, and funding for, the music industry loan program. I've provided leadership on countless environmental initiatives in Austin, which was honored as the only North American city to be recognized at the Rio de Janeiro earth summit. I conceived of and passed through council the non-degradation policy and ordinance that sparked the S.O.S. movement.
I have the best record of anyone in the city on electric utility issues over the last 18 years.
These are a few of the specific issues that I have provided leadership on during my tenure. Maybe you folks could have done better, but it's certainly easier to criticize and complain than it is to actually enact policy.
You should "show some respect for the democratic process and the Austin voters" (Louis's words), the ones who elected me three times, who gave me more than 52,000 votes in 1993, more than any white male has received in the history of Austin. Do you think those citizens would have given me that overwhelming support if I hadn't accomplished anything in office?
And give your own readers some respect. Would they have repeatedly selected me as "Best Councilmember" if I had a "sad record," as you lamely claim? Of course not! They know that I've been an effective leader on their behalf.
I invite you to a public meeting, perhaps on ACAC, where we can discuss my record and your misperceptions. Come prepared to back up your broad, erroneous assertions with specifics.
I'll be pleased... and very able... to defend my excellent record.
Zuniga Can Make
I am disappointed in your treatment of my father, Manuel Zuniga, who is running for the Austin City Council, Place 5.
My father was born to poor, Mexican immigrants who came to this country to be household help. Dad didn't learn English until he was in the first grade. Nothing came easily for him -- or very quickly. Our family cut lawns when I was in high school so that we could pay the bills (I'm 25 now). He knows what it's like to have a large family on a tight budget. Frankly, that's what I think makes him qualified to be on the city council; he pinched his pennies so that he would be prepared when his ship came in.
I agree that dad is not a polished politician, but I don't think that's the most important issue to look at. Austin would rather have a city councilman who can be fiscally responsible and make things happen, rather than the number of professional talkers who are running against my father.
It is unfair, and untrue, to portray my dad as out of touch. It is inaccurate to insinuate that my dad's character is suspect. It is a lie to say that dad advocated selling the parks and public libraries. Please be more careful.
[Editor's note: The Chronicle has never reported that Zuniga advocated selling the parks and public libraries.]
She's Got the Lena
Seal of Approval
It was with disbelief that I read your "double endorsement" that included Bobbie Enriquez for Place 5. Isn't she the woman who lied on a city application? I believe that her lie concerned her academic credentials. After reading countless times about what a low-life Lena Guerrero was for lying about her own academic credentials (in this very paper!), it seems surprising that the Chronicle now shrugs off such a poor show of judgement.
As for her being "capable, caring, and competent," did you decide that before or after she distributed her campaign flyers? Using other people's photos without authorization, especially on campaign material, is another incredibly poor use of judgement.
I do not know Bobbie Enriquez. However, from the few things I do know about her, I do not think the city council is a good place for her talents. Perhaps they are hiring at the Railroad Commission.
Willy Pat Krishock
[Editor's note: For more information on Enriquez's resumé embillishments, see "Naked City" in the Chronicle's March 21 issue.]
The Statesman's "We don't like him but he's better than that conservative" endorsement failed to mention another foible -- he promised not to run this time.
While looking in the American-Statesman archives, an interesting article popped up. On Feb. 24th, 1994, Bob Banta wrote an article entitled "Garcia Seeks Re-election, Vows it Will Be Last Term".
Here is the quote Garcia gave at the time: "When I first ran for the council in 1991, I did it on the understanding that I would not serve more than six years," he said. "If the voters will allow me this last term, I won't run again for the council."
This seems like a pretty clearly worded promise. It also looks like it has been broken.
Funny how the American-Statesman has not brought this up in any of their current coverage of the race. I guess they don't ever read their own back issues.
Round Rock is struggling once again to keep fundamentalists away from its public schools. If book bannings are not your idea of "extra curricular" school activities than please support Steve Copenhaver and Brig Mireles with Advocates for Public Schools. And though Brig Mireles appears to be running unopposed, he is not. A stealth candidate is being offered by the right-wingers.
