Park and Ride
The Austin Parks Foundation endorses and supports Proposition 2 and Proposition 4 in the upcoming Nov.4 county bond election.
Proposition 2 authorizes $19,110,000 for the acquisition and initial development of two new recreation-based parks in Precincts 2 and 4, as well as improvements to Mansfield Dam Park infrastructure (Precinct 3) and added lighting for Webberville Park (Precinct 1). We believe that this proactive bond proposition allows Travis County to acquire meaningful park assets before development pressures either make the land unaffordable or unavailable. It also recognizes the expressed wishes of Travis County residents surveyed in the Parks 2000 Master Plan who strongly endorsed the maintenance and upkeep of existing Travis County park assets.
Proposition 4 authorizes $1,620,000 for the construction of the seven-mile MoKan Hike and Bike Trail, which will link the new YMCA East Branch with an activity center at Parmer Lane/FM 734, providing new greenspace access to all of Travis County and especially residents of Precinct 1.
We urge you to vote for these bond propositions to secure for all time significant recreational assets for present and future generations of Travis County residents.
Paula B. Fracasso
Austin Parks Foundation
Correcting the DOTs
Your endorsement "No" on Travis County Proposition 6, which asks voters to provide $3.5 million for extending SH45 over the recharge zone for Barton Springs, is right on the mark. This boondoggle -- which will ultimately cost tens of millions more -- needs to be killed at the ballot next Tuesday. If built, this freeway over the aquifer would dump tens of thousands more cars and trucks from Hays County and beyond onto MoPac. We need to reduce traffic on MoPac, not increase it. Truck traffic on Brodie can be reduced without spending millions for TxDOT to dump those trucks on MoPac and continue paving over and polluting our most vulnerable and treasured water resource.
City Propostion 1, the campaign finance reform charter initiative, deserves support. While it may not be perfect, the proposal will go a long way toward increasing the voice of citizens and reducing the voice of businesses feeding on city contracts, city subsidies and development approvals. The "Page Two" [Vol.17, No.8] argument that recent elections show we don't need campaign finance reform is simply wrong. We won by overcoming enormous odds through the incredible generosity of Don Henley, scores of volunteers, and many others with limited financial resources. You have confused success against great odds with a level playing field. For every public minded large contributor there are 10 or more special interest large contributors who see their contributions as an investment to be returned in cold hard cash many times over. Campaign finance reform will help level the playing field during the races, but even more important, it will free our elected officials from being pressured to "deliver" for special interest contributors once they are in office.
Vote "No" on County Bond Propositions 5 and 6, and "Yes" on Campaign Finance Reform.
[Ed. note: Bunch is general counsel for the Save Our Springs Alliance.]
Beans of Burden
Thank you for the editorial staff's endorsements of all but two of the eight propositions on the ballot in the upcoming Travis County Bond elections. Out of a total of $96 million in bond items, your paper takes issue with only $7.5 million. Your coverage of the projects you endorsed was insightful and to the point.
Two dozen citizens, the majority of them residents of the City of Austin, and all of them residents of Travis County, reviewed a potential project list totally over $260 million. All projects listed on the Nov.4 ballot were recommended by this citizens advisory committee after months of study, debate, and public meetings, and hearings. I believe in the democratic process that led us to our recommendations, and I believe that all of the eight projects on the ballot are needed, affordable, and in the best interest of this community.
Nate Blakeslee's "Road Shows" piece [Vol.17, No.7] presents the argument that two of the bond propositions, SH130 and SH45, are unfair for Austin residents because city residents pay more than their share of the tax burden when it comes to roads. Good arguments, not presented in the article, exist on both sides of this bean-counting debate. For example, only 4% of the county budget goes to pay for roads. Others argue that other chunks of the county tax burden address urban needs more than suburban ones.
I'm not convinced that this kind of bean-counting, regardless of who may be right or wrong, really advances the ball. Taxpayers often shoulder the burden for programs that don't directly benefit them. Take for example, senior citizens who pay schools taxes. An absolute "user-pay" theory of government is insufficient to handle the regional long-range issues in our community such as traffic safety, crime, and the need for more parks. Should Austin residents be charged every time they enjoy Allen Park or Moya Park, or every time they drive on a county road to get there? No.
