The Austin Chronicle


Can't Handle Scamming

August 15, 1997, Columns

Dear Editor:

Congratulations on uncovering the truth about "Southwestern Innovational Concepts" and other such telemarketing organizations. I worked there for one short but agonizing week, and Mr. Aiken's account of the situation couldn't be more accurate.

When I quit, our greasy, con-man of a boss mocked concern for my leaving, not knowing why anyone would want to leave his blissful outfit. When I explained to him that I could not scam people out of their money and that sitting in a small gray cell for hours at a time was not my idea of a real job, he replied, "That's all good and well, but try explaining that to the wife when she wants a new car."

From time to time he calls me asking if I want to return to work for him. After reciting my reasons for leaving, he says, "Well, I guess some people just can't handle it." No, I guess not.


Amy Pierson

Judge Not

To the Editor:

Obviously there are folks at the comptrollers office that cannot comprehend that Buddhist spirituality is more concerned with "essence" (Buddha nature) than "form" (appearances). Since they clearly know nothing about Buddhism, they are hardly qualified to judge its merits. It's like asking a typist to evaluate the merits of work by a nuclear scientist. Clearly it is a foreign religious tradition and ought to be recognized as such; the key word being recognized. The only way to truly begin to understand Buddhism is to practice it, otherwise too many misperceptions arise and so I suggest that if the folks at the comptrollers office have their doubts, let them attend Mr. Collin's "Sesshin" (practice sessions) and then judge.


Thomas Boggs

Park Police Not Understaffed

To the Chronicle:


Your 8/8/97 issue followed an article covering public discussion of the Encampment Ordinance before the City Council ["Council Watch," Vol.16, No.47] with an article highlighting the dramatic increase in arrests and citations issued by the parks police ["Environs"]. Obviously, the increase in city park citations is comprised primarily of encampment ordinance tickets - the statistics reflect a change in the definition of "crime" rather than a change in public activity.

A funding source for an increase in parks police salaries, equipment, and numbers was not suggested in the article. Any notion that we should gut social services/social fabric spending to increase police presence in the parks parallels Travis County's plans to fund another new jail rather than a Homeless Campus.

The headline of your article, "OutGunned in the Greenbelt," mischaracterizes the work currently being performed by the Parks Police - they're not fighting criminals, they're just harassing the homeless. The article on the encampment ordinance understated the scope of the "Class War" that headlined the article - homeowners don't want apartments in their neighborhoods because the lower-cost housing "decreases property values"; downtown businesses increasingly direct their products and services toward upper-income "family" consumers so lazy physically that they spend their money on valet parking (because they're afraid of the homeless asking them for quarters), relying on successive generations of college kids living off "family" savings and student loans as temporary employment for their workforce, and totally neglecting industrial and service sector workers as non-consumers priced out of the "market."

Running off the people who cannot afford to live here will only increase the cost of living here, even as the value of doing so continues to decline.

Please, you guys, get a clue. Ride the bus downtown to Sixth & Congress, and sit in one of the store windows of the building on the northwest corner of the intersection, in front of the Starbucks Coffee Shop. Look around and try to get a feel for Austin through the eyes of Austin's homeless people.

Kirk Becker

P.S. My friend Liz reminds me that many of the increased parks tickets are for the Helmet Law, too.

Can't Trust the Chronicle


Re: Suzanne Whithoft's letter ["Postmarks," Vol.16, No.49].

I don't see enough movies anymore to have written that letter but I have had many similar experiences after following Chronicle reviewers' recommendations.

Betty Gottlieb

Neighborhood News

Dear Chronicle:

I commend you for reporting on neighborhood association activities. However, your "Deja Vu Development" article ["Corner to Corner," Vol.16, No.46] revealed only some of the problems that the Oakmont neighborhood has experienced concerning the TXDOT construction. Below are facts not reported.

I found out in the fall of 1996 about the TXDOT plan to convert the green space in our neighborhood into light industrial use. A 50,000-square-foot research center which uses hazardous chemicals, truck storage yards and a vehicle/test facility was planned in the middle of our residential neighborhoods.

Several requests during the fall and winter of 1996 by me for Ryan Robinson, the president of Oakmont Neighborhood Association, to call a neighborhood meeting so that the members could be informed about the TXDOT plans and could take a position did not produce a meeting. I wanted an opportunity to present a proposal to the neighborhood to have the property purchased by the city for a park. I was hopeful of the neighborhood lobbying the legislature against the TXDOT light industrial use of the property.

