Thank you for taking the effort to conduct an exhaustive review of CEACO in your March 5 issue ["CEACO Sinking," Vol. 18, No. 27]. Depthful coverage of area nonprofits is rare in Austin. Yet, this coverage is vital to expose faulty practices or (on the positive side) to draw funders' attention to small, yet successful agencies. Having worked in corporate contributions, I encourage the Chronicle to continue reporting on issues that impact the ability of nonprofits to function effectively; in particular the lack of Austin-based funding for agency infrastructure needs.
Typically, Austin's philanthropic community seeks traditional, tangible "programs" for funding and rarely funds overhead or salary expenses. While nonprofits welcome program money they are also in dire need for more basic assistance to help them develop quality programs. Without adequate funds for overhead and salaries, "programs" suffer.
We in the business world are fond of saying, "We wouldn't run our business like this ... nonprofits should be more like businesses." Well, no business has to struggle against the odds that we require nonprofits to face every day -- ancient computer systems, no network support, low cash flow, no training opportunities, substandard buildings, and horrific salary levels. While working in the nonprofit sector may be rewarding intrinsically, the jobs are also complicated, exhausting, and emotionally draining. Therefore, low pay is not justifiable.
We want nonprofits that are strong and financially sound. We as a community are weakened when our institutions are weak. Austin's funding organizations need to weed out faulty practices within nonprofits but also provide funding to help organizations become stronger and better able to serve their constituencies.
In response to Jenny Staff's article "CSC: Take Two" ["Council Watch," Vol.18, No.28]: Austin City Council's offer to Computer Sciences Corporation to locate on city-owned land along the downtown river front is a sound investment. It is clear that if Austin is to remain a vital city, we must take steps to address these financial, economic, and social challenges through long-term strategic planning in the hopes of keeping pace with our changing environment. Austin is a 21st-century economy struggling under a 20th-century tax and fiscal structure. To succeed in this new, changed global environment, Austin needs a tax and fiscal structure that meets three basic criteria that are responsive, investment-oriented, and reliable. Companies are leading a revolution and fundamentally changing how they do business. They compete on speed, innovation, and quality in addition to cost. Firms increasingly look beyond their walls for resources and relationships to help them compete. They require access to highly skilled people, advanced telecommunications infrastructure, information networks, and other resources to be successful. According to the February 22 issue of the Washington Technology magazine: "Computer Sciences Corporation landed another lucrative federal award: a $198 million contract with the U.S. Postal Service to revamp its payroll systems. Under the nine-year contract, CSC will provide business process re-engineering, software selection, applications development, systems integration and specialized applications such as Internet solutions. The Postal Service win comes on the heels of CSC's IRS Prime Integration Services contract bonanza, potentially worth $8 billion over 15 years, to modernize the agency's information technology systems and business processes. The commercial side of CSC won a $300 million outsourcing contract from AT&T to take over operations of the telecommunications customer service systems." With CSC, Austin is in good shape to compete. It is important to remember, however, that economically we will succeed or fail as a region, not as a city.
Life Beyond KOOP
I expect I will disappoint many at KOOP radio by announcing that I don't have the heart for more conflict. I recently reduced my participation in KOOP, and to my great joy, I have found situations in which people associate in ways that are mutually beneficial and even hopeful.
I do not want to continue to be counted or courted by of any of the factions. Not because I lack the "moral courage" to stand with allies on matters of principal, but because none of the factions accurately mirror my feelings. There are people I admire and respect in all of the factions, and there is no "matter of principal" that can compel me to seek to destroy them.
I do not feel I am better because of my choices. I have been and am capable of being just as wrong and mean as anybody else. I and many people within KOOP and the broader justice movement do not understand the extent of the power we wield, or the tremendous responsibility that comes with it. We use our power like a weapon rather as a means of mutual aid. I can no longer justify participating in conflict in which natural allies blast away at each other with powerful weapons.
I believe the universe gave us KOOP as a gift and a test. I see it as a test because it requires us to work together across the difficult lines of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. If we fail this test, where will we go and with whom will we associate in the future? Please, let's show our gratitude for this gift by not destroying it.
As for myself, I need to spend some time hanging out with my nieces and nephews and growing food. Good luck this spring, the season of new life and possibilities.
Grow Up, Austin
Please let me add my log to the Austin's Disappearing Landmarks fire. On returning to Austin after a dozen years in other cities, I was shocked and saddened to find major "landmarks" of my youth (going back almost 20 years) remodeled or replaced. However, I came to terms with these changes around me, as they reflected changes within myself during that time away. I found myself relieved to have that much less to remind me of a past in which it's largely useless for me to live.