I'm not suggesting that tax fairness should not be discussed. It should. But the discussion should include the whole burden, not just 4%. Let's also remember that continual bean-counting can be a divisive, time-wasting task that thwarts effective cooperation between city and county government. We have regional issues and problems that need attention. If we are truly a community, then we must address these issues and problems together as a community.
Chair, Citizens Advisory Committee
A Little Less Contribution
Everybody run! The sky will fall. Publishers and political consultants say $100 campaign contributions will ruin us all!
Don't run to Colorado or Arkansas. They passed $100 limits. Don't run to Montana or Maine. $100 limits there, too. Where will we hide? Can't go to California, those nuts passed similar limits.
Perhaps Messrs. Black, Rindy, and Stanley should warn the shortsighted radicals in Colorado who sponsored $100 limits -- the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, Governer Romer, Clean Water Action, Gray Panthers, and Colorado PIRG, or the Common Cause sponsors in Montana. Or maybe they should realize that Proposition 1 is part of a strong nationwide movement to remove the corrupting influence of big donors inherent in the current system.
The current system of fundraising is an incumbent protection program. Just ask Mayor Watson about the $132,000 he raised after the election, of which $40,000 came from outside Austin. Under Proposition 1, there is no fundraising after the election.
The current system lets rich candidates and all their friends and needy business interests contribute unlimited $$. With Proposition 1, only the candidate can spend unlimited out of their pocket. Spending your own fortune won't elect you without public support on the issues. Remember Perot, Forbes, and Waller T. Burns?
The current system allows unlimited contributions and spending by PACs for independent expenditures. Under Proposition 1, PACs can only accept donations of $100 or less for spending on candidate elections. A big business polluter PAC can spend all it wants, but it can collect only in $100 amounts. Will they get popular support in $100 increments? Can they corrupt elections as they have in the past?
Vote yes "FOR" Proposition 1 on the city ballot on November 4th.
Austinites for a Little Less Corruption
Re-form Campaign Reform
The so-called "campaign finance reform" charter amendment that Austin is voting on is a well intentioned attempt to reduce the influence of campaign money on the Austin City Council. Unfortunately, this is not an effective reform, and in certain ways makes candidates even more dependent on special interest money. The voters should defeat this proposal and ask the city council to come back with a campaign finance charter amendment that includes realistic limits on donations, mechanisms to overcome incumbent advantages, and an accompanying charter amendment for single-member districts.
First, this proposal makes no sense if people have to run under an at-large system. The only way this proposal might work is if we have single-member districts. We have no guarantee of single-member districts! We've got the cart in front of the horse in this election.
If this charter amendment passes, without single-member districts, council candidates will start coming in one of two varieties:
Candidates who are wealthy enough to finance their own campaigns, the proposed amendment cannot restrict this expenditure, or candidates who owe their election to "independent" political action committees that are funded by special interests; and wage campaigns indirectly in their behalf.
Not to be too cynical, but since the wealthy are usually in the company of other wealthy people and the big money will primarily finance these independent expenditures -- you can draw your own conclusions about just how much the influence of money is going to be reduced.
Electing people like Brigid Shea, Daryl Slusher, Willie Lewis, and Bill Spelman are made harder by this amendment, not easier. The ability of candidates who do not have personal money to reach voters will be reduced and the need to recruit wealthy candidates will gain impetus. I consider this to be a further diminishing of our democratic process.
The setting of a $100 limit on campaign contributions, the cornerstone of this amendment, is totally unrealistic under an at-large system and ironically punishes the candidates who are most dependent on grassroots support. The amount of energy it takes to raise contributions is a tremendous drain on limited campaign resources -- to raise a dollar costs a certain price and the fewer dollars you can raise, the more expensive it becomes. As counter-intuitive as all of this may seem, progressive/environmental candidates must be able to raise money in sums large enough to offset the institutional forces arrayed against them, i.e. portions of the business community and oftentimes the Austin-American Statesman.
Finally, as someone who has actively worked in city politics for over 20 years, there is no doubt that we need to reform the way we finance our elections, at every level. The fact is that this petition was prevented from being placed on the ballot in May of this year, and that the petitioners were forced to go to federal court to be placed on this ballot is shameful. This doesn't justify passing this amendment. We need to set up a charter revision committee and start working on campaign finance reform that will work for everyone, and that begins by voting NO on city charter amendment #1.
