Do the Right Thing
Your recent article by Robert Bryce about the old Industrial Waste site at Austin Community Landfill ["Environs," Vol.17, No.27] seemed to miss the main point about our plan to clean the site. Even though it is expensive, we feel that voluntary cleanup of the site is the right thing to do. Quite frankly, we would ask the Chronicle to join in supporting those efforts.
Because the Industrial Site is a properly closed and monitored disposal area under TNRCC guidelines, the company is not required to spend the estimated $10 million necessary to excavate the wastes and re-dispose of them in a more environmentally protective manner. Would most companies in the industry be willing to do what is right environmentally even though it is not required by law? Probably not. However, Waste Management and Austin Community Landfill will do just that.
Furthermore, Waste Management and Austin Community Landfill have gone the extra mile in environmental protection. In 1993 we made the decision to synthetically line all new waste disposal cells with High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) in addition to recompacted clay. Austin Community Landfill sits on top of the Taylor Clay formation, a layer of very impermeable clay several hundred feet deep. This clay helps prevent the waste and leachate (water that has contacted waste materials) from migrating and possibly contaminating groundwater.
We challenge other companies in our industry to make the decision to provide extra protection to our environment, not because they have to, but because it is the right thing to do.
Samsung Paying Its Way
Dear Mr. Editor:
While the "Out of Reach" article on your March 20th newspaper makes several valid points about the cost of living in Austin, it errors with regard to the agreement that brought Samsung to town.
The Samsung proposal contained far less tax abatements than were previously granted to other companies in Austin and less than were offered by other communities in the U.S. Additionally, to qualify for the full amount of the tax abatements granted, Samsung was required to meet certain hiring goals of disadvantaged persons far greater than required of other companies. The company went to great lengths to work with the Austin Community College and other organizations to train and hire from this qualified group of people. Extensive training courses were paid for by Samsung to satisfy this hiring requirement.
Additionally, I believe you are in substantial error about the amount of the entry wages and benefits. The actual salaries Samsung paid to the entry level employees exceeded the amounts that were being requested by community groups. Perhaps more impressive were the fringe benefits and opportunities for advancement offered as part of the company's training program.
And finally, the Samsung package was important because of the amount of taxable value (net of abatements) that produced property taxes far greater than their demand on city services. It is this tax revenue that makes possible the grants for housing, training, child care, and many other services that are offered to those in need.
Dear Mr. Black,
Your article "Out of Reach" by Nate Blakeslee [Vol.17, No.28] contained an error regarding Samsung Austin Semiconductor. Mr. Blakeslee said that Samsung paid an entry-level wage of $7.50 per hour for manufacturing specialists. We pay $8 per hour. The actual average wage for an entry-level specialist is about $9 per hour - and more if you include overtime, night differential, and benefits.
Company-paid medical, dental, paid vacation, tuition grants, and other benefits add about thirty percent to the salary of our employees, which would place the actual salary of someone walking in our front door on the first day of his or her job at about $10.40 per hour. Using Mr. Blakesee's formula of working 2,080 hours per year places our beginning employee at $21,632 - well above the suggested minimum salaries in the story.
Mr. Blakeslee makes a point that minimum level jobs often do not lead anywhere. The entry-level employee at Samsung is just starting on a career that will allow personal and economic growth well beyond anything that Mr. Blakeslee suggests. Where else can a high school graduate reasonably expect, at a minimum, to double his or her salary in a few years and if they are really ambitious, to quintuple that salary?
Was Samsung a good deal for Austin, you ask? Ask those entry-level employees in five years. You'll probably find them sitting on the patios of their new homes reading the financial pages to see how their retirement accounts are doing - assuming they aren't studying for their (company-paid) engineering degree.
By the way, our local tax bill last year (before completion of our plant) was $2.05 million.
Samsung Austin Semiconductor
A Good Egge Fan
My attitude towards Austin's collective musical taste has vastly improved since Ana Egge was voted a couple of awards. She's probably the most underrated performer in Austin or the world right now.
