Slusher Kicks Ass!
Kayte VanScoy thinks Daryl Slusher has an "image problem" with Austin activists and environmentalists ["Council Watch," Vol.17, No.25]. Funny, almost none of the activists actually quoted said anything less flattering than Slusher is doing a great job, even if they don't agree with every one of his votes. I talked to several of the folks quoted in the article, and each indicated that Daryl continues to be an excellent councilmember on quality of life issues for Austin. Even critic Brent White admits that Slusher is "one of the best council members ever."
No, VanScoy's problem is that Daryl is becoming too popular. Rather than knee-jerk voting for what appears to be the most "liberal" position on any given Thursday, Daryl is taking a long-term view and working for sustainable progressive policies. In doing so, Daryl is winning the confidence of many who thought he would show the restraint of the average Chronicle writer.
Truth is, governing is different from writing a column. Truth is, the council must weigh the views and concerns of all of the community, even those who did not vote for the greens. Even in doing so, Daryl still asks the tough questions and fights the good fights.
Anyone with a few years of perspective knows that this council is doing a great job of shaping city policy to fit the vision of our environmentalist/neighborhood coalition. In their short tenure, this group has achieved more for our quality of life than any of the "environmentalist" councils of recent history.
Notwithstanding VanScoy's polemic, Slusher's record holds true to his commitment to work to protect our quality of life over the long run.
Don't Clump Me In
In your Feb. 20 issue, you quote Councilmember Jackie Goodman, as she attacked, from the dais, the neighborhoods who oppose the huge Regency Village project:
"For me, who once lived in a trailer with my mother and my father, I really feel uneasy... [about the neighborhood objections]... if you can't afford a house, you're not some kind of undesirable person..."
Jackie's personal involvement is obviously deafening her to the message from the united Southeast neighborhoods. This is not "mobile homes are evil." Many of us live in mobile homes. This is "The Southeast already has three times the percentage of mobile homes as the next-highest part of Austin." The City Council is de facto segregating Austin's mobile homes into one district - the Southeast. This is bad for the Southeast and bad for the people who live in those homes.
We are opposing this unplanned clumping and these huge new rental-lot developments. But Jackie can't hear that, and now we know why. She's told us from the dais that, because she used to live in a mobile home, she has a personal problem with anyone who objects to any mobile home development.
Criticism of huge mobile home rental-lot schemes, whether they're called "trailer parks" or "manufactured housing developments" is not the same thing as criticism of Jackie Goodman. She needs to get over that. If she's that insecure, that easy to manipulate, she needs a break from public life before she hurts any more people.
What we have been begging for is neighborhood planning, and a break from lying, bullying, encroaching developers. If Goodman (who loudly bills herself as a neighborhood supporter) can't support that, she should abstain.
South Creeks Neighborhood Association
Southeast Needs Diversity
Dear Austin Chronicle:
Southeast Austinites fighting a proposed mobile home development near Bluff Springs Road are by and large low-income homeowners. Some are mobile home residents.
Transiency has had a debilitating effect on the Southeast community. Just a few years ago 60% of non-graduating students were leaving Mendez Middle School each school year. That rate has been reduced to 40%, in no small part due to the efforts of neighborhood activists, led by the Southeast Corner Alliance of Neighborhoods. SCAN's first priority has always been increasing home ownership because it breeds citizen participation and community.
Mobile homes in the proposed development would be placed on land rented from the developer. At best, that is a very limited form of home ownership. The rent would be raised periodically, so the "owners" would pay more each year to live in homes depreciating in value. That would be great for developer profit, but bad for community building and affordability.
The neighbors oppose adding to the disproportionate number of mobile homes in the Southeast. Over 2,500 of the city's 3,100 mobile homes are in 78744 and the adjacent zip code areas. Hyde Park, 78705, and 78751 have a total of 23. SCAN's neighborhoods also have over one-sixth of the City's federally subsidized housing. Planning Commisioner Walter Brown wrote, "zoning this property (for mobile homes) will help to seal the area's fate - away from single family stability and toward additional borderline uses."
