We Get What We Want
I am writing to say I enjoyed Lee Nichols' article regarding our local area news coverage ["Media Clips," Vol. 17, No. 24]. Though I agree with Mr. Nichols' final assessment that Austin area news coverage can sometimes be "silly and sensationalistic," I tend to question further the reasons. I feel it quite simple to point the finger at television news editors and claim they "have a preoccupation with death and crime, particularly the violent variety." Is this not a societal issue? These media outlets are businesses and these businesses do cater to the public.
The real problem is our lust, as a people, for dynamic dirt dished out every day. The media are only giving us what we ask for or, better still, what we demand. Ratings equal dollars, bottom line. If we as citizens are not somehow entertained by news coverage (not saying that is the way it should be) then ratings drop and so do profits. How do we change that?
I have no idea.
Lee Does His Homework
Kudos to Lee Nichols on the story about your local news market ["Media Clips," Vol. 17, No. 24]. There was a part of the article which alluded to the frustration about larger markets, and believe me, it's real. I live in Houston, and local news here is a joke, so much so that I don't ever bother to watch it.
Channel 2, for example, the local NBC affiliate, has a feature they call "The Big Story," their leading story for the evening's broadcast. It was my amused understanding that their "big story" one evening was flatulence - precious, expensive media time about having gas! (Just hasn't been the same since the Post-Newsweek folks took it over.) The other outlets have delivered equally ridiculous offerings, even more so during these blasted Sweeps periods that come four times a year. Channel 51, a local all-news station launched several years ago, has pared back their (lightweight) news operations in favor of running what Nick at Nite would call "classic TV."
I always enjoy reading your paper, whether online or when I visit Austin, but I had to take a few moments to compliment you on something that was right on the money. I love scathing commentary on the broadcast media, especially when it's written with style. I may drop a note to the Houston Press, our local free weekly (but not nearly as cool!), to see if they'd be willing to do a similar study here. Hell, maybe I'll just send a copy of the story to all our local news stations.
Keep up the great work! And thanks a lot, Lee!
Charles Tatum II
I've worked in television for several years at four different stations in the country. I've been part of important broadcasts covering hurricanes, as well as not-so-important cooking segments and pet tips. Our anchors did play-by-play as OJ drove down the freeway, and our sports director danced with cheerleaders. No doubt there is room for debate over what is worthy of being crammed into a 30-minute newscast.
Although you did your homework ["Media Clips," Vol.17, No.24] (I wouldn't put my worst enemy through 10 hours of local news), a vital point was missed. TV news is a business. As idealistic as we'd all like it to be, if people don't watch, the show is off the air. Tales of stations pulling news in place of old Fresh Prince re-runs are not uncommon because research shows Fresh Prince gets the numbers. Does that make it right? No. Should we expect more? Of course.
Programs like 20/20 have shown that long-format news gets viewers (hence profits), at least on a network level. The staff requirements alone to produce such a program is often beyond the scope of local television. Until the price of commercial time skyrockets, we can't expect a local version of 20/20 anytime soon.
Competition, not censorship, deems people at four separate commercial stations in Austin decide content. It's not a perfect system, but I shudder to think of the alternative. And we can never dismiss the important fact that commercial news will always be driven by ratings.
Viewers enjoy sports and weather so there is less time for what is considered "news" in a 30-minute show. And laboring through advertisements is no picnic but it's what keeps media on the air. We need to look no further than the Sunday edition of the local newspaper to prove that point.
To The Austin Chronicle staff and readers:
I would like to take this opoportunity to sincerely thank you for the article on myself and Tapestry Dance Company. It means so much to know that the successes, the trials, and the tribulations of our professional dance company are of interest to your paper and your wonderful arts writer Robert Faires.
I would, however, like to apologize for comments made during this "three week out" interview on the topic of Austin On Tap. My feelings toward the experience with that company should in no way reflect on my past associates. In fact, there are individuals who are still very active in the dance and theatre community (perhaps not as a full-time job) but left AOT for very diverse reasons that did not include burnout: marriage and career as an example. And, actually one very succesful tap dancer in Chicago is still going strong! My AOT career ended in the negative but included very memorable and cherished events that brought me to my current position. My sincerest apologies to all of the past dancers of this company. I do realize that if it were not for Austin On Tap there would also be no Tapestry.
