Regarding "Naked City: Gold Bike Program?" [Vol.17, No.6] Your facts are wrong; journalistic privilege, making things up for a deadline, or just careless?
#1 You printed "Considering that the money could have gone towards painting bike lanes, building bike trails..."
The facts: We considered bike lane striping. Mr. [Matt] Nichols told me the money could be used for painting bike lanes or building bike trails, but that quantifying environmental benefits would be nearly impossible so this type proposal wouldn't be considered favorably.
#2 You printed "by Waring's own admission, an unlikely scenario considering that most city employees wear suits and inappropriate shoes for comfortable biking."
The facts: I never said any such thing -- do you frequently just make things up? Most employees in our department don't wear suits or formal shoes nor do many other City employees.
#3 You printed "What's even more disturbing, though, is that Waring pitched the idea first to the Public Works Department -- which in turn pitched it to the city council last week -- as the only viable way for Austin to receive the money."
The facts: City Council must approve grant applications involving expenditure of city funds. The time frame was short to complete the required request for council action (RCA). We considered alternative projects, however, we didn't know a Yellow Bike project was an option. In addition, a city donation to a Yellow Bike type program may not be possible unless that program is a formal non-profit organization.
#4 You printed "ICLEI's Nichols suggests, however, that Waring's proposal is not likely to win approval from ICLEI without incentives for bike use and a demonstrated reduction in the use of city vehicles. Waring's proposal has neither."
The facts: Obviously you haven't read the proposal, once again fabricating what you want to write. Is this column supposed to be fiction?
Frederick (Rick) A. Waring
Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Coordinator
Bucks and Bikes
I read your "Naked City" column [Vol.17, No.6] about the Bike Program's "$30,000 for 10 bikes" idea. True, the Bike Program can blow our dollars as well as any other city agency, except that they never have any dollars to blow. In the worst case, money blown on bicycle boondoggles can never match the way we impoverish ourselves with our ridiculous one person/one car system.
Still, I don't think you gave Waring a very fair shake. For one thing, the cost of the lockers was extraordinarily high because we got not just lockers, but also the basis for a larger system. By placing "anchor" units at many locations, Waring saw to it that the system was not only more flexible, giving secure parking at more locations, but that additional lockers would be cheaper, expanding off of the base unit. Also, if this money is getting us the top-of-the-line bike parking system, then go for it. People need to see that stuff so they know what to ask for. I can see the point that this money could have gone toward bike lanes, but there is plenty of that stuff in the works. We need several different sorts of approaches to combat our transportation problems.
Your suggestion that this money could have gone toward alternative fuel vehicles was remarkably naïve. You can't even get one of those things for $30,000, not to mention the cost of fueling, fixing, insuring, and storing them. Besides, CNG vehicles tearing down the road will scare grandmother out of walking to the store just as easily as the Mayor's Cadillac will. Don't forget granny. We will all be granny someday.
So for goodness sakes, Chronicle, give Waring a break. There are lots of thing we can do with human-powered vehicles, and lots of kinds of HPVs that the city can use, but we've got to start somewhere. Now let's talk about replacing those damn pickup trucks on the hike and bike trail with some 63-speed, hydraulic braked, 1/3 ton capacity hauler trikes. Then we'll be ready for the 21st century.
My Dearest Mr. Black:
If this city council never takes another vote... if another 500,000 people show up for a shot at the good life... and if, in fact, cars from hell rain down upon my little house in South Austin... I don't care. I thank the council dearly from the bottom of my heart for stamping out the bicycle helmet law.
Hey! I'm on the Cover!
Reports of the bicycle helmet law's repeal have been somewhat exaggerated. The city council refused to repeal the law outright, and also refused a compromise proposed by the League of Bicycling Voters, in which the law would only apply to people under 15 years of age and would carry no fines.
Instead, the city council has passed a new bicycle helmet law, as follows. People under 18 years of age must wear helmets when riding bicycles, or be subject to fines of $20 to $40.
Suppose that you are 16 years old. You are old enough to drive a car, but you would like to use your bicycle for some trips. Because of Austin's heavy-handed helmet laws, bicycle helmets are very unfasionable among teens. So you don't want to wear a helmet. But if you don't wear a helmet, you may be harrassed by cops and forced to pay a fine. So you decide to drive your car instead. (You know that even if you hit and kill someone with your car, you are very unlikely to have to pay a fine.)
The current law encourages young people to drive cars instead of riding bicycles. It also pushes an image on children and parents of bicycles as dangerous and cars as safe. But it's cars, not bicycles, that run people over and pollute the air. This law works to oppose both public safety and clean air.
Statistical studies show that punitive helmet laws reduce the number of people that ride bicycles. This makes roads more dangerous for those of us who do bicycle, and it makes the air worse for us all.
