Convention Center Failed


I need to correct a rumor, one that developer Robert Knight said in the Waller Creek article about the Austin Convention Center ["All That Glitters," Vol. 18, No. 23], that the Austin Convention Center has "exceeded expectations." The Center has not exceeded, or even met, expectations.

Convention centers are built for their economic effects. The 1997 consultants for the center expansion estimated that the center created a net new $43.3 million direct impact on Austin in 1996. The 1988 consultants projected a $113.8 million direct impact. Exceed expectations? I don't think so.

Some may argue that though the center did not meet this projection, it still had a substantial impact on Austin's economy. Quite the contrary. The Convention Center's $43.3 million impact is only 3.1% of the Austin Convention and Visitor Bureau's estimated $1.4 billion spending in travel-related expenditures by tourists. When put into perspective, investing so much into conventions is ridiculous. Even if the expansion doubles the center's economic impact, as consultants would have us believe, it would scarcely make a dent in Austin's tourist economy.

Out of the 16 million visitors to Austin annually, only 135,000 of these are conventioneers. This means 0.75% of all Austin visitors use the Convention Center. Even a bigger center, with its supposed doubling impact, will not bring a significant number of visitors to Austin. Such a minuscule impact on tourism in Austin does not justify businesses to start up just for the fluctuating traffic of conventioneers. Austin gathers millions of visitors from UT, the Capitol, legislative sessions, and from the friends and relatives of Austinites. Why didn't Austin think of using that $110 million on alternative projects more beneficial to Austin?

It is a known fact there is much more Convention Center supply than demand. The Austin Convention Center is a boondoggle, and it's an even bigger boondoggle because expansion displaced almost 200 people at the Railyard. Too late now to stop the center expansion, but just remember this in the future, folks -- do some research to see if the politicians are giving you the truth.

Thanks for your time,

Katherine "Katie" Anne Larsen

Outing Leininger


Thank you for finally outing James Leininger in your two articles a few weeks ago ["Million Dollar Man" and "Wallet and Spirit," Vol. 18, No. 22].

It's obvious from Whole Foods' comment in the Chron article that, contrary to the motto on their paper bags ("Our deepest purpose as an organization is to help support the health, well-being, and healing of both people and the planet"), they have a commitment to neither the health of people nor the well-being of the planet. By refusing to consider the unhealthful and deeply damaging causes that their support of Leininger helps to fund, they are acting less "supportive" than their motto might suggest. But then, Whole Foods still stocks grapes -- they're a lost cause.

Hopefully Wheatsville membership will vote to drop Promised Land products -- even though they're yummy, even though the glass bottles are re-usable, and even though the little biblical verses on the bottles are enlightening. Do you want your dollars funnelled into telling a woman that abortion is murder or destroying the Endangered Species Act? I doubt it.

How ironic that the company we liberal-minded folks buy from to avoid wasted packaging turns out to have an owner whose values are so antithetical to ours.

Got to drink milk? There's always Horizon.


Kyre M. Osborn

Yeah, Sure


Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed Andy Langer's piece on Kelly Willis ["The Wisdom of Years," Vol.18, No.24]. I saw Kelly Willis at the Continental Club years ago, before she made her trip to Nashville. She and her band were excellent at that time. It is great to be able to read an informative and entertaining article, without having to wade through an interviewer's own personal opinions to reach the meat of the article. Sometimes one has to wear hip boots. Andy's piece was thoughtful, without interjecting too much of himself, admiring without being "gushy," and he allowed his subject to be honest and speak from the heart. Let's see more articles by him. No, I'm not his mother.


Kitty Kirkpatrick-Page

Bicycles Only


It's good to see Austin is finally getting around to increasing bicycle safety by banning parking in so-called bike lanes ["Naked City," Vol. 18, No. 25]. I've been hoping this would happen since 1986 when I and my bike moved to Austin to attend UT. Since then, my bike was stolen, I bought a new one, I graduated, I graduated again, I moved away, I got married, I moved back, I bought another bike, I started a family, and cars are still allowed to park in Austin's bike lanes. Maybe by the time my daughter and her bike attend UT ...

I can see a pattern developing here, dating back to the city's residential permit parking pilot program. The bureaucrats and councilmembers don't want to offend any constituents, including those whose cars apparently have no place better to be than bicycle lanes, so a pilot program is a Solomonic solution. Those opposed can be told, "It's just a pilot program." Those in favor are glad to see at least some progress.

