I have to object to Mike Clark-Madison's portrayal of the ongoing Mueller redevelopment planning process in "This Is Our Land: Remapping Mueller" [Vol.17, No.33]. First though, I'm glad the map printed with the article was acknowledged as a draft. In fact, there is already a new, more detailed draft version of what ROMA is proposing for the Mueller site.
There is no reason the Mueller redevelopment must be "another front of the state-city land war." As a neighborhood representative my experiences with ROMA, the state, and the city so far give me confidence that everyone at the table is sincere about wanting what's best for everyone. Yes, the state has caused several red flags to go up along the way, and yes, it would be utterly naïve of any Austin resident not to have serious reservations about the state and land development given their recent track record.
But I think everyone involved in the current process is concentrating on issues and not traditional conflicts. Neighborhoods should be concerned about traffic impacts and multi-modal options. Second, it is premature, damaging, and inaccurate to label colored areas on a draft map as a "student ghetto" or say that they necessarily "conjure horrific visions" of multi-family housing. The recent Public Forum (4/29/98) on Mueller again reemphasized the importance of these issues and others.
And finally, the neighborhoods are not in "potential attack mode" as part of "the state-city land war" on the Mueller "battleground." Yes, the neighborhoods are organizing and staying vigilant. We will be ultimately responsible for follow-through on whatever final plan is received by council. But antagonistic word choices and negative portrayal of a process in which all players are trying hard to create genuine solutions only hurt the chances of sustaining a positive process on Mueller redevelopment.
Cherrywood/Scheiffer Neighborhood Association
P.S. For more information on Mueller redevelopment, call the Mueller Hotline, 4999-RMMA (7662) or visit their website at http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/mueller.html.
Regarding Jenny Staff's article "Bed, Bathhouse, and Beyond" [Vol.17, No.34]: Jose Orta's tired, tired objection to bathhouses is so... well... tired. He is quoted as saying about Midtowne Spa: "There is a lot of unsafe sex going on there in the middle of an epidemic." There are only two ways for that to be a true statement: either he was a witness to or a participant of unsafe sex; anything else is heresy and innuendo. If he was a witness, he had an obligation as a (self-professed) safer sex educator to intervene and educate. If he was a participant, his hypocrisy couldn't be more blatant.
Regulating bathhouses will never put an end to unsafe sex. It would be so much more effective for safer sex advocates to focus on the sexually active individual rather than the location in which they choose to have sex. If a person is committed to safer sex 100% of the time, that's what they will practice, be it at a bathhouse, their home, a hotel room - where ever.
Thank God for Bill Spelman's voice of reason: "What happens between consenting adults is not the government's business." Jose Orta would do well to remember this. Safer sex educators must do their best to encourage sexually active people to make the responsible, wise, life-affirming choice that is safer sex. Unfortunately, some people will slip. But it is disingenuous to blame the bathhouse. Safer sex is an individual's choice to make.
"We believe that you will find the benefits of regular exercise and participation in recreational activities to be enormously rewarding..."
I agree entirely with this line from the letter sent out by the UT Division of Recreational Sports inviting faculty and staff to join. I often go play soccer at the Intramural Fields. It improves my health and my morale, two things I have to believe, as a full-time General Libraries staff member, that the University has some stake in. I have always found it annoying that I can usually only get in 30-45 minutes of "regular exercise" and "recreational activities" before I am kicked off the field for not having $170 to spare for the Recreational Sports fee. Now, after reading last week's article in The Austin Chronicle about the thousands of dollars the University shells out each month to provide coaches and other well-paid higher-ups with memberships to exclusive country clubs, I am more offended than annoyed. Before reading the Chronicle's article, my objection to the fee was financial. If I were being paid a livable wage, I would just pay the fee. Now, I see it as a matter of principle. With the University seemingly indifferent to the cost-of-living problems faced by its employees, as rents continue to increase and University staff continue to be priced out of the areas surrounding UT, the University's disregard for the quality-of-life issues facing its employees seems just as clear. I will therefore continue to play soccer on my employer's soccer fields for free, pretending that it is a reward for my service to the University, a supplement to my enormously unrewarding paycheck, until, as always, I am told I have not paid enough to be thus rewarded.