Robinson and Tom Whatley, a person running to be the next Oakmont president, met with TXDOT in early November 1996 for a briefing regarding TXDOT construction plans. However, the meeting delays continued into the spring of 1997. As the close of the legislative session and the vote grew near, I explained my frustration to a neighbor who also called Robinson and finally he decided to have a meeting but not as quick as we wanted. The neighborhood meeting was not called until the legislature had passed the bill giving TXDOT funding for the project and Oakmont lost their opportunity to lobby the legislature.

The meeting was finally held on June 18 where TXDOT first made an almost two hour presentation. Many neighbors left during this long presentation. So few members of the neighborhood were present two hours later when the neighborhood meeting finally started that it was not possible to determine what the real neighborhood consensus was.

Neighborhood associations are democratic organizations with the intent of letting all neighbors have a voice in the matters effecting the neighborhood. If officers of neighborhood associations do not allow the democratic process to function (by calling timely meetings, etc.) then democratic principles are not served. Minority positions can be furthered at the expense of the neighborhood. In our case TXDOT got the funding without the neighborhood taking a vote and is now moving forward with the light industrial construction in the middle of a residential area.


Bill Wadsworth

Beverly "Polyanna" Griffith


With three recent murders on the Hike & Bike Trails, drug dealing in Eastside parks and on the trail by Austin High, gang graffiti in numerous parks, men routinely masturbating in the bushes along the Town Lake Trail as women joggers go by, the Barton Creek Greenbelt out of control with drunken parties and our Park Police with fewer officers now than in 1987; Councilmember Griffith doesn't "think there is a serious security issue"! "Pollyanna" is alive and well on the Austin City Council!

Perhaps when she or a family member descend from their wealthy, West Austin enclave and have their cars broken into, view homosexual men engaging in public sex at Pease Park when they were to walk thru, or were assaulted by a drunken transient from the Day Labor Pool, she will wake up. The councilmember needs to take off her rose-colored glasses. The city council continues to add parks and preserves while ignoring basic issues like funding adequate public safety personnel for the Parks Department. Despite her years on the Parks Board and now on the city council, Griffith refuses to accept that Austin's Parks are not the kinder, gentler parks of the Fifties that she grew up in, and are a lot meaner now a days. She and other councilmembers should ride with the Park Police for a shift or two and see if there truly isn't a "serious security issue"! She, and her lack of support for public safety in the parks is part of the problem. With her self-professed "concern" for parks she should be proposing to restore the Park Police to at least 1987 staffing levels much less 1997 needs! Until the council wakes up to some basic public safety needs of the parks, I'll keep my pepper spray handy whenever I use Austin's parks!

Michelle Craig

Congrats to Mayor

Dear Chronicle Folks,

I am writing to commend Mayor Watson and the council for saving the Ivanhoe tract without sacrificing Park West and putting 13,000 more cars on FM2222. I know firsthand that getting out of these kinds of bad deals is a tremendous amount of work, and solutions never "fall into anyone's lap," as the Chronicle report of the incident suggested last week ["Naked City," Vol.16, No.49]. Rather, good solutions are the product of countless hours of hard work, weekend meetings, and a commitment to better leadership for the citizens of Austin. Congratulations to the mayor for demonstrating this commitment.

I would only hope the school board and Travis County would follow his example!


Brigid Shea

S.O.S. Alliance Director

Ventura: Fact Check


The Chron comes late here, so I've just finished part three of Michael Ventura's "Drastic Space" tirade ["Letters at 3AM," Vol.16, No.44], which started out okay but wound up a bit... quotidian.

Thus, I wanted to puncture one of his main metaphors in it. Los Angeles isn't named for angels. The original name of the settlement, if memory serves, was Mission de la Reyna de los Angeles, or the Mission of the Queen of Angels. If one wanted to be very precise, one would say that the city is named after a building, the long-vanished mission. Somewhat fancier would be to note that the mission was named in honor of the Queen of Angels, an aspect of the Virgin Mary. The fact of its being named for Jesus' mom is worthy of some metaphoric exploration, perhaps, but in his haste to write a screed, Ventura didn't check his facts.

Okay, I feel better now.

Ed Ward


Bus Schedule Sucks!

Fellow Bus-riders of Austin:

Check the new bus schedule out. It sucks!

The vertical column format, touted for an improvement (since it eliminates a 90-degree rotation) fits only six time-points as opposed to the earlier nine or more (on busy routes). Far from "lessening confusion," it makes it harder for people living between two time-stops to estimate when the bus is going to arrive. Loss of time, or a bus will be the result.