Please call or write to Kirk Watson, Gus Garcia, Jackie Goodman, and Beverly Griffith, and urge them to repeal the newest version of Austin's nonsensical bicycle helmet law.
Don't Punish the Suburbs
I was very impressed with the Chron's rapproachment with the Austin American-Statesman. ["News Boss," Vol.16, No.45] I too think Rich Oppel has done wonders with the formerly petrified Real-Estatesman, and while there's miles to go before he sleeps at least the paper has some bite to it now.
Conversely, the Chron's fawning over our current mayor ["Natural Born Leader," Vol.17, No.5] may or may not prove prescient -- I don't share Kirk Watson's view that Austin must become a megacity in order to prevent the Atlanta donut hole from occurring here. It takes attention away from doing what it takes to turn downtown Austin into a vibrant, breathing, living/working/playing space and it really pisses off those being annexed, because city staff has the distinct habit of simply lying to those being annexed. But I'm sure the Chron will take a look at what happened with, for example, Canyon Creek and CapTex Development (hint).
I just got back from San Jose, and jeez has that city turned itself around! Downtown's new convention center has been matched by an influx of high-tech firms coming back into the central city and a resurgence of class-A nightlife (more like Fourth Street in Austin and less like Sixth Street) linked by Really Useful Light Rail. And this New Urbanism is being duplicated all over America, yet it has nothing to do with growing into a megacity and everything to do with focus.
Austin needs to focus on downtown, to lobby for a modification of the homestead act to allow homeowners to invest in upgrading their own property (vote Nov 4th!), in light rail that actually links suburbs with the city, in attracting high tech downtown, and in allowing for development of apartments and condos suitable for familes.
All this can be done -- but punishing the suburbs with annexation plans only pushes us family people further out.
Alan R. Weiss
Shhh! They'll Hear You!
Why are musicians on Sixth Street being harassed by the police? Club owners/managers and musicians are being threatened by the "Sound Police" that they will be ticketed, arrested, and equipment confiscated if the music inside the club is too loud according to them. Recently, a club manager was arrested because "the band was too loud," and the police tried to confiscate the musicians' instruments and equipment. It is okay for the street to be blocked off and large stages erected for bands to play at any volume outside as is the case with SXSW, Pecan Street Festival, and many more events, but bands cannot play inside the clubs without being harassed by the police. Doesn't make sense to me. I have been with the same band for 10 years and have been booked on Sixth street regularly 3-4 nights a week for the past three years. This is the worst I have seen it. It's bad enough what musicians have to go through to get their instruments and equipment loaded/unloaded. Sixth Street is not a residential area. If Sixth Street has become a "Quiet Zone," why aren't signs erected?
Always Awn My Mind
After reading your article on Esther's Follies ["Pool Parties," Vol.17, No.6] and having been a fan for the last 14 years I am struck by the lack of mention of my favorite character, actor, comedian -- Kerry Awn. When planning a weekend with Esther's in mind, I would always make sure he was in the show and not on the road doing stand-up. If Kerry Awn was not in the show, to me it wasn't worth going! I know the Austin Chronicle's reader's poll has nominated Kerry Awn "Austin's Funniest Man" for many years. So why no credit where credit is due?
Michele F. Dailey
P.S. Maybe an article on Kerry Awn and all of his many talents would be in order.
[Ed. note: Kerry was included under his real name, Kerry Fitzgerald.]
Dear Austin Chronicle:
Russell Smith's review of Guantanamera [Vol.17, No.6] describes Tomas Gutierrez Alea as "a one-time fire-breathing Marxist zealot whose work later developed a more jaundiced view of life under socialism." Wrong on two counts.
First, the films. Death Of A Bureaucrat (1965) was a hilarious spoof of government bureaucracy; Memories of Underdevelopment (1967) explored the political, psychological and sexual alienation of a middle-class intellectual; he also finished Sara Gomez' One Way Or Another (1977) after her premature death, that explored in film for the first time the antinomies of Africanity in contemporary Cuba. I could easily continue this point had I the space.
Second, the man. This slick little throwaway put-down bears no resemblance to the reflective, critical, compassionate, sometimes self-mocking individual whom I met a number of times in New York and Havana during the 1980s. It denies flat-out the deep affection and respect in which he was held by those who knew him much better than I. Did the put-down help us understand the films? No.
