CSC: It's a Good Thing
We find your editorial ["Page Two," Vol.18, No.30] about the city's CSC proposal to be completely off the mark. To suggest that the City Council might approve the CSC proposal merely "because they can" not only ignores the many positive impacts that the CSC proposal will bring to Austinites for generations to come, but also trivializes the position and opinions of every major community group that supports the plan.
Your editorial asserts that Austin is "losing Liberty Lunch." In fact, music lovers will continue to enjoy Liberty Lunch, but in a new location. Just as other famous Austin clubs and music venues such as Antone's and the Cedar Door have had different locations, incarnations, and owners, Liberty Lunch will change but not disappear. We believe that these types of changes often add to the colorful history of the Austin music scene. J'net Ward, the owner of Liberty Lunch, has twice testified in favor of the CSC proposal.
Your editorial also states that there is not enough public space or public use envisioned in the CSC plan. While you are correct that the plan does not call for the four downtown blocks to become a park, the public spaces incorporated into the plan are entirely consistent with community-based planning that dates back 20 years. These plans have grown in large part from the minds of several of our de-facto "city architects" who have dedicated their careers to creating great public places. Specifically, the plan calls for one of the blocks to house a new public city hall surrounded by a public plaza. The City has also been vigilant in negotiating into the development ground level shops and broad, tree-lined sidewalks so that the general public can enjoy the street life and public activity around this whole area. Also, 3,500 people and new housing will breathe life into and complement existing public spaces downtown, like Republic Square Park.
Your editorial posed the questions "What if there is an economic slowdown? Or the inevitable bust?" This is a reason to support the CSC proposal, not to be against it. Because CSC is able to finance this project in large part with its own money (as opposed to debt), this project can actually be built without reliance on shifting financial markets. It will not be another plan that sits on the shelf. Even if there is a slowdown, the CSC project will continue to put money into the pockets of Austin taxpayers, money that can be used in the future for the other basic services you reference in your editorial.
As for the process issues: After wrongly reporting that the council's March 25 hearing was the "final public hearing" on this proposal, you mention in the editorial that you think the council is "rushing forward" or "moving ahead without caution." The truth is that we, along with hundreds of other community members, have been invited to four public hearings about this particular proposal and over 50 presentations to local community groups. No community group that we are aware of is actually against this plan. There have been dozens of articles in the local media, on TV, and in various newsletters. There has been full access to information over the Internet, and each City Council member has asked dozens of questions, made improvements to the plan, and scoured the proposal for months.
Finally, you suggest that instead of putting taxpayer-owned downtown property on the tax rolls, the council should devote its attention to "basic issues" such as light rail, bikes, roads, parks, and other infrastructure. In fact, the CSC proposal represents a significant step forward on a number of those issues: The entire project lies within two blocks of a proposed light rail line; compact infill gives more people the opportunity to walk or ride their bikes to work; and the income generated from expanding the tax base will provide substantial support for all types of services and infrastructure. Moreover, with last year's bond elections and other efforts, the mayor and council have delivered over $100 million in land purchase funds for parks and open space.
As for your concern about neglecting "roads around the new airport," on the same night as the third CSC public hearing — the very same day your editorial appeared — the council approved the mayor's plan to dedicate $11 million local dollars to a stretch of highway on US183 that is expected to carry 60% of all traffic to the new airport.
Austin is changing. We believe most Austinites support the current direction of our city government in the face of these changes, and we fully support the CSC proposal.
Chris Riley, President
Downtown Neighborhood Association
Co-signed by: Becky Taylor, Board of Directors, Austin Software Council; Dave Gold, Chair, Austin Museum of Art; Earl Maxwell, Chair, Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce; Frank Fuentes, Chair, Hispanic Contractors Association; George Villalva, Hispanic Architects Association; Juan E. Cotera, Chair, Austin Design Commission; Marta Cotera, Mexican American Business Professional Women's Association; Perry Lorenz, President, West End Austin Alliance; Robin Rather, Chair, Save Our Springs Alliance; Stan Haas, Chair, Austin Downtown Commission; Ted Siff, Trust for Public Land; Wil Wynn, Chair, Downtown Austin Alliance
I am an avid reader of The Austin Chronicle, despite not always sharing the political view of the paper. I find the Chronicle refreshing for its in-depth reporting and intellectual honesty. I was therefore very disappointed by the "Invisible Handyman" segment regarding the Cox report on Capital Metro in the 3/26 edition ["Naked City," Vol.18, No.30].
