Mixed Up Signals
Fri., April 24, 1998
I read with interest Ms. Kayte VanScoy's article titled "Mixed Signals" ["Council Watch," Vol.17, No.30]. However, I would like to clarify several points made in the article.
The statement that "city staff has already, without Council's direction, stacked the deck in its favor by buying $319,266 of right of way..." is incorrect! City Council reviewed and approved the right-of-way purchases for this intersection in late 1994 and early 1995. The actual cost is $361,378.
The article further states that Councilmember Slusher "raked the new bike plan and bike coordinator, Keith Snodgrass, over the coals." Mr. Snodgrass does not share that perception. Mr. Slusher wanted to make sure that the bicycle plan did not collect dust, and had the chance to be implemented. Mr. Snodgrass wholeheartedly agrees with Mr. Slusher's concern and felt that Mr. Slusher was actually helping to drive home the importance of this issue.
The city uses bond funds specifically set aside for bicycle projects to attract Federal grants which provide approximately 80% of project costs. The expenditure for city bicycle projects is thus $2,487,000, not the $427,000 reported in the article.
We appreciate the opportunity to clarify these points and look forward to continuing to work with The Austin Chronicle on its coverage of city issues.
Peter Rieck, Director
Department of Public Works and Transportation
I would like to correct and verify some information you published on the AISD Board races ["Shifting Gears," Vol.17, No.32]. Specifically, outgoing boardmember Geoff Rips makes several false assertions. First, Jeff Jack did not instigate the Open Meetings lawsuit filed by the S.O.S. Alliance and El Concilio.
We filed the lawsuit on our own because we believe the Board held illegal, secret discussions on important public issues relating to school site selection and attendance boundaries. As reported, that case is on appeal.
Jeff Jack was called as a witness because of his extensive efforts to force AISD to make critical information available to the public and to openly and honestly link the site selection process with the evaluation of attendance boundary changes. Had the Board listened to Mr. Jack, the setting of attendance boundaries could have been analyzed in conjunction with various site alternatives. By locking in sites first, the Board foreclosed the best options for setting attendance boundaries.
Mr. Rips is also wrong in asserting that we filed the suit just because we disagreed with the decision. We filed the suit before the Board voted because the public was being shut out of the decision-making process.
Mr. Jack has clearly demonstrated the courage and ability to challenge AISD staff when they are hiding or misrepresenting key information or seeking to cover up enormous cost overruns. His tireless and extremely capable leadership as Austin Neighborhood Council President should be rewarded with votes and support rather than slandered by false information.
Shea Endorses Prop 2
I am compelled to respond to the intentional misinformation about the May 2 bond election from former city council aide James Cooley ["Postmarks," Vol.17, No.32].
Protecting the Edwards Aquifer and its Hill Country watersheds is the smartest investment we can make. We will avoid spending literally hundreds of millions of dollars extending highways, water lines, and sewer lines to serve polluting development in the very watersheds we want to protect. Those funds can be redirected to support more efficient, more compact growth in Central Austin and the preferred growth corridor. I think even Mr. Cooley would agree that we already have enough traffic problems without creating more with badly planned growth in our most sensitive watershed.
Furthermore, the Chamber of Commerce has just released a major economic study which documents that protecting our environmental assets is critical to both our quality of life and our economic well-being. How can that be bad for our tax base?
Cooley's charge that paying for watershed protection through water rates is somehow regressive is also wrong. Those who use the most water will pay the most - those of us who conserve water will pay the least. What is truly regressive is charging the public to clean up the pollution from badly planned developments. According to city studies, it will cost over $70 million to try and clean up pollution from existing development in the Barton Springs watershed. Pollution prevention is always cheaper.
Cooley is also dead wrong when he says that acquiring the Barton Springs watershed "will do exactly zip to protect our drinking water." For several months of the year, when LCRA is not releasing water from Lake Travis to downstream rice farmers, Barton Springs provides a significant percentage of the water at the Green Water Treatment Plant on Town Lake, which serves all of Central and East Austin.
The Aquifer is also the only drinking water supply for 40,000+ residents just south of Austin whose wells have already been affected by intense nearby development. And of course, buying the land is the best way to protect the watershed for the thousands of us who enjoy Barton Springs - so unique that it's known as "the soul of the city."
Austin voters should reject Mr. Cooley's erroneous arguments and vote yes on May 2 for Proposition 2.
KVET Vet Speaks Out
Regarding Lee Nichols' piece ["Media Clips," Vol.17, No.32] about my former employer, KVET-AM: Bravo! While he made one factual error (I did not "create" the lamented Reporter's Roundtable, I merely floated the idea, as I had previously when I worked at KLBJ-AM), it's about time radio news gets its due. I became weary of people asking me what TV station or newspaper I worked for when I revealed I was a reporter.
