Interfaith's Socialist Agenda
I am ashamed at the actions of the leaders of Austin Interfaith. These so-called leaders are preaching socialism in the name of helping the underprivileged, low-income, downtrodden masses. Socialism, simply put, is when the government takes from one citizen for the benefit of another. It can be life. It can be liberty. But it usually refers to property. At their April 20 candidates' forum (at which each candidate was given a scant 30 seconds to answer five questions),* the crowd was whipped into a frenzy by a lengthy parade of recipients of the government handouts, telling their "success stories." Few realize the cost of these programs as they cheered for the "Interfaith agenda." Freedom of speech was quelled, in that no campaign materials were allowed. Interfaith promotes using government to take from one segment of society and give to another. The members would probably balk at the notion of taking money from their neighbors at gunpoint, but will hide behind the government, drooling like rabid dogs as the government extorts cash for their agenda. I have heard the 1940s Nationalist Party meetings at the Haufbrau House in Germany, right here in Austin. Shame on you, Interfaith.
*Beverly Griffith was given about five minutes to answer. She never did. Chad Crow and Robert Sobaugh lacked the intestinal fortitude to attend the meeting. All other candidates attended and supported the agenda of Interfaith. I was the only one to say no to the the socialist agenda.
Sprawl at Your Own Risk
Tom Currah stated "Portland's urban growth limit has increased the cost of housing and driven out the 'economically marginal' population" ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 33]. Let me address this concern. First, Portland does not have an "urban growth limit." It has a suburban sprawl limit. If Austin had such a limit, for example, the ranch and farm land along Bee Caves Road would stay ranch and farm land. Instead, it is becoming a place where people will live walled off from the community, never knowing their neighbors, where a soccer mom has to burn a gallon of gasoline before she can buy a quart of milk. Despite these obvious drawbacks, the signs by the side of the road don't invite "economically marginal" folks to buy there.I have nothing against builders in general. In most places, it is against the law to develop traditional neighborhoods. Development has to take place in "zones" nowhere near where people work, worship, shop, or play. Another name for this is sprawl. Taxpayers have even been forced to pay for roads to nowhere like Southwest Parkway. Is this your version of America? Wake up. SH-130 might be the next billion dollar boondoggle you have to pay for.
Smart Growth is a better way. Smart Growth places no limits on housing; it places limits on sprawl. Smart Growth makes it legal to build traditional neighborhoods and makes them the preferred development type over zones of sprawl. When you live near where you work and play, you drive less. No more risking your life getting back and forth to work. You save time, money, and aggravation. You avoid polluting the air and water, so the environment is healthier for your children and grandchildren. Elderly folks don't have to choose between isolation and driving after they can no longer do so safely.
Don't Blame Smart Growth
Instead of blaming Smart Growth, an attempt to maintain the environmental health of the world, for the lack of housing for the poor, perhaps we could attack an inequitable economic system, which has been with us for some time. We should not have to choose between housing and clean air and water. Smart Growth, with a fair wage scale, and some provision for those who need society's help, could bring both. The current growing division between rich and poor, and uncontrolled sprawl, will give neither.
Economic justice and environmental protection are not antagonistic, except in the minds of those who want to drive a wedge between these movements, and those who are influenced by them.
Smart Growth, yes! Fair wages, yes! Privilege and pollution, no!
Less Parking More Buses
Hi there ...
Well, I have been reading the letters to the editor recently about rail service in Austin. Well first let me say I am a Yankee, yeah I know, get a rope, who has experienced mass transit for himself. I didn't get a drivers license till I was 22 years old because of the availability of alternate means of transportation. Now don't let the ideal picture of hordes of people gleefully taking the bus cloud your vision. Mass transportation is not pretty. It is generally not an exciting thing to let someone else control your ability to come and go. And until the current route system is expanded to allow easier access to more places from more places, all is doomed. You can not expect people who have been brought up always using a car to suddenly change their habits. Unless there are advantages to doing so. Which brings up another point. Make it harder to park during the day, the peak traffic time, and maybe people will find another way to get around. Who knows maybe someone will take a bus ... Nahhhh.