Michael G. Laster
Getting Loaded in Austin
I'd like to add my voice to the chorus of musicians regularly antagonized by the APD while moving equipment in and out of clubs. (See "Selective Enforcement," Vol.17, No.34). I've loaded equipment in and out of clubs on Bourbon Street, San Francisco's Haight, Kansas City's West Port, Main Street in Cincinnati, the Gaslight District in San Diego, Seattle's Market Place, Detroit, Phoenix, Toledo, El Paso, Portland, Hollywood... all over the country. Only in Austin do I dread an encounter with the police more than I do facing drunken crowds, equipment thieves, or anyone hanging out in a dark alley at 3am. By showing little respect for citizens, barking out drill-sergeant-like rhetorical questions, demanding personal apologies, and asserting authority for its own sake without regard to reason or law, the APD officers turn non-situations like a barricade being moved for commercial loading into something where people end up ticketed and fined - or even handcuffed and locked in jail.
The illogic and inconsistency of the enforcement of commercial loading laws is maddening for those of us who are simply trying to do our jobs safely and reasonably. For every case like Brannen Temple and Edwin Livingston's I'm sure there are many that end with musicians walking off humiliated and upset that the money they were trying to earn that night must be used to pay the ticket they just received. It's happened to me enough times.
The Austin Police Department has a problem. I'm not sure what the solution is, although I can suggest some. Higher starting pay for officers to attract candidates who can reason? Basic problem-solving and conflict-resolution classes for APD? New administrators who can model basic skills such as respect and consistency? If the APD can't get it right when the city is this size, I worry about the state of the department after Austin has experienced the growth that is to come.
Woe Is the Rock Star
Dear Austin Chronicle,
I just finished reading about the issues surrounding musicians trying to unload their gear along Sixth St. While what happened to the musicians described in the article is unfortunate, I am sick and tired of hearing about the difficulties of the so-called music business. There is little or nothing business-like about the music industry. I am tired of waiting through long down times while bands screw around between sets instead of playing. And I don't want to hear anymore about how tough it is to be in a band. If it is difficult to unload gear at night along Sixth St., then get off your lazy ass and deliver your gear earlier in the evening. Wow, what an amazing idea. If playing a gig is your job which you will be paid for, act like it is a job. Deliver your gear in a timely manner before the street is barricaded, get set up, and play your gig on time. The fans pay to hear you perform; so stop whining and start playing.
I have a lot of questions. I read the article about Brannen Temple being thrown in jail on the night he was awarded Best Drummer ["Selective Enforcement," Vol.17, No.34]. I read about the cop harassing him and his bandmate. It sounded familiar and I couldn't figure out why. Something about the cop's technique of intimidation, maybe. Separating people, not allowing any questions, using anything Brannen and his friend said to harass them further... I got mugged in New York once on the way home from a gig. It kind of reminds me of that.
Anyway, here are a few of my questions: Why was the Chron article so mild-mannered? Isn't this an obvious racial incident? Why doesn't SXSW provide either backline or musician parking with shuttles? Will SXSW provide legal aid? Shouldn't they? Is SXSW paying close attention to what happens to musicians in this town? I ask this because SXSW is very powerful, but if all the bands stopped playing, where would they be? Where is the Union? Who are they serving and protecting? And finally, can we now take down those stupid signs at the airport that wealthy citizens see when they get off the plane in Austin, America's Newest Playground for the Rich, the ones that say "Welcome to Austin, Live Music Capital of the World"? Because it is bullshit. I have lived in a lot of places as a musician and Austin has become the least musician-friendly of them all. In fact after this latest incident, I have to say it is a hostile environment to any working musician. Those guys were just trying to go to work. They didn't even have a chance to play their showcase!
Those are a few of my many questions. When I get answers to these questions, I will ask some more, as long as I'm allowed to ask.
Marjorie Baumgarten's damnable piece about Jane: An Abortion Service ["It Happened to Jane," Vol.17, No.33] reaches another low watermark for your paper.
Glorifying an illegal baby-killing network is as inspiring as reading about the heroics of running a child-sex ring or a seal clubbing expedition. I can hear the dialogue of future Sundance Festival offerings about these brave outlaws, "Yes, we used to have to go down back alleys to procure a young boy for sex," or "The authorities greatly hindered our baby seal hunt, but by sheer unrelenting determination, coupled with a total disdain for the law of God or man, we were triumphant in our slaughter of those unwanted pups."