The problem is, putting up No Parking signs costs money (can anybody around here say boondoggle anymore?). An outright ban on parking in bike lanes would be simpler, cheaper, and more effective. Why not simply start handing out tickets? After all, that's exactly how the city treated bike helmet-law violators.


Joel Irby

Amy Babich, Capitalist Pig


My hurt and disappointment are deep. My beliefs in the goodness of humankind have been shredded.

For many months, I have enjoyed reading all the letters Amy Babich routinely sends to the Chronicle. I even wrote one stinging and extremely insightful rebuttal. I seldom agreed with her but all along I felt that Amy was a genuine person with deeply held beliefs and with the character to stand behind those beliefs. She struck me as a little naive sometimes, a little misguided usually, very intolerant always. But I always felt her "heart was in the right place."

She reprimanded us all severely and often for not having the common sense to ride a bicycle everywhere we need to go. She made the argument over and over ... we need to abandon cars and ride bicycles exclusively.

Now I discover that Amy Babich sells bicycles! Boy! Is that a letdown! She fooled us into believing her credibility, then clubs us with the truth. The truth is, she's just another Republican trying to convince the government to pass laws and spend money to help her make a buck. She's not at all interested in our health, the environment, crowding, traffic, or any other of our many problems. She just wants to sell us bicycles.

She wants cars outlawed so that we all have to ride bicycles. She wants to spend millions in tax dollars for a bike trail to San Antonio. Who has two weeks to visit San Antonio!? She wants to move parking garages around to keep cars out of the city. Where did she hear that parking garages could be moved? She wants us to use and support Capitol Metro. ... She wants us to be dependent on Capitol Metro ... at great cost in personal time and money. Doesn't she realize that Capital Metro supervisors can't even conduct their own business using scheduled bus service? Capitol Metro uses more large sedans for supervision and single-passenger service than the University of Texas.

All this just because she wants to make a buck.

This is the most disappointing realization to hit me in a long time. This is blatant capitalism in its worst form.

Dalton Wall

Hollow Victories

Dear Editor:

Thanks for bringing up the environmental "mitigation" issue in the Chronicle.

I recently attended a meeting of Austin's Environmental Board. I noticed a very disturbing trend.

Here's what happens. A developer goes before a board or commission, or the City Council, and asks for a variance. The developer proposes to build some huge, ugly thing -- another shopping center, office park, or sprawling apartment complex. The proposed project conflicts with city regulations that limit the amount of impervious cover (parking lot) and project-generated car traffic allowed in environmentally sensitive regions.

The board says no at first. But if the developer is willing to "try really hard" to comply with regulations, the board or the council grants the variance six months later.

At the meeting I attended, a developer acknowledged that his project does not meet impervious cover or motor traffic generation standards. But he said that he had tried really hard, and pointed out that his new proposal wasn't quite as bad as his old one. No action was taken at this meeting, but most of the board seemed sympathetic to the developer.

People often hail the Triangle Square negotiations as a major victory for the neighborhoods. I don't see why. The current prediction is that 19,000 new car trips a day will be generated (as opposed to 26,000 for the original project). This is victory?

This "mitigation" procedure reminds me of a man who once told me that, although he did create a lot of air pollution with his truck, he "thought he made up for it" by recycling his beer bottles.

Please, let's go easy on the mitigation. And let's think about reducing car traffic by facilitating non-motorized transportation and rapid transit.

Yours truly,

Amy Babich

Stupid Ads

Dear Mr. Black,

Do you have to promote kiddie porn with ads like this? This ad is very objectionable and stupid -- it really alienates mainstream, big-spender-type readers. What is your rationale for promoting kids in bondage that are sexily available? Think about it. Why does everyone in Austin say, "Yes, I read that article in the Chronicle -- the writing is always so good. But the ads are really stupid." The opinion of many of my friends.

Really an unnecessary ad for your paper.


P. McElroy

Environmental Archives

Dear Editor:

I wanted to let you and your readers know that I have given away my video programs to the Austin History Center. You will find everything you ever wanted to know about environmental issues in Austin. From friendly recycling music videos to the bitter battle for Barton Springs. These shows were produced for Austin Community TV, and have been cablecast since 1987.

I am no longer producing, and wanted the documentation of these events to be safely archived and kept for the public record.

Thanks to the Austin History Center for providing a safe place to preserve Austin's rich history.


Jenny Clark

former ACTV Producer

Perlman vs. Pavarotti

Dear Editor:

First I'd like to register a personal complaint against the person(s) responsible for scheduling Pavarotti and Perlman on the same night. Having seen the brilliance of Itzhak Perlman many times in the last 20 years, I chose Pavarotti, and I was as moved and awestruck as I have ever been by his enormously gifted voice.