A Streetcar Named Babich
Like many American cities, Austin used to have streetcars, but got rid of them in 1940. This was not because the streetcars weren't popular or weren't working. I'm told that Austin's streetcars were bought by Lisbon, Portugal, and are still in use. In 1936, General Motors and the big oil and rubber companies formed a conspiracy to destroy streetcar transportation in the United States. They did this in order to increase demand for private cars and eliminate competition. They formed a company called National City Lines, which ran transportation systems based on buses. In 26 cities they bought the streetcar lines, destroyed the streetcars, and replaced them with buses made by General Motors. Then they raised fares and cut services, so that people would need private cars. Austin was not one of those 26 cities. Austin fell victim to the idea (propagated by National City Lines' deep-pocketed advertising) that replacing electric streetcars by gas-powered buses was "progress." We sold our streetcars and put in buses. Mayor Tom Miller said in a speech that this was for the sake of progress. He added that "no transportation era will ever be as colorful as the days of the streetcars." (Source: a recent exhibition about "Austin Streets" at the Austin Historical Center.)
Streetcars are lighter, quieter, safer, less polluting, and much more fun to ride than buses. Let's get our streetcars back. If we had a car-free downtown that ran on streetcars, people would flock to it for the pleasure of walking around safely, and for the novelty of riding streetcars. They are fun to ride. I would love to have a streetcar line in front of my house.
Words of the Prophet
In Michael Ventura's powerful essay "Apocalypse Now and Again" ["Letters at 3AM," Vol. 18, No. 33] he describes despair as safe, because it requires nothing of us. Conversely, he writes that beauty is dangerous, since we all have a responsibility to keep it alive, despite our often deep feelings of guilt and shame from living in a world so filled with suffering.
So how do we find beauty and keep it alive in such a destructive world? Kahil Gibran in his book The Prophet gives us a clue:
"People of Orphalese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face. But you are life and you are the veil. Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror. But you are eternity and you are the mirror."
Stealth Water Park
For years I've been smuggling copies of the Chronicle into my home in Williamson County and I'm always happy to see a new issue on the stand. So far I haven't seen any coverage of the "Waterpark Controversy" that's divided this quiet town into two large and angry groups.
On Tuesday four city councilmembers defied their constituency and voted to create a tax-exempt 4B corporation to finance a recreational water park. This will be a $16 million tax shelter for affluent investors who are able to invest a minimum of $100,000 each.
The 4B Recreation Corporation has been created to stimulate the economy in Texas cities. As if Georgetown weren't growing fast enough! Our economy is so stimulated I haven't been able to hire a construction contractor for the last few years.
The previous 4B corporation was based on the power computing fiasco. This one is based on a recreational water park. Hmmm. If you've seen The Simpsons "Monorail" episode, you get the picture.
Add an upcoming mayoral election, irate calls for a referendum, cozying up between elected officials and secretive private investors and I think the story might deserve a look. Hell, I'll even pass out a few copies.
Thanks for your time and attention. Keep up the good work.
A Private Refuge
In your article on state parks ["No Green Acres," Vol. 18, No. 33], Andrew Sansom notes the paucity of private lands accessible to Texas' growing population. Recent readers of "Day Trips," however, are aware of at least one such privately owned property that welcomes visitors. Rancho Richey Refuge for the last two years has opened its gates to folks interested in hiking, camping, bird watching, wildlife photography, and Guadalupe River activities. I've hosted a number of nature-oriented festivals there to celebrate the scenic Post Oak Savannah with its blooming trees and diverse geography. Still in a mostly wild setting and only an hour's drive from both San Antonio and Austin, the place is perfect for a picnic, day hike, or weekend retreat.
