I found the cover story of your July 11 ["News Boss," Vol. 16, No. 45] issue concerning the Austin-American Statesman to be overly sympathetic to the subject. I have read the Statesman for years and have seen no improvement in the quality of reporting or writing over the last two years. It continues to feature melodramatic, human interest stories, while more important issues are relegated to brief articles on the back pages. It continues to run sensational -- sometimes misleading -- headlines and to cover stories in a biased or one-sided manner when doing so will make a story appear more scandalous. One would expect the paper in the capital city of one of the largest and most populous states in the country to be more aggressive, thorough, and serious in its coverage of political matters, but it is not. For me, the paper continues to be a source of frustration whenever I read it, which is often.
Your Statesman/Rich Oppel feature ["News Boss," Vol. 16, No. 45] reminded me of a Statesman puff piece. While the Statesman has improved, the improvement is very limited. You still have to read the Chronicle religiously to gain any meaningful insight into important civic affairs.
Statesman reporting is severely lacking and biased. Coverage of the recent election is only one glaring example. I can remember a single election story from the daily (on Eric Mitchell's absenteeism) that was not numbingly superficial.
How is it that Freeport intimidation of the Chronicle is news but Freeport intimidation of Oppel, Haurwitz, and Cox is not news? As Mr. First Amendment Champion, Oppel should tell the truth about Freeport efforts to muzzle our lone daily and about his and the paper's responses to these efforts. Oppel's quotes contradict his statements to me and others.
Mr. Oppel's open confession of irresponsible journalism as standard operating procedure -- "I stand by my columns about as long as they last at the bottom of the bird cage"-- is both outrageous and accurate.
Having made this confession in public, the only honorable thing for Mr. Oppel to do is either quit writing his column or add the above disclaimer to the end of each of his columns.
Otherwise, unsuspecting readers will continue to confuse Mr. Oppel's willful know-nothingism as informed commentary on issues important to our community's future. Perhaps the fact that Mr. Oppel can make such a public confession without fear of losing his job is the best indicator that the Real Estatesman is still not a real newspaper.
She Don't Like Mike
Dear Austin Chronicle Editor:
I recently read an article by Austin Chronicle journalist M.C.M. (Why does this journalist go by his initials? Is he afraid to print his name and uses acronyms. Or is he in the Now. And I in the old for thinking it rude. Well there is a common ground that we have to go by).
The article I am writing you about appeared in "Meanwhile, Back at the Salt Mines." [Vol. 16, No. 40] About the DeWitty Job Training and Employment Center. The Journalist wrote "...This may speak for itself -- DeWitty, a pet project of former Councilmember Charles Urdy, has been ineffective, if not completely invisible in helping meet the job-training needs of its East Austin neighbors, and the advent of the much-discussed, ACC-administered One-Stop Career Shop might spell the end of this particular enterprise."
That "This may speak for itself" I don't believe. He is not speaking for me. And that it was a Pet Project of former Councilmember Charles Urdy (Pet... Does he want me to think it's some silly-willy thing that's not so important? In this real work world. Well I can see he's never worked at a job, where you work lifting things that where so heavy for your tender body, that when you go home your body ached so much you couldn't even move. And you had to take aspirin to stop the pain. Go to bed and get up and go to work again for $4.50 an hour. And this is your life... job.) Well then all I can say is Thank God. And God Bless Charles Urdy, because now we can get the knowledge; and use this knowledge to get a better job. Thanks to the DeWitty Job Training and Employment Center.
On May 4, 1997, I went to the DeWitty Center and stood in line to sign up for computer classes. More than a hundred people were there waiting to sign up for these free computer classes.
I took the course first -- Introductory to Computers and Windows 3.11. I completed the course and received a Certificate of Completion, and I am very proud of myself for what I now know. And thanks to a wonderful volunteer Mr. James Johnson who taught the class.
One day in the computer lab, I saw a young girl go in and study on the computer, while her four young children, ages 2-6 years old, sat outside the room with their grandma. I thought, "God Bless this girl and her children. What she learns will help her and her children live a better life."
This Saturday, July 26, 1997, I am going again to sign up for another eight week training in computer class -- Microsoft Word, so that some day soon I can go get a better paying job.
I think that the journalist M.C.M. who wrote this article needs to get up from behind the desk and go to the DeWitty Center, and see for him/her self, and go on a sign-up day and talk to some of the people there. Let the journalist M.C.M. do research on a subject before writing about it.
If I had not been at the DeWitty center, I would have believed what this journalist wrote, but I did go there for eight weeks and what this person wrote is not true to me.