David J. Butts
[Ed. note: Butts is a political campaign consultant who has worked for the campaigns of Brigid Shea, Lloyd Doggett, Ann Richards, and others.]
The Long and Whining Road
This is a response to political consultants, Dean Rindy and Albert Stanley, whose letters to the editor last week [Vol.17, No.8] complained against Austinites for A Little Less Corruption's Proposition 1 for finance reform. Rindy and Stanley are absolutely right, there is a major loophole in our proposal. As soon as Proposition 1 passes, I will be leading a lobbying effort to get the council to amend the law with what I fondly call the "Geezinslaw Amendment." That amendment would apply to all political consultants in town like Rindy and Stanley who haven't managed to offer one alternative to Proposition 1 to reform campaign financing. That clause would read, "There is a $5 charge for whining."
Just One Austinite for a Little Less Corruption
and for Prop 1 on the city ballot
Chronicle Editor Louis Black invokes an aristocratic claim of the nation's wealthy elite: that unlimited political contributions constitute a form of "free speech." Does Black really favor a "democracy" in which the size of your speech rights is proportional to the size of your checkbook?
The doomsday scenarios that Black and other reform opponents project should Proposition 1 (the Austin Campaign Finance Reform Initiative) pass are flights of fancy that studiously ignore the actual record of how Austin political candidates financed their latest campaigns.
According to a recent study of Austin fund-raising, "Show Me the Money," had Austin's latest elections occurred under Prop 1 rules, the campaigns of Daryl Slusher, Willie Lewis, and Kirk Watson would have been even more successful than they were under Austin's existing system. To wit, had Prop 1 limits been in place:
* Slusher (whose average contribution fell under the $100 limit) would have seen his war chest shrink from $197,000 to $122,000, while his business-backed opponent, Jeff Hart, would have campaigned on $66,000 rather than $220,000;
* Eric Mitchell and Willie Lewis would have been evenly matched, dollar for dollar, rather than the actual case in which Mitchell out spent Lewis nearly two to one, and;
* Watson would have had to get by with $197,000, but this would have been more than twice the amount available to Ronnie Reynolds.
The actual record demonstrates that unlimited political spending benefits the wealthy few, while the imposition of affordable limits empowers the many. Why does this democratic specter spook Black and some other would-be progressives?
and Craig McDonald
Detour Prop 6
According to Monday's six o'clock news on a local TV station, some folks still don't "get it." I'm speaking of the truck traffic problem on south Brodie Lane and Bond Proposition 6 to extend Highway 45 to alleviate the problem. This Proposition allows the levying of taxes on you and me of $3,525,000. Don't get me wrong, the truck problem exists, but by the building of this new road, the traffic will only be shifted to two-lane Highway 1826. We don't want it either.
Surprisingly enough this extension will tie directly into land owned by Austin's two most infamous developers, Gary "I owe $53 Million" Bradley and Jim Bob "largest polluter" Moffett who want to build an industrial park on his land. Get it yet?
The answer to the Brodie Lane problem is simple and inexpensive. Two signs. One at Slaughter Lane and the other at the end of Brodie that read "NO TRUCKS." Heck, I'll donate the materials and install them free! Then we can use the $31/2 to hire new police officers and give these hard-working officers a raise, and they can patrol Brodie Lane for illegal truck traffic. Amazing idea, huh?
Bikers Weigh In
The League Of Bicycling Voters offers the following positions: YES on Proposition 4, to build the MoKan hike and bike trail, promoting access to alternative transportation; and NO on both Propositions 5 and 6, to build state highways 130 and 45. Both of these proposed highways will adversely affect the future quality of life of a majority of Austinites. These highways move away from the popular idea of a compact city, serve only a limited number of people, and will contribute immediately to urban sprawl. Additionally, SH45 will require yet more construction over our aquifer.
Politically, SH130 is not even mapped out yet. Why should we support a highway system that will not benefit Austin as much as outlying suburban areas and does not guarantee the future integrity of East Austin neighborhoods? This is the type of highway work that pays homage only to vehicular transportation, excluding the facilitation of alternative transportation in and out of the city. At best, we can hope for commuter lanes and the diligent enforcement of same; at worst, this highway system will most likely contribute to urban sprawl and yet more pollution. Similarly, SH45 will do all this plus insure the further usurping of aquifer land. This is our water, folks: What do you value more -- a safe and plentiful water supply or a temporarily convenient expressway?
