Share the Smart Growth
Having just completed many months serving on the Smart Growth Task Force and, at last week's Smart Growth Conference, listening to some interesting and insightful speakers, I've gained a great appreciation for the obstacles and challenges to managing urban and suburban life and growth.
Pat Hayes' plea for consideration of the needs of the disenfranchised was one of the clearest messages I heard at the conference.
One of the Smart Growth Task Force subcommittees focused on "infill initiatives." Our subcommittee concentrated on making appropriate urban development both easier and more affordable. We unanimously recommended that affordability would be enhanced by relaxing impediments to affordable urban housing development. We suggested (among other things) reducing minimum lot sizes to 2,500 square feet (from 4,750), reducing setbacks, permitting zero lot line houses, allowing tax abatements for new homeowners in the DDZ-Urban Core, and reducing certain other fees. Our suggestions were not supported by City Staff (and they told the council so) because, to use their words, "the neighborhoods will never go along with this."
The challenge to the council on January 4, and to those of us who reside in the inner city who may participate in forthcoming Smart Growth neighborhood planning sessions, will be to put aside our preconceived notions about quality of life being directly related to low density. We must stand up and promote changes to make the advantages of living in the DDZ Urban Core available to Austinites of all income levels. Subidized public housing is one answer to affordable housing, but it has a high cost to the taxpayer and carries a stigma. Why not supplement such programs by focusing on alternate solutions which cost nothing? Revise the antiquated land development code to make the development of lots and construction of housing and infrastructure cheaper in the first place.
We'll end up with greater density but also greater diversity in the DDZ Urban Core and we'll have more neighbors to share the quality of life those of us who currently live there enjoy. Susan Richardson of the Austin American-Statesman proposed substituting NIMBY with YIMBY (Yes In My BackYard). I'd go a step further. The challenge to the neighborhood planners and activists will be to replace NIMBY with WIMBY (Welcome In My BackYard).
Culture for Sale
The letters written in response to "Postmarks," [Vol.18, No.15] "Dia De Los Gringos," are consistent with the reactions I often hear from white people responding to a specific contemporary issue of racism. They say, "I am not responsible for all the horrible things my white ancestors did." Or, "I am not responsible for slavery."
These reactions are irrelevant to the questions raised in the original letter. The authors were merely pointing out that the Chronicle was selling an image from Latino and indigenous cultures for profit and/or promotion. It is ironic that one of the most prevalent aspects of a growing awareness of other cultures is the commodification of their icons, spirituality, and art forms for profit. The pieces of other cultures are broken away and reformulated into a digestible format for the majority culture to consume (see Madonna).
That is something to ponder. Whether or not I am responsible for slavery is not.
Martin Misses Point
After reading Sam Martin's latest review of "New American Talent: The Thirteenth Exhibition" ["Exhibitionism," Vol.18, No.16], I feel that a response is in place. Mr. Martin seemed bothered by not being able to establish relationships between the individual pieces in the show.
First of all, for an exhibition such as this one, who claimed that there needs to be a relationship at all? TFAA's New American Talent exhibitions come forth out of annual national competitions, and result in a survey of "what's out there." In general the exhibition as a whole will have less cohesion than, for instance, curated shows do. It is unfortunate that even after three visits, Mr. Martin didn't realize the nature of the exhibition.
However, several themes and techniques do link the pieces, and make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. If Mr. Martin hadn't been thinking of "sinking his teeth into the receptionist" so much, he might have been able to focus more on the exhibition.
Unfortunate too is the fact that Mr. Martin seems to have missed out on several decades of artistic movements, or he would have realized a long time ago that art is "most often a cerebral outlook of the individual artist."
With an "overfed artistic appetite" and his mind preoccupied by food maybe Mr. Martin would fare better as a food critic. However we are pleased with his three-fold return and hope he continues to be a fascinated visitor in the future. With an exhibition schedule as varied as ours, undoubtedly a future exhibition will be more of Mr. Martin's taste.
(Two corrections are in place too, Richard Bassett is an artist living in Oakland, Calif., not Brooklyn, as was indicated in Mr. Martin's article, and five Juror Merit Awards were awarded, not two.)