Also, since returning to Austin, I've encountered people in their thirties, forties, and older, who still live as they did in their twenties. (Would it help if Austin employers would pay grown-up wages?) Although it's still philosophically cool to be a freak or a flake in Austin, it's becoming more impractical all the time. What's inevitably happening here is the same as in other cities: Local cultural flavor is being sold out to nationally-franchised prefab blandness and moneyed mediocrity (Manhattan's once-pornorific West 42nd Street has become Disneyland NYC, for instance). Personally, I neither approve of this trend nor know how to combat it. However, I would suggest that Austin's oldtimers accept that 'Dillo-vibe music venues, punk-rock house parties, cheap rents, and so on, are the stuff of bygone heydays -- in order to roll with the changes which are foolish to deny and futile to resist. In other words: Wake up and smell the Starbuck's.
Under the heading "Salamander Preserved," the Chronicle reported that the city of Austin has approved a plan to scoop out the salamander habitat at Barton Springs Pool and lower its depth by two feet. This plan has the virtues that 1) it satisfies Fish and Wildlife regulations and gets the city off the hook, as far as the salamander is concerned, and 2) it probably won't kill the salamanders. But the plan won't "save" the salamanders.
The Barton Springs salamanders live in the spaces between small rocks and pebbles on the floor of Barton Springs Pool. The main threat to their continued survival is silt buildup from flooding, which occurs with ever-increasing frequency as ever more impervious cover is built over the Edwards Aquifer. Lowering the "beach" to prevent swimmers from stirring up silt with their feet really doesn't address this problem.
The Polar Bears, a group of swimmers that includes several retired civil engineers, have a plan aimed at increasing salamander habitat and population, even in the face of increasing development on the aquifer. The Polar Bears are not experienced in city politics, and presented their case late and rather ineffectively. But their plan has many good features and ought to be seriously studied. Lowering the "beach" would not interfere with implementing the Polar Bear plan (which calls for slow, careful implementation anyway).
I'd like to encourage anyone interested in really saving Barton Springs salamanders to seriously consider the Polar Bear plan.
That's Andí Langer
Since y'all consistently misspell my name, I am having it legally changed from : J-A-C-O-B S-C-H-U-L-Z-E, jay ay see oh bee ess see aich you el zee eee, to: ANDY LANGER. from now on, Andy Langer is the guitarist in Davíd Garza's band. Please update your stylebook.
Andy Langer (formerly Jacob Schulze)
University of California Regent Ward Connerly is quoted in the newspaper as saying that he has "resolved not to let (race) define me" (Austin American-Statesman, March 9, 1999, p. B-1). It is ironic that in his vehement wish to deny race he has, indeed, become a lightning rod for the race debate in the United States. Perhaps, that is because he does not wish to deny race for himself as much as he would like to deny others.
Dennis G. Medina
Your precautionary heroin tale ran in our local paper and I enjoyed it ["Shooting Star," Vol.18, No.18]; however, what's with the assumption of Cobain's suicide? Do we buy the cops' version of what went down? Has your investigative journalism stopped abruptly at the official explanation? I know those who question Cobain's death are grouped with conspiracy theorists, but there is some evidence: no prints on the gun or bullet, motive, the testimony of the nanny revealed in the film Kurt and Courtney, just to be brief and incite your interest at the question of Kurt's death.
Until your article, which was widely read, I hadn't seen the assumption of Kurt's suicide taken for granted so readily and, in fact, The Austin Chronicle ran a favorable review of the film questioning the suicide hypothesis.
I've lost two friends in the past six months to heroin-induced suicides and I find the attitude toward those struggling with that particular drug in the drug war atmosphere of late-Nineties America unfulfilling and arguably contributing to the problem. I don't know what to do about it; you know in England heroin addiction is a medical problem, not a criminal one: I don't know: It's a tough issue and too obvious of an explanation for death to take the word of the state as truth when one of our artists bites it.
SXSW tip #1 (for musicians and roadies): If city police hassle your ass about double-parking for 10 minutes to load or unload, ask them why Sullivan's restaurant gets away with jamming up a whole city block for hours on end with their valet parking operation.
When You Pry My Cold, Dead Hands ...
I returned last Thursday to Village Cinema to see Hilary and Jackie again. Being frugal, I hid a bottle of A&W under my shirt before paying my $4 matinee fee. At five minutes before showtime, I was the second person in the theatre. As I was escorted by the police from the theatre at 15 minutes after showtime, I counted six people.
Yes, the management held up the show, gave everyone else two free passes for the delay, and called in the troops because I refused to relinquish my root beer. Ignore me, and they have $28 for the screening. Make a scene and lose $24 and my business. And gain only bad press. PR worthy of Dilbert.
At a time when theatres are threatened by VCRs, when you can get a 32oz. Coke at 7-11 for 59¢, when "arthouse" cinema complains of a lack of male viewers, I find such strict adherence to policy to be pathetically amusing. Theatres no doubt would counter that if I am allowed to break the rule, then everyone will break the rule. To which I can only reply, fine. I am not going to pay $3 for a Coke regardless. You can have my $4 ticket price or nothing. And I am not alone. Or how about this novel idea: charge a competitive price for a drink or candy and more people will buy it. And while you're at it, can the opening jingles and FX, and don't even think about advertisements. You don't sell a product by annoying your customer.