Compare the new schedule, and the one previous to it, with the Fall '96 one... which is the best of the lot: the cover is in good taste (unlike the tabloid nature of its successors'), and the two-color format of light blue and white alternate to make consulting it pleasing to the eye. I still use that schedule. The subsequent "changes" or "improvements" are too minor or stupid to warrant using the highly inconvenient later two schedules.

Last, but not the least, listing the index of contents by the name of the bus is a stroke of genius worthy of a moron. Who the hell wants to know a bus by its name? Those weird names are of little consequence to someone who wants to plan an efficient route for themselves.

I can only bemoan that as the city grows in complexity and size, so does the schedule book. It is no longer user-friendly (or rather useful) as it once used to be.

Vivek Narayanan

Don't Harbor Aliens

Dear Editor:

I was grateful for the publication of the other side of the story in Stephen Mason's letter "Immigrants Ruin Everything" ["Postmarks," Vol.16, No.49]. However, I was disturbed by the reminder that Austin has been declared a sanctuary for everyone regardless of immigration status.

Title 8, U.S. Code, Section 1324 has long provided:

"(a) Any person... who...

(3) willfully or knowingly conceals, harbors, or shields from detection, or attempts to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection... any alien... not duly admitted by an immigration officer or not lawfully entitled to enter or reside within the United States... shall be guilty of a felony."

I don't suppose a city can be prosecuted, but members of a city council are "persons" and should be accountable for their actions as are other persons who conceal, harbor, or shield law violators.


Bill Toney, Chairman

Texans for Fair Immigration

Eat the Rich

Dear Editor:

Steve Mason an Earth Firster!! What a joke. This person comes to us claiming we're racists because we help the people of Indonesia, Africa, Chiapas ["Postmarks," Vol.16, No.49].

He asked what are you doing for white people? Well Steve, preventing the pollution of air, water, and land from the forces of greed is a thankless, never-ending endeavor. Through time, people have had to protect themselves from the forces of greed and disharmony by promoting free speech and non-violent protest, only to be met with death and government opposition, eg., Espionage Act of 1917, the death of Judi Beri, Michael Eakin.

Here comes Steve Mason talking of patriots, armed militias, and violent overthrows of the government trying to provoke Earth Firsters!! by passing literature calling us communist, racist, leftist. It won't work, Steve, we're just people trying to protect our environment from proven, clear, and present dangers.

And now he has the nerve to blame the world problems on the poor, not the greedy who buy land to develop, thus polluting our drinking water and air (no thanks to the TNRCC). But the poor, yea Steve, follow your buds, hate us, threaten us, but don't call yourself an Earth Firster!! And please don't blame the world's problems on the poor. Blame yourself for your apathy and the great American diet driving up health care costs.

Ignorance is the enemy. Truth is the ally.

John Schroeder

Immigrants Help


In response to Stephen Mason's venomous anti-immigrant diatribe ["Postmarks," Vol.16, No.49], I would like to remind Mr. Mason that immigrants help our country by broadening the horizons for our insular masses through exposing them to a host of influences which hopefully can enrich the local culture. Food, holidays, literature, music, and ideas are examples that spring to my mind. As for driving the local wages down, some immigrants, and certainly illegal immigrants, certainly do provide a labor pool which employers have to love. Since they often don't speak the language and fear deportation, these workers will accept low wages and unsavory working conditions, keeping costs down for employers and prices down for consumers. As far as I know, there is no tax that one can be exempt from because of one's citizenship status. Finally, scapegoating immigrants for the short-sighted environmental policies practiced by corporate America over the past 50 years strikes me as a particularly feeble excuse to air one's racist proclivities.

John Baker



Twenty-two years ago, I traveled through Guatemala with a truly evolved monster of a guitar player. A jazz guy with a blown psychedelic head and raging heart. He used to teach me things about music. Told me about improvisation, and that when a player was real good they would play huge long lines of music, never repeating themselves or coming back to the place of exit. So one night, hanging around Lake Atitlan tripped on the local herb listening to "Dark Star," Jerry Garcia goes off and doesn't come back. Not for a long time. I ask Oscar, if improvisation is what it is, then didn't Garcia just push the envelope? There was silence, a sigh, and in a quiet voice he said, "Jerry Garcia is a really good guitar player." I don't think any of us said much after that. It was in the music.

