RE: 4/9 "Page Two" commentary [Vol. 18, No. 32]. I am stunned by your discussion of Austin land use policy. You confess that Portland's urban growth limit has increased the cost of housing and driven out the "economically marginal" population. The same process has started here in Austin. Yet somehow this is "worth the cost." How so?
I want to thank the Chronicle for having the intellectual honesty to openly discuss the "costs" of current Austin policy. You will have to forgive me, however, for thinking that the "economic cleansing" of Austin is far too high a cost to pay in pursuit of the latest urban planning fad. The economics of "smart growth" are quite simple: you limit the supply of new housing, create a housing shortage, and force out those who cannot afford to live in a yuppie paradise. Limiting the supply of housing benefits property owners at the expense of others, who are pushed out to less expensive areas, which of course causes more traffic on the highways.
Some sociologists believe "smart growth" is a code word for "no minorities." In any case, any principled person, liberal or conservative, should oppose such a discriminatory policy.
Smart Growth Fascism
Louis, please. Walking and bicycling are not alternative forms of transportation, neither is 19th-century technology disguised as light rail. Ask Austin's poor, working poor, students, retired or disabled or homeless. Walking and bike riding are primary forms of transportation.
Your last editorial called for "vision," for a "reasonable" alternative to light rail. Take a look. http://weber.u.washington.edu/~jbs/itrans/itrans1.htm.
Over 50 past, present, and future alternatives to light rail, most are working transit systems not confined to surface streets. That's not counting the monorail links. Why not feature other transit systems for Austin except light rail on surface streets? Why not feature network transportation systems for "all" Austinites? These light rail plans will leave most Austinites paying a huge price for a transit system they cannot use.
I-35 at rush hour. That's not just the "future" or the present, it's the past as well. You could have seen the same thing in 1966; that's why the upper deck was built. Do sit on the Chronicle's patio, set your "time machine" for 1968. Listen to the sound of the cars on this past National Interregional I-35, as drivers smoke their brakes, as the train crossing warning clangs and listen to cars smash into each other or into the freight trains that travel over the highway. Try to remember all the people who are killed or injured as the cars dodge, playing tag with the trains, at all times of the day.
Austinites learned from that past experience. Trains mixing with cars is not good for traffic flow or for people, it makes life more dangerous, stressful.
Many are saying that smart growth/light rail cabals are "strongly nationalistic regimes characterized by regimentation, rigid censorship, and suppression of opposition."
Or is that "definition" the one for America's future leadership? Explain this future Louis, many Americans need to know.
Build Rail, Reduce Cars
Opponents of rail transportation in Austin have been pointing out that just building a rail line will probably not relieve car traffic congestion much. They are right. Cars are destroying every major city in the world, even cities with excellent public transportation systems.
It's not enough just to build a transit system. We need to build a transit system, and at the same time rein in the cars and work to actually reduce the number of cars on Austin's streets, even if the human population increases.
What techniques can we use to rein in the cars and reduce the number of cars on Austin's streets? Car-free zones are one useful tool. Downtown should be the first car-free zone in Austin. Where we have car-free zones, we need to build streetcar lines to the rest of town. Streetcars are lighter and cheaper than light rail, should be built before light rail, and should be run by the city of Austin, not Capital Metro.
Car co-ops will also be useful. A member of a car co-op uses cars occasionally, but only has to invest $500 per year in the car culture, rather than the tens of thousands motorists invest now. We should build no more roads and widen no existing roads until all roads in Austin are up-to-date and civilized, with sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and safe crossings for nonmotorized traffic.
If we rein the cars in and then gradually reduce their numbers while we build our transit system, we might actually have a workable, livable future. Why don't we try it? How about a pilot project downtown? It would certainly make more sense than the current talk of "pedestrian-friendly" streets with six lanes of hot, smelly cars down the middle of them.
Tax the Drivers
The environmental impact of a vehicle burning gasoline is worth at least a dollar per gallon. The state should tax gasoline one dollar per gallon, 50 cents per quart of oil, charge a hefty gas guzzler sales tax on all new non-economy vehicle purchases for individuals, and use these funds to create bicycle lanes, plant trees, build rail systems, and clean up the environment. If the government were truly "for the people," our so-called "leaders" would ignore the demands of the oil company and auto dealer lobbyists whose pork barrels are threatened by light rail. People should support light rail and other environmental movements for their own peace of mind and for the benefit of future generations.