I say where is the apology. Or will M.C.M. add the acronym N.A. (no apology) to his/her name. Fear not he/she bury his/her head in a salt hill.
[Ed. Note: M.C.M. is Mike Clark-Madison. His "Meanwhile, Back at the Salt Mines" was a sidebar to a larger article which he also wrote; in such situations, only initials are signed to sidebars.]
It Was the Bananas
Suggestion: If you want a country CD reviewed... get someone who knows a thing or two about country music. That gal that reviewed the latest Lee Roy Parnell CD ["Record Reviews," Vol 16, No. 47] was either uninformed, hearing impaired, or has been smoking bananas again.
Every Night's a Saturday Night is a great CD. It does not follow the cookie-cutter formula NashVegas has been putting out ever since the Age of Garth began in the 90's. The songs are well written and Mr. Parnell and his Hot Links put their hearts and souls into this CD. Your reviewer dismissed it so lightly. I think her review was only suitable for three things: Lining the birdcage, training the puppy, and wrapping fish. She should find a job reviewing such junk like Hanson or LeAnn Rimes... serious, heart-felt music seems to be beyond her ken. A real writer will only improve your staff.
Have a nice day.
Dear Mr. Black:
I was so happy to read Scott Gordon's letter, [Vol. 16, No. 46] which appeared in "Postmarks" in the July 18 issue of the Chronicle. Mr. Gordon suggested that the 45th Street/Guadalupe land be used for a public plaza with surrounding shops, which is traditional in many other countries.
For years I have been wishing that Austin (as well as other American cities) would adopt some of the conventions of cities and towns in Europe that so impressed me when I visited France in the 1980s. Paris, although a large city, is pedestrian-friendly and socially oriented with its many open, landscaped plazas and its sidewalk cafes where residents entertain friends and guests, discuss current events, watch their neighbors pass by, and soak up the atmosphere. The smaller cities and towns have the plazas Scott Gordon's letter described, with surrounding shops, benches, and trees. Plazas are often used, as well, as sites for market days where vendors and farmers set up an array of goods once or twice a week. What pleasure! And what a far cry from mega malls and strip centers filled with chain stores and fast food franchises, to which we race on perilous highways -- that is, when we're not closeted at home or work, riveted to our TV and computer screens...
Thanks for letting me sound off.
Carol Costa Davis
Choking on the Smog
To the Editor:
Choking on the smog in Austin this summer? It won't get any better if industry lobbyists have their way in Congress. Polluting industries are using scare tactics and lies to oppose new clean air protections.
The EPA has finally revised standards for ozone smog, after 11 years, and set standards for fine particle soot for the first time. Right now 40,000 people die prematurely from air pollution, tens of thousands of others are hospitalized with asthma attacks and breathing problems on high ozone days, like those we have had recently in Austin, and a brand new study links air pollution to sudden infant death syndrome. Even with all the scientific proof that people are getting sick and dying from air pollution, some in Congress are now planning to use their power to override these new standards.
Luckily we have two Representatives here in Texas willing to stand up to the polluters and publicly announce their support for these standards. The rest of the Texas delegation needs to join Representatives Lloyd Doggett and Eddie Bernice Johnson and protect the health of the constituents and all Texans.
Can't We All Just Get Along?
To all the new people coming into the city of Austin:
Due to all of the unnecessary evilness that has recently affected our peaceful and beautiful city of soul, music, and individuality, I have realized that there is a vast change of respect that I have grown accustomed to. I understand that cities need to grow, and with that growth there will be as well a growth of personalities, backgrounds, and reasons for your destinations. But as a result sometimes, there are conflicts with that growth. We have recently seen conflicts with traffic, and employment, even down to mere parking, but those are things that with time we can adjust and welcome all the newcomers with a comfort control so that we all can live here in our city of new and old. But the one thing that we cannot afford to lose is the respect. Here in Austin, there is a type of respect that I have not seen in any other place, not even the tiny cities of the pastures around. The individuality in each and every Austinite is true and genuine no matter how different, and with this truth we have learned to live together, not flawlessly, but to a measure that has made it our home. To a measure where we can sit at all night coffee shops by ourselves or with whomever we choose and write poetry, or talk about life. Where we can go to one of the clubs and watch our friends play the music that will be known always as Austin music. Or even go to one of our beautiful parks and ride our bikes, or walk our dogs, swim in our lakes, or sit in out of our trees. I know I am not the only one who feels this way, and that is why I feel that I should say something. We want to meet new people, and share this wonderful gift that we have found in our city of Austin with others, but the one thing I ask of all old and new Austinites is that we respect each other and the soul that we have given to this place. Don't turn this place into just another "large city" with pollution, and crime, and a place where there is no respect. I have found my home, and I don't plan to move soon.
