Your recent article on the House actions relative to H.B. 1704 ["Council Watch," Vol. 18, No. 34] contains a major error. It states the following:
"And back when S.B. 1704 was accidentally repealed during the 1997 legislative session, Austin, along with a few other cities, including San Antonio, imposed its own interim ordinance, itself a compromise measure hammered out through repeated meetings among city, environmental, business, and development representatives. Members of the Lege, including Austin's own Senator Gonzalo Barrientos, did not like this, and threatened Austin would pay for its hubris come January."
When news of the repeal of S.B. 1704 first broke, long before Austin began to consider a new ordinance, I was asked by a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman how the city of Austin should respond to the repeal. My response, which was couched in the terms of friendly advice, was that Austin should act as if the law was still in effect. My advice was based on my experience in defending the city from legislation dealing with retroactive ordinances, which passed the Legislature by overwhelming margins in 1993 and 1995.
Members of the City Council chose to ignore my advice, but throughout their discussion of the revised ordinance, I never threatened them. In 1993 I filibustered a version of S.B. 1704 which banned retroactive ordinances but itself contained retroactive provisions. In 1995 I spoke against S.B. 1704 and voted against it. Your article implies I support H.B. 1704 because I am angry at the city. I am neither angry nor in support of H.B. 1704.
An Ironic Day in the Neighorhood
Gosh, after reading the second paragraph of "Urban on the Rocks" [Vol. 18, No. 35], I'm not sure if I should run or hide under the desk! Neighborhoods worry that "all stakeholders are not represented," that the "city will not ... enforce codes ..." that "destructive development" will be justified! The end is near!
After reading the Chronicle on Saturday, I woke up on Sunday and retrieved from my mailbox the latest "Citizen Alert" from the SRCC. That flyer added yet another "worry" to my worry basket: Density along and around the Congress Avenue light rail transit corridor will "raise land values (and taxes) ..."
Now this is an interesting turn of events. One argument used in pre-Sixties America for keeping blacks and Jews out of neighborhoods was because property values would go down! Now we're worried that values will go up when we share our precious neighborhoods with more residents!
The "single-family homeowner residential conservation plans," in fact, are exclusionary. Housing prices are dependent on supply and demand. Home prices in some areas south of Town Lake are exceeding $150 a square foot. They will continue to skyrocket because demand for core city locations will stay high, even if zoning stays the same. Housing prices in the outlying suburbs are as low as $60 a square foot. Increasing density in the core city will allow more housing to be built, helping satisfy the high demand. If the SRCC really does favor affordable housing, it needs to stop supporting exclusionary zoning and allow more housing to be built, welcoming folks to whom affordability means less than $150 a square foot.
There is no question that the music of Duke Ellington deserves mention in the Chronicle, in fact the whole issue could easily have been devoted to him. Questions do arise, however, about the abysmal writing quality of Jay Trachtenberg's article "Beginning to See the Light" [Vol. 18, No. 35]. The first sentence makes it obvious that Trachtenberg has no clue about things in general: "Midway through The Matrix, the hippest, hottest high-tech mega-movie of the year ..." What? Hippest? Hottest? The reader has no choice but to feel both embarrassed for Trachtenberg and thankful that the Chronicle is a free publication. The embarrassments don't stop there; the article must talk about its author again. One sentence that stands out, reprehensible on its own and blasphemous to Ellington, is "stoned to the gills with our de reguer long hair." De reguer? Oooh, so someone can drop some French from an introductory course and let us know they smoke a lot of pot; I assume this is required by the same publication that would publish the misinformed self-serving rants about Jesus written by Michael Ventura. I wish "The Straight Dope" and the music listings could be expanded to displace some of these jackasses. Maybe there could be another Ellington issue to make up for this inexcusable slop.
[Ed. note: De rigueur (spelled correctly in the article) appears in all standard English dictionaries.]
Dear Mr. Black:
Unfortunately, I must risk having people think I am a "regular" in your letters column by writing to you for the second time in two weeks. I would appreciate it if you would publish this brief note to let readers who don't know me any better know that the letter you published last week was not the letter I sent to you.