An outgrowth of my "Back Roads" classes and tours, these outings have included school groups, office parties, a wedding, drum circles, campfire concerts, and family reunions. The property features a variety of habitats: broad river bottoms with immense trees, inviting river currents, rugged wooded terrain, and grassy uplands. If the Rancho's environmental appeal isn't enough, our guests also delight in its intriguing historical connections to Gonzales and the Texas Revolution. It would be nice to know what other nearby ranches offer similar access or programs.
Right Guy, Wrong War
Thoreau ["Not With Their Money," Vol. 18, No. 32] was notably silent in 1898 on the subject of the Spanish-American War. He'd been dead since 1862. He was more outspoken on the annexation of Texas (1845) and the subsequent war with Mexico (1846); that "famous night in jail" resulted from his refusal to pay his poll tax and thereby support a war that he opposed on abolitionist principles.
Kudos on Coverage
Some recent issues gave me smiles. The Ass-Backwards issue [Vol. 18, No. 31] was a mind-bending idea well-executed; I especially liked the cover text about the tie-dyed salamander-huggers, and if memory serves, there was a very funny Boomhauer-like quote along the spine. This week I was pleasantly surprised to see Hoover Alexander's face on the cover [Vol. 18, No. 33]. I've supported his fine restaurant since it opened. It's always good to see Mr. Alexander at work in a chef's outfit, chatting amiably with customers, even at fairly late hours on Sunday. This man knows his food and knows how to please. Thanks for delivering stories that make me happy to live in Austin!
Keep up the good work,
Racism in Action
I work for a very good company, have good friends, and enjoy the great abundance of music our city has to offer. During the past three weekends, I've visited Steamboat and have seen great shows each time! It is the afterward experience that has my spirits very unsettled. Oh! Did I mention I am black? After each show, I've gone to Fifth and Trinity to try to catch a cab home. Time and time again I was passed by, and to make matters worse, they would stop next to me and pick up the person, as long as they were not of color! I asked a couple of blacks who also were trying and they informed me that this happens all the time! How can the people operate on the streets I pay taxes on and treat me as such! Some of them are not even from this country! Who gives these people permits and how may I contact them? Go ahead! Send your black reporter out at about 2:30am and see if he can get a ride in this city! I couldn't. Oh! I was so pissed off, after a while I just walked home.
Willie Ledexter Brazan III
More Protest Pledges at KOOP
I had expected to inform you this week about whether or not my removal from KOOP and suspension from programming my show had been overturned by KOOP's Board of Trustees. Unfortunately, the Trustees postponed their hearing until possibly the evening of May 6. For now, I remain suspended from membership and my show.
The reason given for postponing my hearing was a concern for developing a fair process beforehand for dealing with my petition for the Board to overturn their decision to remove me. Also, one of the station's current programmers, Zein Al Jundi, who has accused me of violating the station's pledge drive policies, was unable to attend last Sunday's meeting in addition to two of the trustees.
The meeting process that was decided upon for my hearing will involve witnesses being called by both sides. Members of the public will only be allowed to comment during the public comment portion of the meeting. While I still encourage everyone interested in fairness within KOOP to attend, apparently only the opinions of the witnesses will be used by the trustees in deciding my appeal. I will write again when this hearing is definitely scheduled.
In the meantime, I have continued to raise money for the station in the form of $9.17 "protest" pledges. I now have 80 such pledges for a total of $733.66 (up from $550 last week). Again, these pledges are meant to show support for the station and its continued survival but not its management, which has created much divisiveness and weakened volunteer morale at KOOP. My goal is to have 100 such "protest" pledges by the date of my hearing. To support my campaign with your own $9.17 pledge, please contact me via e-mail:
or voice mail: 792-5395.
KOOP programmer 1995-1999
The Chronicle's Responsibility
Dear Austin voters, federal judges, FBI, college students,
A clear and rational weekly paper would interview each candidate, and give them several paragraphs to present their goals and issues in an election for City Council. We, responsible students and employees, in this city, request that The Austin Chronicle do exactly that by providing them space to present their views.