The author seeks to discredit the report of Wendell Cox simply by referring to some of his clients. This is pointless and intellectually lazy. Obviously, it is the case that Cox is advancing a particular viewpoint. This is true of any consultant. The point, however, is that Cox has published a report whose numbers can actually be scrutinized by the Chronicle or by anyone else. Simply dismissing the report because you don't like the people Cox has worked for would be similar to right-wingers dismissing all stories published in the Chronicle just because the Chronicle is supported by porno shop advertisers.
Cox's report contains some very serious charges. If the Chronicle is not willing to examine his numbers on their own merit, rather than practicing "drive-by journalism" then Cox will win the argument by default.
Where's the Huevos?
I read, with some bemusement Teighlor Darr's letter ["Postmarks," Vol.18, No.30] that struggled with the concept of the First Amendment, as it took issue with Lee Nichols' writings about KJFK-FM ["Media Clips," Vol.18, No.29].
I have taken Lee to task many times over what I see as his obsession with the tedious liberal slap fights at KOOP. I breathed a hearty sigh to see him intelligently and fearlessly tackle what is the true disgrace in Austin radio: rampant, unchecked illiteracy and brazen bigotry disguised as principle. What Teighlor Darr's letter proved was that illiteracy and stupidity not only sell, but they now wear the masks of true social courage and moxie. That is a sad state of affairs, but with the bar being lowered on a daily basis in the the local radio market, it's not much of a revelation.
There are no "huevos," Teighlor, in Shannon Burke's inability to speak with a sixth grader's understanding (much less the commensurate command of the language) about politics, religion, economics, sociology and history. There are no "huevos" when your station lineup of blowhard half-wits, middle aged frat boys, ex-cons, and alien abductees forces you to pimp for strip clubs and Viagra knockoffs because no legitimate business wants your shabby, hungover demographic.
True "huevos," Teighlor, would be the refusal to bottom feed and the insistence that "air talent" have some level of expertise and preparation for the subjects they were discussing. Like one should expect, KJFK's angry, paranoid cell of malcontents insists that any public pressure on them to grow the hell up is really a thinly disguised effort to censor them. I call that the "Limbaugh Defense." It justifies any conduct on the grounds that constitutional principle, not personal behavior, is what's really at stake. Nonsense!
Personally, KJFK can let black helicopter goons like Alex Jones, loud-mouthed bleacher bums like Burke and, yes, even the sickening histrionics of the National Vanguard blather all day. They'll get no resistance from me. Eventually, like all checkbook patriots from Aaron Burr to Newt Gingrich, KJFK's electronic gangstahs will mindlessly purchase the rope from which they will one day dangle. I'll sell it to them at a substantial mark-up. It's my First Amendment right!
I am appalled by the decision of the KOOP Radio management to suspend the programmer Ricardo Mendoza (Global Groovin', Thurs, noon—1pm) for collecting over $500 in $9.17 "protest" pledges during the recent pledge drive. For a public radio station, the pledging of monetary contributions is one of the primary ways that members can make their opinions known. It is quite clear that the station management does not care about my opinions or any of the many others who made these pledges because we feel the station has been grossly mismanaged over the last several years. By removing Mendoza, the station has unambiguously stated that it will not tolerate any divergence of opinion by programmers or members. Sadly, this is not only a bad business decision, but goes against even the most basic cooperative principles.
In response, I would urge all members who have pledged money to KOOP to 1) not send in any funds and 2) send letters to the FCC urging that the station's broadcasting license not be renewed. In addition, I would also urge all programmers to observe a minute of silence in protest of this blatant act of censorship — you could be next!
Greenies of Austin, congratulations — you just helped to put droves of Austin "people" on the "endangered/extinct" list. Relax greenies, its not all your fault, you meant well. The shark that works at city hall and his developer cabal played y'all like a one-note whistle carved out of whalebone — played you like a two-dollar tambourine at Woodstock.
You were led down the infill and densification garden path. Gentrification is Smart Growth and the New Urbanists developed it in San Francisco and Portland. The result is the expulsion and removal of the lower class people from those cities. The displaced include low-paid minorities, the poor, the working poor, the fixed income residents like the old gray-haired retired, and the disabled.