Fifty Lashes With a
Dear Mr. Editor:
Can't remember which of your self-proclaimed experts did the review last week of the Sea Dragon restaurant ["No Noodlin' Around," Vol.17, No.5], but his rejoicing over the fact that there are finally some Vietnamese restaurants that go beyond the usual noodles is an ignorant absurdity. I've been eating off a little-changed Sea Dragon menu for over 10 years; ditto for Saigon Kitchen, but make it about 15 years. Such a statement reflects a lack of depth and understanding of the cuisine and its purveyors on the writer's part, and continues to perpetrate the idea, instigated by Robb Walsh in his review of Kim Phung (which has never been a "noodle house" in spite of its yearly award for same), that Vietnamese restaurants are primarily "noodle houses." Get beyond Number Nineteen, or whatever it's labeled at your favorite restaurant, and try some of the other delights on those menus... then those places might be inspired to offer us some of the really good stuff they've been holding back... because, as I've been told repeatedly, "Americans not like that." The Chronicle is in a position to act as a beacon, but instead keeps a blanket over the truth. Keep it up, Austin's restaurant scene will continue to wallow in its medocrity, and the clientele will continue to slop at that trough!
[Ed. note: Patrick Earvolino wrote the Sea Dragon review.]
KKK vs. PPP
My family recently found a Ku Klux Klan recruitment flyer (copy enclosed) posted in the Pflugerville Park near the playground.
While prejudice and bigotry are unfortunate expressions of personal spiritual immaturity, the advocating to intolerance and division is evil in the eyes of all people of faith. To be silent in the face of evil is to acquiesce to it. I hope the publication of this letter sheds "light" on the issue.
The "Knights of the White Kamellia, Inc." should be aware that their activities will not be tolerated by the good people of the Pflugerville area. Instead, Teaching Tolerance is being provided to all Pflugerville Schools. This resource includes a video and materials to help young people to develop a positive sense of their own identity and respect of others.
A recent visit to Austin (10-4-97), was near perfect except for the "untimely and ugly appearance of racism." Briefly, I shall share the experience.
A party of eight African Americans were waiting to be seated at a popular restaurant, Gumbo's. I believe we made for quite a sparkling group. The eight include: three PhDs, one doctoral student, two holders of Masters degrees, and two holders of Bachelors degrees. Intellectually, it is safe to say we were not "low-achievers." In the realm of work, the group consisted of a vice-president of a major Texas corporation, a ranking official of a State of Texas agency, a manager of a retail establishment, and five administrators in higher education. From this, one could conclude that we were not "strangers" to hard work. I personally have survived over 23 years in higher education covering two states, at major universities as well as community colleges.
The racist incident occurred when a "white bigoted" patron took it upon himself to approach the host of the group and pointing to him and to me stating, "You two are brothers, aren't you?" This example of Austin Anglo man then proceeded to place his hands on our heads, to indicate he had reference to our baldness. Where else but in Austin would a white male even dare to place his hands on the heads of two black strangers? A friend of the bigot sensing that he had gone "too far" attempted to smooth things over by stating that the bigot was rich, and could pick up the table's tab. Rich? We do not consider ourselves rich, but we are far from needing assistance with our bill. The Racist Bigot suddenly became aware that his "true colors" were showing, and attempted to apologize by sending over a beer (or was this a further attempt to humiliate?).
Thanks to our educational attainment, social skills, and respect for the wives present, as well as the other civil patrons of the restaurant, we elected not to create a disturbance by challenging the bigot's upbringing and marital status of his parents.
What does it take for the Black man to be respected as a man? I suggest that Austin offer "free" workshops on "Etiquette in a Diverse Social Setting." In certain situations, this could be a life-saving lesson.
The food at Gumbo's was terrific. Our future trips to Austin will be curtailed until maybe, 2010, allowing some time for Austin to "grow up," and realize that African Americans are indeed human.
Losing Our O'Hair
I visited Austin for a few days back in January before moving here from Houston in April. During my visit, I watched a very interesting local access cable TV program with Madelyn Murray O'Hair as a guest. During her interview, she said that she could not count the many times that she has been spit on and called names in public places while living in Austin.
Based on what I have constantly experienced, seen, and heard since moving here, I fully realize that she was telling the truth.
I firmly believe that this is the real reason why she has disappeared from Austin rather than her alleged theft of thousands of dollars from an atheist organization she headed.
I don't have a problem with O'Hair's successful Supreme Court fight to end prayer in public schools or her atheism, and I fully support her constitutional right to her views. I do have a major problem with her many past years of helping to promote Austin as a tolerant, liberal city. I don't see how she could stand to ignore and cover up such intolerance and harassment and promote this outrageous lie for so long.
I have found Austin to be the most "redneck," homophobic, Ku Klux Klan, hillbilly place I have ever lived. I have had countless such experiences with the homeless and crusty/drug-crazed Guadalupe Street drag crowd, in the work place, in apartment complexes and rooming houses, while riding and waiting for the buses and etc.