It is obvious to anyone who even drives down MoPac that S.O.S. has been totally ignored and the major building in the city has taken place there ... as campaign contributions came into Slusher and rest to ignore the majority will. This City Council continues to accept campaign contributions from landlords to maintain a 97.3-99% apartment-occupancy rate, and therefore the students and employees pay the most expensive rates for homes and statistically the highest rate for apartments in the state. To vote for the individuals up for re-election is just to vote for higher home and apartment costs. Governor Bush has done nothing for six years but to accept campaign contributions/bribes from lobbyist ... in violation of the Constitution. If the federal judges actually enforced the Constitution, he would be removed from office. Article II, section II states, "The President ... and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office for ... Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." We appeal to the FBI and the federal judges in Austin to enforce this Constitution.
Study War No More
When WWII ended my ship was ordered into the strait of Nagasaki and again into Hiro to liberate two loads of POWs. On the second trip a visit to the molten rubble of Hiroshima caused me to conclude, as it did Douglas McArthur, that war must be abolished as an instrument of national policy and that we must pursue peace on all the earth and goodwill to all the peoples of the world. But instead the U.S. has become hopelessly addicted to war, immoral, unconstitutional, undeclared wars all over the world from Korea to Kosovo.
Dr. Martin Luther King identified the American malady when he condemned the Vietnam war, labeling the U.S. the most violent nation in history. For his efforts he became a casualty of peace like John Kennedy, who started disengaging from Vietnam, and like Robert Kennedy, who ran for president on a peace platform. They had a dream and they were assassinated in pursuit of that dream of peace.
I too have a dream deeply rooted in a divine biblical imperative. I have a dream that one day the "lion shall lie down with the lamb, every person will sit under his own vine and fig tree and no one will make him afraid." I have a dream that one day "they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks and nation shall not lift up sword against nation and they ain't gonna study war no more." I have a dream that one day Muslim and Jew and Christian and Hindu and Buddhist will walk hand in hand as brothers and sisters and live together in peace as children of one God. I have a dream and deep in my heart I do believe, to quote the spiritual that King popularized, "We Shall Overcome Someday."
Jewel R. Johnson, Pastor Emeritus
St. Peter's Church, Coupland
NATO's War Crimes
Could someone please help me keep score? How much "unfortunate collateral damage," how many dead Serbians, how many bombed apartment buildings, trains, and refugee columns have to happen to qualify as a war crime? Or does killing civilians and then saying how very much you regret it absolve Clinton, Blair, et al from any threat of prosecution?
John A. Blackley
Conservatives Can Take Kosovo
As I watch the bombing of Belgrade on my new large screen TV with THX surround sound, I'm amazed by what I'm hearing from the GOP. The conservatives constantly complain about the Clinton administration's lack of this and underestimation of that. They parrot the butt-covering spin statements of the CIA (we told you this would happen) and never explore the motivating factors the CIA and other intelligence agencies provided the White House. Information that eventually moved the U.S. into action.
As the conservatives hit the talk shows and pick apart the White House's actions in the Kosovo conflict, complaining that Clinton has no plan, while offering no informed, reasonable plan of their own, I've pieced together their suggestions in an effort to present for the first time the Official GOP Plan of Reaction for Kosovo:
- Double the entire defense budget and then move every last killing artifact to Albania.
- Double the number of troops on the payroll and move every last one of them to Albania.
- Release hourly press statements on CNN revealing all military weaknesses.
- Start investigating Milosevic on a 20-year-old Cyprus land deal.
- Change the spelling of Kosovo to K-O-S-O-V-O-E.
- Impose a 10% flat tax on Serbians for fiscal year 2000.
- Make damn sure you have a compassionate conservative exit strategy.
One day we may forgive Ken Starr for blaming his flawed $44 million investigation on the law which enabled his appointment as prosecutor. But we shall never forget Inquisitor Starr's indelible TV image: his dimpled angelic smile, his chubby cherubic chops, Starbucks in hand, departing each morning for his Starr Chamber to skewer sin.