Fri., May 23, 1997
It should come as no surprise that real Christians among others, aren't buying the yellow pro-homosexual lunacy that Bob Elder challenged my gag reflex with. It's homosexuals that have the problem, not their Christian critics. If anybody is homophobic, it's termagant homosexuals who are so far in denial of their sexual addiction and dis-ease that they can't even think straight, leave alone carry on an intelligent, fact filled debate. When you have to falsely accuse your critics of hate and fear and bigotry to defend your behavior then your argument doesn't have a leg to stand on. It didn't work for Joe McCarthy and it's not working now.
See enclosed article by Cal Thomas and please be sure Mr. Elder gets a chance to address the points raised.
P.S. Bob, Lot did not give his daughter to the Sodomites. He offered them but the perverts said no. Your Bible proof texing needs lots of work.
Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise [of
religion] or abridging the freedom of speech.
Top of the Mind
Whether or not prayer before a city council meeting is appropriate, it is clearly not unconstitutional. Yet the Chronicle has continued publishing letters from those declaring, despite the First Amendment, they will not tolerate a harmless ritual which reflects deeply held beliefs of a large and traditional segment of American society. Nor will they tolerate this writer's defense of the free expression of those beliefs, to which he does not even subscribe. Every person protesting said prayers does so with intolerant disregard of the Bill of Rights!
Mark Bega's response to the Applewhite tragedy (Jesus and the Hale-Bopps) was entirely expected: The ridiculous premise of life/mind surviving death is a common thread of mainstream Christianity, which prohibits suicide, and "Heaven's Gate," a fanatical cult led to mass self-destruction by a wacko false Christ; therefore both should be reviled as social structures. I question this line of reasoning, but agree with Mr. Vega that the individual psyche must become independent of religious authority, which is a current spiritual revolution.
Currently occurring in N. Korea: an atheistic government committing genocide, as all its predecessors have done in the past half century.
("This is the Time. And this is the Record... of the Time." - Laurie Anderson) The times, changing indeed and becoming more challenging as we are catapulted by Big Science and séance into the new millennium.
("Forget world peace. Visualize using your turn signal." - El Arroyo)
Note to the Editor:
Kennedy Calls Off Muses
It's 2, 2, two letters in one! Sorry to keep hammering at the same issue: freedom of speech & spirituality and what is occurring where they don't exist. Malkedick's appeal for non-disruptive non-participation is perfectly valid and civil, as is most of his argument.
Perhaps we should dismiss those classics in which the poet calls upon his muse.
Re: Robert Bryce's interview with Texas Parks & Wildlife Director Andy Sansom, 5/9/97 Chronicle.
Andy Sansom is a glaring example of why government employees should not come from the private sector. His top-down management style and commitment to the bottom line extend to the public; he is determined that we should hunt and fish while conceding the declining interest in these activities. Most significantly, he does not deny rumors that he has made decisions contrary to the findings of studies done by the biologists on his staff. One must wonder if these good people are merely kept around to bestow respectability upon what must ultimately be political decisions.
As for his program to pay private landowners to protect endangered species on their property, there is a word for paying people not to break the law. It's called blackmail. We are seeing privatization run amok. Be leery of someone who claims to be in the "endangered species business." Does that mean he will factor into his equations the prospect of losing his "market" should a species fully recover?
Mr. Sansom's job should be stewardship of the land and ensuring accessibility of the parks to all the people of Texas regardless of economic or social status. After all, he does work for us, not, as he asserts, for the legislature.
Even with the data suggesting the growing populace of
Hispanics in the Southwest, the Hispanic community cannot unite itself to be an
influence in local politics. We don't go out and vote, we back unqualified
candidates, and blunder local opportunities. It is a cycle of local political
futility. And if all goes as usual, a place in local politics that was once
held by an Hispanic, will be lost.
Local Chicano Politics to Repeat History?