Now here's the bad news. Patricia Schroeder, the former Colorado congresswoman, once told me there are two things you ought never see being made: law and sausages. I would add one more item to that: radio newscasts in Austin.
As much as I like and respect my former workmate, Tom Vinger, I must ask this. Just when does "theatre of the mind" air on KVET-AM? That abused and worn-out term is always trotted out by insecure, small town thinkers in order to justify their feeble efforts at legitimate programming. Further, a lesson reporters used to learn when learning their craft in a major market is that "thorough" is not a synonym for "redundant" or "verbose." That lesson is apparently still over the electronic horizon in Austin. Another belief that guides Austin TV and radio news coverage is this: When a news event happens, the next thing an audience will demand are the opinions of people sitting in bars or wandering in shopping malls. I don't want to single out KVET, either. KLBJ-AM's manic "all self-promotion all the time" format is absolutely unlistenable to anyone who cares about getting accurate and current radio news.
Corporate broadcasters - radio and television alike - must be taught by the listening and viewing prublic that endless crime blotter stories, overeager coverage of staged media events, and drab dissertations of statistics don't cut it. Until they are, we will get what we deserve: bland, earnest, pasteurized news "product." But to those offering up what's passing for radio news (I'll let TV off the hook, here), look at the combined ratings for both KLBJ and KVET. They're miserable, and they are getting worse. You can even throw in KIXL and KJFK, as if it made any difference. The moral is obvious: Austin isn't buying the low-grade "theatre of the mind" that passes for radio news.
A note to Dustin Drew at KVET and Mark Ceasar at KLBJ: Try a radical concept. It's called journalism. Try hiring skilled, enthusiastic people; people with a "nose" for news. (You each have some working for you, if they are not yet totally demoralized.) Pay them more than the sweatshop wages you offer now, give them the proper tools to do their to do their jobs, back them up when they step on toes, and then make them work their asses off on the streets, not on a telephone or in the studio. And please tell your employees to quit using the term "theatre of the mind." You have no damned clue. Thankfully, Lee Nichols does. The Reporter's Roundtable will live again!
Larry W. Cordle
Formerly of KVET-AM and KLBJ-AM
Circle C PAC Clarifies
I would like to clarify some misinformation and fear-inspiring rhetoric that has been placed in certain political ads in this publication in the last few weeks.
The correct name for our organization is Circle C Political Action Committee or Circle C PAC. For the record, we have not received, nor will we accept, monies from Gary Bradley. Our directors are Ken Rigsbee, Jr., Donald Rojas, Glenn DaGian, Colin Haza, Kirby Brown, and Ron Hill.
If you are frightened of people willing to participate in the process of government, who want to see elected officials who will listen to all citizens, promote fiscal responsibility, provide full disclosure on issues and are willing to be accountable for their decisions, then yes, you should be afraid of us. However, if you subscribe to these fundamental philosophies, then perhaps you should join us.
One of the main goals of the Circle C PAC is to educate our members about candidates and issues in order that they may make informed decisions at the polls. Considering 100% of the candidates we endorsed won, I would say we are doing our job, and doing it well.
Grin and Charrette
A charrette is a crude, French, wooden, unsprung, two-wheel handcart like a tumbrel used for hauling produce, hay, manure, or victims to a guillotine. In beaux arts deco days at Fontainebleau, the architecture students were frustrated by congestion in the corridors at deadline time, similar to our crush at the post office at midnight on income tax day or at the courthouse on property tax day. Preliminary drawings were to be done in haste to meet very short, strict completion deadlines. The clever students got together and bought a charrette so that the drawings could be piled on the cart and delivered simultaneously to the instructor's door, tipped up and dumped like potatoes or horse manure.
In Margaret Moser's column "Scanlines" reviewing The Celts video [Vol.17, No.31], she wrote: "I didn't think St. Patrick was much of a reason to trot out The Celts, so I waited for another milestone, Scotland's Tartan Day. Tartan Day is observed on April 16, the anniversary of the Battle of Culloden."
April 6 is Tartan Day, not April 16. Its proposal, spearheaded by Senator Lott, was recently passed. It is a North American celebration and not one practiced in Scotland (yet).
Also, Tartan Day does not commemorate Culloden, but rather coincides with the Declaration of Arbroath. This declaration was written by The Bruce, his nobles and Bernard de Linton (the Abbot of Arbroath Abbey).
In 1320, Robert the Bruce refused correspondence not addressing him as "King of Scots." This proud action irritated the Church and his excommunication was renewed. In reply, the nobles sent to Pope John XXII a Declaration of Scottish Independence. The Declaration (which was inspiration for the U.S.'s) ends with these poignant words:
"For as long as one hundred of us shall remain alive we shall never give consent to submit to the rule of the English, for it is not for glory we fight, for riches, or for honors, but for freedom alone, which no good man loses but with his life."