Anti-Mitchell in East Austin
I join many African-Americans who live east of I-35 in applauding your paper for your endorsement of Willie Lewis over Eric Mitchell. As you know, I planned to run against Mitchell, but was unable because of some business problems that were far less severe than those reported about Mitchell in your paper. Mitchell and his cronies' propensity to refer to those who opposed many of his half-baked ideas as "wanting someone they can lead around" is ludicrous. The best example of wasting money on a half-baked idea is the spending of $9 million (CDBG money that was aimed to aid poor people) on an entertainment center that will never work at the proposed location. You could build 180 $50,000 houses with $9 million!
You were right on target when you said that Mitchell refers to those who disagree with him as "racist or liars." Mitchell is the real liar, and anyone who votes for Mitchell can safely be called a "racist" because they will be sending such a disgrace to African-Americans (and all of Austin) back to the council for three more years.
Dear Austin Chronicle:
Know Your Helmet Head
What does it say about our priorities as a society when you can carry a concealed handgun in public and will soon be able to ride a motorcycle 70mph without a helmet, but if you jump on your bike to ride to the corner store for a loaf of bread you are a criminal? Studies have shown that bicycle helmet laws decrease ridership by as much as 30%. Do we as a society consider bicycle riding something that we want to discourage?
I have enjoyed riding a bike and feeling the wind in my hair for about 45 years now. I always considered it to be an innocent and even beneficial activity. It is now a criminal one. I am not against helmets, but I can decide for myself when I need one and when I don't. I believe that as the sheer volume of laws increases to the point where the average citizen doesn't know what is legal and what is not, they begin to lose respect for the law and the police. Capricious laws like this one speed the process.
Do all you bicycle riders and environmentalists out there who are supporting Kirk Watson know that he is in favor of the bicycle helmet law? Max Nofziger has pledged to work against it.
Robert P. Justman
Dear Austin Chronicle:
Reynolds Has a Dream
Louis Black and others have commented that Ronney Reynolds lacks vision. I beg to differ.
Ronney Reynolds has a dream. In his dream, the entire surface area of Austin is covered by elevated 12-lane super-highways carrying people back and forth from their gated, suburban Republican communities (militia membership optional, but encouraged). In the center of this massive tangle of roads sits Emperor Reynolds, surrounded by throngs of heavily tithing lobbyists. Everyone else, the slackers, the musicians, the artists, the blacks, the Hispanics, the blue collar workers, all live in hovels beneath the elevated super-highways, working for a city-mandated standard wage of $2 per hour. Everyone who walks or rides a bicycle will be required to wear the official cardboard Reynolds' Chapeau safety helmet, on sale at council chambers for a mere $4999.00. (The Reynolds' Chapeau used to be made out of styrofoam, but rising costs forced the switch to cardboard. It's a public safety thing -- you wouldn't understand.) Of course public transportation will shut down, since it doesn't really benefit the suburban commuters that much.
If you share this vision with Ronney, then you need do nothing; i.e., the RECA and their brainless lackeys will take care of everything for you. If you don't share this vision, then maybe you better get off your butt and vote in the May 3 election. Vote for someone who doesn't believe that the solution to every transportation problem is to build another highway through Austin's neighborhoods. Vote for someone who doesn't think that the only good salamander is a dead one. Vote for someone who doesn't look at Austin's undeveloped hill country with visions of acres and acres of tract housing, strip malls, and 7-Elevens.
If you don't vote, don't complain to us when suburbanites drop spent Happy Meal containers on your head while speeding by in their minivans as you trudge off to your $2/hour job wearing a $5,000 cardboard beanie. Then again, perhaps you won't mind. For as his Excellency Chairman Reynolds will tell us years from now, carbon monoxide is the opiate of the masses.
Black Cowboy Reading
Jesse Sublett's review of The Devil's Red Nickel in the previous issue [Vol. 16, No. 32] had a particular appeal to me. It's good to see black folks -- any folks, for that matter -- come together and have a good time, even if it's only fiction. Author Robert Greer explained his effort by saying: "I wanted black cowboys and black ranchers in my novels because they existed and because they were important in the history of this country." I fully endorse that point of view.