The developer proposal is not a solution to the "affordable housing" problem. Paying more for a depreciating asset in a vulnerable section of town is the opposite of affordable. It's a trap. Buying a mobile home and paying rent for a lot is less affordable than buying standard site-built homes in this area (the lowest-cost housing in Austin according to the 3/1/98 Statesman).
The Southeast would like the chance to be more like Hyde Park, Councilmember Goodman's example of a sustainable community with low-income residents integrated in it. That will not happen if zoning decisions are made by councilmembers putting personal feelings ahead of community. Councilmember Goodman sees this as a class war between the low-income neighborhoods and potential mobile home renters. The developer's marketers must be very pleased with her. The real fight is between monied out-of-towners - Councilmember Goodman calls them "the larger community" - who care not a bit about this community and our neighbors. I'm for the people here.
Thomas I. Davies
Attorney for Bluff Springs Valley Neighborhood Association and Southeast Corner Alliance of Neighborhoods
You Screwed Up My Art
Although I was happy to do the cover of the March 6 issue [Vol.17, No.26] (printed well, thank you), I was disappointed (to put it diplomatically) at the presentation of my Li'l Hepcats strip in the interior. Not only were the pages reduced so drastically that most of the fine-detail pen-and-ink work turned to mud, but pages 4 and 5 were actually printed out of sequence (they should be inverted)!
If any of your readers would like to see the strip printed correctly, they are invited to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hopefully the next time we work together we'll get it right!
Dear Editor and readers:
As part of Austin's film community and an ex-Hollywood freelancer, I must take exception to a recent "Page Two" editorial which gushes that Richard Linklater's star-studded The Newton Boys marks a "coming of age" for the Austin film industry simply because it's "a Hollywood studio production conceived, shot, and about Texas."
Frankly, and not to take anything away from Mr. Linklater, who's been an unwavering supporter of the Austin film scene, nothing could be further from the truth. There'll be no "coming of age" for the Austin film industry until local film professionals can find enough work to be self-supporting outside of Hollywood's flavor-of-the-month whims.
The fact is, the studios see Austin primarily as a desirable shooting location, and that will never change. Hollywood hires its own and it's unrealistic to expect the Studios to come here and hire local crews.
Austin shouldn't discourage these companies from coming here, however, as some work is better than none. What we should do, though, is invest in Austin's growing crop of talented filmmakers while simultaneously developing the support service infrastructure needed to ensure a thriving indigenous film industry, regardless of what bones Hollywood throws our way.
That, folks, requires money. Local business leaders, members of the banking and financial community, and government officials must support and nourish these filmmakers. They must educate themselves on the business of film so they understand its risks as well as its rewards. Finally, they need to understand that this is a long-term project; that they're literally building an industry from the bottom up.
When Austin's filmmakers have access to first rate production facilities - a real soundstage, a decent lab and a transfer house, for starters - as well as financial resources that allow them to regularly hire local crews and pay them decently, then and only then will Austin's film industry have come of age.
Until then, we're simply stargazing.
Merle M. Bertrand
More Funny Cop Stories
Your cops and theatre story in the March 6 issue ["Exhibitionism," Vol.17, No.26] brought back some memories for me. You may want to check with Bobbie on these, or you might get a better version from somebody else by the time you've read this.
My favorite Austin cops and theatre story revolves around a performance, not a rehearsal. Six years ago, Different Stages did "Woman in Mind" at the Acting Studio (a place that is definitely not zoned for art). Two actors were waiting to make an entrance through the stage right door, which opens into the parking lot of the Frisco steak house. Straining to hear their cue above the din of the planes overhead, traffic, etc., they must have looked suspicious to the pair of Austin's finest who were preparing to dine there. As they opened the door as quietly and stealthily as they could, they were, well, detained for questioning.
Fortunately, around the corner at about this time came actress Bobbie Owens, in full costume, and she quickly sized up the situation.
"What are you guys doing?" she asked the cops, who were as startled by her authoritative tone as her question, and told her so. "Don't y'all know who I am?" she asked. This caused some raised eyebrows and some blinking, because it took the officers several seconds, because of the costume, to recognize her from her day job, which is Captain of Patrol for said Police-type Department.