I would also like to add some interview information that did not make it to black and white. My wonderful co-founder Deirdre Strand is alive and well as the Academy Director of Tapestry and the Director of Dance at St. Stephen's Episcopal School. The latter of which is what pays her bills! I look forward to working with her again in the near future as choreographer and collaborator. (Perhaps, one day, our nonprofit company can financially support two Artistic Directors!)
Tapestry Dance Company
P.S. To all Tapestry Fans... the show's gonna be great!!!
Triana a Law Veteran
I've known Judge Gisela Triana for several years, I originally met her through the Austin Women's Political Caucus, and in my opinion we need more candidates like her. You say she has a relatively short legal career, but by my counting it's pretty long. She graduated magna cum laude from college at 19, and got her law degree from UT at 22. She's 31 years old and she's been practicing law for almost 10 years.
If Gisela wants to be attorney general or sit on the Supreme Court some day, good for her. She cares about people and works hard. She's a bright, committed young woman with a promising future. I think she'll make a great justice of the peace.
Justice for Triana
I just read the story Lee Simmons wrote about the JP5 race ["The People's Court," Vol.17, No.24] and boy, did my BS meter go off big time! Herb Evans is clearly playing "hide the ball" and maybe he's getting away with it.
Herb's credentials must be pretty thin since he's making up charges against Judge Triana and attacking her like a junkyard dog. The mystery is twofold: why Evans won't talk about his fitness for the job, and why the Chron is allowing its pages to become a voice for Evans' worthless attacks. It's an old criminal defense attorney tactic: When your case is weak, avoid the issues and divert attention down false trails. The real story is who is better prepared to be the next Pct. 5 J.P.
Herb talks about his mediation skills, but with his tactics, I sure wouldn't want to be a involved in one of his conflict resolution sessions, much less have him decide issues as a justice of the peace. Add to this his willful violation of ethics laws: He has failed to report his contributions and expenditures, and shrugs it off, as though respect for campaign finance laws is "slick."
We trust judges to uphold the law and to follow it, too. And there's a certain restraint and decorum required of a judge, which Herb Evans doesn't seem to have. He doesn't have the right stuff to be a judge in Travis County.
While we appreciate the Chronicle's effort to cover this year's Travis County races, we wanted to share more information about Ann Graham's background and positions.
1) Ann Graham has won the endorsement of the AFL-CIO, El Concilio Mexican-American Democrats, Austin Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, Texas Society of CPAs, Capital Progressive Democrats, South Austin Democrats, and Central Austin Democrats.
2) Ann has an MBA and has extensive fiscal and management experience at the federal and state level. She was part of an FDIC senior management team that oversaw four states and dealt with solvency issues facing 1,500 financial institutions, ranging from small town banks to multi-billion dollar institutions. She also served five years as the General Counsel to the Texas Banking Department. Ann has superb credentials to deal with the county budget.
3) Ann is a volunteer mediator in juvenile court. She has first-hand knowledge of the difficulties that at-risk youths face. And she has worked to find solutions case-by-case. If you add her work as a hotline volunteer at the Battered Women's center and her work with the Second Street Ministry project to feed the homeless, you have someone whose understanding of our community's social problems is based on personal involvement and deep commitment to people.
4) Ann will work actively to protect Travis County's environment. She is committed to completing the Balcones Canyonland Preserve, protecting the aquifer through limitations on impervious cover, developing regional efforts to protect water quality, and fully considering environmental impacts and protections in road siting, development, and construction.
We hope these facts give Chronicle readers a more extensive description of the person we feel would make the best county commissioner for Precinct Three.
George Cofer, Jon Beall, Jim Cousar
A Dose of Mattox
Regardless of how one might feel about his aggressive personal style, it is well known that in his two terms as attorney general, Jim Mattox was a top administrator, extremely effective in his post, and arguably the best attorney general Texas has ever had.
The public has been bemoaning the lack of political leaders with vision and integrity. That type of leader has returned, in the person of Jim Mattox. No one could be more deserving of our support.
In his long career of public service, Mattox has consistently upheld his commitment to the average citizen through his programs to protect the rights of consumers, to support law enforcement, to protect and preserve the environment, to strengthen health and safety laws and to enforce such laws, and through his award-winning child support program.