To that point, I recommend that folks who wish to explore the non-fictional portrayal of African Americans in the West that Hollywood made famous can check out The Negro Cowboys by Philip Durham and Everett L. Jones, an older tome about the true Western times. More recently, Professor of Diversity, William Loren Katz, has produced several titles that are easy to read and enjoy: The Black West; Black Indians; and Black Women of the Old West.
A cultural navigator,
I Trust Your Reviewers
About your reviewer that gave Waiting for Guffman only two and a half stars. Did the reviewer see the same picture I did? Yes, maybe Christopher Guest was a little broad, though nearly always believable, and maybe this movie was occasionally skit-like, but it was completely engaging, or so I've found over two viewings, as the audience seemed to find each time. I trust your reviewers no more.
Russell Smith's critique of the movie Selena was off the mark. He does not realize what this means to Selena's fans. Jennifer Lopez accomplished the impossible. You could see Selena's spirit living in her. Gregory Nava, the director of Mi Familia and El Norte, has done an excellent job again. The cast, which includes Jennifer Lopez and Edward James Olmos (who also starred as the brilliant teacher in Stand and Deliver) does a great job. Abraham is depicted as the obsessed father who wants to live his dreams through his daughter (Selena) and the band, Los Dinos. He was portrayed well as the iron-handed manager by Olmos. Yolanda Saldívar, who tragically killed Selena before her 24th birthday, is portrayed in a sympathetic yet realistic way. The great tragedy of Selena's death is downplayed to limit its impact. In spite of this, the movie drove me to tears. Fortunately, the movie ends on an uplifting note. Selena, with her bewitching smile and lovely songs, appears toward the end of the movie. Selena's spirit lives and it will inspire Latinas and Latinos everywhere. Selena, we will never forget you! HHHH
Joe Steve Vera
Dear Austin Chronicle,
Farewell to a Fan
My older son, Jack Minor, age 38, was an avid reader of the Chronicle. He died November 11,1996, after a really hard battle with bile duct cancer. Since being diagnosed in January 1996, his last 10 months were virtually consumed with attempts by him and his doctors to keep him going as long as possible with the best possible quality of life. He and the medical community did a great job. Morphine and some marijuana were a tremendous help. Believe it or not, the Chronicle made a significant contribution. Before Jack became too ill to go to work, he used to pick up two copies of the Chronicle faithfully each Thursday, one for him and one for me. Those who knew Jack knew him as the consummate music fan, maybe even more so when it came to Austin-based music. When he had to stop working, I took on the task of getting our Chronicles each week. Now regrettably, I only get one.
I want to tell you a little about Jack, especially what music did for him last year. There are things I have forgotten, but I remember the highlights. He had a computer and was on the web a great deal networking with other music fans. Van Morrison was one of his heroes, as was Elvis Costello. Jack was invited to go see Van Morrison in New Orleans. He needed tickets and someone in California was advertising a pair to "the highest bidder or the person who had the best story." Jack told the guy his story. He received two free tickets by Fed Ex within a day or two. A friend of Jack's took him to New Orleans and he had a wonderful time. He also saw Bob Dylan. Jack was not one of his bigger fans until this concert. Friends and the people at the Music Hall saw to it that he had a good vantage point, right in front, albeit in a wheelchair. The concert was "the best" concert he had ever been to, and he had been to hundreds. Dylan converted him that night and Jack could tell you in minute detail about all the Dylan's riffs and licks. For the first time he appreciated what a great guitar player he was. Jack was also able to see Elvis Costello here in Austin last summer. There was an Elvis Costello newsgroup on the web that was under the guidance of a very young man, I think from the Midwest. Every one in the group revered the guy and were awestruck with his finesse with new members of the group and his knowledge of Elvis and his work. Then one day his daily postings disappeared from the group suddenly and without explanation. A few weeks later it was reported to the group that he had passed away. Jack was facing his own death, and this really shook him. He wanted to know more, but as far as I know he never got the full story.