I own a large, inefficient truck that I work out of. In my business and in the broader realm, I regard vehicular use as a necessary evil. I am also a bicyclist; however, I cannot take a no-car stance. I do not believe we can change people's minds about owning cars, nor do I feel that we have that right. What we do have is an obligation to our children and a right to explore alternatives; to examine closely the environmental impact of every new mile of highway, the widening of existing roads, and repercussions such road building has on neighborhood integrity. Austin belongs to all her citizens, not just TXDOT and the developers -- they are only one faction of Austin: They should also consider working to benefit all of Austin, not just profiting from the exploitation of her. Vote to maintain our quality of life -- what Austin is famous for.
League of Bicycling Voters
Road to Nowhere
Many kudos to Karen Akins and company for forming TASS (Taxpayers Against Subsidizing Sprawl). Unfortunately neither TASS nor the Chronicle go far enough in speaking out against irresponsible Travis County bond proposals. Proposition 1, which proposes $36 million for repair of substandard roads and bridges, must also be soundly defeated.
Travis County already has the highest bond indebtedness of any county in the state. Issuing a bond to pay for routine maintenance of the transportation infrastructure is madness, pure and simple. Such maintenance can and must be provided for through standard revenue streams, or there is something seriously wrong with the system. Think about it -- imagine having to take out a loan every time you get your oil changed or replace a tire on your bicycle. If the county can't afford to maintain the roads they already have, then they have no business building new roads. End of story.
As for the other county road proposals, it is worth repeating that Austinites provide 80% of the funds for these projects and derive 0% of the benefits, since all this money is spent in unincorporated areas to facilitate urban sprawl. All one needs to do is take a ride out to the Pflugerville area to observe the immaculate six and eight lane roads to nowhere in order to get some idea of how this money will be spent.
Please, please, please exercise your duty as a member of a free society and vote on November 4. Vote against the Pickle Porkway (aka SH130), the ongoing assault on our environment, the continuing degradation of the Edwards Aquifer, and plain old fiscal irresponsibility by voting NO on Propositions 1,5, and 6. Your community is depending on you to do the right thing.
Ann, A Liberal Icon?
To the Chronicle:
Ann Richards a liberal icon? Who, pray tell, made her that? While Robert Bryce's article on St. Ann's current employment is informative on the surface, the entire tone of it makes it seem like Ms. Hairdo just recently sold out her sainted progressive principles.
As a member of the Travis County Commissioners Court, Richards and her co-conspirator, "liberal icon" Bruce Todd, voted to authorize the development of what became Circle C, as a favor to their close friend and contributor, Gary Bradley. Without the passionate support of Richards and Todd, Austin would perhaps not have had to deal with the likes of Jim Bob Moffet and Bradley for the past dozen years; a fact that the "progressive" faction never mentioned during their years of constant support for "moderates" like Richards and Todd. As with Richards' verbal support for "white women's" right to abortion, this was just something Not Mentioned in Polite Society.
And why does Bryce ignore Richards' "Willie Horton"-style campaign for re-election? I was sent no less than three different mailings, with Richards' campaign talking about how proud she was to have executed more black men than any other Texas governor, how she built more prison beds than any previous governor, and how the new prison beds would be used to imprison pot smokers and other social dissidents. It didn't seem to bother Molly Ivins, the Chronicle editors, or any other "progressive" opinion-makers, but it sure as hell bothered me. I voted Libertarian.
History is not written anew with each sunrise. Your writers would do well to spend some time at the Statesman's morgue, looking up the actual histories of political chameleons like Ann Richards. Actions always speak louder than words, but in St. Ann's case, neither words nor actions justify her canonization as any form of "progressive."
According to the local paper, the Hays County Grand Jury returned three indictments last week, one for sexual assault, one for aggravated assault, and one for gardening. The first two crimes are easily understood but the third is puzzling. Apparently the gardener made the mistake of growing marijuana, a plant which has been cultivated for centuries in countries all around the world including colonial America, but fell out of favor with the department of silly laws in this country in 1966.