Besides these oversights, Moser's article was great and I have been searching for a copy of The Celts. Thank you for highlighting the Celts and sharing your insight on the video. There is always "good reason to trot out the Celts" as Austin has a very active Celtic community. We have many world-renowned leaders in the fields of Celtic music, dance and art! I would love to see the Chronicle explore these organizations and artisans more often!
Co-Host of In Tune With Keltia, KOOP 91.7 FM
Wake and Bake
I am not a biscuit baker, but Jay Hardwig's piece ["The Kneading Kind," Vol.17, No.32] inspired me to dust off the Better Homes Cookbook and whip up a batch of tasty - if a lil' on the flat side - biscuits. Y'all can keep your bagels and oat bran muffins; gimmie biscuits.
Things just don't seem to bother me as much anymore. The latest issue of The Austin Chronicle is dedicated to all those bad poets out there who seem to
have captured the public's imagination. The slammers and the slackers.
Unashamedly, and unabashedly, they have reproduced some of the worst verses imaginable and they dare call them poetry. They have even gone so far as to
include testimonials to the horrible Patchwork Poems magazine.
Are they all idiots?
I remain calm and unperturbed. I am approaching my 35th birthday and it is only natural that I do not share the enthusiasm(s) or taste of the 20- or 25-year-old who must be in charge of this cultural mockery.
I remain faithfully yours, a dogmatic Marxist renegade,
Avina Passed Over
for Coach, President
Today, I've lost my hopes of becoming UT president, or UT basketball coach. It says here in the paper that two out-of-towners just started as such.
Actually, I don't have any chances of becoming: Police chief, AISD superintendent, AISD principal, city mayor, newspaper editor, Texas governor, Ice Bats player, or head of any big corporation in this city where I live. Whoa! I guess I'll keep focused on the best burger joints in town, although the managers get transferred too. Well, you know what I'm gonna do? I'll keep my low=profile job, and stick my own culture in my kids' heads until disaster strikes. I got better chances of survival than any of them guys. And if you ask me, they all look like cousins to me, with the exception of the Canadian team.
With poor Austin in my heart...
Wrong Side of the Bed Tax
I don't mean to act childish, but it's not fair that the business and environmental activists got their pet bond election items fast-tracked to a May election when the rest of us taxpayers have to wait and participate in a six-month-long public input process via the Citizens Bonds Advisory Council. I trusted the process, now I feel betrayed. Betrayed because my pet bond item - a Mexican-American Cultural Center (MACC) to anchor Waller Creek improvements - was not considered for a 1/2 penny bed tax increase. If they could increase bed tax to build more convention center facility, why not the MACC, too? Like I said, I don't mean to act childish, but with only a couple of weeks to the May election, I'm willing to work with anyone to send a message to the spoiled political brats who got a special called election. Calling all nay-sayers! We need some theater, some wild slogans, some way to tell them "Y'all have to wait until September, wait your turn and don't take cuts!" We'll probably lose because we can't fund a proper campaign, but we can have some fun uniting temporarily.
Mauro: No Dumping
The people of Texas should be very proud of Garry Mauro's courageous opposition to the state's proposal to build a nuclear waste dump in Sierra Blanca.
It should surprise no one that Gov. Bush has been a strong advocate to bring nuclear waste from Vermont and Maine into Texas. He has, as usual, sided with the big-money special interests, against the best interests of the average Texas who lacks the resources to fight these million-dollar companies that transport wastes.
Mauro has said, if elected, he would make certain "the state will not spend one more penny on Sierra Blanca" (the proposed nuclear waste site in Hudspeth County). He also added that he felt that he understood how Sierra Blanca was selected.
"I think they said let's find a place that's poor and has no political clout, and let's put it there.... Some people call this environmental racism," he added, "and they're probably right."
Texas citizens should applaud Mauro for fighting to protect the underpriviledged and our environment. Let's remember this when we go vote! Remember that Mauro will stand up for the minority and isn't afraid to fight for a safe environment for all of us.
Are the aphasic, hysterical accusations of Angus Tilney ["Postmarks," Vol.17, No.32] a result of his sexual orientation, or are they a learned behavior derived from many years of peer group therapy (aka brainwashing)? I don't believe I've ever read a letter to the editor where every sentence contained total bullshit... until Tilney's P.M.S. tirade of late.
I'd like to say that Tilney's McCarthyism style of logic is a disgrace to the homosexual agenda, but sadly it's the epitome. Only in New Sodom could you find non-repenting sinners attempting to take the high ground values and sexuality. Rest assured Tilney, if I need advice on values, morality, and/or my sexuality, I won't consult a nefarious Sodomite who's so open minded their brains have spilled out. Tilney's fact-free screed is proof that his so-called sexual orientation isn't the worst of his problems.
At least his letter was on the comic page where it belonged.