Bill Hicks was also often on his mind, and Jack was able to find out more about Bill's ordeal through articles in the Chronicle and one of Bill's very accommodating friends here in Austin. There were many other things. He got to see Teddy Roddy do his Elvis gig at the Continental Club and loved it. Just a few days before he died, he went with his mother and me to see his brother, Paul, do a rare gig of cover tunes at his Sunday Free for All. This was an event that we will always remember. Music certainly meant the world to Jack, as it does Paul, and perhaps we two parents are slowly beginning to understand why. Incidentally, two of Jack's three children will be attending the ARC's Music Camp this summer through the initiative of some wonderful Austin musicians. Thanks Austin music and thanks Chronicle.
Jack Minor, Sr.
The Land Swindle of '97
The proposed agreement between [the] State Aircraft Pooling Board and the City of Austin is a thinly veiled multi-billion dollar ripoff of the citizens of this city. Under this agreement, Austin must buy the state's acreage by an old dump at the hind end of the airport tract for $250K/acre. Then the city must sell the state up to 282 acres for $103K/acre, "sources" suggesting that the acreage would be the terminal and parking lots across from the golf course and 2.5 miles from the Capital complex. This is not a deal. This is a land swindle being perpetrated on the citizens of Austin by city and state elected officials and bureaucrats. It's understandable that Pooling Board bureaucrats have held the Mueller conversion hostage so they could get a sweet deal on their new and upgraded facilities. Now they want to convert almost 40% of what would become a valuable tax revenue producing property in the center of the city to state-owned nontaxable status (at a bargain price, too.) Gus Garcia was quoted as saying that he thinks it fair to everybody and Mayor Todd predicted it would pass unanimously at the April 24th meeting. Have they lost their minds? The people who made this agreement are either fools, thieves, or both, and obviously think the people of Austin are too stupid to know when they are being had.
Austin's air quality control strategy options are currently limited. While we are still under the measurable federal threshold (attainment) for ground-level ozone and other pollutants, this status hinders our area from taking more aggressive regulatory actions, such as a vehicle inspection/maintenance (I/M) program to curb local emissions. Until now, only voluntary control strategies have been implemented in Austin. While many are cost-effective, they will realistically only help to reduce a minor amount of emissions compared to the total.
The costs, both direct and indirect, are often scrutinized when additional environmental regulations are proposed. The health benefits are often not considered in the discussion of so-called "cost-benefit analyses." If cost is the overriding consideration when doing an analysis, then they should be called a "cost analysis." If an analysis is released by a special interest group, conservative or progressive, a declaration should be made about who funded the analysis.
According to an EPA-funded study, for every dollar spent on air pollution reduction measures spent between 1970 and 1990, the resulting human health benefit was equivalent to $40. In general, private sector industry tends to dismiss this type of information because they cannot justify the expense over a monthly or quarterly financial statement, even when their employees benefit.
Austin has the ingredients for long-term air quality challenges, due in large part to sprawling suburban land use and automobile dependency. Air quality regulations are enforced from a federal level and have preyed on unsuspecting cities that have either promoted excessive unplanned growth (Austin region) or who have wedded themselves to highly polluting industries (Houston). These federal regulations take the decision making process away from individuals and give it to prescriptive multi-tiered regulations.
Being an individual and making independent decisions has a prominent place in our local society. It can therefore be difficult for our society to agree on programs which bring only intangible and long-term benefits to our area. When relatively minor fees were imposed locally, such as garbage stickers, there was a significant public outcry against this proposal. I believe this is because the expected benefits are both intangible and long-term. I hope there will not be acrimony between government, businesses, and citizens here, as there was in Houston, when Austin exceeds the federal air quality standard for ozone. New fees will likely be required for an I/M program, reformulated gasoline, and other regulatory programs required by the Federal Clean Air Act.
Local citizens need to develop an understanding that the greatest source of local air pollution comes from emissions of older and/or poorly maintained vehicles, lawnmowers, and outboard engines. These all cost less to buy than newer equipment, but cost society much more in public health costs.
There will be an air quality public hearing on Wednesday, April 30, at 6:30pm at the city council chambers at 307 W. Second St. A wide range of topics will be discussed including the proposed changes to the federal air quality standards. Channel 6 will broadcast the event.