To get really high is to forget yourself. And to forget yourself is to see everything else. And to see everything else is to become an understanding molecule in evolution, a conscious tool of the universe. That's why I think it's important to get high. I'm not talking about unconscious or zonked out, I'm talking about being fully conscious. - Jerry Garcia

In honor and remembrance of that gracious electric beatnik who took so many of us so many places. Happy Trails.

Jeff Aylen

Conspiracy Afoot!

To the Editors:

Here in Texas, something like 65% of all electricity generated goes to air conditioning.

If everyone had black roofs there would be even more juice "needed." The atomic power boys would love it. Oh so fashionable!

Seriously, if all the roofs were painted white there would be tons and tons of money in citizens' hands to spend on music venues, instruments, books, education, and other quality-of-life aspects.

I've painted some friends' roofs white (in progressive towns in S. California - Davis for one - the city has a "roof-white" program to paint poorer folks' roofs to save them money and help them stay cool.)

Attics under dark roofs will be 130-140deg. until a coat of white outdoor latex is applied. The temperature goes down to ambient in no time. Composition roofs were originally designed in the late Thirties to be painted, but that final step in roof application was quickly lost (the little pieces of grit are to hold the coat on; the coat seals the cracks).

When I went before the Austin City Council to use three minutes to tell about this I was surprised to see three minutes of blank airspace in place of my talk the next day when the meeting was replayed; and the next day, and the next day!

Go figure!

Dave Schroeder

DeWitty Center Works

Dear Sir:

My name is Cora Redd, a graduate from the DeWitty Center. I registered with the Center for computer classes. These classes were given from April 29 to July 16, 1997. I, along with the rest of the class were introduced to the instructor, told about the building and its operations. On day one Miss Sharon Moore, who was the instructor for the Basic Computer Course introduced us to the computer, the various parts, and their functions. Miss Moore was an outstanding instructor whom I thoroughly enjoyed working with. She was very knowledgeable and so were the other instructors.

Upon completion of the Basic Computer Course (Microsoft Word 6.0/Windows 3.11) I was given an exam and received a certificate of completion. Also, the staff prepared a resumé for me which was very professional. The Center also provided services for persons in need of computer work, copies, letters, resumés, etc. The DeWitty Center has job placement agencies affiliation also. I am a witness. I was hired out on a temporary assignment through the workforce agency affiliated with the DeWitty Center. Therefore, you see, the Arthur DeWitty Training Center does provide needed education, job placement, housing services for the community and needs of the people. So please do not print any more negative criticisms about the Center ["Meanwhile, Back at the Salt Mines," Vol.16, No.40].

It is my personal hope that more people in the community of Austin (especially the young) will take advantage of the opportunities offered at the Arthur B. DeWitty Center.

Thank you very much. God bless.

A concerned citizen,

Ms. Cora J. Redd

End Auto Welfare

Dear Editor:

The Statesman reported last week that we Austin taxpayers pay each City Council member (except Bill Spelman) a $300 per month car allowance, in addition to salary. This is a very improper use of tax money.

Excessive reliance on cars is ruining our city. I am one of a small but growing minority who does not drive a car or have a driver's license, because of what cars are doing to our air and our quality of life. We who don't drive are persistently treated as second-class citizens. The city always has money for cars, but not for sidewalks, streetcars, and bike lanes.

As a non-driver, I resent being taxed to support our city leaders' private cars. I am paying to keep our leaders addicted to cars and blind to the problems they cause. I am paying to cement my own status as a second-class citizen.

I urge the City Council to get rid of this car subsidy and any other car subsidies we taxpayers are financing. We can earmark the money thus saved for sidewalks, streetcars, bike lanes, and bike boulevards.

Yours truly,

Amy Babich

Seems Everyone's Stupid

Dear Thinking Readers,

When the UT students return to the dorms, UT houses some of them in dorm TV rooms, because the city runs a 97-100% apartment occupancy rate. So let's face it; in three weeks, Austin will be 110% full.

A Dallas Morning News analysis of the Austin "homeless problem" (last Sunday edition) saw the overpriced apartments as the cause... and the lack of affordable apartments. To think that providing only luxury apartments in Austin will decrease the harassment by drunks is stupid. One should blame Gov. Bush (don't let an apartment complex block the view of my seat of power) and John Sharp for decreasing and closing state hospital units and throwing these people on the streets... to become homeless.

A homeless center is as stupid as the luxury apartments solution. And most drunks like Del Valle better than construction work, so this is no deterrent. How about normal wages for construction workers, waitresses, and affordable apartments as a solution? Certainly there are hundreds of acres outside central Austin where apartments could be built cheaply. Think.

Real solutions,

Frank Bartlett

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