As a gardener myself (of tomatoes and peppers and whatnot), I have to wonder just what harm this man was doing. Well perhaps it wasn't growing the plants that was the problem, maybe its what he intended to do with them. Maybe he was going to sexually assault someone with them. But probably, he just intended to dry the leaves and roll them into a cigarette and smoke them. Well, maybe then he was going to go berserk and attack someone. But, of course, people do that all the time, and not just after smoking marijuana. Some smoke tobacco or have a beer or one guy, in California, was acquitted of a confessed murder because he claimed that eating a Hostess Twinkee made him do it. And Hostess Twinkees are still legal.
Some of you may feel that anyone foolish enough to grow or smoke marijuana deserves to go to jail. I happen to feel that it's foolish to smoke tobacco or watch TV, but I doubt that it would be a better world if all the tobacco smoking TV watchers went to jail. Unless of course, they commit sexual assaults.
There's a lot of talk about reducing crime; one way to do that would be to reduce what we consider criminal, like gardening.
A gardener in favor of a little common sense,
Blues fans in Italy were very disappointed at the patronistic coverage given in your newspaper on the death of bassist Keith Ferguson. A copy of your paper's feature was recently sent to us by request. We were surprised at the judgmental tone of the article, which unapologetically confused Keith's talent and musical legacy with his personal lifestyle. This was hardly the kind of treatment deserving of one of Texas' finest contributions to the blues, and a musical mentor to bassists worldwide. How one runs one's personal affairs is not a matter for the press' sermonizing. If America prides itself on defending individual liberties, and Texas in particular, makes such proud claims to independent thinking, the Chronicle might have limited its coverage to the simple respect that Keith or any other deceased person deserves. A heartless article, in keeping with the other death spectacle headlines Texas makes worldwide: prison executions.
G. Alessi and on behalf of Blues Musicians
in the Emilia Romagna Region ( Italy )
Less Michael Ray Charles, More of Everything Else
Is Michael Ray Charles the only black artist in Austin? Is he the only artist in Austin? Or do you and the XLent just trade off stories from week to week? It seems as if every time I open the Chronicle or the XLent there is another story about Michael Ray Charles. His art may not be my style, but I do enjoy reading and learning about all the artists in Austin. I haven't had much of a chance to learn anything lately because someone is trying to start some kind of controversy by putting this guys' work in our face day after day and insisting that we all have some race issues to work out.
Personally, if I were trying to portray the diversity we have in the arts in Austin, I would write about a few more talented artists instead of the same one week after week after week after week after week....
That last "I don't like being treated like a moron" article you did hit the nail on the head ["Coach's Corner," Vol. 17, No. 8]. I'm a younger alum at UT (Class of '91), and I and most of my friends didn't exactly go through school during a glamorous era of UT football. I showed your article to several of my buddies and we all agreed that no one yet (especially the mainstream media like Kirk "Bandwagon" Bohls) has done anywhere near the job you did of describing the true level of frustration among the alumni with John Mackovic, DeLoss Dodds, et al. Any indicator you choose to look at (Internet polls, talking to people at Scholz's, whatever) has me thinking the opinion is running 4:1 against Mackovic and his lame excuses (is he "in a daze" again?). Keep up the good work, you definitely have an audience.
It Could Happen...
In "Naked City" [Vol.17, No.8] y'all write:
"The pond was built by Wal-Mart in compliance with the city's drainage requirements -- making Sam Walton a more compliant public citizen than TxDOT."
...which is pretty amazing considering Sam Walton is dead. I hope we can say the same about Jim Bob Moffett someday soon.
Not the dead part (well, not really) but that he would be a better public citizen than TxDOT, and better than Sam Walton, too. It could happen...
Lost in Texas
Dear Mr. Ventura and Editor:
I am not one to write letters, as you can gather from the graph paper, but Michael Ventura's "Letters at 3AM -- Revolutionary Letter on Education" [Vol.17, No.8] hit a bull's-eye right in my heart, I've often pondered and pontificated on (and on and on) about the evil of our American way of life, but never has my despair and dismay been so eloquently articulated -- Mr. Ventura has given coherent voice to what I've been thinking and feeling! I've wondered why I want to hang it up, move into the West Texas desert with my kids and live in a trailer, why telling them to do well in school sounds so increasingly lame (me, a former teacher) and yes, this is why. Amen, Mr. Ventura.