It happens just like it says in the 2-21-99 article
http://www.oregonlive.com/news/99/02/st022111.html from The Oregonian Internet URL.
Densification and infill Smart Growth planning results in removing the lower classes from their residences by landlords that double or triple their rent fees to take advantage of skyrocketing property taxes. "People are evicted with no place to go, or become disoriented by the experience, they often end up in clinics or as homeless." The article further pleads for relief and states: "We, the people of the city of Portland, have to pay the bill."
The Austin elite have tried for over 100 years to remove or corral Austin's minorities and poor by controlling the loans approved for housing and business start ups, both in East and South Austin.
The Austin elite will now put that shark leading city hall on a pedestal.
Sharkie and his city council will — with the Smart Growth plan — and the green caucus endorsement — do in the next 10 years what the Austin elite has failed to do in the last 100.
Credit Where Due
I have been in Austin a long time and have read and enjoyed the Chronicle since '76. You ran a photo of mine this week on page 98 of Bill Murray in Rushmore ["Calendar," Vol.18, No.28]. I shoot publicity stills on movies and Neil Coleman from Pro-Jex Gallery gave you this shot to run in promoting the exhibit called "Texas Film Art." The photo had my name all over it and came with a statement asking you to please give me credit for it. I sure wish you would give credit when it is so easy to do so and being an Austin artist who does major motion pictures all over it is nice to receive the credit at home in the local newspapers.
[Ed. note: It is The Austin Chronicle's policy not to give credit lines with publicity photos. Also, the Chronicle has only been published since 1981.]
Austin Homesick Blues
Just thought I'd drop you a line to tell you how much I miss the Chronicle. I'm a native Austinite and UT alum. In December, I relocated to DFW to continue my education and I am still very homesick for Austin.
Admittedly, I've only given the local alternative weekly a half-hearted try, but I do not anticipate it filling the place in my heart that the Chronicle did. The Chronicle was a staple of my week. Thursdays meant one thing to me, taking a long lunch at Kerbey South or Flipnotics with my copy of the Chronicle.
I started reading the Chronicle in '88. I don't know when Coach started writing for y'all but somewhere along the way his column came to be the first thing I read every Thursday on those long lunches. I was really homesick during spring break and I read all his columns that I'd missed since leaving and added y'all to my bookmarks.
After Coach, the sections I found most useful were album reviews and movie reviews, in that order. The reporting on Austin politics, the politics of development in particular, was a little too good — kinda started to depress me if I read it every week.
Keep up the good work.
P.S. Coach's article of a few years back about the Texas High School Girls' Basketball Tournament was the finest sports column I've ever read, hands down — up there with Friday Night Lights or one of Kinsella's baseball books, no kidding.
Tangoing About Saura
Your critique of Carlos Saura's new film Tango is basically favorable and would probably not discourage anyone from seeing it ["Film Listings," Vol.18, No.30]. But an opportunity has been missed. The reviewer is off the mark in two crucial ways: The protagonist is not a choreographer, but a filmmaker. And the story is not "threadbare," but startling and fresh.
This second mistake is understandable, since the story begins in pure, tired tango cliché: loss of love, bitter possessiveness, self-absorbed machismo, and death. But then Saura and his collaborators move this material with subtlety and haunting visual power through the crucible of communal suffering and violence (the military repression) and bring it out on to a new shore of hope and freedom, and even of humor: The song and the dance remain. The fear and the stupidity are gone. The film is a metaphor for the painful emergence of Latin culture onto the world stage and into modernity. It is a shout of joy and a great work of art.
Adopt an Open Mind
Sadly, Warren Chisum makes the mistake many other bigots do as well. He refers to the "homosexual lifestyle," as if such a thing really exists. The homosexual minority includes millions of people. That many people do not have a single lifestyle. He speaks of multiple partners and sexually transmitted diseases, apparently seeing a group more concerned with sexual thrills than anything else. While there may be homosexuals (and heterosexuals) who do live in such ways, they are not the same people seeking to be foster parents and to adopt. Even if they were, the CPS is there to weed out unfit people and place children in good homes. The main problem seems to be that Mr. Chisum and Mr. Talton don't know enough homosexuals. And, by the way, for those in the community who don't know it, this is the reason to come out as much as you feel it's possible. The more good, decent, likable homosexuals people know, the better they will understand the struggle.
Spilling Whose Blood?
