Letter to Isaac
It has been said that when a soldier falls in battle, blame the war, not man. Your father was a soldier of faith and light. That is how we remember him. It's also our highest wish for you. That you too will be a soldier of light and faith. A shining conscience.
With love and prayers,
Your dad's friends and colleagues
[Ed. note: Contributions can be sent to the Isaac Winburne Trust, care of Jim Crosby, PO Box 1868, Austin, TX 78767.]
We Will Tear Down Landmarks
In the Feb. 5 article regarding Liberty Lunch ["You Do Not Tear Down Landmarks," Vol.18, No.23], several inaccurate assumptions were made without ever contacting the city. Those included claiming the city has done nothing to assist Liberty Lunch and that no member of the council ever made contact with the owners concerning relocation.
Not everyone will agree with relocation of the music venue, but we would like the discussion to be based on an accurate portrayal of the city's actions. When the city offered Liberty Lunch a substantially below-market rate lease in 1993, it was with the full understanding that it would be canceled when the city-owned block was developed.
The mayor and council's proposal for the area includes a nine-block mixed-use development of shops, housing, an art museum, a public plaza, and government and office uses. I won't list all of the benefits, but detailed information is available at http://www.ci.austin.tx.us.
With regard to the claim that the city has done nothing to assist Liberty Lunch, I offer the following:
Nov. 10: The mayor and Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman met with J'Net Ward, Liberty Lunch owner, to commit to relocation.
Dec. 3: The City Council directed city staff to begin negotiations with Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) based on a framework that included a commitment to relocate Liberty Lunch. J'Net Ward spoke in favor of the proposal at council chambers, noting the mayor and mayor pro tem had contacted her.
Dec. 8: A broad-based team of city staff, representing real estate, Public Works and Transportation, law, finance, and the city manager's office was created to assist Liberty Lunch with finding a new site. An action plan was developed for the relocation effort that included notification of the real estate brokerage community; a visual inspection of four desirable target areas, such as the Central Business District; and a solicitation of possible options and ideas from Liberty Lunch.
Dec. 9: A visual search for possible properties began, including driving street-by-street in each of the four target areas. A number of leads for new sites passed along from various outside sources were also investigated.
Dec. 14: A "Request for Proposals" was sent to 180 brokers active in commercial leasing and brokerage and revised three days later to include properties available for lease, for sale and lease/purchase, and to increase the building size requested.
Since Dec. 16, Liberty Lunch representatives have met regularly with city staff. Volunteers from the architectural and real estate community have also provided free advice and assistance.
From Jan. 8 to Feb. 8, meetings have continued to discuss and visit potential sites. Discussions have included all possible solutions, including purchase, leasing, and lease/purchase. In addition, the city is exploring the possibility of providing fee waivers, low-interest loans for purchase and/or renovation expenses, infrastructure investments, and other benefits.
Top site possibilities have narrowed from five to three and are centrally located. The city's goal is to continue its work with Liberty Lunch representatives on a weekly basis and announce relocation plans in time for South by Southwest in mid-March.
Finally, the city is not going to "hammer out a deal quickly and quietly," as the Chronicle alleges. In the past 10 weeks, we had a public hearing, made more than 25 presentations to interested groups, provided an update at a public work session, put together a Channel 6 video presentation, and published the information on the Internet. And, though subject to change, a detailed term sheet on the proposal will be made public in early March, with two public hearings planned before council action, tentatively scheduled for March 25th. This is hardly "quick and quiet."
Feel the Magic, Kirk
Dear Mayor Watson:
I'm just a schmo who's lived in Austin for the last few years, and I feel quietly proud to have enjoyed numerous shows at Liberty Lunch. I have clearly felt something of the magic that so many others also attribute to that place. It saddens me to think that the city's dealings with CSC may very well spell the end for Liberty Lunch.
True, to those who are motivated only by commercial/industrial "development" -- which often predictably operates at the expense of those who cannot afford suitable alternatives -- and also to those with no room for cultural nostalgia, Liberty Lunch may seem to be nothing more than a weary storefront in a dog-eared district. No doubt a clear sign of the need for "development."
Nevertheless, there are so many like myself who value Liberty Lunch as a place worth going back to, worth supporting, worth saving. It doesn't take a genius to see not only the room for an alternative plan which would allow Liberty Lunch to remain where it is, but also the reverence that so many people have for Austin's musical mainstays as a whole, of which Liberty Lunch is such a special example of why we as a city should work to preserve them.