I'm dying to read the answer to "What's to be done...?"
P.S. I think "Letters at 3AM" is great; other installments hit it square in the jaw, too.
The Politics of Dancing
We the Web readers would appreciate someone more qualified than a political reporter reviewing albums. It sounds like Miss Brinsmade has a distaste for anything blues that is close to commercial, as evidenced by her recent rejection of LeeRoy Parnell and considering the weak point on the Asleep at the Wheel set a blues classic. Also I thought around your part of the country it was a privilege to help another artist on a CD. By the way, I have seen the rave reviews for Delbert elsewhere and heard about the 10,000 sales figure for the first week. Has anyone checked the resale bins?
Pleasant Gap, Pa
Now, What Does the One With the Donut Mean?
How trustingly I wrote y'all at the Chronicle asking what those taco bumper stickers mean. What did I get? Nothing. Thanks.
Lucky for me, a friend of mine filled me in: it seems some radio station here in town is under the assumption that gay people put rainbow flags or pink triangles on their bumpers in order to pick up dates in traffic. In that vein, somebody at that radio station made up taco bumper stickers for men who want to pick up women and hot dog bumper stickers for women who want to pick up men. So I guess my friends who suggested the old vagina/taco connection were right.
The problem with this is except for a few frat-looking boys who pull up next to me to see if I look like somebody they'd want to fellate, nobody uses rainbow flags or triangles for picking up people while driving in traffic. That actually sounds kind of pathetic. I have a rainbow flag on my car (and I doubt I'm alone here) to express pride; there are still lots of people who still believe all gay people are evil and naturally ashamed of themselves. This is one small attempt to correct that misconception. The most I ever got from another driver with something gay-oriented on their car was a honk and a wave of solidarity.
So the MoPac guy I originally wrote y'all about, the one waving the picture of the taco at me, gesturing and pointing, was responding to my rainbow flag bumper sticker, saying in effect "Women are the way to go, idiot." You heteros are nothing if not classy.
And as for y'all at the Chronicle who couldn't be bothered to help me out with any iota of information: thanks for nothing. Next time I go to Jane Greig.
Kinda Fonda Honda
I was pleased to see so much media coverage of the less polluting automobile technology being designed by Honda and others. It's precisely these advances that make me wonder: Why has the auto industry spent so much time and money fighting EPA's better clean air standard? They could've spent it speeding these improvements into my car and actually cleaning the air we're breathing. The technology is clearly there. The longer the delay, the more people get sick.
Sick 'em, IRS
There was a letter concerning IRS & getting them out of our lives. I am a retired IRS employee from Texas, and I resented the intrusiveness of the laws from the beginning. It amazed me how we got involved with families concerning divorce, property, children, dependents, and let the big dealers get a free ride. However, as a guy who needed a job, I tried to follow the law -- which sucks. This smoke & mirrors going on in Congress is just another way to screw the little people. Have you ever heard of a huge corporation complaining about IRS harassment? IRS is a tool of the Congress. It is their pet pit bull they love to hate & turn loose on the defenseless citizen. When the citizens get pissed -- they blame the dog, not the master. If we do away with the IRS Code -- which is a pipe dream -- who will beat up on the business that forgets to turn in the sales tax receipts? Mary Poppins? There will always be an enforcement agency to collect taxes. I think Jesus was born in a manger because the citizens were gathered to pay taxes. No room at the Inn. So if you are in business, you will deal with some Federales and the State will still be there. I really wish the individual citizen didn't have to be a freaking bookkeeper -- If any of your readers are young students, I suggest to them that they better not be careless about thinking of the future. You could very well end up working for IRS. I did my best to help.
Redington Shores, Florida
A Sooner Responds (Finally)
If any of Michael McWhorter's friends have an unburnt copy of this Chronicle, please let him know there are exactly three things I have to say to him in response to his "Unaboomer" letter to the editor, September 5, 1997 [Vol.17, No.2].
1) Ouch. 2) From personal experience, I can honestly say the weirdest thing I have ever done with my dog is to occasionally remember to feed him. However, I have heard of people around these parts who actually cook balanced meals for their dogs. Now that, I'll give you, is weird. 3) We Okies up here think you Texans do some pretty weird things too. In particular, what you do with your steering wheels and accelerator pedals. But, we love y'all anyway, especially when you are heading back south.