Associate Director, Exhibitions
TFAA at The Jones Center for Contemporary Art
Hurray for Police
Dear Cyclops Grandma ["Postmarks," Vol.18, No.15]:
You sounded upset to learn that, like the rest of us, you are not above the law. You only had a broken headlight. At what level do you want police officers to stop enforcing the law? Shoplifters don't hurt anyone. Ignoring seat belts doesn't hurt anyone (unless you're in an accident). The people who have insignificant violations a lot of times turn out to be people with warrants. Since you seem to know where all of the violent crimes are happening and where all of the felons are hiding out, why don't you lead the police to them? I'm sure they'd commemorate you for relieving our community of real crime.
I'd also like to know why police officers as a whole get such a bad rap? I'd like to remind you and everyone else that they enforce the law, not make it. Just like any other business, the police department is bound to have a few inadequate employees -- just like there are obviously bad grandmothers -- but they risk their lives every day for us, even when they are off duty. Do you go to work not knowing if you or a friend is going to die that day? People call them because of barking dogs and double parked cars, and even though they'd rather be looking for real criminals, they are obligated to take every call, no matter how absurd. People don't condemn military troops like this even though they protect us.
What this all boils down to is that you cannot take responsibility for your own actions. Admit that you broke the law and pay your fine. If you don't like the law, talk to your local politicians and let the police officers do their job. My grandma is thankful to have them in her neighborhood.
Biking Across the (Sar)Chasm
Sure, Amy Babich is a fruitcake and evidently lives in a magical world where Noam Chomsky and Newt Gingrich walk merrily hand in hand through a landscape of fairies and talking trees, where overweight Viagra-gulping bureaucrats voluntarily bike from topless bars in Austin to topless bars in San Antonio and park in giant, migratory car lots. But on the other hand, all of you pedestrian-hostile car supremacists out there are equally nuts if you think you'll stop us. I am the bicycle rider who gives all bike riders a bad name. By the same social-Darwinist standards that the motor vehicle segregationists uphold, I and bicycle riders like me are responsible for countless inconveniences to automobile drivers through our irresponsible and extravagant demands to exist on the same roads.
There, I've said it, the conspiracy is unmasked; we, bicycle riders, sold America's atomic secrets to Bolsheviks, we created gangsta rap, and we cancelled Star Trek. We peed in your Cheerios, we killed cock-robin, we rigged pro wrestling, we took the bomp out of the bomp-she-bomp-she-bomp, and forever tore the ram asunder from the a-lam-a-ding-dong.
You'll take my bike when you pry my cold dead fingers from the handlebars, and the way you drive, you just may.
Citizens Should March!
I love my country, but I fear and despise my government.
The investigation and trial of President Clinton over his personal vices is nothing but a partisan mockery of justice and an abuse of our Constitution.
I believe it is time for the American people to make a decisive show of outrage and have a 10 million citizen march upon Washington, D.C.
Louis Farrakhan had an impressive show of force with his one million man march, so just think about it, 10 million outraged citizens from all walks of life, women and men of all races and persuasions marching upon our nation's capital.
They (the government) might call out the Army and Marines but even if they do I am sure this will get the attention of all branches and both parties of our government, especially those inquisitors in our congress.
Enough is enough. I get the feeling that this government is on the verge of collapsing and so do other citizens. Perhaps a 10 million citizen march will wake our bumbling leaders up and we can have a properly functioning government. Again.
Gregory J. Gauntner
This letter is for all the city officials, mall managers, and public domains inhabiting the city of Austin.
Why is it that in a city growing by leaps and bounds, and with an ever-increasing diversity of cultures and ethnicities, we are bombarded year after year with slogans and decorations that relate only to Christmas this time of year? I am a nonreligious Jewish woman who identifies strongly with my cultural heritage. Yet year after year all over the city -- in banks, government offices, in shopping malls and parking lots -- I am inundated with tinsel, lights, holly wreaths, and all things Christmas. Let's not forget those annoying loops of Christmas songs in every store and megamart either.
My job requires me to go to various elementary schools around town and in hallway after hallway there are letters to Santa and glittering green Christmas trees on various colored construction paper. I can't imagine every one of those children have trees at home, because I know not all of them celebrate Christmas. I know from my own experience, at elementary school, that Chanukah was never mentioned when it came to "Christmas" vacation or "What do you want for Christmas?" Due to peer pressure and intimidation of Christmas being heaped upon me (by teachers, too), as a young shy girl I felt embarrassed to admit I didn't "do" Christmas. My schoolmates wouldn't have understood, and kids can be awful cruel when one doesn't fit in.