Statistics show that local politics are the work of a few political-activist groups. The group attempts to influence their target audience: those who will vote for a candidate whom they believe will vote for the issue(s) that the voter feels strongly about, or was told he should feel strongly about. Consequently, these local activist groups should be able to go after the less than 20% of eligible voters who will place a ballot in the box. Yet these groups on the Eastside have recently blundered in their attempt to place a candidate in "their" perceived district. And once they lose, they become the poorest of sports.
One only need be reminded of losing in 1991 the State Representative District 51, held by a Hispanic since 1974. Groups like El Concilio backed David Rodriquez. His (in)eligibility should have [been] an issue raised by local groups. Instead they chose to blindly believe that it would not become an issue and erroneously tried to elect someone who did not live in the district. Consequently, the Hispanic seat was lost to Glen Maxey, who seems comfortable there. Any Hispanic wishing to unseat him will meet a strong incumbency and voter apathy.
This year, Gus Garcia is trying to change the makeup of the City Council by winning in his own right Place 2, giving an opportunity for another Hispanic to move into Place 5. Most likely, the Hispanic remaining in the race, Manuel Zuniga, is not whom the Hispanic voting community had in mind to fill that place. It has an opportunity to make history, but it will probably not, because the activist-groups will relinquish it away. Judging by the tone of the activist-groups and defeated candidates, Zuniga will succumb to the environmentalists-vote, no friends to the Eastside. Here lies the big blunder.
If the goal was to elect another Hispanic to the city council, then the choice is clearly Zuniga. In effect, both the defeated candidates and activist-groups have a winning situation here. In uniting to vote Zuniga in, the goal stands an easier chance of being met. These groups can claim that they rallied the community to increase the Hispanic presence on the council. The Hispanic community can have easier access to another Hispanic than to an academic of another culture. These same groups and candidates can be at his door, ensuring he listens to the community that put him there. Even Zuniga's conservative nature has to listen to his constituency. Heck, some of Gus' charm may rub off on him. If the Hispanic community doesn't like what Zuniga is doing, in three years they can place another Hispanic to replace him, maintaining the Hispanic presence in Place 5. Thus these two groups can be in a better position next time, running Hispanic against Hispanic; not trying to unseat a liberal environmentalist incumbent. But all I hear is a spirit of divisiveness within our own community.
These groups are blundering away the history-making opportunity. The president of one group even implied that he will probably go fishing rather than participating in who gets Place 5. Instead they should rally behind him. But the sore losers are prevalent in the print-media. People are mocking the way Zuniga pronounces his name. Statements made as if he has no clue about the Hispanic community. No candidate is outright supporting him either. This shows their selfishness. "I didn't win, so I won't support him" attitude. The window of opportunity to make these strides is short, but no strides of Hispanic support are evident. We are acquiescing the Hispanic Place 5 seat away. It is time to end the blundering away of local political opportunities. Every Hispanic who believes one should be in Place 5, should rally behind Manuel Zuniga. Give him his three years, and either re-elect him or replace him with another Hispanic candidate. Hispanics in Austin should be rallying to make history, not repeat it.
I think of Keith Ferguson.
Thinking of Keith...
TO those certain music writers bending over in the name of middle class petit-bourgeois moralizing, accentuating the negative way over the positive, to prove a point that the squares are right after all, or maybe just to get their vendettas out against a man whom they never understood and probably resent, against a man who is not here to defend himself, showing disrespect to his family and friends, to those journalists I strongly recommend reading "Nadja" by André Breton, in which he elaborates on the concept of hanging out and the rejection of values accepted by the average, the concept that can, in the hands of a master, turn into an artform. One such master is my friend Keith Ferguson. Keith's life was not a waste, it was a surrealist adventure simply because he had access - the key - to the other side and shared the secret with a few lucky ones like me!