There are those who want to tear down Liberty Lunch and erect in its place a monstrosity with which most of us would likely have no affiliation. Don't let this happen, Mr. Watson! Join those of us who stand on the side of preserving true Austin culture, one landmark at a time, rather than supporting the import and construction of dubiously commercialized, artificial lifestyles under the rubric of "development."
Ask your constituents! Save Liberty Lunch!
Viva Liberty Lunch
Amen to Raoul Hernandez's article regarding the probable razing of Liberty Lunch ["You Do Not Tear Down Landmarks," Vol.18, No.23]. As I wrote a couple months back, the significance of Liberty Lunch in my life is too enormous for words and I know I am not the only one who feels this way. Hernandez already said everything that I would say about this very special place which has been No. 1 time and time again in the "Best of Austin" polls.
Mark and J'Net have sunk tons of money into the Lunch and have overcome obstacle after obstacle almost ever since I can remember. This is not the first time they have been under the gun, but it certainly is more serious than ever before.
You can't really tell by the external façade, but Liberty Lunch is so much more than meets the eye. Maybe we can organize a citizens' protest and start picketing City Hall before it is too late. In its own way, the Lunch is as significant and important to Austin as Barton Springs. Save the Lunch. Viva Liberty Lunch and Wagon Yard. J'Net, you hang in there, girl.
Raise the Bar, Bryce
We have one quibble with your February 11th coverage of our recent report, "Texas Revolvers: Public Officials Recast as Hired Guns" ["Spinning Out of Control?" and "Top Guns," Vol.18, No.24].
The Chronicle's Robert Bryce dismissed as "almost laughable" our call for a lifetime ban on revolving-door lobbying, in part because self-serving members of the Texas Legislature are unlikely to pass such a reform anytime soon.
With a bit of reflection, I'm sure Bryce would agree that citizens should not constrain their demands just to what elected officials are prepared to concede. If Americans had contented themselves with such a myopic vision, we would still have states where the right to vote was limited to white, male, property-owning, debt-free Protestants. Don't be afraid to raise the bar higher than they want to jump.
Director, Texans for Public Justice
I am very glad the Statesman ran an article on Amy Babich. I finally know her frame of reference and experience. If I lived in Hyde Park and worked at UT I too would ride my bicycle just about everywhere. However, since I live in the majority part of the city of Austin built after WWII, my bicycle riding happens on the weekend and week-long bicycle vacations.
American cities, including Austin, stopped designing and started "letting the market" dictate what to build and how the city was to evolve some time ago. Throw in city, state, and federally mandated "automobile" oriented standards and you see what we have got. Non-connected, anti-human/bicycle sprawl of single-use developments. Our development codes in America have made Hyde Park type neighborhoods illegal to build for over 30 years.
Finally, after 50 years of auto dominated development, Americans are looking back to our past history of building cities for people too. Americans are literally 'sprawled out.' We want more of what Miss Babich advocates, but not to her extreme. We want to be able to get out of our autos sometimes and walk in inviting, people-oriented neighborhoods, shopping areas, and from our place of employment. Places where the person is king, not the automobile. Places where people have made the design decisions, not the market and simple economics.
Miss Babich speaks to the hearts of people everywhere who want more quality time in our daily experiences in people places. Austin is on the verge of creating greatness. We all need to do our part to help create what we all love about old Austin in the newly developing areas, so that the Amy Babiches of this world can live throughout this great city and have the option of walking and cycling through their daily lives.
Jeffery S Fischer
More Than Metro
Dear Mr. Black:
Thanks so much for the coverage on the Austin-San Antonio commuter rail line ["Naked City," Vol.18, No.24]. I appreciate your ongoing interest in both the rail feasibility study and regional transportation issues.
I would like to ask, however, that the Chronicle correct ATS's new name and help us avoid potential confusion. On February 8, Austin Transportation Study officially changed is name to Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, Or CAMPO (not Capital Metro Planning Organization, as printed in your article).
The CAMPO study area includes 19 cities, all of Travis County, and parts of Williamson and Hays counties. Our new name reflects the fact that we are a regional transportation council.
Alison M. Schulze, AICP
Say Neigh to Cars
There is an alternative mode of transportation available to us that is never discussed or debated. Why?