It also concerns me that my tax money may be going towards supplying and maintaining Christmas decorations. The ones hanging over Congress Ave., Sixth Street, the trail of (Christmas) lights in Zilker Park, etc. Not that it isn't beautiful. My point is this: Communities and individuals need to be more aware of the impact that the holiday season brings to all cultures and religions. I'm well aware that we live in the Bible Belt, but as cities like Austin grow bigger they need to become more aware of the big picture. Give us all equal time and space.
Changes at KLRU
Our local PBS station, KLRU, is among the finest in the nation. This fact has been recognized repeatedly throughout the years by other PBS stations as well as their viewers. Bill Arhos, who basically built KLRU into the unique and creative station that it became, cleared out his office Sunday, Nov. 15, without notice. Loyal employees that have been there for several years at below-market salaries are leaving by the day. These people did not work at KLRU for the money; they believed in what they were doing. Why are they leaving? It is important for the public to put the spotlight on the board members of KLRU and ask them why they hired a leader with no experience and apparently no management skills to care for this Austin institution. Good luck to Mike Levy, who recently rejoined the board; I hope he takes the time to review the "imaginary" budget and recent hires that have blown the lid off of nonprofit television salaries.
Poetry From the Heart
To the voters and students in Texas, a poem:
"A Governor must see someone in need
in order for the people to succeed.
For four long years I've been knocking on his door
I can't stand this no more!
All our present Texas governor does is snore.
I can't stand Bush no more."
At the same time Mauro has been knocking on doors in 110 Texas cities. I need someone in the governors office who has a big heart, not a cold heart!
Overrun by Foreigners
Jacques Herzog was hired to plan Blanton Museum of Art at UT. It's a Swiss firm he speaks for. You can add his name to those of: the police chief, UT president, UT football coach, Capital Metro general manager, museum of art chief designer, American-Statesman editors, AISD school principals, as outsiders holding a hell of a job. Here in my neighborhood, young guys just started to waste their lives on occupations they generate, marijuana, or the Army. With the space gate almost open, I can hardly wait to see our kids working up there as cooks or bells, and you, and the preachers, padres, newscasters, commentators and DJ's, using excessive words to make them feel good. With a new round of college students storming into town from God knows where, our chances for survival will be less. This is a crime against humanity.
Tell God You're Sorry
Has the United States apologized for the bombing of the pharmacy plant as Sudan requested at the UN? I posed that question to the White House, my Congress person, and the media. They could not or would not answer, so I asked it on a Sudan Web site and immediately got the following answers from four persons.
"It does not serve our purpose to call attention to our mistakes. Just pretend it did not happen and eventually the world will forget. History has proved this over and over again."
"When we get a woman President an apology will be given."
"Still waiting! Actually we are waiting for hell to freeze over. When that day arrives an official apology will come out."
"When we get an honest and decent person in the White House. I don't know when that will be. There are, however, a few people in the U.S. working to get the truth out and the medical supply restored. Unfortunately there are a lot fewer of us than there should be."
President Clinton needs to brush up on the art of "apology." To put it mildly, he is not very good at it. He can start to redeem himself with a sincere, real apology to the people of Sudan, the ship's crew who launched the missiles at his command, the American people, and to God.
Jewel R. Johnson
Take Off, Eh?
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
So, the Canadians are telling us that "we must have our executions"?
Well why doesn't the State of Texas bill Canada for the decades of incarceration, the pain and suffering of the offended family, and a few million more dollars of time that their "outrage" on behalf of their murdered has caused us all in listening to them?
Oh, and by the way, why don't they take their tourism somewhere else ... like ... New York City or Miami.
Thank you for your concern.
There is a Canadian in one of your prisons awaiting execution for a grisly murder in Gladetown, Texas, some years ago. A group of Canadians are down there trying to convince Gov. Bush to repeal the sentence. The Governor is standing behind Texas law. When asked what sort of message this sends to Canada, he replied, "If you're from Canada, don't commit murder in Texas." Right on, Gov.
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
People Before Profits!
I realize this nation is too preoccuppied with hanging the President for sex crimes, but I'd like to relay some rather disturbing news concerning bovine growth hormone (produced by Monsanto) which currently exists in over 30% of this country's milk supply. A Canadian study has found that this "BGH" may effect humans by giving us thyroid cysts and prostate cancer. Hello? When the FDA has been queried about these findings they stand mute, or try to stand by the FDA study ... provided by Monsanto!