I think of Keith Ferguson: the Rimbaud of the low frequencies, I think of Keith Ferguson: the last of the real cool men in a culture taken over by sell-outs and rock & roll comedy boys - I think of Keith Ferguson -
Spooner a Marvel
On reading the first line of her letter, I glanced down to the signature, and sure enough, it was another marvelous letter from Alice Kennedy Spooner. By now, an anthology of her written treasures should be possible - this woman has style, to say the least, and posterity would be enriched if her writings could be collected and preserved.
Her writing calls to mind the paintings of Grandma Moses, another more or less accidental contributor to our history. Ms. Spooner's unique view of the way things are should inspire us all. If she can write such interesting epistles with such obvious devotion to our great nation, then surely others, even those of us who have no training as writers, much less philosophers, could make an attempt to leave our little mark, however small, on history. Ms. Spooner has proven that you need not be coherent in order to be published. This would put her in the same category as, say, Norman Mailer's recent efforts, or perhaps the inimitable speeches of Dan Quayle, and he is just plainly a marvel.
My thanks to the Chronicle for the opportunity to read Ms. Spooner's literary efforts. I wonder if she as yet has an agent?
Yours in appreciation of truly unique writing,
I'm writing to voice my opinion of Place 6 City Council Member Eric Mitchell.
Allow me to introduce you, and hopefully your readers, to the Mr. Mitchell I, and numerous other citizens of this city (both black and white) know. The Mr. Mitchell that's a devoted family man, a staunch public servant, and maybe most importantly, a proud Black Man. Maybe that's the problem your paper, as well as other papers in this city have with Mr. Mitchell. He is a Proud Black Man, and isn't ashamed to let anyone know this fact. It seems that to certain factions in this city, "Black" and "Pride" are synonymous to "gasoline" and fire"; they make for an extremely volatile and combustible combination! Can a man not outwardly display his pride in his heritage, and not be labeled a radical?
Councilmember Mitchell is a servant of the entire city. He has accomplished more in the three years he's served on council than some individuals, past and present, have accomplished during their entire tenure. East of Interstate 35; Mr. Mitchell was responsible for bringing affordable housing (Scattered Infield Housing Program; SCIP, I, II, & III) to areas of that community. He's championed vital initiatives and programs for the youth of East Austin; Central City Entertainment Center, Eastside Story Youth Technology and Education Program. He went to our nation's capital to obtain Federal dollars for the funding of the Austin Revitalization Authority (ARA) initiative, for the redevelopment of the East 11th and 12th corridors. A program that his colleagues are stalling in hopes of his defeat in the upcoming run-off election.
Councilmember Mitchell's efforts weren't just confined to the areas East of I-35. West of I-35; he created the Central Urban Redevelopment (CURE) Zoning Category, a catalyst for development in the downtown area. In addition, he ensured numerous public facilities and infrastructure programs in south and southwest Austin were realized. Programs such as: South Austin Police Sub-Station; Oak Hill Fire Station, Library, Park and Swimming Pool development; Convict Hill street repairs and sidewalk construction, along with a host of other projects. Perhaps his most important concern for the citizens is our safety. That's why he pushed for more funding for the Austin Police Department, so that we might have officers on patrol.
All of Mr. Mitchell's accomplishments, both East and West of I-35, have one common denominator, they provide a benefit in the form of jobs, development, and training programs, for the citizens of our city. Hats off to councilmember Eric Mitchell.
Marvin G. Brice
Advocate of "Fair Press" for All
To the Editors:
Toward Fair Campaigns
The small amount of public funding available may make a big difference in the runoff election for two City council positions. And if it does, more candidates may sign the fair campaign pledge in the next election. That is the point. Free and open elections, with public-spirited candidates and interested voters, are the essence of democracy. People will go to the polls if they think their votes will make a difference - that the election has not already been bought by special interests. Disillusionment comes from disclosures that candidates have taken big bucks from businesses or individuals who may expect special favors later.