Due to the worst typesetting I've seen since, well, since the last letter of mine that you published, and an apparent total absence of any proofreading, your readers may have gotten the impression that English is not my native language. Or even one I am remotely acquainted with.
I'd appreciate it if you'd help me set that straight.
[Ed. note: A line was accidentally omitted from LeBlanc's letter. The section in question should have read: "Perhaps the greatest irony in all this is that many of the politically correct people who opposed Weaver's anti-sex crusades are on the same side as he when it comes to sex in their neighborhood. Most of the people I know in Travis Heights really didn't see the theatre's existence as any threat at all. They knew that, just like shit, sex happens.
I admire the ability of those who opposed the theatre to 'do something about it,' even if I don't agree with them ..." The Chronicle regrets the error.]
Littleton Killers Were Utopian Liberals
In true old-hippy style, Michael Ventura looks at the incident in Littleton, Colo., and finds that materialism is to blame ["Letters at 3AM," Vol. 18, No. 35]. Or more specifically, the dual, inescapable principles of wicked civilized life, money, and guns. This kind of explanation strikes me as over-general. Oddly enough, money is the one thing that doesn't seem to have been a reported motive in any account of the killings; however, I suppose we may as well throw it on the heap with video games, movies, and the Internet. As for guns, the belief of right-thinking people that guns are taboo objects not to be possessed by mere mortals may only make them more attractive to psychopaths on the brink. I suggest looking closer to home for a clue on what in the real world triggered this event if anything did -- namely to Mr. Ventura's own column of the previous week ["Letters at 3AM," Vol. 18, No. 33] where after two tear-stained pages, he in effect endorses the U.S. attack on Yugoslavia. He and President Clinton seem to agree that while it is not right and proper to possess weapons in self-defense, it is okay to employ them on a massive scale (and kill a lot of innocent people) to send a political message. The lesson in symbolic violence wasn't lost on the Littleton boys; too bad they missed how idealistic it all is. The U.S. is not retaliating for an attack on itself; nor is it confronting the armed men who are carrying out crimes in Kosovo. The rain of explosives on Belgrade begs a psychological explanation. I suspect that in some minds the destruction of Yugoslavia is perhaps another war to end war, one last exemplary bombing needed to usher in a conflict-free utopia of the kind Mr. Ventura imagines in his "if men were angels" philosophizing. On his level of abstraction one is relieved of personal responsibility to judge the use of force according to its necessity, proportionality, or effect. Denying that self-defense is an eternal condition of human life doesn't abolish violence -- it merely displaces it onto higher authorities who are, if anything, less rational in its exercise. They make only incidental efforts to protect the citizen (as Mr. Ventura accurately pointed out in this case), preferring to employ their monopoly in oppression at home and murderous adventures abroad.
James M. Grace
Gandhi's Dead, Bikers Smell
Last week's letter "Spinning Wheels" ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 35] really struck a chord with me. Mr. Burnside is indeed lucky to have the opportunity to use his bicycle as his primary means of transportation. Truly, he is carrying Gandhi's message to all of us car-driving "oppressors." Unfortunately, Gandhi is dead, along with the rest of the martyrs. Should Mr. Burnside attempt to commute from South Austin to Round Rock on his bicycle (with time for peaceful meditation afterward) on a daily basis, I am sure he would follow the path of those martyrs. Actually, he would end up a hood ornament for some soccer mom's SUV, and that's if (big if here) he was able to make it out of South Austin (where he would be nothing more than target practice). If he actually survived the trip, I would pay money to see him explain his unbearable body odor and/or hideous appearance to the CEO of the Fortune 500 company he obviously works for.
Get off your cross, Mr. Burnside, we need the wood.
Punish Crimes Against All
On April 27, 1999, the Texas House passed a hate crimes bill that gives more protection against violent crimes to certain groups, if the crime is motivated by hate. This bill, in effect, denies equivalent protection to members of other groups. The bill now goes to the Texas Senate. This piece of legislation has the effect of saying that unless you are a member of one of these "special groups," your life and person are not as protected under the law. This is a giant step backward. How can America ever move away from prejudice when our legislators continue to write prejudice into the law?