Blessed with a healthy dose of common sense, Jim Mattox has always sided with the little people and the poor. A true populist even when unpopular, he has promoted rights and opportunities for women and minorities not only through the law but in his own hiring practices at the A.G.'s office. He had the guts to take on giant corporations and if in the process he made quite few enemies, that fact needs to be held in perspective.
Those of us who have felt so deeply disappointed by the last eight years under Dan Morales need to remember who set the standard by which we make our judgment. Who best to set things right than his predecessor? Those among us who may have had less than enthusiastic support for Jim Mattox in past elections have the chance to redeem themselves by being big enough to set aside those emotions now for the common good and wholeheartedly supporting his return to the job for which he is so well suited.
We get the kind of government we deserve. This is a critical time in the politics of our state. We face the frightening prospect of having the interpretation of our laws held in the hands of a Shiite Republican of the likes of Tom Pauken, who could wage an Armageddon on our civil liberties that would make Joe McCarthy look like Ralph Yarborough. We will deserve every bit of it if we cannot rise to this occasion and put all of our energies behind the strongest, most capable leader possible: Jim Mattox, without question.
S.O.S. Analyzes JPI
While Robert Bryce's coverage of the SNK-JPI Brodie controversy has been very good, some additional information is needed. First, in our view JPI's compliance with the S.O.S. ordinance is not "voluntary" as reported. We do not believe that JPI's "grandfather" claims are valid. If you reviewed JPI's presentation to the Planning Commission in January 1997 or JPI's track record on other projects, you would see that JPI does not scale back its proposals as a matter of charity. JPI's legal duty to protect the Barton Springs Salamander also requires S.O.S. compliance as well as prevention of traffic hazards at the Loop 360 bridge.
In our view, S.O.S. compliance should not provide an excuse for ignoring the damaging effects of JPI's proposal on the Barton View Neighborhood, on Loop 360 and MoPac traffic, and on the view from all over South Austin.
Unfortunately, the traffic hazard and visual impacts of the project have not been clearly defined. JPI's plans would generate 5,000 or more car trips per day, every one of which would enter and exit JPI's property onto Loop 360 at the light immediately east of the Barton Creek bridge. Most of these trips would occur at rush hour, when traffic on Loop 360 is already a nightmare. If JPI is allowed to go forward, we will then be faced with the choice of suffering the traffic gridlock created by the project or spending many millions of dollars in a few years to build an overpass to replace the traffic light.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has identified the Loop 360 bridge as possibly the highest risk site for a catastrophic spill of pollutants into Barton Creek and the Springs. Thus we should be reducing, not increasing, traffic hazards on Loop 360. At the very least we should fully understand the traffic problems before any decisions are made.
Similarly, we know that you can see all of downtown standing on the ground at JPI's property. We also know that you will be able to see JPI's proposed 78-foot office towers from all over the city. But so far no site view drawings have been presented to illustrate what the project would actually look like from various vantage points.
The Brodie tract is uniquely situated and, because of the very serious problems associated with the site that are not addressed by impervious cover limits, JPI's proposal deserves special scrutiny. It would be a terrible shame for Austin citizens and leaders to figure out how bad the traffic and visual effects are only when it is too late to do anything about it.
Blues Brothers Bomba
Landis and his cronies should be stood up against a wall for desecrating the memory of the original film [Blues Brothers 2000]. I haven't been so appalled by a film since I saw Vanilla Ice in Cool as Ice at the dollar cinema years ago - and I went to that just so I could celebrate awfulness in full bloom. And damned if I didn't enjoy Cool as Ice just for that very reason. But Blues Brothers 2000 is undeserving of the barely restrained accolades your reviewer gave it. The 10-year-old Buster Blues was worse than I could have imagined, the musical numbers were arbitrarily thrown in and lacked all relevance to the movie, and the audience sat mute through the movie hoping something/anything funny would happen.
Your reviewer wrote, "...its heart and soul and sense of unbridled fun is so on-target that it doesn't matter..." Heart and soul? Unbridled fun? Did that reviewer accidentally sit in John Turturro's Brain Donors or the Cohen Brother's Raising Arizona? Then the description might apply. Otherwise the film is dreck, pimping the good name of the original for undeserved pocket change. Your reviewer should hang his or her head in shame for misleading me into throwing my money away. I haven't been so upset with a film reviewer since I lived in Orlando and regularly read Jay Boyar's movie reviews in the Orlando Sentinel, but only because he's the most idiotic person ever to put words on paper and is always consistently wrong. If you'd like a primer on how not to write film reviews, go to this site and read some of his reviews: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/entertainment/movies/ You'll reel backwards in horror in much the same way that I did at the execrable BB2000.