The public funding element of the Austin plan is actually more important than the limits on contributions and spending. There is some threshold amount of spending below which a candidate never becomes viable, and there is some higher point above which additional spending does little good. By offering candidates at least the minimum means to get their messages out, a city can expect a better crop of candidates. We are doing that in Austin with the candidate forums aired on Channel 6, and with money in the run-off for mailings, consultants, etc. The $18,000 a piece currently offered to two candidates comes to only six cents per resident. Pretty small change to pay for democracy.
Mary Nell Mathis, Chair
Austin Ethics Review Commission
To the Editor:
As the runoff for City Council elections nears, I think it is appropriate that we look at the stands of the candidates on energy issues. Recorded actions and statements will show that candidates Eric Mitchell and Manuel Zuniga are bad news for air quality and bad news for consumers.
Eric Michell has become the harshest critics of the city's conservation programs during his tenure on the council. But it wasn't always this way. According to public records I obtained, he took advantage of the conservation department's residential rebate program to install conservation retrofits in two housed that he owns or manages. Theses rebates, totaling about $2,500, were taken in 1994. During his first year on the council, he had no complaints about the programs.
But in the summer of 1995, former councilmember Max Nofziger questioned the merits of one of Mitchell's pet projects (an admission-based recreation center in East Austin). And shortly after this, Mitchell began attacking conservation, one of Nofziger's favored programs. Of course, Mitchell's change of heart did not prompt him to give back the rebate money he had taken.
Mitchell's attacks are unfortunate not only for the environment, but for the East Austin residents he purports to represent. In an analysis I did of where the money for residential programs went over a 21/2 year period, 22% of the residential conservation funding, some $2.9 million, went to East Austin.
In the case of Manuel Zuniga, he has made total elimination of conservation programs a feature of his platform - even programs that serve low-income people. He recently justified this on a (KUT) radio talk show, saying that since competition for electric utilities was coming, the city could not bear this as an extra expense. But 3 years ago, when he was attacking the conservation from his post on the electric utility commission, he was not using this pretense; he simply did not believe in the program's merits.
But taking Zuniga at his word (a big stretch) that he believes competition is a reason to quit conserving energy, then it begs the question of how we are going to solve air quality problems associated with energy production, how the consumer is going to be protected from high bills, and where we are going to get our future energy needs as fossil fuels grow scarcer and more expensive. If competition of electric utilities cannot answer these basic questions, then there is a great need for government intervention to correct it, a need that Zuniga is obviously not going to fill.
The stance these two candidates have on electric rates should also cause alarm to residential and small business consumers. Eric Mitchell voted a few months ago to reduce rates for large commercial users by over $4 million a year. And in 1994, Manuel Zuniga, as member of the electric utility commission, voted for a rate increase for residential customers even larger than the one the City Council passed.
Energy issues are not the only criteria to choose candidates. But they are a good indicator of how their votes will affect the environment and the consumer. It's why I support runoff candidates Bill Spelman in Place 5 and Willie Lewis in Place 6.
Paul Robbins Bad T-shirts No Fad To Stuart Wade:
I lived in central France in 1987-88, and traveled quite a bit in the surrounding countries. Trust me, this butchered English on clothing is nothing new. It was in vogue back then. Even more in style were the letter-jacket type coats, which always sported some insipidly constructed phrase in American English. Young Europeans, their good sense inhibited by age, love things American and will pay for the image. When I saw a sports cap on sale in France for roughly $45 (1987 dollars), I knew I was in the wrong business. Howard T. Hyten
Promote Bicycling Some Council members, while genuinely concerned with the
promotion of bicycling and bicycle safety in Austin, have done our community no
favor by enacting a mandatory helmet law that actually discourages bicycling.