Nickels at 3AM
Dear Mr. Black:
I greatly enjoy reading Michael Ventura's bi-weekly column "Letters at 3am" and am grateful to your paper for making it available on the Web. When the technology to do so becomes available, I would be interested in paying a nickel, or a dime, or more to receive his column via your webpage or e-mail. I have passed on at least one of his columns to a friend via the Internet.
You go ahead and tell the cops that, although I don't agree with the way they conduct business in this town, they can share their feelings of frustration with some of us in the Eastside. When it comes to school principals, superintendents, newspaper editors, etc., I've seen the out-of-towners getting the jobs that locals might be qualified to fulfill, either by certification, or just by mere experience. Ask them if they wanna talk about crime...
Open Those Records!
Doing its best imitation of a greased hog, the Texas Supreme Court has squealed and slipped its way out of coverage under the Texas Open Records Act. At least for the time being.
The Court declared in August it is entirely exempt from the Open Records law, despite an Attorney General's opinion that administrative records such as phone logs and travel records of the courts should be public. The Court lashed out in its opinion, "It is not the Attorney General's prerogative to decide what the law should be; that belongs to the Legislature."
Now, confronted with the hard reality that the public, press, and members of the Legislature all agree that administrative records of the courts should be public, Chief Justice Tom Phillips is trying to squirm out of this sticky situation by allowing a group of self-interested judges and political appointees to write special rules for the courts. The Texas Judicial Council, the group Phillips thinks should write the rules, is chaired by Phillips and is dominated by 10 judges from other Texas courts.
We shouldn't trust a group of politicians to write their own rules on how they'll make their spending habits available to the public. The Justices should come clean and release their phone records now and leave it to the Legislature to determine how the courts will comply with future Open Records requests. Lt. Governor Bob Bullock recently appointed a special Senate committee to examine and update the Open Records law. That committee is the right place to do this work.
Craig McDonald, Director
Texans For Public Justice
Anyone Can Be a Dumbass
This is in reply to a letter from Julius Gordon, who shared his recent experience with racism in Austin (Vol.17, No.7).
What Mr. Gordon experienced is the sub-category. The category is called stupidity. It knows no bounds. It crosses races, cultures, educational, social, and economic levels, gender, sexual preference, religion, and so forth. What he experienced is what I experienced when an African American made fun of my thin upper lip that almost disappears when I smile by calling me "baloney lips," or when anybody of any race ridicules me for my excessively pale lips. Reverse the words "white" and "African American" in his letter and the result is the same: Stupidity. He can't escape it by not coming back to Austin until 2010, because it's everywhere. He could try to avoid it by locking himself in a box, but he wouldn't be able to. I mean, wouldn't it be just plain stupid to lock yourself in a box? Mr. Gordon is justified in being angered by his experience, but please, Austin is not what needs to "grow up," but society, and every individual in it. All of us need to stop acting stupid, thinking stupid, and saying stupid things. This includes the "white bigot" in the restaurant for acting the way he did, and Mr. Gordon for blaming the entire city of Austin for the action of some stupid people in a restaurant.
Oh, and include me in the "stupid" group for caring about the opinion of one person.
Flaming Liberal in the Wind
Loved your latest screed about Ann Richards, "Shattered Icon" [Vol.17, No.8]. It just goes to show that a woman can do just as bad of a job as any man! But isn't it hypocritical of the Chronicle to accuse Richards of selling out to special interests like Big Tobacco? In the same issue, pages 60-61 sport full-color, full-page tobacco ads. How much does a full-page, full-color ad cost these days? Richards is also blasted for helping to build a shopping mall. Considering the dens of iniquity the Chronicle advertises for, who are y'all to bitch?
But let's look on the bright side. Texas now has one less flaming liberal and that's a start. And kudos to Robert Bryce for pointing out the not-so-obvious differences between Richards and Ralph Reed. (I had to check twice to make sure I was still reading the Chronicle!)
And on a stranger, bigoted note, how about the quote from racist Velma Roberts [Million Man Mayhem]: "Black people want to be with black people, just like you all want to be with you all people." So much for diversity, huh?