This form of transportation is faster than a bicycle yet requires little physical stamina -- anyone can use it. Unlike a bike, it can be equipped to carry plenty of cargo. It is quiet and causes no pollution. In fact, its exhaust products can be recycled for horticultural applications. This mode is not reliant on expensive paved surfaces on which to operate. The asphalting of our planet can stop and Austin's crippling traffic jams will end. Most individual delivery systems would remain privately owned and operated and are relatively cheap to buy and maintain. (I should note that our dependence on foreign oil would be drastically reduced.) This mode is even self-replicating. And it would support an array of related industries, continuing to provide good jobs to skilled workers. Best of all, this proposed transportation mechanism is safe. Collisions are unlikely, accidents rare, and resulting injuries, when they occur, are likely to be minor. Thousands of people would be spared a needless death.
I could go on, and once did, but the Chronicle has already forced me to cut this by over a third.
This alternative mode is no pie-in-the-sky utopian dream, Amy -- it has a proven record of success dating back thousands of years. In fact, not so very long ago it was our dominant form of long-distance transportation. What is this neglected, forgotten alternative that offers so much promise? The horse, of course.
Can't Afford Austin
I am in total agreement with Tony Hearn's point that Central Austin needs affordable apartments ["Postmarks," Vol.18, No.24]. I was reading a news article and it reported that Dell employees total only 7,000 in Austin, and Motorola only 13,000. So that is under 20,000 people, in a city with 300,000 adults. So the Statesman's perception that everyone is getting rich in Austin, working for Motorola or Dell, is totally in error. This is not either Mr. Dell's fault, or Motorola's fault, they are just not major employers, in fact, in Austin.
I believe objective data shows that the majority of Austin citizens make under $10 an hour, and frankly this is the lowest wage city I have ever lived in in my life. Therein, the majority, probably 250,000, need affordable apartments. Unfortuately, like me they cannot get off work and go talk to the City Council between 8 to 5, since they are working those hours. The City Council may meet in the evenings, but one must sign up, and wait, at times six hours, to speak. Besides, face it: Mayor Watson, and no city councilmember, worries that a person with only one leg is stuck selling flowers on Sixth Street. Mayor Watson could care less about UT students needing affordable housing, or disabled people in wheelchairs needing affordable and safe places to stay. The Salvation Army is not safe for disabled man to stay at. It has a prison release unit upstairs. You might call that a halfway house, but it acts as a release place for violent criminals, and Mayor Watson wants more disabled people living there with violent criminals. That is cruel and unusual punishment for an innocent victim. The police, in violation of city ordinance and federal laws, try to arrest the wheelchair gentleman -- who is selling flowers like Max used to do.
One-third of UT students drop out due to skyrocking rent, and skyrocking fees, while Gov. Bush sits on six billion in tax surplus. If you want the money, you're going to have to protest on a Saturday like the oil field workers did, and get Bush's attention. Praying and worrying are not going to fix this mess.
Ban Gay Adoption Ban
I am writing about the bill presented to ban gay adoption or foster care by members of the state legislature. This act reminds me of the history concerning the blind adopting or being foster parents. Bigotry seeks its own age. Our state and federal constitutions specifically protect religious laws from affecting our civil and legal rights, or are supposed to. There is not a shadow of doubt that this law is written with god-given religious right bigotry in mind. This law is unconstitutional on its face. At a minimum, some protections must be put in to protect parents who have children while living in the gay or lesbian lifestyle, family members adopting children within the family structure, or children left to the care of a gay/lesbian friend by the parent.
David M. Bagley
Crockett Bashing Is a Crock
Recently with AISD boundary changes lurking, there has been lots of talk from people afraid of being forced to have their children change schools. In the process, I feel that Crockett High School has been getting "bashed" undeservedly by parents from other schools. This is not new. The media has, for at least two years, fueled the fire reporting about Crockett in only negative ways. Do any of these reports come from direct experience? I doubt it. But if one looks for negative things to say, one will surely find them -- about any school, or anything for that matter.
I currently have two children attending Crockett High School. They are both having a great high school experience. They are involved -- in band, soccer, and choir. They have always had great teachers. They have good friends. They are not on drugs or in gangs. There are hundreds of other kids just like them. They like their school. Of course there are kids in any high school who don't like school in general. They experiment with drugs, sex, and push their limits with people. They are teenagers, after all.