A former regular customer,
As noted in a recent column by Molly Ivins, the Texas Chemical Council is pushing a bill at the Texas Legislature this spring that claims to promote "enhanced public participation" in the state's pollution control permitting process. In reality, however, this bill attempts to eliminate one of the basic rights that people have in Texas to try to protect their communities from pollution: the opportunity for a contested case proceeding on a proposed pollution control permit before an independent hearing examiner.
The bill is HB 801 by Rep. Tom Uher. It is a major assault on citizen rights. Moreover, it is a cynical piece of legislation that retains the rights of industrial polluters to have a contested case on a proposed enforcement action against them while denying citizens the right to a contested case on a proposed source of pollution. That is patently unfair, and it demonstrates the arrogance of the chemical industry polluters. I urge all of the people in our community who want to protect their health and their quality of life to communicate their opposition to HB 801 (and its Senate counterpart, SB 402) to the state legislators from our area. It's high time that the public's rights are protected over the wishes of polluting industries.
When I was a student, I would frequently grouse to friends that Austin stunk -- but I didn't mean it literally, only angstfully. Now that I've moved away, found a job, and moved back, the grass generally appears greener. But there's one particular part of Austin that really and truly stinks, and no amount of positive imagery will hide the stench: it's the corner of 24th and Guadalupe, outside Tower Records, and it's never worse than on an humid, overcast day like today.
Is there a sewer leak? Or is this where Austin's baaaad feng shui collects? This odor has been there since at least 1993, so if there's a leak, I'd sure hate to see where the juice is collecting.
With Friends Like You ...
Dear Mr. Oliver,
Torah tziva-lanu Moshe morasha kehilot Yaíakov. "The Torah that Moses commanded us is the heritage of the congregation of Jacob." [Deut 33:4]
Since little in your letter ["Postmarks," Vol.18, No.27] made sense to me, I suspect that irony is probably not the best strategy for response. Or rather, because it made more sense to me than I might have preferred, irony will help me keep my composure. Still, for exclusivity's sake and on behalf of all my fellow twisted, bewitched, demonic, perverse, and poisonous followers of the Law of Moses -- i.e., worshipping and practicing Jews -- can you do us all a favor? Get yourself a scorecard so you can tell the home team from the visitors. Make sure the dividing line between "Judeo" from "Christian" stays that way, lest it mutate into more suspect and fallen marks of punctuation like hyphens. If you're going to separate your testaments, then for God's -- and Jews' -- sake, keep them separate!
Okay, irony knob now at "2." More plainly: "witchcraft at its darkest form" is how Christianity traditionally defamed both Jews and Judaism, bequeathing to the Christian West a 1,500-year legacy of doctrinal anti-Semitism, culminating (in certain respects) in the Holocaust and addressed only recently at the level of Church policy. A clear line connects Martin Luther in the 15th century to Hitler in the 20th. So if you're going to damn the Law of Moses as synonymous with the Antichrist, don't in the same breath instance Adolph Hitler as the epitome of inhumanity and murderous hatred. For it is the very mystified and pernicious rhetoric of the one that leads to the other. Playing the Hitler card while traducing Judaism is egregious and, moreover, self-canceling.
Am I misunderstanding you? All the more reason to clarify your terms of reference. By all means stand and be free in Christ. Just do so without help -- even as negative proof -- from Torah and Jewish Law. With anti-Hitlerians like you as "friends," duty-bound to speak publicly in fellowship's sake for the excluded, scorned, and martyred ... we Jewish witches don't need enemies. For our sakes, then, I protest too.
Adam Zachary Newton
P.S. To the Chronicle: Why provide a forum for such narishkeyt (Yiddish for foolishness)? See under: Kurt Standiford.
In Bush We Distrust
Dear Students and Thinking Readers,
This morning, I happened to again look at a survey that was printed in the Austin American-Statesman. The results of the survey show that majority wanted the four billion in tax surplus used for education. Under five percent wanted the tax surplus used for tax breaks. I mailed a copy of the survey to the Lt. Governor.
It never fails to amaze me that the Austin American-Statesman and no local newscast walks up to Governor Bush and sticks a copy of the survey in his face and asks him why he is ignoring the will of the majority.
The Austin American-Statesman will of course never do this in practice. If I was George W. Bush, I would sit down and wonder why eight million Texans never voted for me. Out of a state with about 10 million adults, he only gained two million votes, or about 20% of the adults. I really believe the majority distrusted him ... or 80% choose not to vote for him.
To me it almost humorous. I see a person so isolated in an "ivory tower" mansion that he believes the majority are behind him, when in fact, the majority distrust him. Before running for president ... if I was George W. Bush ... I would try to figure out why the majority of Texans distrust him so much.