The FDA officials should hang for such nonsense. Never has it been clearer that profits have been put before safety. This ramshakle "study" by the company pushing the product in question is faulty, and even New Hampshire politicians are condemning the "greased chute" results. (New Hampshire cows produce a lot of milk, apparently.) The only way we consumers can right this wrong is to demand en masse that all BGH-infected milk be yanked immediately from all grocery shelves until a real study can be done on its short- and long-term effects. Also, how about lableing this type of milk so we consumers won't blindly purchase it? Got milk? No thanks!
No to Impeachment
I have a heavy heart. They have impeached my president. Damn them. As I watched the votes roll in this morning, I actually got a bit teary-eyed and found myself thinking that there's nothing I can do but resign myself to mindlessly watching the course of history on TV.
But then I got mad. I won't go into my personal beliefs about the Clinton scandal here, but I will say that I am violently opposed to impeachment.
Please forgive my imprecise language. I am no means an expert in politics. But I have a question and would like to know if you know the answer ...
Today the House voted to impeach Clinton. Then that House adjourned its session. It will not meet again. That House is over. But -- on Jan.6, the new House will walk a piece of paper over to the Senate with a "message" stating today's vote and asking the Senate to continue with the impeachment process. Is that legal? Can the new House pass on a vote from an old House and expect the Senate to act on that vote?
I don't think so. It doesn't sound right. But really, we have very little precedent to go by here. So I am posing the question to every person I know, and hoping that if enough of us put the question out there, something may come of it. Please forward this to anyone you know who may be interested. Thanks.
Chris S. Witwer
mad as hell
No Blood for Bimbos
America repent! The U.S.A. has turned its collective back on God and has been rewarded with Bill Clinton; a leader whose disregard for human life and immoral behavior is only exceeded by his mendacity.
One only has to use the conscience and reason provided by the good Lord to see a consistent pattern: Mr. Clinton gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar, he finds some third-rate despot that suddenly presents an imminent danger, the bombs start dropping, killing innocent women and children in the process. If someone still has any doubts ask yourself this question: If the president knew that there were not enough votes to impeach him, would he have bombed before or after the scheduled impeachment vote?
I implore all God-fearing people in our country to humble themselves and pray, and seek God's presence and turn from their evil ways so that God will heal our land. During this season when we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; let us pray that our nation can show this peace to other nations so that a mother and child in a far off land can sleep safely.
I've enclosed a copy of today's Toronto Sun editorial that you might find interesting. There are also two letters to the editor.
This delegation of Canadians in Texas trying to get a 30-day stay of execution for Faulder do not speak for me or anyone I know. The talk in the coffee shops, etc, up here is that Faulder should have been executed years ago for the brutal murder of Enez Phillips.
I hope these Canadian reps go and see the relations of Mrs. Phillips and tell them how sorry they are that a "Canadian" murdered her. These Canadian reps should stay out of Texas business.
Robert H. McClurkin
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
'Tis the season! We learned the hard way that we could not save lives by driving a drunk person home in their own car. While working at a club last Christmas my fiance drove a drunk customer home. In the process he was stopped by the police and ticketed for not having insurance, sticker, or tags. He explained this to the officer, who ticketed him anyway. The customer promised to take care of it, as she had the paperwork at home and it was a "fix it" ticket. He forgot all about it until the week before Christmas this year when we were stopped by the police and he was taken to jail for the warrant. After four days the judge for that county finally set a reasonable bond to get him out. He wouldn't take this to court since he was doing a favor to society, but we found out that he would have to stay in jail until January 20 or pay $1,000 up front to prove he was innocent.
This is a warning to anyone who might try to drive someone else's car if the friend is drunk. This is also a plea to change the laws; if someone is driving a drunk home they should not get ticketed, the owner should be responsible for the car. The police and the insurance companies are the only ones who benefit for this outrage. Change the law.
Recent proposals to require cleaner-burning fuel would be more welcome if the same standards were applied to all vehicles -- not just passenger cars. There still exists the loophole of sport-utility vehicles (Suburbans and trucks), which have no regulation of their exhausts, not to mention diesel burning automobiles and the ubiquitous 18-wheelers, which merrily cruise into the next millennium with carte blanche and black smoke plumes that sky-write "eat my dust" to the rest of the motorists. Ho, ho, ho!