The alleged perpetrators were promptly returned to thespian status, the show went on, and justice prevailed.
Flip side: Bobbie just did a wonderful job for Different Stages in Juno and the Paycock last fall, of course, and I wish my costume call at St. Ed's (a costume class there did a super job for us in exchange for course credit) had been at a different time. She told me later that when she arrived for hers, she'd had to come straight from work (in an unmarked cruiser). The kids' pucker factor was quite high when she sailed into the school gymnasium where they had set up the dressing area wearing her full, "ninja-black" style uniform complete with Sam Browne, holster, cuffs and captain's bars. Not as funny, but I guess you had to be there.
Henry V. Fitzgerald, Jr.
Me and My Honda
It is very interesting to me that Amy Babich has been very selective in the facts she uses to support her position on public transportation ("Postmarks," Vol.17, No.25). The total lack of accuracy in her remarks on the subject is typical of the car-bashers of Austin.
It is true that we make people pay each time they use public transit, but fares are only a small, insignificant portion of the costs involved in operating Capital Metro. Public transit is a subsidized operation. If riders were to bear all the costs of running the buses, there wouldn't be any. Capital Metro buses are virtually (and sometimes literally) free.
Driving a car is not free and it is not subsidized by taxpayer's money as is public transit. I pay the full costs for operating my car, which include fuel, insurance, taxes, maintenance, depreciation, and other costs. Then I pay a 1% sales tax to support public transit.
The remark about road damage is especially dumb. The greatest road damage to Austin's streets is inarguably caused by Capital Metro buses. That's why Capital Metro is spending so much of our tax dollars on the sub-standard road repairs being done all over town. That's why so much of the taxpayer's money is being spent to provide bus landing pads (three inches above or below grade) every 30 feet on every road in and around Austin.
I can drive my Honda much more cost efficiently (on a passenger/mile basis) than any bus Capital Metro has in their fleet, including the gas-guzzling full size sedans used for their executives and supervisors. Operating my Honda will do less damage to the roads, the environment, to pedestrians, bicyclists, and/or armadillos. Operating my Honda will allow more room for other traffic regardless of the nature of the traffic.
Capital Metro is a full-blown, out-of-control bureaucracy with no incentive for efficiency whatsoever. They operate on the proceeds of a burdensome tax on the entire population. They tax us at maximum rate, provide minimum service, sell it as efficiency, then bulldoze their way around town arrogantly impeding the flow of traffic. When Capital Metro, including the Managing Director and the Board, sell their cars and Begin conducting all their business using scheduled bus service, I'll sell mine. Until then, I'm much too important to trade a 20-minute drive to work for a 90-minute ride.
By the way, where's all this valuable real estate that is dedicated to free parking?
Dalton W. Wall
Thank you for continuing to cover the Triangle Park issue with responsible and informed journalism. I also want to thank the hundreds of volunteers who have donated thousands of hours to fighting the strip mall. There wouldn't be a fight without them.
I wanted to add one clarification to your story "Triangle Comes Full Circle" [Vol.17, No.26]. The alternative plan produced by Sinclair Black (thank you Sinclair), was a compromise between some neighborhood demands and all of Cencor's constraints. It was never presented to the neighborhoods at large, and so I do not consider it a "neighborhood plan." Instead, it was yet another effort on the part of some neighborhood leaders to get Cencor to budge.
The neighborhood residents that took part in the negotiations with Cencor asked for four things: more greenspace, more residential, an urban design with real streets, and a comprehensive traffic plan. Unfortunately, while the neighborhoods have continued to compromise, Cencor has made absolutely no changes.
One more thing, the neighborhoods do not all of a sudden support the inclusion of the anchor tenants. On the contrary, the neighborhoods are only willing to accept the anchor tenants if the design of the development complements the surrounding community and preserves as much greenspace as possible. Cencor's proposal fails miserably in both regards. As such, under no uncertain terms, we oppose the anchor tenants and we oppose the strip mall.