Will Baumgarten publicize other movies extolling the diabolical acts of evil criminals, or does she have an affinity only for abortionists?
I went to see Dancer, Texas Pop. 81 based on the four-star recommended review by The Austin Chronicle. The last time I saw a movie this foul was when the Chronicle gave Crash a four-star recommended review.
Your first sentence read: "So many captivating characters, so many funny moments, and so much sweet affection." Let me translate that sentence for you: so many two dimensional characters, so many sitcom moments, and so much sentimalist crap.
Dancer, Texas Pop. 81 reminded me of watching Saved by the Bell. Did Squirrel remind you of the Screech character at all? What about Keller as Zack? Finally, Terrel Lee must be equivalent to the stud A.C. The timing, the humor, the cheesy soundtrack, all reminded me of some cheesy sitcom.
I could talk about the poorly scripted alcoholic father, the cliché grandfather, the overly sincere friend, terribly acted sister, the non-talking dad. My favorite moment was when the four friends came across four wild stallions. Oooohh. How symbolic.
Maybe I'm being too hard, but the movie at best was an ABC After School Special.
Words and Pictures
I want to thank The Austin Chronicle and Claiborne Smith for the April 23 article, "The Texas Accent" [Vol.27, No.33] about Texas Writers Month. Mr. Smith has become a wonderful asset to the Chronicle, writing about the Austin arts and literary landscape and recognizing the individuals who support one of the most active and lively writing communities in the country.
In that spirit, I'd like to acknowledge the very talented designers of the much loved Texas Writers Month posters, which were featured in your article. This year's Katherine Anne Porter homage, as well as the 1997 poster featuring O. Henry, was designed by Marc English of Mark English Design here in Austin. In 1996 and 1995, D.J. Stout, of Texas Monthly fame, designed the wonderful posters featuring Horton Foote and John Graves, respectively. Both Stout and English contributed their work pro bono, as do all who work on this project.
I'd also like to comment on the discussion of Texas Writers Month activities around the state. In addition to Austin, El Paso, Dallas, and San Antonio have celebrated Texas Writers Month since its inception five years ago. Recognition should be given to Kay Cattarulla and the Dallas Museum of Art/Arts and Letters Live program, and to Katy Flato and the San Antonio Library Foundation, who have led events in those two cities. Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos and its Southwestern Writers Collection have also orchestrated events celebrating Texas Writers Month.
Since the article included discussion of the Texas Book Festival, chaired by Laura Bush, perhaps I should note that I serve on the Executive Committee and handle pro bono public relations activities for that fine effort as well. Many of the same people and organizations contribute to both events.
Again, thanks to Mr. Smith for his conscientious efforts regarding some of Austin's most valuable cultural resources.
This is in reply to Carl Villarreal's February 13 letter ["Postmarks," Vol.17, No.23]. He states: "Our group never asked for Graglia or Colby Black to be fired."
The fact is, SAO is a group of reactionary, angry, would-be suppressors of free speech. And Villareal is a bald-faced liar when he claims they never asked for Graglia's firing, actually resignation. Simply examine the enclosed flier for September's rally at which Jesse Jackson ("hymietown") spewed forth his vulgar hate at one man. "We demand professor Lino Graglia's resignation!" they scream. The fact is that these Raza-Aztlan bullshitters are so used to getting away with their outrageous proclamations thay they expect the media to cover up the facts! This then enables them to attack other citizens' free speech rights with impunity.
I've observed these vulgar punks at length, and they are largely a pack of Communists from the Trotskyite ISO and radical Mexican-supremacist Aztlan Chicanos from MECHA.
This thing goes far deeper than the Chronicle's coverage. The SAO are beyond would-be suppressors of free speech, they are in fact actual such suppressors. And they are potentially violent - witness SAO's call for "popular insurrection" at the regents' meeting (10/31/97) if affirmative action is not restored. Or for "shutting down the University." Just mere words. Not when one considers that the radical Chicanos did $500,000 worth of damage at UC (1993) over Chicano studies, or that José Angel Guterez, founder of Raza Unida, tenured professor at UT Arlington, has called for "killing the gringos." None of this is a secret. And it's called the rising, ugly, chapped-ass face of Chicano hate, but no one will cover it, because it's politically incorrect to do so.