This is a late response to the Chronicle article about KJFK & free speech ["Media Clips," Vol. 18, No. 29]. Obviously by now you have realized that this article was not only ridiculous, but also a complete oxymoron. For a newspaper to criticize someone else's practices of free speech is ludicrous. The same amendment that protects your right to print this article also protects KJFK, right to send whatever they wish onto the airwaves.
"Your free speech ends when your fist touches my nose." Last I noticed KJFK was not sending thugs out to push their opinions on anyone. You have seemed to forget that you have a radio dial. Use it. I've noticed that your paper has taken to tugging on the "liberal heartstrings" here in Austin. The Liberty Lunch fiasco really blew up in your face when all of a sudden everyone realized that the owners were aware and satisfied with what was going on.
I am about as liberal as they come ,and damn it I don't want my heartstrings #@$%ed with. Stick to editorials that don't cut your own nose off. Idiot. You remind me of the prostitute that called me a junky when I was shooting dope. Pot calling the kettle black, maybe?
Don't believe everything you read,
Protect Our Neighborhoods
State Representative Elliott Naishtat has a chance to help protect all Texas neighborhoods.
Current state law allows the state to bypass local planning and zoning laws when developing public land for private commercial use. The Triangle Development showed how this process can potentially damage a neighborhood's quality of life. Our community had to fight for two years against great odds to secure a neighborhood-friendly development.
I and other neighborhood leaders asked Rep. Naishtat to introduce legislation that would change the process to protect all Texas neighborhoods. We wanted a structured planning process that would allow the state and neighborhoods to work together. Our process would create well-planned developments and prevent fights like the Triangle, thereby making state land more attractive to developers.
Unfortunately, Rep. Naishtat has proposed a weak bill that does little to protect neighborhoods or improve the planning process. Naishtat's bill fails to provide a planning process for local input to be incorporated. Simply holding a public hearing about a proposed development is the state's choice.
On Monday, a state committee will review Naishtat's bill. I urge Austinites to call Rep. Naishtat at 463-0668 and ask him to protect neighborhoods across Texas. Tell him to strengthen House Bill 2162 immediately.
Neighbors of Triangle Park
Hiding Dirty Laundry
You may know from Ron Kumon's letter a couple of weeks ago ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 31] that I was suspended from my show at KOOP Radio, Global Groovin', Thursdays noon-1pm. I wanted to update your readers on my situation, the tactics the station's management is using to squelch any criticism of them, and a meeting which will occur regarding my removal.
Mr. Kumon referred to the $9.17 "protest" pledge level which I suggested to supporters of my show as a way of helping to raise some money in support of the station but not its management. I worked diligently and raised over $500 in protest pledges alone -- apparently more money than any other KOOP DJ with only a one-hour show!
However, the management had passed policies to justify removing my membership in the station -- not just suspending me from my show but kicking me out of KOOP radio completely! They claimed I had violated their policies forbidding on-air discussion of KOOP's internal matters and of interfering with Pledge Drive. The former is something the folks currently in power at KOOP roundly criticized Pacifica Radio for: not allowing their programmers to discuss internal politics -- a clear violation of First Amendment rights "progressive" organizations are supposed to champion. Unfortunately (and uncooperatively) they chose to make their decision in a board meeting about which I was not even notified! Hence I was condemned with no chance to defend my actions.
I have since petitioned for them to overturn my removal from the station and suspension from my show. They will hear my petition this Sunday, April 18, 3:30pm at the station (505 E. Fifth at San Jacinto). I urge everyone concerned with free speech, justice, and fair treatment of station volunteers to attend. I have continued to raise $9.17 pledges, now up to $550. If you would like to make your own "protest" pledge to KOOP or would like to join the Friends of KOOP e-mail list, please contact me at 792-5395 or Musica@Bigfoot.com. For a comprehensive overview of the struggle within KOOP, visit the Friends of KOOP Web site at http://www.michaelbluejay.com/savekoop.