So please, print a retraction, and give BB2000 the La Bomba it earned. Or else bring me the head of that anonymous reviewer.
[Ed. note: Mark Savlov wrote the review. His initials are signed at the end of the review.]
Bike Plan Needed
On the morning of January 9, I was hit by a car on North Loop Boulevard while riding my bike to work. It was a hit-and-run. I was left (for dead, as far as the driver knew) in the street. I have no memory of the incident itself; I only know what police and people nearby have told me. Before making a few points, I would first like to appeal to anyone who may have any information to contact the Austin Police.
North Loop and many other residential streets in town are poorly planned and dangerous. Streets that are heavily traveled by bicyclists and pedestrians often consist of four narrow, curving lanes forced into the space of a residential street. It is my opinion that four lanes give drivers the false impression that there is room to speed. Exacerbating this problem, stop signs and lights are spaced far apart, leaving long stretches for acceleration.
As a solution to this hazardous condition, I propose that streets such as these be converted into two-lane roads with a center left-turn lane and bike lanes on either side. This would create a much safer environment and would raise awareness of the presence of bicyclists in the roadway. If bikers and pedestrians were given consideration when roads are constructed, perhaps more people would choose these forms of transportation. Fewer cars on the road would alleviate traffic, air, and noise pollution problems in this "environmentally friendly" city.
As a cyclist, I accept that some streets are for cars only. However, I have difficulty accepting the lack of a coherent pedestrian/cycling plan as an alternative to car travel. Many so-called bike routes lack bike lanes and are unsafe. Many that do have bike lanes allow parking in these lanes, forcing the cyclist to dart in and out of traffic. Furthermore, the bike routes are often fragmented, leaving the cyclist with no safe options for cross-town travel. Look at the millions of dollars spent to build roads stretching in every direction. Let's please spend some small portion of that to accommodate people, too.
Invest in Public Transit
In a letter opposing toll roads ["Postmarks," Vol.17, No.24], Ed Lauffer pleads, "keep Texas free." By this he means: heavily subsidize private car use, instead of investing in public transportation.
We make people pay each time they ride on public transit. But you can drive free on the public roads, no matter how heavy and road-damaging your car or truck is, no matter how much it pollutes the air, no matter how much it endangers other people. And you can park your car or truck for free nearly everywhere. Valuable real estate is given away free to car drivers for parking their cars.
When we move heaven and earth to make car driving seem "free," but charge by the ride for public transit use, we are encouraging people to drive cars. The car population here is growing faster than the human population. This isn't surprising, given that we have free road use, free parking, cheap gasoline, and plenty of bank loans for car drivers, compared with pay-for-each use and no perks for transit riders.
I agree with Mr. Lauffer that if Texas 130 is a toll road and I-35 isn't, car and truck drivers will be encouraged to use I-35. But I don't think that "keeping Texas free" is a good solution. It would be better to turn all our highways into toll roads, and drastically lower speed limits (to 20mph or less) on our other roads.
Instead of keeping Texas free for cars and trucks, let's reduce traffic and make Texas a place where people feel free to walk around.
Iraq II, WWIII
President Clinton, who opposed and dodged Vietnam, has become the most ardent of a long line of warmaking presidents, following the Vietnam excursion and Bush's Iraq War I to the letter. He is leading the nation down the garden path to another brutal, unnecessary, costly, and counterproductive conflagration. The media are again playing their role as a propaganda machine. A rubber stamp Congress and the nation of sheep are again following along without question.
Iraq War II is a moral tragedy for Clinton and for American history. It is also a tragedy for world history, for the following scenario is likely to unfold: The U.S. bombs Iraq, which bombs Israel, which unleashes nuclear weapons... if that does not start World War III as Yeltsin suggests, Israel will try to relocate the Palestinians in Iraq much like the Kurds were relocated in the past. These events will make that area of the world an even hotter cauldron of hatred and endless war.