Current policy not only results in fewer bicycle commutes, it fails to address
the real problems of bicycling safety, and cannot be justified. Mandatory
helmet laws "dangerize" an activity whose health benefits far outweigh its
risks. Similar laws have been shown to reduce the number of bicyclists and
bicycle commutes in cities in the U.S. and abroad. This is particularly
unfortunate since bicycling is not only a healthy activity that deserves
promotion, it also has unrealized potential to alleviate congestion-related
problems in many areas.
Repeal Helmet Law
If the council wanted to promote bicycling in Austin and increase safety, it could do several things:
1) Provide paved, non-motorized corridors that allow cyclists to travel removed from the primary killer of
pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists - automobiles.
2) Distribute bicycle helmets to the group of bicyclists who account for most of the head injuries - children.
3) Repeal Austin's bicycle helmet law and focus on bicycle education programs for children. Children lack the coordination, experience, and maturity to choose for themselves.
It's ineffective to "promote" bicycling while discouraging it through well-intentioned but bad policy. People who choose to commute by non-polluting, alternate modes of transportation are part of the solution to urban transportation problems. Bicycling can be promoted, and bicycling conditions can (and should) be made safer without criminalizing responsible adult cyclists.
Let those who ride decide,
In our April 18 guide to Barton Creek we included a reference
to an access on Crystal Creek Drive. This is no longer a public right of way.
According to Steve Manilla of the Travis County Transportation and Natural
Resources Department, the county commission voted in September of 1995 to make
that road a public utility easement. Therefore, Crystal Creek is no longer
usable as a put in or take out point for boaters on Barton Creek.
Oops Oops Oops
A comment: - I am not a writer - your stories of Keith Ferguson, touched me deeply. I would like all three
authors to know if you can pass it on.
To Keith's Family
The following is from my webpage.
A NOTE OF SADNESS:
I recently read on the cover of The Austin Chronicle that I picked up on Mother's Day, the news of Keith Ferguson's passing. I did not know Keith very well, but his death brought back memories of how I was blessed with the friendship of his mother Margaret and especially his grandmother Effie. It made me realize and regret that I had not kept in touch with this wonderful family as well as I should have. It was strange to read about this loss on the cover of a local journal. My memories of Effie are very special to me. My friendship with her came at a very difficult time in my life. She had already been through so many of the things I was dealing with as a young, divorced, single mom. She sold me her car, a 1977 Gremlin. Funny thing was, she let me pay her whatever I could afford each week. All she wanted was an occasional visitor, and an occasional ride to the grocery store. You see, Effie was going blind, and could not drive anymore. We grew very close in a very short time. Some of my favorite memories were sitting in her tiny living room with her and listening to stories of her life. She had a picture of a very good looking young man in that room. I asked her who he was. She told me that he was her grandson. She said he plays in a rock band and that he lived next door. She seemed very loving and proud when she spoke of him. I recognized the guy in the picture and knew he played with the T-Birds.
Effie attended the Church of Christ for the Deaf in Austin with her neighbor Christine. My father was preaching at the church at this time. I attended every Sunday and the first thing I did when I got in the auditorium of the building was look for Effie and give her a big hug. I have not seen Effie since about one year after my father's death, on Valentine's Day 1987. My mom and I went to visit and take her some flowers. After we visited with Effie a while, we walked over to see Christine on the other side of Keith's house. I remember seeing Keith sitting on his porch as we walked over. He waved, smiled, and said hello. I said hello back. I had heard of Keith's departure from the band and knew how he was spending his life as mentioned in the articles now printed about his death. I know Effie did not have an easy life. As a matter of fact, I believe the money she survived on and supported Keith with, was awarded to her in a will from people that she spent her life caring for until they passed on. I believe she passed on long before her grandson, Keith. Effie, thanks for touching my life. I miss you, and I love you, always. Margaret, I plan to call soon.
I was very disappointed by Dan Forte's slamming of Keith
Ferguson. On the heels of Keith's death he used a public forum to say things,
personal things, that I'm quite sure he never had the balls to say to Keith.