As Mike Clark-Madison pointed out: One thing is for certain, this story is not over yet. In fact, in some ways, things are just getting started. Now that things are in the city's court, the community finally has a voice. And with the community and city united, we will stop the strip mall cold turkey.
Neighbors of Triangle Park
To the Editor:
As an active Neighbors of Triangle Park volunteer, I read last week's "Full Circle on the Triangle" article [Vol.17, No.26] with great interest. I was especially flattered when Mike Clark-Madison said our group has "pulled off the best-organized and most visible grassroots campaign in Austin since Save Our Springs." (Being well organized can be the most challenging part of running an all-volunteer group such as ours.)
As the article said, Triangle Park's recent low profile in the news was the result of an agreement to stop talking to the media while the community tried to negotiate with Cencor Realty. However, the "stop the strip mall" campaign lost none of its momentum during the negotiations - our phones kept ringing, we distributed more than 10,000 newsletters, and there has been continuous demand for the now-ubiquitous "Stop Randalls/Stop Act III" yard signs. Now that the talks are over with, the only difference in our campaign is that we're once again in the headlines and on the six o'clock news.
We will maintain this momentum as long as it takes to stop Cencor's strip mall and find a better use for Triangle Park. Our next major event is a Neighbors of Triangle Park meeting at 7pm on March 16 at Hyde Park United Methodist Church. We're inviting everyone to join us for this event, which will be part question-and-answer session and part neighborhood pep rally.
One bit of late-breaking news: The planning commission's Triangle Square zoning hearing, scheduled for March 24, has been postponed. The new date is to be announced; interested parties can call the Neighbors of Triangle Park at 467-5283 for the latest information.
My First Attempt at Irony
Beginning March 14, Barton Springs will be closed from 9am-7pm every day. The pool cannot be cleaned because the endangered salamander's habitat could be damaged. As a result, conditions have become unsafe for human swimmers. I want to state that I agree wholeheartedly with this closure and I think it should be permanent. Even if a method of cleaning is found that will not endanger the salamander, there is still the problem of all those humans splashing around causing terrible stress to the peaceful, unobtrusive salamanders. We must be willing to do whatever it takes to protect the natural environment of Austin. I propose that every human being in Austin leave immediately and never return. Now, get going...
Reporting Reduces Risks
I read with interest Sandy Barlett's "About AIDS" column in the Chronicle on February 27 concerning the Texas Department of Health's proposal to require HIV reporting by name. I manage the STD program for the City of Austin/Travis County and, unlike Mr. Bartlett, I'm personally in favor of confidential HIV disease reporting. Confidential HIV disease reporting will help local health department staff to assist physicians in locating and notifying patients who fail to return for their HIV test results and therefore remain unaware of their infection. We know that early entrance to care slows the development of this disease. Early intervention is the key to prolonging life, lowering the spread of HIV, and lowering medical costs of care. With confidential named reporting, health professionals can follow-up with newly diagnosed HIV positive people to help ensure early medical intervention. With the present unique identifier system, much of the reported information is discarded. Follow-up, disease intervention, voluntary partner notification may not occur. They need to occur because those exposed to the virus may be unaware of their exposure, may not get tested, or counseled about their at-risk status. I've worked for the Health Department for 18 years, and have never seen nor heard of a breach in confidentiality either in communicable diseases or primary care. Upon employment, local health department staff are counseled about confidentiality and sign a confidentiality policy with a zero tolerance level. Confidential reporting will enable physicians to better carry out planning and implementation for prevention and clinical programs, enable appropriate allocation of funds, link patients to needed care and services, provide voluntary partner notification and identify persons early in their disease so we can get them care.
Obstruction of Niceness
Meals on Wheels and More provides life-enriching services to the Austin homebound and disabled population. Medi Wheels is one of the programs offered.
Medi Wheels provides transportation for disabled and/or homebound people to doctor's appointments. We currently have more than 240 people that are recipients of this service and only 26 active volunteers to help us.
The reason I am writing to you is to complain about the police department that is giving tickets to our volunteers when they are unloading clients with walkers or in wheelchairs which makes it necessary to park in a handicapped space or curbside for a short period of time. In one case the policeman was watching a volunteer unload a very frail, handicapped woman, he watched and then immediately ticketed the car.