Many "rednecks" and homophobes here like to embrace environmental, homelessness, and other such issues to make themselves appear to be liberal.
A few years ago, I had a very frightening similar experience while living in Sacramento, California. Like Austin, it was being promoted everywhere else as a tolerant liberal to moderate city politically. Because of my experiences both there and here, I will never live in another capital city again when I finally decide to leave Austin. After moving to Sacramento, I did find out that Rush Limbaugh (who was born and raised in Missouri) likes to call that city his hometown and he did become a famous conservative/right-wing commentator while living there.
After living in Houston for nearly four years, I found the Montrose and inner-city there to be far more tolerant, liberal, and much less homophobic than Austin.
I have found living in "redneck"/homophobic Austin to be very depressing and frustrating. The only reason I continue to tough it out and stay here is because Austin has the best job market of anywhere I have ever lived. I have easily been able to get and keep a stable job ever since a few days after my arrival. I do have to contend with a lot of subtly disguised and even overt homophobia, favoritism, mismanagement, and etc. on my current job that I have had ever since my arrival.
I happen to think that people like controversial UT professor Lino Graglia are a dime a dozen in Austin. He is clearly a bigoted, racist, right-wing, neo-Nazi (fascist).
Plant It, Hollywood
I have been following the Lamar/Downtown redevelopment news closely for the last year and a half with generally mixed feelings. I understand that developers are not philanthropists. I understand the kind of concessions in design and in tenants that must sometimes be made in order for development projects to be successful. But I am absolutely outraged that Planet Hollywood may be moving into downtown! Planet Hollywood is a cynical, tasteless marketing scam. Its generic pretension represents the exact opposite of what makes downtown Austin interesting and vital. This belief by so-called "[a]dvocates of downtown redevelopment" that attracting major chains is the key to downtown's resurgence is flawed and short-sighted. The dominant presence of chain operations dilutes the nature and character of a place. We want to preserve and sustain downtown Austin, not downtown anywhere. If they would like to open a Planet Hollywood in the Arboretum where chains are the nature of the place, that's fine by me. But this is not really even about chain operations, some of which could fit in easily in downtown retail space. This is about Planet Hollywood potentially constructing their own theme-park styled building at the foot of Congress Avenue. I am surprised -- if it is true that the Wooley brothers have been negotiating with Planet Hollywood -- that the self-styled protectors of downtown would so readily cede one of the most valuable pieces of property in Austin to such a shamelessly cynical and banal organization. With all due respect to the difficulties of developing that property profitably without such an organization, I am pleading to those involved not to let it happen.
Why didn't anyone think of this before? Turn the Seaholm power plant into the homeless campus, with the homeless providing the labor (and earning the money that would otherwise go to some fatcat contractor) to give themselves a place to stay, do job searches, etc.? Plus they'd be near where they get picked up for work, and they'd be right downtown, removing concerns that Austin neighborhood associations have about putting the campus in their backyards. I won't even charge the city the usual ridiculous consultant's fee they seem so happy to fork over.
UT Is a Swingin' Place
Dear UT Students and Counselors,
Every once in a while it is good to ask oneself if something they are being told by someone like Freud is really making the majority of the people happy? I really believe, after 10 years of counseling and listening to clients in various positions in the state Mental Health association that people are happier if they evolve gradually into a healthy, supportive, faithful relationship.
But it seems that certain publications like Cosmo and Playboy are indoctrinating people into a level of sexual impulsiveness that does not make sense. So let us look as some recent public examples and ask ourselves if sexual impulsiveness makes one happy. Princess Diana went to a Freudian therapist after the divorce who told her do anything and everything sexual to get over the divorce. So she winds up dating a rich playboy who was picking up every starlet he could find... and they impulsively go drinking... and we see what happened. OK. Let us take Elizabeth Hurley, who is on the cover of Cosmo this month. Her boyfriend did everything impulsive he wanted to and tried to pick up a hooker in Hollywood. Do you think this really made her happy? I recently read Monroe's biography, and I was amazed at how massively depressed even her own notes show that she was in fact. She went to a Freudian psychiatrist over the depression, and eventually she was having her stomach pumped out -- from overdosing -- on almost a weekly basis due to the fact that she was in such deep despair. Why? Well, there was no one she could trust, and no one could trust her. Then I pick up Cosmo for October 1997 and some woman is writing in despair about getting herpes. Look, guys, we have AIDS running around... we can die from sex... so why are UT students passing each other around... is not that a good way to get VD? I guess I look at it differently. You see the girl laughing at the party... I see her the next day... crying in an office... as happened hundreds of times when I did counseling for ten years... worried she is pregnant by some guy she does not even know the last name of. Is this really making you happy?
Frank D. Bartlett