She's reinventing traditional American folk music like was done on old albums like American Beauty, Nashville Skyline Rag, and The Band. It's been a long time to hear somebody have so many great tunes on one album with such sweet artistry. There's a lot of hot artists with one or two hit songs but the rest of their CD effort is lame.
I hope she continues on the steep learning curve musically (lot of work and time) that she obviously went through during her teens. One of the things the Sixties proved is that you don't have to compromise your talent or enter into some bad deal with a major label to make a good living playing music if you've got the special talent that crosses the thin blue line beyond. I think she's got it - not many people do.
Just another Egge fan,
Hi Austin Chronicle and the rest of Austin, too,
While it is stunningly flattering to have my name so bigly placed next to the "Best CD Design" award in the recent Austin Music Awards issue (especially since I deejay no mo, boo hoo), I must point out that it wasn't me alone, I just sort of supervised a very talented design team to make that purty CD. That team was made up of Carole Chadler, Sharon Dang, Delia Davila, Brad McCormick, Philip Moody, Eva Schmidt, and me.We're all volunteers at KVRX, and did it out of our love for the station and its mission, and not for the big bucks or the corporate enemas and massages.
Speaking of love, how grand that Austin is finally catching on that KVRX (& our sibling-station KOOP) is the best radio this town has to offer. You can ignore us, you can tune right past us, you can pretend that you think those lame-ass morning shows are funny or insightful, but the real freedom, the real intensity, the real exchange of feeling and ideas is at 91.7 on the left of your dial. With Late Last Night As I Lay Screaming getting good reviews and much acclaim, with people liking us more than mainstays like KUT & pseudoalternatives like 101X (take that!), I have this sense, though, that more and more people know this, are tuning in, and, taking the cue from Zappa, will kill ugly radio, not through something violent, but simply through neglect. Let's go!
Again, thanks so much. We at KVRX don't get any compensation or recognition for what we do, except maybe two hours on the air a week. We love our station, we believe our station, sure, we'd love to get paychecks from our station, but - here's the kicker - we do it anyway, because we know ours is the best radio anywhere in this big ol' state.
For Carole, Sharon, Delia, Brad, Philip and Eva, I say thank you. For the production staff of the CD, Mike, Aaron, Marlo, Amy, Meredith, and Richard, I say thank you. For the people who do the booking, Travis, David, Angie, and others I can't recall right now (it's in the award-winning CD booklet), thank you. Thank you for listening, thank you for believing, and thank you for your support. We love you, and we wanna be friends.
I was excited to see that my band (King Cheese) received spot #8 in the Chronicle's Music Poll in the "Best Lounge Act" category. I was even more excited to see that we also received the #6 spot in the same category! This doesn't really surprise me, as the Chronicle has given us things we don't deserve before (such as the time you included us in the "Recommended" section and your reviewer listed several songs he advised readers to go hear us play, although we'd never played any of the songs he listed in the review, prompting me to think it was pretty cool for us to make "Recommended" with the reviewer never actually having heard us play before).
I guess these freebies balance out the less positive things, such as the Chronicle failing to run our display ad for each of our last two shows at Ego's. And since this item apparently isn't newsworthy enough to make it into "Dancing about Architecture," perhaps this is my opportunity to share with Chronicle readers that I was able to fulfill a dream by playing piano onstage with Ben Folds Five at their sold-out show in Dallas last month.
All in good fun (really),
Michael Bluejay for King Cheese
(the 6th & 8th best lounge act in Austin)
Ethnocentric Food Reviews?
I am rather disappointed with The Austin Chronicle Cuisine section on-line. I regularly visit some of the weekly metro entertainment on-line newspapers in other Texas cities (i.e. The Houston Press and The Dallas Observer). Both papers regularly feature several reviews of different types of restaurants, from expensive to cheap cuisine. They also usually include at least one review of an ethnic, family-run restaurant. I treasure these reviews since they usually highlight a restaurant or cafe that might otherwise go unnoticed. Family-run restaurants desperately need that type of publicity, because they can't afford to spend money advertising the way that chain restaurants do....