Why Robi Polgar chose to open his review of the Perlman concert in such an offensive, arrogant manner I will never understand. "Obese Italian guy"? Shame on you! It is exactly this kind of ignorant snobbery that keeps many potential patrons from experiencing live classical music. And I would offer that my sensibilities as well as my choice that evening were every bit as exquisite and refined as Mr. Polgar's. Judging by the roaring and screaming of the 13,000+ diverse audience members who stood on their feet for five encores, Lucianno Pavarotti had this crowd more than "rapt and delighted."

Cindy Goldman

Help for the Distressed

Dear Louis Black,

Thank you for printing Spike Gillespie's account of her distress.

The enclosed material is just a tiny sample of a huge resource of possible ways to understand mental energy disturbances.

A duplicate copy is being sent to Gillespie. This information is so important for everyone to know, you may also benefit, and/or share it with anyone.

There is also, among many more:

Toxic metal syndrome affects on brain

"Weather Sensitivity"/ion reactions

Cranio Social adjustment therapy

"Yeast Syndrome"/albicans aversion

G.C. Castoro

Legal by 2007


This damn corporate/government drug war is just as low and sleazy as it can possibly be. My boyfriend just found out his company is going to institute drug testing. He has been doing a very good job there for almost a year, but because he smoked a little pot last weekend he may very well lose his job. He was (is) an exemplary employee in every way. And he does not have the kind of job that could result in the loss of human lives in any way. He is a computer technician -- and a damn good one. You all know or know of someone this has happened to. For crying out loud, when is enough enough? When are people going to speak out and act out against this unpopular, unfair, illegal invasion of privacy? Well, I am! I advocate guerrilla action! Let's find something that produces a positive THC response and put it in salt and pepper shakers in every lunchroom and restaurant in America! It's not that I'm a "pot addict" -- I really don't smoke that often. It's the principle of the thing! President Clinton recently said he wanted to half drug use by the year 2007. Well I say people have had enough of this drug war bullshit! Marijuana will be legal by the year 2007 if we act, gripe, vote, protest, and if everyone, everywhere flunks the drugs tests! P.S. If you print this letter, you may use my e-mail address. I'd love to hear from others who feel the same outrage.

Howling mad,

Aleta Fairchild

Gospel According to Kurt


Jesus told them, "Don't let anyone fool you. Many will come claiming to be the Messiah and will lead many astray. When you hear of wars beginning, this does not signal my return; these must come, but the end is not yet. The nations and Kingdoms of the Earth will rise against each other and there will be famines and earthquakes in many places. But all this will be only the beginning of the horrors to come. Then you will be tortured and killed and hated all over the world because you are mine. And many false prophets will appear and lead many astray. Sin will be rampant everywhere and will cool the love of many." Matthew 24:4-12.

Hey Ventura, your Bible proof-texting is sad at best ["Letters at 3AM"]. Even real Christians aren't perfect and don't claim to be. But if you think you're going to "piss on my leg and tell me its raining," you've got another thing coming.

Kurt Standiford

UT Priorities


After Brian Moskal submitted a letter to the editor of the university newspaper last week suggesting that the wages of the university's front line staff were subject to free market pressures, I expected that university officials were going to defend their staff and correct his myopia. I was certain that the administration was going to explain to him that the University values its employees because without us the University wouldn't function properly, if at all, and not because of the laws of supply and demand, as Brian (a business freshman) suggested. Of course the administration has its hands full right now trying to explain to the Senate Finance Committee and the House Appropriations Committee why a football coach is so much more important to the day-to-day operations of an institution of higher education than, say, a library assistant or an academic advisor.

We all know that having access to research materials and intelligent guidance information are part of what makes a university "first class." Now senators and representatives want to know why it's okay to have 150% annual staff turnover rates in the library, but not on the football field. I'm just appalled that I don't see administrators jumping in and pointing out that turnover rates like this will surely bring this institution to its very knees, much like losing coaches might do to an athletic program. I guess that's why the legislature feels the need to start regulating what UT will do with money from sporting event ticket sales. When administrators start talking about the services that everyday staff provide and recommending that they be given the living wages, the retirement options, the grievance process, and representation they deserve, perhaps the legislature will feel a little more comfortable about UT's "business" sense.

Robert Wyatt

UT staff member

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.

Michael Bluejay

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July 9, 2004

A plethora of environmental concerns are argued in this week's letters to the editor.

March 31, 2000


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