The brutal slaying of James Byrd was a truly horrific act, but we should strongly condemn and punish all such violent and murderous crimes, not just those motivated by the abominable hatreds that unfortunately fester in some parts of our society. While the legislators who voted for the hate crimes law may have had the best of intentions, juries already are able to punish murderers like those in Jasper with the death penalty. If certain crimes will be deterred by stiffer penalties, then all Americans should receive this protection, not just some.
President, American Freedom Institute
Hatred Is Costly
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
If the Texas senators who are considering voting against pending hate-crime legislation would simply consider the financial bottom line of what it costs us all to just have to listen to all these reports of hate crimes, and, adding all that up, then maybe their right-wing constituents would not penalize them as much as many more of us might when it is time for re-election. We have to start somewhere when it comes to stopping hatred, ladies and gentlemen.
Media Downplays Poverty in Texas
I wish you would provide a comprehensive analysis of how public policy legislation affects the poor. In our euphoria over the rising economy we seem to forget the millions of poor people who are being left out. For example, our state and local tax system is the third most regressive in the nation. Texas makes its low-income families pay more than three times as much of their income for sales taxes as it does the rich. The lowest-income families pay 13.8% of their income, the middle class pays 8.6%, while the rich pay only 4.4% of their incomes in sales taxes. Our political leaders clamor for a reduction in property taxes which might benefit those who own property but neglects those who are without. Then there's the lottery scam, which is just another way of putting a heavier tax on the poor. Our politicians knew from the experience of other states that they could expect lower-income people to spend about 8% of their money on lottery tickets in the vain hope of striking it rich while upper-income people would only spend about .5% of theirs. Such immoral inequality is understandable since it is the wealthy rather than the poor who write the laws.
With Texas having the second-highest number of people below the federal poverty level among all the states while ranking 31st in providing public aid, Texas needs to make some corrective changes. If the news media informed Texans about these and other forms of injustice, I'm sure the good people of Texas would insist on the Legislature taking immediate action to heal the hurts and right the wrongs.
KOOP Protesters, Tune In
Dear Editor and Chronicle letters readers:
Over a month after removing me from my show and kicking me out of the station, the board of trustees of KOOP Radio will finally meet this Thursday evening to hear my petition for reinstatement. While only direct witnesses of my March 25 show during which I asked listeners for $9.17 "protest" pledges will be allowed to speak, it is critical to my case that there be people there showing their support with their presence. Everyone will be allowed to speak during the "public comment" portion of the meeting after my petition is heard.
Yes, things are complicated at KOOP. But, quite simply, I do not believe the current management will be able to turn the tide of plummeting morale that is killing the station from the inside. Furthermore, the legal battle seeking removal of the ill-elected "Trust"ees continues at a sluggish but dangerously costly pace.
Yet this board still believes it counts on the support of the majority of the station's members. The more than $850 in "protest" pledges I have collected from 93 individuals thus far says otherwise. But somehow, incredibly, I am the one "jeopardizing the well-being of the station," according to the board.
Please attend this meeting to help me try to regain the music show I have so loved doing for you for nearly nine years now. It'll be Thursday, May 6, at 8:30pm at KOOP Radio (505 E.5th at San Jacinto).
For more background on the crisis at KOOP, contact me at 792-5395 or Musica@Bigfoot.com or visit the Friends of KOOP Web site at http://michaelbluejay.com/savekoop.
KOOP DJ 1995-1999
(World Music Radio DJ since 1990 at KTRU, KPFT, KVRX, and KUT)
What She Said
Since according to a card-carrying party member from California, the purpose of having four- and five-year-olds in public day care centers called prekindergarten and kindergarten is to teach them how to apply for jobs.
So on a federal official's word, Califano of California, spokesman 1972, or about then for the majority of Congress who had voted for the school children of Austin to be bussed out of high school district of residence to high school districts where the school children, ages six years to 18 years, were not residents, and Califano of California said on TV, likely Channel 7, Austin, TX TV, "De facto college prep schools. Pay more attention to dyslexics," or those who cannot spell CAT, or count one, two, three.