However, every time I visit The Austin Chronicle site, the focus seems to be on American cuisine. I find this ironic since Austin is supposed to be an open-minded and diverse place; I'm sure the people of Austin would appreciate reviews of different kinds of restaurants. How about a series of reviews on Middle Eastern food? (Has anyone ever been to the cafe in Medina Market in Austin? It's a true hole-in-the-wall, but it's pretty good...). Or Indonesian food? Or Caribbean street food? Please don't say such places don't exist in Austin; they do, but someone must find them. It seems that you need to hire some more adventurous food critics who are willing to try out new places beyond Wrapido. Also, an archive of past food reviews (searchable by cuisine) would also be helpful.
I live outside of Austin, but I sometimes come to visit friends in the city. I depend on the Chronicle to know what restaurants are out there and what people's experiences have been. In its current status, I find that reading the AC's Cuisine section leaves me uninformed; I still don't know where is a good place to get jerk chicken or gyros. Yes, the Chronicle Guide (yearly roundup of food favorites by editors and readers) is somewhat helpful, but it cannot make up for informative, imaginative, and descriptive food reviews. Please take a hint from your sister papers. Expand your food reviews and re-organize your archives. Your stomach will thank you and so will your readers.
Ethnocentric Music Reviews, Too?
Regarding Michael Bertin's comment on Mexico, that "this is the country that foisted `La Cucaracha' on the world and not much else, musically speaking, right?": Well, actually no, Mikey, and the deep and woeful ignorance you display in your glib dismissal of an entire country's musical output is only dwarfed by the evident arrogance and stupidity that informs your supposed expert opinions on music.
Way too short a space here, carnal, to catch you up on a either a couple of centuries of rich musical popular expression (or its unique and contemporary manifestations happening around you daily on this side of the border), but if you're more comfortable reducing analysis on a purely rock & roll level, you might want to check out some recent Mexican bands like Cafe Tacuba, Titan, and of course, the amazing sounds of the group you were purportedly reviewing, Plastalina Mosh. Be forewarned, though, that might involve not only some work on your part, but also some fundamental revisionism in your not unsuprisingly narrow alt rock mindset.
If the Chron ever decides to one day maintain its fickle attention on either Mexican cultural output or its dynamic Tejano/Chicano equivalent, I suggest hiring writers with a real affinity, passion and knowledge about their subjects.
Respect the Musicians
I recently gained some insight into how musicians are treated by the middlemen in their business.
During the recent SXSW festival, a friend hosted an out-of-state performer she has known over 10 years. This artist writes songs, performs both solo and with a band, gives music lessons, and produces records for others. She accepted an offer to perform at SXSW for half an hour, on a weekday evening in an unknown club, for forty dollars and a wristband. Her manager raised $400 for travel expenses from fans in her town.
The club allowed no guest list. When we arrived for her check-in, the doorkeepers wouldn't take her friend's child, an 11-year-old girl who's been singing one of her songs since age five.
My friend paid $10 to see the 30-minute performance, during which time her daughter stood outside the club with another friend. The performer was well received, mainly by other musicians who already knew her. The next day she got in two hours of schmoozing before flying back, so she was happy to have come here once.
This singer-songwriter had invitations to both Kerville and SXSW this year. She will likely have neither time nor money to return to Kerrville.
After her friend's child was barred, she told us: "My band was invited to play at a festival in Colorado. We took second place in a competition, so they had us play again on the main stage. After we finished, we couldn't stay and watch the rest of the festival. They escorted us out, to make sure we didn't try to stick around in the audience."
Based on these two incidents, I now distinguish between supporting live music and supporting live musicians.