I will follow up next week letting you know what decision was reached by the current KOOP Board of Trustees.
KOOP volunteer DJ 1995-1999
Wing Commander Sucks
I'm writing in regards to the Chronicle's review of Wing Commander, a film deemed worthy of three stars, but in reality the most worthless piece of crap ever printed on celluloid ["Film Listings," Vol. 18, No. 28].
A friend suggested that we go see it, and when I checked the review in the Chronicle, I saw that you gave it three stars, so I decided it was worth a go. I'm not sure what actual worth the reviewer saw in the film, what he was smoking at the time he saw it, or who his crack dealer is, but I really don't think he and I saw the same film. The film I saw was wretchedly bad. We're talking tailor-made for MST3K-quality. The acting was horrendous. Freddie Prinze Jr., whom the reviewer thought was "eminently likable," made me want to slap him every step of the way. The plot lacked any logic whatsoever -- I'm sure NASA will be interested in knowing that a hull breach on the next shuttle mission can be sealed by throwing the nearest large object at the hole. I rather expected a computer voice to announce "Emergency Duct Tape Systems Enabled."
Or was the review part of the April Fools issue?
The Filmmaking Elite
Why were so many of the 1999 SXSW films disappointing? Is the indie narrative dead? I believe many of the narrative films failed because they lacked social, political, and cultural relevance in polyglot, pluralist, fin-de-siecle North America. I applaud the production values -- the staging, lighting, acting, etc. were for the most part professionally executed -- especially in the larger budgeted indie films. But once you look beyond the aesthetics of many of the films, they are inevitably disappointing when you evaluate their core qualities: their content, their message, their reason for being. After watching the movies, attending as many post-screening Q&A's as possible and perusing the summaries to the films in the SXSW guide (as well as the films' own publicity notes and flyers), I figured out that many of the films (e.g., Two Ninas, Standing on Fishes, The Sky is Falling, Big Monday, The Eden Myth, Spent, Go, and many others) are from the perspective of the same socio-economic class which is making them -- white, urban, educated, and upper-middle class. This group's ability to organize and harness resources -- the funding, equipment, distribution network, film crews, etc. -- has effectively monopolized independent film production. This in turn has lead to a situation where the films being created are, for the most part, intellectually vapid and culturally egocentric. Some films did have protagonists who were either rural, or working-class urbanites, but these films were often directed and produced by members of the better-educated, better-paid upper-middle class, so they can only present a distorted view of the lives of the less privileged. We need to put filmmaking power into the hands of the less privileged people so they can tell their own stories themselves. The three best films of the festival, Drylongso, Luminarias, and La Ciudad show the kind of excellent films we would see more often if we could wrest independent filmmaking power from the upper-middle class elite and put it into the hands of a more diverse group of filmmakers.
Dear Louis Black and whom it may concern:
A few comments on the last three issues of The Austin Chronicle, Vol.18, Nos.32, 31, 30. Wow!
No.32: 1) Can it be? A Babichless "Postmarks"? (James Burnside, "The Price of Driving," fills in.) One semi-solution to the problems "with the freeway lookin' like a parkin' lot": company and government offices go to five shifts that start up hourly, 7am through 7pm. Should result in a continuous semi-rush hour 'til we have cold fusion and self-driving cars (which technology is no doubt being held back by TGB -- "those greedy bastards"). 2) "Kurt's Public Service Announcement": Some people assume homophobes (i.e. Standiford, Bush) are closet cases. 3) Go see Go. Marc Savlov is wicked for giving it three stars it deserves; although this guy didn't find the humor "bleak," but relevant, atypical, and abundant.
No.31: 4) Back asswards and fun! Neat "Page Two" on Chron politics.
No.30: 5) Can't believe Kurt S. didn't write foaming at the mouth about "News of the Weird" item number one -- per Christian psychologist, "[gay sex seems] too powerful to resist [so must be repressed]." 6) Thanks for Kate Messer's "Public Notice" list of 82 Austin charities in need of volunteers; and as a gay boy, 7) thanks for that sienna cover of the Austin Rowing Club!