Dedicated and in memory of the latest victim here at our Greenbelt. Don't blame the trees. Just be safe.
Austin Land Development Code Chapter 13-8: Article IV: Para 13-8-83 specifies that the person owning, leasing, or otherwise controlling the property abutting a sidewalk, driveway approach, gutter, curb, or appurtenance has the responsibility of maintenance of that area. This not only assigns responsibility of maintenance but also assigns liability for injury or for the lack of the public's ability to utilize such areas.
The City of Austin will provide curb cuts and access to all our sidewalks but that is where it stops. They have no further responsibility nor will they repair or make the areas they have opened accessible beyond their cuts. The City states they have right of way to the area and approximately five feet beyond the sidewalk.
The sidewalks get undermined at all sewer and water connections and normal settlement areas. The sidewalks in some areas look like crazy paving without intending to be or they are stacked with large gaps with raised and lowered sections.
I feel it is well past time that the City Council amend the City Code and accept responsibility both physical and financial for property they claim is theirs. This is certainly an important safety issue, not crime but injury. Persons with property liability and anyone that enjoys our sidewalks should support this change. It is puzzling when I read of the city using tax money to maintain sidewalks at commercial establishments in the city but will not touch the sidewalks in our neighborhoods. I question the legality of using public funds, Cap Metro as well as City funds, for sidewalk repair and maintenance until this code is changed or deleted.
Jack E. Rogers,
Chairman, South Beecave Woods Neighborhood Assoc.
DPS Sells Your Name
I've just learned that the DPS is selling information contained in driver licenses to companies set up as "data shops" (my quote) open to anyone for a fee, without the knowledge of the driver. Called the shop in Plano and they said it was okay, because it was public, not private info, that they have paid to the DPS for millions of drivers' data available for $3 a shot, but you have to pay an initial fee of $195 for the access to their systems, and they were paying the DPS on a regular basis, unclear whether weekly or monthly, though. Still confused, called the insurance company and got transferred to a supervisor and she said, yeah, there are a bunch of companies like that, and that when I signed all paper work, I authorized them to do just that. Then called the DPS and they said there is nothing wrong with that.
What do people think?
I look forward to Thursday lunch time because that's when I spend a little longer out of the office to read the Chronicle. As usual on my way past the letters to the editor and just before I got to "News of the Weird" I stopped to read "This Modern World." I read it, but I don't get it. They seem to be saying that there is something morally wrong with the possibility of having 25 years of peace and prosperity because some of us will not prosper as much as the rest of us. Is that their point? Are they saying that we should all suffer rather than all benefit simply because some will benefit more than others? What is their point? Are they upset because life isn't fair?
It is true that roughly 27% of American citizens are functionally illiterate. This is an American tragedy. Is that any reason not to celebrate the potential of 25 years of prosperity? Prosperity means having more funds available for schools and social programs that address the causes of illiteracy. Prosperity means more free time to spend on volunteer work. Prosperity means more jobs even for people with minimal skills. But, most importantly, as the economic value of the individual increase the individual has more choices. More choice is just another way of saying "freedom." Freedom to make your own decisions. Freedom to live the way you want to live. Even the freedom to learn to read if you choose to.
For the last two years, the Texas Department of Human Services, as well as most state agencies, has been under the threat of impending legislation that would privatize state service agencies. The possibility of losing one's job any day caused much stress to thousands of state employees, not to mention the stress of clients anticipating their benefits to be determined by profit-making companies such as IBM. Privatization looked imminent until last week.
Now we discover that Governor Bush and his group pushed this bill through at the last minute before adjournment of the 1995 Legislature. Most of the Legislators did not know that an amendment had been added introducing privatizing of public agencies. They blindly passed the bill, not realizing the intention therein.
Is this true? Did the Legislators not know what they had signed? This radical direction of the bill could have been implemented, and profit-making businesses could be determining eligibility for government benefits. How could anyone make a profit on giving away benefits? How could private companies save the state millions, as promised? The direction of this bill has cost the state millions in time, money, and anxiety as the state agencies prepared to bid against the private companies.
Fortunately the unions spoke up, and the federal government rejected Texas' plan for privatization. Did Bush think he could sneak the bill past the federal government as easily as he did past the state Legislature? Why has the media not exposed the political tactics to the public? Were the Legislators as well as the media afraid of the boss? No one wants to lose his job. The work force on every level is intimidated through fear, as we pander to big business which controls our state government through ambitious politicians and money.