In a Huff Over Drugs
Every day parents bring home chemicals which, when abused, are as dangerous as alcohol, marijuana, LSD, and cocaine. When inhaled or "huffed," these common household substances such as solvents, cleaners, glue, gasoline, and hairspray may result in losing touch with one's surroundings, a loss of self-control, violent behavior, unconsciousness, and even death. When abused on a continuing basis, inhalants can cause permanent damage to the nervous system, resulting in greatly reduced physical and mental capabilities. However, long-term use does not pose the only threat. Inhalant abuse can result in death even on the first use through heart failure, suffocation, or by depressing the central nervous system to such a great extent that breathing slows down until it stops. While the dangers may seem severe enough to steer most people away from this deadly form of drug abuse, studies have shown that nearly one in five junior high school students have experimented with inhalants, with the typical abuser ranging from 7 to 17 years.
What does this mean to you? This week is National Inhalant and Poison Awareness Week, a chance for parents and peers to learn what to watch for and what steps they can take to prevent inhalant abuse. As with most other substance abuse problems, talking about the dangers associated with inhalant abuse is one of the best ways to decrease the risk of involvement. Silence does not protect children from inhalant abuse; if these dangers are not discussed with them, there is a good chance that the child's first exposure to huffing will be through other abusers. Along with discussion, it's important to know what symptoms indicate a potential problem: unusual breath odor or chemical odor on the child's clothing, slurred or disoriented speech, drunk, dazed, or dizzy appearance, spots or sores on the mouth, or signs of paint or other products where they wouldn't normally be, such as on the face or fingers. Paying careful attention to these signs can help to stop the abuse before it is too late.
While we cannot remove the products of abuse, we can help to remove the child's desire to experiment with these deadly products. By knowing what signs to look for and talking to children about inhalant abuse, we can help prevent the damage inhalant abuse can cause.
For information on how to talk to your child about inhalants or other substance abuse, or if you or someone you know has a problem with substance abuse, contact the Phoenix House Council at 888/TEX-DRUG.
Nancy e. Pearsall
Phoenix House Council
Earth Loves a Green Fork
Dear Austin Chronicle,
Earth Day is April 18th and if you care about the environment, you already "Reduce, Reuse & Recycle"... But did you know that your fork is also one of the most powerful tools you have for saving the planet?
* Every year in South and Central America, 5 million acres of rainforest are felled to create cattle pasture.
* Fertilizers, manures, and agricultural chemicals washed from the Mississippi have created a 7,000 square mile lifeless expanse at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico called "The Dead Zone."
* Managing livestock manure is becoming a big problem. In 1995, for example, holding lagoons spilled more than 40 million gallons of hog manure into North Carolina state waterways, about double the amount of oil lost by the Exxon Valdez.
What can you do?
Shifting toward a diet full of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes makes better use of our valuable resources and preserves our delicate ecosystem. The good news is that the same foods that heal the planet also heal and protect your own body.
To find out more contact EarthSave, Austin Chapter at 347-8054 or ESAustin@aol.com for a free copy of our brochure, "Heal the Environment at Every Meal."
EarthSave educates, inspires, and empowers people to shift toward a diet centered on fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes - food choices that are healthy for people and for the planet.
Help Save the Earth One Bite at a Time!!!!
Austin Chapter Chairperson
And S is for Smartass
Tonight I went to the 7-11 at 51st and Lamar at about 3:30 am to get a sandwich. While I was paying for it, this dorky-looking, MTV-type guy came in and said to me and the two clerks, "You guys look like freaks. Does one of you have some buds you could sell us?" So I said, really loud, "No sir, Mr. Officer, sir! I do not know the whereabouts of any suspects from which to purchase narcotics in this vicinity, Mr. Officer, sir!" I went out and got in my car and Mr. Grungeclone came out and said something about how one of the clerks was about to sell him something until I said that. He got in a van with two other alternative types and I asked them, "Are you guys in town for South By Southwest?" They said yes, so I said, "Do you know what a wanker is?" They said yes, so I said, "That's what the W stands for in SXSW!" and drove off.
So, am I a bastard or what?