Clinton talks about diplomacy not as compromise but as comply or else! That's too bad, because he has nonviolent diplomatic cards to play - like offering to pull the CIA out or ending the unlawful embargo if Iraq will open all suspected sites to international inspection. If Iraq responds to such a rational diplomatic initiative, Clinton could go down in history, not as a draft-dodging warmonger but as a peacemaker. At one time Clinton quoted fondly the beatitude of a famous peace activist: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons [and daughters] of god.
Jewel R. Johnson
Last summer at a tour of Seaholm Power Plant the question was asked, "What should Austin use this old electric power plant for?" There was a big stack of boxes being stored at that time in Seaholm. In the local daily's 2-16-98 front-page photo you can now see hundreds of these boxes being stored in Seaholm; the lower levels also contains these same boxes.
At the public hearing held recently in South Austin I offered an idea for the use of Seaholm. This idea was difficult to present in the three minutes the public was allowed. Here is my clarification. Why not let Raytheon Electronic Systems (http://www.raytheon.com/res/trans_prt.html) use Seaholm to manufacture the overhead guideway segments for its new, modern, PRT 2000 public transportation system? There is railway access into Seaholm for the steel to be delivered. Inside Seaholm is that huge overhead "mega" ton crane to move the completed prefabricated PRT guideway segments to transports. There is more than enough room at Seaholm for storage of materials and assembly of the guideway vehicles. The PRT 2000 is a non-polluting, electrically-operated system. There is currently all the electrical power switching that the system needs to operate city wide, right on site. This is a win-win situtation. City Hall and Cap Metro cuts a deal with Raytheon and all of Austin could have a modern transportation system the nation would envy. After all, City Hall has made sweetheart deals with all kinds of companies in the not-so-distant past, some of these companies are even from the USA.
But first somebody is going to have to move those hundreds of boxes full of solar panels out of the dark at Seaholm and into the sunlight. Now that's what I would call "vision."
Thou Shalt Not Necessarily Kill
An Open Letter to Advocates of the Death Penalty:
The death penalty is wrong.
If our state can be said to have a moral mandate, history suggests this would be rooted in Christianity, which supplants "an eye for an eye" with a "new covenant" based on forgiveness: "turn the other cheek." If the state has no moral mandate, it has no business putting anyone to death. Thus, there is no moral or philosophical foundation for the death penalty.
That this may not seem fair is no more relevant than whether it seems fair to a psychotic that their childhood was a living hell. Any form of government that takes seriously the preservation of individual freedom must appeal to some "objective" measure: thus, for example, the First Amendment. It cannot rely on subjective notions of fairness, no matter how compelling they may seem. Without such a standard, governance becomes merely an arbitrary exercise of power of one group over another (example: KKK lynchings).
Similarly, that the parole laws in Texas defy common sense is not an argument to kill someone; rather, it suggests that there is something flawed in the legislative process.
Advocates of the death penalty: Do not confuse understandable outrage in the face of horrible crimes with the basic requirements for ensuring that 200M-odd people can live in relative freedom. Thank you and goodnight.
Grunt for Gold
Open Letter to CBS and Affiliates
Watching Michele Kwan dissolve in tears because she only won a silver medal in women's skating, I concluded that the whole spirit of the Olympics has been perverted - with much assistance from the media. I think we should rename the spectacle Grunt for Gold. It's not about sportsmanship or bringing people together anymore. It's just grunting for gold. What a shame since that's about all we do the rest of the time.
New World Odor
Bill Clinton's planned bombing of Iraq is constitutionally illegal, immoral, and just plain dumb. The American Constitution states very clearly that it takes a vote of Congress to engage our troops in war actions and no vote has been taken. It is immoral because we are planning to bomb civilian neighborhoods. Third, this bombing is dumb because it has already alienated our allies, it will cost the taxpayers of America (us) billions, it will not solve the problem, and because eventually the Moslem nations are going to get sick of us manipulating their affairs and bombing their people and they will retaliate.
This action is about money, plain and simple. Clearly, Saddam is a tyrant (as are the leaders of almost every other Middle East nation). The reason he is being targeted is that he won't play ball with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. When are the American people going to wake up and realize that many of our so-called "leaders" (Clinton, Albright, Cohen, Gore, Gingrich, etc.) owe their allegiance to the Power Elite who control the IMF and the World Bank? The only way to stop this is when enough people take personal responsibility and protest this insane action.
The east/west controversy over where to put State Highway 130 can be resolved very easily. They should build the southbound lanes west of the lake, and the northbound lanes east of the lake.