Sweep Your Own Doorstep
We, who attend the monthly station meetings, are familiar with Eduardo Vera's obsession with the Chiapas situation. He often speaks on that subject and on the racism of anyone who may disagree with him. These plaints are punctuated with cries for "respect," to which he is peculiarly undeserving. There is a certain twistedness in Mr. Vera's quixotic crusade. From the relative safety of Austin, Texas, he berates us with his passion and sends radio equipment to Chiapas ["Media Clips," Vol.17, No.32], while KOOP, the station he and his comrades have hijacked here, goes to ruin for lack of useable equipment. We need some compassionate people in a far off land to take us as a project and send to KOOP new tape and CD players, microphones, a control board, maybe a phone interface so we can do remote interviews.
I do not know if Vera is a Mexican citizen - if so he needs to be there with his brothers fighting in the jungle. (Although the Zapatistas have been a peculiar insurgency since the beginning, more active on the Internet than on the battlefield, content to posture while the government kills their potential subjects.) If he is a United States citizen, there is plenty to do here to help liberate this state, and this people. Like the Mexican government, our government massacres our people, e.g. the Branch Davidians and the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. As in Chiapas, people are in prison now in Texas for attempting to set up alternative governments (Republic of Texas).
Without looking too far, each of us can find a local outlet for our energy. If everyone will sweep in front of his own door, soon the whole world will be clean.
Last week's "Naked City" [Vol.17, No.34] had a piece about the Living Wage Campaign that mentioned the Industrial Workers of the World; however, the writer changed the name of the union to the rather repetitive International Workers of the World. Industrial does not imply only heavy industry, but means that we believe everyone who works in the same industry, whether education, metalwork, mining, etc., should be in the same union rather than split into craft unions, where their collective power is weakened.
The IWW is a union that seeks to organize all workers who do not have the power to hire or fire. We were the first union in the USA to organize women and people of color in the same locals and as equals with white male workers. Unlike most unions, we do not have a top-down bureaucracy - organizing decisions are made at the local level. We have only one paid staff person, and he is basically an overworked secretary, and is elected at large. All other officers are members of their profession who are elected and not paid. This allows us to set dues which are lower than other unions and are based on your income.
Branch Secretary, IWW Austin Branch
I would like to add my voice to those of other citizens who feel that Austin's arts organizations need a home of their own. The City, having reached a stage in its growth which cries for recognition of these organizations, should take advantage of the acclaim that is being increasingly bestowed upon its symphony, opera, ballet, and similar groups. No longer should they have to vie for space on the crowded calendar at Bass Hall, which has generously shared its facilities with them over the years.
Palmer Auditorium seems to offer a practical solution for the expanding audiences patronizing the performing arts. From all accounts, Palmer would require extensive modifications and renovations; but they would be less expensive than constructing a new building. The location is ideal, and using it would eliminate locating and purchasing a new site.
One of the oppositions I hear is that people supporting the arts form only a small percentage of the population. For anyone who has attended a performance of any of these groups recently, this argument seems unfounded. Most performances are either sold out or well-attended. That indicates to me that there is a growing interest in the art scene in Austin.
Another argument that has been raised against allowing the arts to aquire Palmer is that numerous organizations use it for money-making projects. Has a survey been made of other structures in the City of Austin that could be adapted to such uses? I understand that an investigation has been made on behalf of the arts groups, and Palmer was determined to offer the best solution.
This is only one voice, but I hope it will be heard. There are those among us who look forward to the day when Austin will be recognized as one of the top cities in the country when "support of the arts" is mentioned. There always seems to be funding for recreational and environmental agendas. Doesn't the artistic spirit deserve as much attention?
What is it about the Hopwood decision that people do not understand? There seems to be a misconception that we will return to the racial segregation of the past. How can this be true? The Attorney General's decision simply states that race cannot be used as the sole factor in granting college admission. That is as it should be. College admission should be granted based on grades, merit, letters of recommendation, etc. Race, or sex for that matter, should not be used as a consideration for admission; rather, this information should only be used for statistical purposes. All race groups, except for Asian-Americans, have experienced a decline in admissions since the Hopwood decision. This indicates that the Hopwood decision is working as planned, allowing the most qualified access to continued education. All arguments otherwise are simply the less ambitious whining.