With all due respect to Charlie Adams' sensitivities towards militia ["Postmarks," Vol.18, No.30], I gotta help him understand why Bruce Sterling sees them the way he does. Y'see Charlie, we non-militia types usually only encounter you militia types when you're being flushed out of a forest or being placed under siege on a ranch somewhere 200 miles from nowhere. Now Charlie, you gotta admit that those folks not only "are willing to spill life blood" but seem positively desperate to do it and come off crazy as loons in the process. Not that I begrudge anyone their hobby, Charlie, but this thought also strikes me: In a country which hasn't had to fight a war on its property since long before this century began, and given that there is so much good people might be doing with their spare time and energy, for folks to run around brandishing weapons and declaring that they "are ready to spill life blood (whose?) for freedom and liberty for all," well, I can't help thinking they need their tire pressure checked.
John A. Blackley
Playground for the Elite
The planned changes to the Palmer Auditorium are a tragedy. I moved from Fayetteville, Ark., just under a year ago. Something similar happened there. The "historic" downtown area was a little less "classy" than the upper class wanted. So, Bob Walton and his wife funded the Walton Arts Center, right on historic Dixon Street. Suddenly, there was a major push to "clean up" this downtown area. This is exactly what is happening with downtown Austin. Palmer Auditorium is a prime example. But what will happen when this proposed "clean-up" is through? The same thing that is happening in Fayetteville. The "common people" who frequent the shops, clubs, and centers of the area will be dislocated so that Fayetteville/Austin can have a "high-class cultural center." Fortunately for Fayetteville, the citizens refused to let the upscaling of Dixon progress beyond the Walton Arts Center. However, there may not be anything we can do to save Palmer.
I know that if the planned changes are completed, I will never use those facilities. And I bet that 75% of Austin's residents will not use them a fraction that they currently do. But that's the plan. Upscale the area, and make downtown Austin a high-class place. How many people and organizations will be SOL once Palmer is gone? Don't even bother counting. Of course these are the groups that the high-class people don't find attractive. Yes, I'm being harsh. This may not even be an intentional plan. However, this is the main motivation. And I don't like it one bit.
Mark Anthony Collins
Where is the outrage? That is the question we should be asking as American bombers and cruise missiles rain a high-technology death on the people (women and children) of Kosovo, Yugoslavia. Not only is attacking another sovereign nation without Congress officially voting a declaration of war unconstitutional, it is just plain wrong and immoral. This area of Eastern Europe has witnessed conflict between warring religious and civil factions since 850AD, and to think that "bombing to bring peace," as Clinton's puppets recite on the talk shows, is both an oxymoron and ridiculous. The real question should be, qui bono, or who benefits?
The answer is pretty simple if you look at the people behind the scenes who have again orchestrated this Wag the Dog scenario: Albright, Cohen, Burger, and Rubin. All four are dominant members of Clinton's cabinet and have demonstrated time and time again that their allegiance is not to the independence of the United States, but instead to the stated goals of the Council of Foreign Relations (a European currency controlled by the IMF and the World Bank and the political and social control of Eastern Europe by the United Nations — which will be the probable outcome of this military assault), an internationalist organization of which all four are devoted members. Until and unless the citizens of our country awaken from their slumberous ignorance that the "leaders" of both political parties are moving us daily toward a global governance controlled by a self-proclaimed power elite, we will continue to see American forces vandalize foreign nations and the erosion of our civil liberties.
Sincerely, George Humphrey
A Hockey Coach
No matter how hard and how clean local students work through academic life, there will be no prospects of development for their skills, no good opportunities for them in the local market if the trend of hiring outsiders continues, as it is the case of the University of Texas, which denies access to high paid positions to the local talent and to its own employee base.
UT football coach, with a million-dollar pay raise over his already swollen pocket. UT President, with a nice salary. Museum of Art chief designer, with a hefty bag of money to spend. UT vice president for research.
Following example: Austin chief of police, Ice Bats and coach (from Canada!) American-Statesman editors. AISD principals. Capital Metro general manager. Thousands of students with money to spend, and Dell, luring MBAs from Harvard to find a job in town.
Clearly, this city is a pool of pendejos. Not being able to produce a single one to fit these positions in a long time is shameful. Rather, being crammed in small cubicles, doing menial work, the army, or crime, seems to be the norm.
For the year 2000, I'd like to see an individual certification program started, so we all have the chance to compete in the local job market, if the local population is not extinct yet.