So for the last two years, experience in the field applying could be required of personnel division officers, meaning with two years school experience, such as two years of classroom teaching, then such a personnel officer would know a totally illiterate or dyslexic school house janitor is just fine. The same is true in hospitals, and with two years paid wage world experience in hospitals, a totally illiterate or dyslexic hospital orderly is just fine.
As for high schools, if as Califano said then or now de facto college prep schools, then class room schedules like Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, or three classes a week could mean some 16-, 17-, and 18-year-olds could work part-time to stay in high school, and where high school teachers are working two jobs to make ends meet, some teachers might like the same wages but fewer hours per week.
Alice Kennedy Spooner
Water Conservation Buster
Senator "Buster" Brown has hijacked the people of Texas and left them high and even drier than a Texas drought. On April 29 of this last week he wadded up 34 local bills for groundwater conservation districts and threw them in the trash along with all the little people who had taken a lot of time and hard work to get the bills all the way to his committee (Natural Resources) in the Texas Senate.
When Senator Brown did this execution, a bill some neighbors and we had worked long and hard on was lost and so were our hopes of adequate water in northwest Bexar County. Our own legislators were supportive; they worked with us in drafting the language of the bill and supported the legislation in the Texas House and Senate. So why does Senator Brown, not even a remote neighbor and certainly not our representative, think he knows more than us about our needs in north Bexar County?
We are at serious risk of losing our only source of drinking water. The 1993 Simpson Study stated that during the 1980s our Trinity Aquifer in north Bexar County dropped some 90 feet and withdrawals exceeded recharge by an alarming 27%. During the 1990s north Bexar County has experienced explosive growth, drawing down the aquifer at an obviously accelerated rate. We are in big trouble! Amazingly, the very thing that Senate Bill 1 encourages, the setting up of groundwater conservation districts through local planning, using hydro-geological expertise, appears dumped down the political sewer.
So much for citizen participation, hydro-geological expertise, educational programs for the neighborhoods, working with all the interested and vested interest groups! "So take that and go away," says "Buster" Brown.
Yours in the ultimate drought,
Mary and Bebe Fenstermaker
No Land, No Money, No Education
It's time we talked about education.
I attended public school in the Rio Grande Valley in one of the poorest school districts in Texas. Not only was the district in one of Texas' poorest counties -- according to the 1990 U.S. Census, the average annual income for a family of four in Hidalgo County was $16,000 -- but a substantial portion of its funding went to educating illegal immigrants, a practice that strangled the already weak district.
Most of us agree that as Americans and Texans we're entitled to a free public education. But, as the folks down at the Capitol know, our "free" education costs big bucks, and is bought and paid for with our tax dollars. So do undocumented illegal immigrants who pay no taxes (excepting sales tax) have the right to attend public schools? The Constitution says they do.
The Fourteenth Amendment declares that no state shall "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Notice it says nothing about whether the persons in that jurisdiction are citizens, or whether they pay taxes. A person is a person, no matter what his or her immigration status. In 1982 the Supreme Court upheld this interpretation in Plyler v. Doe.
And yet the Constitution isn't always right. If it were there would be no need to amend it. And as for the infallibility of the Supreme Court, remember Dred Scot and "separate but equal?"
No one disputes that education is a good thing, and the higher the state's level of education, the better. But we must be practical. There is only so much money in our school districts' budgets. Stretching those funds to cover the education of illegal immigrants means less money is spent on a good educational system for each student. Instead the schools provide a lower-quality education to a greater number of people.
It's true that we're a nation of immigrants, and education is the key to poor immigrants breaking out of their economic status. It would be wonderful if we could provide to every child a good education. But practicality does not allow us to do that. Instead, let's give the best education we can to the students whose families, with their tax dollars, have given us the resources to do so, and hope that someday the Court comes around to our way of thinking.