Big Bend Gets the Shaft
As if the proposed Sierra Blanca Nuclear Waste Dump, German Air Force sorties 250 feet above the ground, and the ever-thickening air pollution weren't enough, it appears likely that several companies will soon begin strip mining humate in South Brewster County within a mile of Big Bend National Park's western entrance. Mining companies own or have leased 10.5 sections near Study Butte which could become humate mines if they prevail.
The mining will be visible from the Park's west entrance, and part of Old Maverick Road. Humate mining is extremely dusty, in addition to the dust generated by 60 to 110 truck loads a day transported across Brewster County in uncovered rigs on dirt roads. There's also concern about potential traffic problems, safety hazards, and degradation of area roads by the increase in traffic. Increased water usage could suck area aquifers dry, depriving residents of water. The mining companies own two springs and several wells are on the properties. They could very well destroy the water tables for numerous area residents.
Some of the proposed mines are located in Terlingua Ranch where folks have built beautiful houses. The mines are directly adjacent to some homes. The trucks will be running practically through their yards.
South Brewster County citizens have formed the Big Bend Citizens Alliance to fight the proposed mines. Some residents think it's "just a scam" and "they'll be gone in six months." Maybe, but in six months they can destroy a lot of country. The mine owners predict they'll be here for "about five years."
If you oppose mining in Brewster County contact Jose Cisneros, Superintendent of Big Bend National Park, the EPA, and the TNRCC.
Chain of Fools
In reference to Kurt Standiford's letter on slavery ["Postmarks," Vol.17, No.30], he is a slave to his own ignorance. Like many hypo-christians, Kurt likes to use the Bible as a weapon but fails to ever turn it on his own arguments. If you check your precious book of supernaturalism, Kurt, you'll see that it endorses slavery. I make reference to Leviticus 25:44 and I Timothy 6:1. Furthermore, according to the Bible, God established a chain of command: God, men, women, children, and slaves. So relax, Kurt, according to your dogma it's okay to have slaves. Feel better now?
Raising the Goalposts
Since when does an institution of higher learning (or The University of Football at Austin, Texas) lower its academic standards for any reason?! The bar should be raised, not lowered; the red herring of diversity be damned! And since when is it okay to call UT "lily white"? How about "polar bear white"? Would east Austin be called "coal black"? How about Huston-Tillutson College being called a "spade-black" school? Two wrongs never make a right, and as soon as the flaming liberals of UT, the Chronicle, the Statesman, and Austin in general get that through their thick skulls, the sooner the old and new wounds of racism will have a chance to heal.
One final stab in closing, isn't the ability to cross the street by yourself and read a "WALK-DON'T WALK" sign a prerequisite for admission to UT?
Maxey Has Attitude
One point of contention I have with the article "Class Struggle" [Vol.17, No.33] (not the Chronicle's fault) is with Glen Maxey's comments and apparent attitude towards the University. The article mentioned that he wanted to prevent state-supported schools from using funds to pay for the club memberships. 1) As pointed out in the article, the money used for those memberships doesn't come from the state; it comes from donations, TV monies, ticket revenues, etc. 2) UT can hardly be considered a state-supported school when the state only provides 25% of the funds necessary to run the University. State-assisted would be a better term.
Therein lies the problem for the staff. Top professors and their research projects are well-funded, which help to make UT a highly ranked school. However, their salaries are augmented with endowments from alumni and industry. Staff and non-top 10% professors' salaries are paid with state funds almost solely.
One source of income that should stay at the University is student's tuition. For an undergraduate the tuition for next fall is $72/semester credit hour (in-state) as found in the Fall 1998 course schedule. Using this number for all 48,000 students, disregarding higher costs for out-of-state and graduate students, the cost per student for a 13-hour course load is $936. For all 48,000 students, this comes out to be ~$45 million. (I could not find the actual figure.) Using this money would be a nice place to start if you were interested in raising staff salaries. Glen Maxey, if you are truly serious about helping the UT staff, which is a worthwhile goal, do something really useful and let UT keep the money that students pay for their own education.