Dana Andrew Kiger
On February 20, 1998, the teachers of Austin I.S.D. participated in the district's "Share the Excitement" teacher conference. For this event, the convention center, and Palmer Auditorium were rented, and the district's own Austin High School became a convention site as well. As teachers we first learned of the district's plans for our annual conference back in October when we received a call for proposals. This translates to: The teachers will do their own training. While many of us enjoy doing presentations, the call for proposals did not state any plans for compensation of our time and effort, therefore many did not sign up to present a session. It looked as if it was a ploy to get some training for teachers without having to pay for it. In the end, teachers found out they would receive a $50.00 stipend and a parking pass for agreeing to present two 45-minute sessions on the same topic.
We also knew that the date for the conference fell on a Friday, at the end of Parent Conference Week for elementary and middle school teachers. The students missed two days of school during this week, as teachers met with parents all day Monday. The district's timing was a bit off, since planning for parent conference day, and planning for a presentation require some extra effort, time, and expenditures of emotional energy. Many who had "excitement to share" did not sign up for this reason.
Teachers who agreed to do a presentation were informed of the details (how many handouts to make, number in audience, room size and location, etc.) on Friday, February 13 - one week before the presentation. This letter did not indicate any provision for making the handouts at the school or district's expense. Most people don't realize that teachers have to pay for copies out of their instructional accounts (state monies supposed to be spent on student instruction). Teachers had to ask their local campus administrator for a break on that, or if they didn't ask, their instructional accounts were charged for the copying expense for the district's handouts.
After the principal's meeting in January, teachers at their local campuses were updated about the developing conference and were informed that we "would not be allowed to drive our own cars to the convention center." This was due to the perceived parking shortage in the area around the convention center. Therefore, we were all to park our cars at either one of two locations, north or south, and ride the school bus over to the conference. Another attempt to exercise control over our comings and goings, we thought. Later, a sheet was passed around for us to indicate which lot we would be parking in on the 20th. I chose to drive my car and park at the convention center's parking facility - of which they raised the price to $4.00 on the day of the teacher conference.
On Wednesday, February 18, two days before the conference, we were informed: "Due to the short lunch time, we are asking that you eat at the convention center. Food from the outside will not be allowed into the convention center. Please plan to purchase your lunch from the vendors at the convention center." Many of my pregnant, vegan, and vegetarian friends, as well as those of us who just don't care for overpriced barbequed beef(?) on a bun, were once again outraged. Throughout the entire process of informing teachers, and/or requesting participation from teachers, the district has adopted an attitude of authoritarian control over its staff. It is evident in the memos, and in the messages that local campus administrators are expected to carry back to their staff. (We left the building and ate at one of Austin's great little Mexican food restaurants - Las Manitas Avenue Cafe.)
To make matters worse, we were given part of one day to review our session choices and sign up for our top six choices for each of the two required time slots. Therefore, teachers hurriedly completed choice sheets for the conference topics, knowing that by giving 12 choices for only two time slots, we probably weren't going to get our first choices. In fact, we did not know what sessions we were supposed to attend until late Thursday afternoon, the day before the conference. Many teachers did get their first choices, and the slick conference brochure sitting on our chairs the next morning was expensive-looking.
Hey, we get it now! We're trying to look like the big guys and have an education conference the likes of which a state agency might put on for its membership. Well, that's all fine and good, and the district is trying something different for a change. I think they will see us grow up a lot, able to play with the big boys, when they finally make the connection between their treatment of their professional teaching staff as children who need to be controlled, versus a view that we are truly capable of sharing our excitement as dedicated and committed teachers. Agencies who put on conferences for their membership don't treat the members like they can't be trusted to return to the conference after their lunch break. They don't have unclear calls for proposals, they don't wait until the last minute to send you your conference information, and they don't demand that you utilize services they are providing at the conference. They merely offer suggestions, and let their members decide for themselves what works best for them. It's all about attitude. Hopefully, someone will take note, and we can continue with a good idea, but get it right next year.
I haven't even mentioned the poor acoustics during the keynote address, or the small rooms, and lack of equipment requested by the presenters in the rooms for presentations, or the fact that many presenters received a schedule which did not include a lunch break, but these things can all be fixed. Changing attitudes and beliefs is a much harder task.
[Ed. note: Food rules at the convention center are made by FineHost and not the different event producers.]