The Medi Wheels program is very important; without our volunteers, which are very few, many people will not be able to get to their health care providers. We need all the help we can get! We do not need the volunteers to be punished for their efforts.
We have inquired about handicapped stickers for our clients but have been told that only people that own cars and are disabled can have these stickers. If our clients had cars and could drive they would not need our service.
Coordinator for Medi Wheels and Groceries to Go
Meals on Wheels and More
Don't Nuke My Food
The FDA appears to give food processors full protection, no matter the consequence to the health of the consumer that ingests their product through years to come. Why? They are exempt from labeling "hydrogenated" on their own oils. Why? Food processed with their oils as an ingredient must list it as hydrogenated. Why? Only oil processors are exempt.
The FDA in early December 1997 approved the irradiation of red meat with gamma rays to kill E-coli and other bacteria. Irradiation had previously been approved for pork, poulty, spices, and various fruits and vegetables. And new labeling requirements allow packers to move the irradiation message to small lettering on the back of the package rather than prominently on the package front, as was previously required.
Irradiation kills all life in the food, but does not change how it looks or tastes. You now have supermarkets full of beautiful looking food in which all the life and enzymes have been destroyed. This cannot help but have disastrous effects on the health of our nation. The same as hydrogenation has destroyed our daily essential amino acids with chemicals and extreme heat. These two types of food preservation to give their products longer shelf life that will never become spoiled, even though they have no food value.
The epidemic of degenerative diseases will only get worse. Our testing finds that a great deal of the food in the supermarket tests unfit to eat, and irradiation is probably the reason for some of the damage.
Mrs. Jessie Speegle
It's a Gamble
What has happened to the individual constitutional rights for small business owners? Can one small, influential "Big Business" group decide to put little business into bankruptcy at the drop of a hat?
In 1997, the Texas Legislature gave small business the right to continue in business for at least the next two years. Now a small (and influential) group decides Texas small businesses need no warning that the law which was upheld by the Texas Legislature is being ignored... tossed out... by those who didn't like the Texas Legislature's democratic decision. This small group went behind closed doors (following their carefully orchestrated campaign to get people and the associated press thinking that the video amusement games are "slot machines" or "gambling devices") and decided to launch a sneak attack on small businesses. These video amusement games look similar enough to those not familiar with slot machines, but the inner workings are entirely different. Skill is involved. Maybe some of those who back this move think that they will be getting rid of those terrible gambling machines. Not true! Wake up folks, one small business goes down the drain, a large corrupt conglomerate will take over - Big Business for the State, as the Lottery is now run. If they want to get rid of gambling they should attack the real gambling, the Lottery, and see how far they get against Big Business!
I expect all of the businesses which are "wiped out" or just severely financially damaged will file a class action suit to recover some of the loss. Does Texas really need to spend our tax dollars defending these hasty communistic actions by one man (and his followers) against free enterprise?
The Attorney General gave a different opinion about these games earlier, and will have to defend saying that we now have a new law - obey it immediately. The Legislature should not be reversed by one man's `opinion.' Do we really want this type of governmental aggression in Texas? What will come next? The courts have upheld the right of video amusement redemption game players to accumulate their points for bigger prizes. Dave and Busters give away large screen TVs for accumulated points. The "8-liner" players usually accumulate some, and purchase merchandise in the store, such as lottery tickets. The Lottery Commission gains from the games, and while some would try to convince you otherwise, the only items shown in anyone's laws as illegal to give are cash and alcohol. The games stay within the law as passed by the legislature in 1995 and upheld by the next session in 1997. This gave honest business owners the green light until 1999, and their plans were made on that basis.
Now those that didn't get their way are making bogus ghost laws, like dictators. What happened to "by the people and for the people"? Are they really trying to protect people from the games they enjoy playing? Get Real! Bush wanted, Sibley didn't get it, so Morales changed the law concerning it. I hope those who agree that we do not want dictatorship and trampled constitutional rights will vote accordingly at their next opportunity.
W. Wayne Cassity