In AISD boundary debates, some people who will possibly be changed into Crockett's boundaries are protesting that Crockett doesn't match up to their standards. Do they mean academic standards? On what do they base their assumptions? Texas State School Report Cards can only show grade averages. In recent years in UIL competitions, Crockett has consistently done better than its neighboring schools in math, science, debate and prompt writing events. The arts department is outstanding with its productions of drama and musicals as well as its choir programs. The band is recognized with awards year after year. The Crockett Cougars football team (not that it should determine where to send your child for educational purposes) had an excellent performance record in the '97-'98 season which went almost completely unrecognized by the local media. There are several courses offered at Crockett that are unavailable elsewhere, including a World Cultures class which combines social studies and english into a format that the kids enjoy. Also available is a hands-on computer rebuilding class thanks to assistance from Motorola, and a creative writing course and an American culture class.
A school is made of individuals. Students, teachers, parents, and staff all play a role. A student will only get out what he or she puts in to their education. Parents play a strong role. The booster clubs at all the different departments at Crockett are very supportive of the students. They are operated by good people who are setting good examples for the students by participating in their own children's education. If you have a child doing well in school and you are afraid of moving him/her to a school with "lower" standards, let me say that the people are the standards, so in being there you are "raising" the standards to your level -- if you are involved.
When I go to a Crockett High School function, I am pleased and proud to see the diversity of its student body and staff and faculty. There are blacks, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and whites, all working together for the common good. That is what American culture is all about. Hopefully it is not our great diversity that some others are worried about.
Stop Springs Plan
Dear Chronicle Readers,
Last October the city and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service entered into a pool maintenance agreement they call the Habitat Conservation Plan, whose purpose they claim is to protect the Barton Springs salamander from the public. Unfortunately, the Plan pits salamanders against swimmers and the City Council against an unelected federal bureaucracy to the detriment of the salamander, the pool, and the people who love it.
The Plan has three principal components. The first prevents the city from drawing down the deep end of the main pool, which is necessary to clean the beach and the salamander habitat. Instead, the Plan proposes building a dam across the pool that will allow the staff to drain the shallow end for cleaning, but abandons the deep end to the ravages of silt and algae. Those of you who have visited the pool can see what the consequences of this policy are.
The second component paves part of the beach and digs out the rest of it. In doing so, it decimates an important piece of salamander habitat. Additionally, the engineers estimate this will cost well over half a million dollars and will close the pool during most of the summer.
The third closes Eliza Springs and Sunken Gardens to the public. They justify this by claiming that recreational users could possibly step on salamanders. In short, they assume that salamanders are incompatible with recreational use.
These issues are discussed in detail at http://www.hyperweb.com/bsz/pool.
I urge all those interested in the fate of Barton Springs Pool to visit the site, arm yourselves with the facts, and contact your City Council. Funding for the plan is scheduled to go before the council on February 25 or March 4, so there is not much time to make your views known.
The Ken Lieck Blues
Ladies and Gentlemen:
On behalf of Austin Blues, I would like to apologize to Ken Lieck, the Chron's resident music critic. We have apparently offended his sensibilities by offering good food, cleanliness, friendly staff, and excellent local/regional blues artists. Mr. Lieck seems intent on leaving no prediction of our demise unspoken or adjective unstrangled in his obvious continuing disdain for the club. Either Mr. Lieck's milk of human kindness curdled early in his journalistic career or he actually prefers bad food, bad air, bad music, and lots of waxy yellow buildup when he goes out, apparently preferring to feel like he's still at home. We have gone from being amused at his "Spinal Tap" approach to writing about music to wondering what we could have possibly done to personally offend his mama to finally shrugging our shoulders about it. At least he's not working for the post office.
I would strongly encourage everyone else who truly cares about the music, good food, and a clean kitchen to come check us out.
Last Dollar-Picture Show
Another theatre bit the dust a few weeks ago. With the demise of Westgate 3, South Austin now has no discount theatres. The only ones remaining are in the northern suburbs, inaccessible to the carless south of the river. The recording on the Westgate 3's phone line encouraged us to go to the out-of-state corporate owner's new megaplex instead.
At a discount theatre, you didn't worry too much beforehand if the movie was "worth it." Hell, for a buck and a half you got two hours of entertainment in someone else's CA/CH. Now, even matinees are $4, just high enough to make you second-guess whether it's "worth it."
My understanding is that the recently closed porno house on South Congress was to be turned into a discount movie house. But I've also heard it could be converted into a library or given to some artsy-fartsy group. Forget them. South Austin needs a place for cheap movies. Powers that be, please make it so. The time has never been better.