From the Home Office in Bandera...
Dear Stranded in S.A. ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 32],
Having relocated to Austin from S.A., I'd like to defend San Antonio. I love Austin, but it takes more to make a great state than one city. Lighten up. Here's my S.A. top ten in no particular order:
1) Restaurants: Candelite on St. Mary's, Cafe Camille, Paisano's, Liberty Bar, Rosario's on St. Mary's
2) The Menger (mango ice cream), the Menger Bar!
3) The McNay Art Museum, San Antonio Museum of Art (an old brewery)
4) University of the Incarnate World (mouth of the S.A. River), Trinity U., St. Mary's U., U.T.S.A. (all offer great arts and letters events)
5) The river walk -- more than "touristy" -- it winds through town as a park full of great buildings old and new.
6) Hemisphere Tower: Restaurant has improved; sunsets are great, so are stormy days.
7) The Mud Festival -- a micro Mardi Gras occurs when the river is "cleaned" annually. The arts district puts it on.
8) The King William district -- see for yourself.
9) North Star Mall -- yes, a mall -- the only suburban mall worth visiting -- its old and new mixed (old being 1960-70s)
10) Mexican Market: go on a quiet spring or fall day; it's small, the buildings are old, inviting.
Reopen Walsh Landing
Attention Austin Motorists and Boaters! The City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) recently closed Walsh Landing for the summer because of construction in the area. Not only is the closing unnecessary, but the timing makes no sense. This popular, centrally located boat launch at the south end of Lake Austin is used by hundreds of boaters each week during the busy summer boating season. While Walsh Landing is closed, PARD suggests using launches at the Loop 360 Bridge (already dangerously over-crowded) or Emma Long Park ($5 entrance fee required). To get to these "alternate" locations from central Austin, boaters must use winding, congested RM2244 (Bee Caves Road), RM2222, and City Park Road. The last thing needed on these busy thoroughfares is hundreds of additional vehicles pulling boats to the lake. Even more alarming after a long day on the lake that frequently involves alcohol.
Since there is no construction activity at Walsh Landing on weekends or weekday afternoons, why keep the launch closed all of the time? Limiting access during construction hours makes sense. Creating new opportunities for traffic accidents after construction hours does not.
Concerned motorists using Bee Caves Road, 2222, and/or City Park Road need to tell the Austin PARD, City Council, and mayor to reopen Walsh Landing before the busy summer boating season really begins.
Give Me a Home Where the Rabbits Roam
I must take issue with some of the comments Anna Hanks made in her essay, "The Year of the Rabbit" [Vol.18, No.31]. Ms. Hanks states that, "As lovely as bunnies are as a symbol, their magic tends to dissipate when introduced into a domestic setting. ... Except for the dedicated hard-core rabbit fancier, rabbits are not pets. Buy a rabbit for a small child and you deserve the bunny shit you'll have on the sofa for the next decade." Although Ms. Hanks discourages people from buying a rabbit on impulse at Easter, or for young children, she is wrong about rabbits as pets. I know because I live with one, and there is no shit on my sofa.
I am a volunteer with the House Rabbit Resource Network. HRRN rescues hundreds of unwanted and stray rabbits in Austin every year, spays and neuters them, and adopts them to permanent, indoor homes. Rabbits make great house pets! They are fastidiously clean and can be trained to use a litter box. They are intelligent, quiet, affectionate, and playful. They don't require vaccinations, rarely trigger allergies, and can live up to 12 years. Rabbits can also live with other house pets such as cats and dogs. Although generally not appropriate for young children, rabbits are for everyone.
Rabbits are the underdogs of the pet world. They are an unappreciated and misunderstood species. It is easy to see why people such as Ms. Hanks, who have not had the species-specific training needed to create a positive pet relationship, fail to see the magic of rabbits. According to the House Rabbit Society, 90% of all bunnies bought at Easter die within their first year because of their companions' ignorance. HRRN fights a tough battle, especially this time of year. We need all the help we can get in setting the record straight about rabbits as pets. For more information about rabbits, please contact us.
House Rabbit Resource Network