No wonder the common ailment of the insecure Nineties is asthma and allergies -- the "crying disease."
Granted, I've only been in Austin for a few weeks now, but I have heard so many conflicting, confusing, convoluted stories regarding the bat scene here... well... I just got to ask someone who can give me a few straight answers. I figure the Chronicle was the place.
For starters... like where did all these bats come from? Why Austin? Why not Houston, Dallas, or Armadillo? Do they hang out (sorry for the pun) under all the bridges or just the one on Congress Avenue? If only Congress, what's so special about that bridge? Does it have something to do with Congress leading to the Capitol and all the politicians?
I heard bats are good because the eat like 14 pounds of bugs a night or so... who's counting? I mean, I can see bats sitting in a cage being force-fed little critters all day and someone actually keeping track of how many the eat... but who is going out and, not only tracking them in the dark, actually counting all the little critters they eat as they fly around all over town? In the pitch dark? Heck, I can't keep track of one of these suckers for more than eight seconds. Is this the kind of stuff we make those fancy infra-red goggles for? And besides, it's not like you can really weigh the critters they've found in the wild and eaten anyways, or can they?
Are they here in the winter? If not, where do they go?...a bridge in Mexico or Honduras? Do they like the summer heat? I thought bats liked cool, dark, damp places... I know that under the bridge during the day must be cooler than on top of the bridge, but from what I've seen, it is not what I'd call cool... if they want cool, why not a nice bridge in Glacier National Park -- not what's cool -- even in the summer.
Doesn't the traffic annoy them? Why not pick a quieter bridge? Why a bridge at all, I thought they hung out in caves? Are these bats somehow less intelligent than your ordinary run-of-the-mill bats who "get" that they're supposed to hang out in caves? Or are they radical, revolutionary bats -- sort of the "fringe" element or "grunge" or perhaps "GenXers"? Have they been ejected or rejected from other bat societies because of, who knows, something they eat? Or did they move here voluntarily and actually form a bit of an elite bat community lining under the "bridge of Austin"? Do the consider themselves living under the bridge leading into the "wonderful city of Austin" or are they living under the bridge leading out of the "living hell of Austin"?
Is the bat population growing? Or shrinking? Who's counting? Does their population growth mirror that of the city? What does that tell us?
Is it true that the bats bring in over $2 million in tourist money each year? Is it true that the town brought them during slow tourist times in the 70s from Carlsbad Caverns to try to invigorate the tourist industry? Or did they actually batnap (kidnap) them?
Is it true that the city has actually grown tired of bats and is not looking at other venues for increasing tourism? Like, is it true that the city is trying to bring penguins to that really cold spring at Barton Springs to boost tourism? And peacocks to all the other parks in town because they make incredible backdrops for people photography and it will spawn a whole 'nother tourist attraction in Austin?
Well, thanks, I just wanted to get my facts straight.
[Ed. Note: Bat Conservation International can answer all your questions. Call them at 327-9721 or go to http://www.batcom.org/.]
Separation of Disney
First it's Disney. Now it's Communism? What are the Christians whining about now? The latest report indicates that China persecutes Christians. For God's sake stop complaining. Come on! What are we doing interfering in Chinese politics anyway? Christianity hasn't necessarily been objective in this country. Christianity tends to persecute every other religion in this nation, so why are the Christians lobbying Congress to change Chinese policies? Well, it's no different than what they did to American Indians. They want to influence and eradicate cultures that don't adhere to or believe in their dogma. I don't support their approach or intentions because they haven't proven themselves trust-worthy. One also needs to realize that Chinese culture exceeds ours by thousands of years and has its own set of morals and values. It doesn't need a bunch of fanatical right-wing fascists to determine what's in its best interest. Perhaps it's the fear that China has become a world leader and doesn't need our approval any longer that drives Christians to appeal to Congress for support of their pathetic agenda. What ever happened to moderation in this nation? Why are Christians so obsessed with change or conversion? Is it perhaps a self-projection of their own insecurities and the undeniable realization that people are no longer fooled by their mission or agenda, or is it merely time for them to seek new horizons to conquer? What ever happened to separation of State and Church? After all it is written in our Constitution. When the Church becomes so influential that the State can no longer perform its primary function, it's time to put Christianity on hold? I am fed up with the constant whining by Christians and hope to see a more reasonable solution to their tireless agenda. Let's hope Congress isn't blinded by their ridiculous plea to infringe on Chinese policies. After all too much of anything can't all be that good.