Over the Edge
The word "amok" has been borrowed into the English language from the Asian subcontinent because it perfectly describes a precise situation -- a murderous psychotic rampage. While we who borrowed the word tend to to think of it as an event without rationale, the culture that coined the term understands it as the actions of an individual who feels he has been wronged and cannot receive justice, therefore in one last hopeless suicidal attack he strikes out at society in general. Even though it is a psychotic episode, it is not "out of the blue," but rather the culmination of a series of disheartening failures. This term comes from a time and a culture without video games, violent TV, guns, mass media, depraved musical subculture, or even schools. I submit to you that these factors are peripheral to the phenomenon because it exists without them -- in fact it precedes them. The reason that the observation deck on the UT tower is closed to the public is because back in the Sixties, Charlie Whitman, with the same methodical planning as the "Littleton Boys," ran "amok," and UT was known for a long time after as the site of the "original school shootings." But Austin seems to have completely forgotten this, as if it had never happened.
Armed People Not Always Polite
Rep. Suzanna Hupp, in response to the Colorado school shooting, proposes that teachers, aides, and other school officials carry guns to prevent such tragedies. This is not an especially good idea. It isn't at all clear that armed teachers would have prevented this or any other school shooting. There was in fact a trained law enforcement officer on the premises in Littleton, and the killers were not deterred by that fact, or stopped by an exchange of gunfire with him.
Rep. Hupp generally favors legislation making it as easy as possible for as many people as possible to carry guns. She points to Israeli society as an example of how this can work. Unfortunately, the more widespread gun access and gun-toting is, the more likely it is that disturbed people will have guns at hand when they decide to commit some crime like shooting classmates in a school, or -- if we take Rep. Hupp's favorite example of an armed society, Israel -- to open fire on worshippers in a mosque, as actually happened a few years ago.
Many of Rep. Hupp's statewide following of gun extremists are fond of the slogan "an armed society is a polite society."
It is worth pointing out that an armed society is not necessarily a polite society at all. Drug dealers and youth gang members frequently carry weapons, and are not noted for politeness, nor are they deterred from shooting one another by the the fact that those they shoot at might shoot back.
More guns, in the hands of more people, is not the answer to school shootings.
On a Streetcar to Hell
In 1962, I was a student at the University of Madrid. The campus then was at the north edge of the city, supposedly because the dictator Franco wanted the students out there in case of trouble. To get there, you went to the end of the subway line, then onto a rickety streetcar that ran out to the campus. The streetcar rails ran perfectly straight for a long way, there was a relatively sudden curve, and then straight again to the end.
One day the car was packed with rowdy students, standing and sitting, and they started some sort of chant and began rocking the streetcar by shifting their weight from side to side. Despite the driver looking over his shoulder and yelling, they kept it up, more and more, until the car was leaning far over to each side.
Suddenly, the car arrived at the curve, swinging left just as the car tilted to the right. It leaned far over for a terrible moment, riding on its outer wheels. Then, hitting the next straightaway, slammed back down hard onto the left-side wheels.
The chanting had stopped; everyone was frozen, the silence broken only by the stream of profanities from the terrified driver. We finished the trip quietly and everyone got off the car and went their way. It was a near thing, that day.
Reading the news these days, I find myself repeatedly thinking of that Madrid streetcar, almost ready to tip over. Have we finally swung as far as we can go?
City of Foreigners
At the beginning of April, AISD hired Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates of Glenview, Illinois, "To help identify characteristics the new Superintendent should have." It sounds like a stupid waste of money to me. Also, the Pflugerville school district hired Elizabeth Gardner, from Conroe, as a superintendent. The two runner-ups were a guy from Oklahoma, and another lady from Navasota. So, what's wrong with us? UT has people from Argentina, Switzerland, New York, and California. The APD's full of cops from all over the U.S. The American-Statesman look somewhere else when it needs well-paid editors. Look at Capital Metro's general manager. Dell doesn't look here for prospects. And Motorola, Sematech, and IBM hire locals to work 12 hours changing shifts. Thousands of college students move here every year. This is a city full of pendejos! Remember Camille Barnett, Elizabeth Watson, and Ricky Williams? Where are the natives heading to, if most properties on 183 North and along the river are in the hands of Europeans?