Chair, Air Quality, Austin Sierra Club
The same people who gritch about "No-Growthers" complain about environmental regulation, speed limits, and neighborhood speed bumps. They seem to believe unregulated growth has less negative impact on their personal lives than regulation of growth. They complain about heavy traffic, discourteous drivers, and half-empty buses, but protest light rail and seek to restrain the transit authority from developing the services that would bring a full ridership.
Unregulated growth strains the schools and transit systems (streets and highways), and means more: houses closer together, roads, people using city services, higher taxes, crowded restaurants, crime, traffic, kids in overcrowded schools, trash and pollution, and fewer resources per person at higher prices.
New industries build large concrete complexes, but many or most of the thousands of new jobs go to people transferred in, or who move here looking for work. Higher taxes, prices and rents, higher crime, crumbling public infrastructure, surly urbanites and weary suburbanites, less water and dirtier air and fewer city services at higher fees, are all legacies of pro-business, pro-automobile, anti-environmentalist, growth-at-all-cost policies pushed by the Chamber of Commerce and a state government that meddles too much in local affairs.
Those who benefit from rampant growth are not the ordinary citizens of local cities and counties, but the superstores and the developers, who will make millions, then retire to some small, picturesque, relatively safe and quiet town beyond the borders of the urban nightmare they created. Talk to some of the thousands fleeing Southern California for here and find out how it is there now compared to 40 or 50 years ago. Then tell me again why this is good for Austin. But don't expect me to buy it.
Letter to the Editor:
Don't Trust Capital Punishment
Let me see if I understand this correctly: People who describe themselves as "conservative" believe that the government is a burden upon the freedom of citizens, that we would all be better off with less governmental interference, and that the government cannot be trusted with important matters such as education, public health and safety, and the regulation of industry. How can it be that so many "conservatives" place an almost child-like trust in the government regarding the ultimate exercise of power over the people, which is the use of the death penalty? I cannot fathom this contradiction.
Supporters of capital punishment often cite the sense of relief or closure provided to the surviving victims of violent crimes. This argument falls flat because the survivors' feelings about the death penalty are generally irrelevant to the process of deciding whether or not a prosecutor seeks the death penalty in any given case. Take for example the case of Pedro Medina. His execution made the news because his head caught on fire while he was being electrocuted by the state of Florida. What did not make the news was this fact: Pedro Medina's execution was fought by the daughter of the woman prosecutors say he killed. In fact, Lindi James believes that Medina might have been innocent of the murder of her mother, Dorothy James. According to an article in the April 21 edition of The Nation, police covered up important leads in the case, including threats Dorothy James received from a former lover.
Is it possible that the government that we trust in these matters made a mistake and killed an innocent man? If so, it wouldn't be the first time. In her book, Dead Man Walking, Sister Helen Prejean cites numerous examples of people sentenced to death who were later found to be innocent. Some were released; others were not so "lucky."
Perhaps someone can explain to me how the government, which so many believe is incompetent and unqualified to educate our children, protect our environment, or regulate the economy is somehow competent and qualified when it comes to deciding who of us should live and who should die.
Flying the Freak Flag
"Man, what did that donkey ever do to anyone?" That's what a friend said to me this evening while we were expounding on the Eeyore's Birthday drama. Some old crackers got their panties in a bunch cause folks let the freak flag fly once a year a little too close to their opulent digs. As mentioned in Clark-Madison's article, it's fine when the good old boys get fired up on Busch and watch Ian Moore jerk himself off at Aquafest every year. But have a few thousand misfits loudly celebrate a donkey and you got grief!!! It's not surprising, but upsetting nonetheless. Can't hang your tits out at Hippie Hollow. Can't leave the helmet at home. Can't stomach SXSW. Can't do much of anything these days without some powerful bastard pissin' on your parade. If we're not careful, soon we'll be behind the wheel of our Miatas, washin' down a Surge with a triple-tall half caf soyachino from Starbucks, listening to Jewel on 101X on the way to Urban Outfitters to buy a new blouse that complements our freshly enhanced chest, and we'll suddenly notice everyone around us has California plates and that vacant look you get when you work at Dell, and we'll all hang up our cellulars and say, "Man, I really wish we could still get naked and smoke dope in Pease Park!!!!"
Justin B. Andrews