I'm sorry that the Chronicle ran it. Ferguson had a tremendous positive
impact on many lives. He was widely loved. Too bad you chose to print that.
Who's Picking Sides?
That Was Slamming?
Hubert Lynn (Floyd) Moore
On Keith's Side
This isn't an inquiry or a suggestion about stories, just a
note of appreciation for having the Chron online. I lived in the Austin
area for 15 years and about a year ago, I took a job in Atlanta. I look forward
to reading the Chronicle each week and it has helped me hang onto my
sanity. It's nice to be able to keep up with the local political/music scene
and get another perspective from the movie reviews. It's also nice to know
about new restaurants/coffeehouses because I come back to town every couple of
Appreciates Chronicle Online
Keep up the GREAT work.
PS: If you guys ever want to see what REAL traffic is like, come to Atlanta for a visit - Austin traffic never looked so good!!
Too Many Elections
Just for the record, I voted in the last election. I have also voted in the current run-off election. In fact, I've voted in all the elections for the last several years. Perhaps I can offer some insight to Julie Meacham and Ronney Reynolds, and others like them, as to why Austin (and Texas) voters seem so apathetic:
1) Austin and Texas have too many elections! Last year, I believe we had nine elections; the year before, I believe we had eight. Having elections is expensive; and having multiple elections with one or two issues on a ballot is fabulously expensive and also squanders taxpayers' money.
2) Our election campaigns are some of the nastiest to be found anywhere. I realize that many Democrats would like us to believe that all Republicans are cannibals, and many Republicans would like us to believe that all Democrats are sex offenders; but I also have a sneaking suspicion reality lies somewhere in-between those two extremes. Actually, I know some very nice people who are Democrats or Republicans; and I also know some liberals and conservatives whose general behavior I find so reprehensible that I would be hard-pressed to justify stopping to help them if I were driving along, and saw that their car had broken down on I-10 in the Sonoran Desert!
3) As a general rule, I find what candidates say about each other, and the general level of misinformation presented as "facts" during elections is often so vile and so offensive that I'm tempted never again to vote in an
election. (For your information, I vote issues, not parties; and I do vote for candidates in both parties.)
4) In Texas, the two parties in power consistently give us the choice of voting for conservative Democrats or very conservative Republicans. If one is a moderate or (God forbid!) a liberal - or even a fiscal conservative who is socially moderate or progressive (as I am) - tell me: What real choice are we given?
I note that many other states have elections two times a year: one in May, the other in November. Anything that doesn't make the May election is carried over to the November election. Period. Those states consistently have better voter turnout than we have ever experienced in Texas.
Do I think Texas would consider adopting such a system? Oh, no: Democracy in Texas (which is an oxymoron if I ever heard one!) might fail if we couldn't schedule an election eight or ten or fifteen times a year - regardless of the cost.
That is why we have voter apathy in Austin and in Texas; and that is why a 15% turnout is good - for us.
I'm writing to ask you to please include as much coverage as
you can of the Triangle Development struggle in Central Austin. It is a very
important issue because it sets a precedent for both neighborhood influence
over the development that occurs in our backyards, and the question of the
leasing of state-owned land. Neighbors of Triangle Park have rounded up the
support of at least a thousand people, through meetings, petitions, etc.: our
community is fighting to preserve its scale and its character.
Continue Triangle Coverage
As I sat at an information table at Fresh Plus in Hyde Park recently, several of the people who stopped by to pick up info sheets, donate money, and sign up left with this type of statement: "I'll keep up on you guys, I read the Chronicle." People trust and depend on the Chronicle for coverage of important neighborhood issues. Heck, we even made it to the front page of the Statesman somehow!
First of all, I love reading the Chronicle. (But who
doesn't?) Second, I love the writing style of the staff. The articles in the
politics section were great! I bet y'all have a ton of fun down at the
Chronicle. Judging from the writing, it seems like a great place to
You'd Be Surprised...
Monica L. Piñon