No Accounting for Taste
I searched for an e-mail address for [Marc] Savlov, but luckily for him, he was nowhere to be found. Obviously this letter is a complaint. Last night, after reading his review of Rushmore, which he generously gave four stars, I took my family of four to go see the movie. It was awful. Not one person at the show laughed even once, and it was a packed house.
Now I understand that people have different tastes and all. But shouldn't a critic at least have a general idea of what us consumers like? I spent $27 last night on tickets alone based on such a high rating for literally one of the five worst movies I have ever seen, and every person in that theatre was of the exact same opinion. People even got up and left. If I could, I would sue you for the $27 we spent just for the point of it, but in the meantime, keep your opinions to yourself when other people are spending money based on what you write, or at least stop trying to impress your other critics, and work for the people that are actually listening to you. That was sad, very sad. A movie doesn't have to be art to be good, it just has to be entertaining, and Rushmore was neither. Your film critics should at least be in touch with the populace's preferences. I give Savlov zero stars and not one person at Tinseltown South last night would disagree.
Thanks for nothing,
The Statesman Could Kill Her
When my mother, Shudde Fath, was being prepped for her recent cataract surgery, Nurse Shanna asked what she was allergic to. Shudde promptly replied, "Motrin, Republicans, and Ken Starr!"
Random Acts of Meg
For all of you still displaying that ridiculous bumper sticker: If you'd grown up in my family of origin, you'd know that "random acts of kindness" are not enough to keep you alive. If you really want to step outside of your cocoon and affect the world, how about deliberate, personal, and consistent kindness? And, for the record, all real beauty has sense to it.
Finally said it.
Where's the Fun Stuff?
This is already a week late, but I just wanted to say I like your "Coach" columns the way they are, including the ongoing personal soap opera stuff. It puts a human face on a type of writing (sports) that is typically rather bland. The wedding story in the February 5 Chronicle [Vol.18, No.23] was refreshing. Even though I'm not a rabid sports fan, your column is the first thing I read (after "Car Talk") in the Chronicle each week. We enjoy being a part of your family, and your observations about sports are okay, too. Keep up the good work.
Oh, and is there something that can be done about the placement of your column in the midst of the classifieds? I am baffled by the schizophrenic scattering about of everything that used to be on the last two pages of every issue. It's easy to turn to the very front or very back. It's more difficult to find you (and "Day Trips" and Mr. Smarty Pants and comics, etc.) now. Whoever thinks having advertising on the last pages is worth more than your column doesn't have their priorities straight (yes, I know the ads generate revenue). You deserve better.
If I had a vote, I would request that if the fun stuff such as "Car Talk," "Coach," "Day Trips," "Mr. Smarty Pants," and comics can't be together at the very back, they should at least be kept together in an easily identifiable section of their own elsewhere in the newspaper (the same way that items about politics, food, movies, classifieds, etc. are grouped).
I Get Sprung
Regarding Marion Winik's "Measuring Your Assets" [Vol.18, No.24], I wonder what men she's talking about here -- I know hardly any men who don't fall favorably into category #4 -- that is, if we're talking straight men here. Plus, doesn't it seem like worrying too much about such things perpetuates a culture of fear and dishonesty? Many of us men love real women, which often includes women who, according to the standards often set by overly image-conscious women, have "big butts."
Be Thankful for Watcha Got,
Lacto for Lassie
I just read the letter from Miss Smiley Dawg in the Chronicle in which the author referred to her rise in cholesterol from consuming excessive quantities of butter ["Postmarks," Vol.18, No.24]. This is interesting because the author of the letter is a dog, and unlike humans, dogs do not suffer from elevated cholesterol as a result of eating butter.
In fact, dogs fed solid bricks of butter have been shown to have no increase in their cholesterol level. This should not be surprising because dogs are natural carnivores and omnivores, so eating animal foods does not have an adverse effect on them. Humans, on the other hand, are natural plant eaters, which is why our cholesterol goes up when we eat animal foods. When humans stray from their natural diet and eat animal foods every day, the result is usually increased cholesterol level, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, etc.
Some mistakenly believe that humans' "canine teeth" prove that humans are designed to eat meat. In point of fact, other plant eaters have "canine teeth." They also have several molar teeth, just like humans, while true carnivores do not. But again, the very best evidence that humans were not designed to eat animal foods is the number of diseases we get when we do.