Bush on Borderline


Without taking a side on the question of Bush's popularity with Latino voters, I would like to correct what I believe is an inaccurate impression left by your article "Borderline Bush" [Vol. 18, No. 39] on the question of colonias legislation. Much of what is presented there on the issue are statements from Latino legislators or the author but with little factual context with which to evaluate those statements. Briefly, two examples:

1) "Bomer has as much power as the guy who parks your car. He has no legislative power": It is true that the Secretary of State is not a member of the legislative branch as stated by Representative Moreno, nevertheless he has had an important role in the 76th Legislature's colonia efforts. First, several of the proposals he made in late February made it into SB1421, specifically, funding for six border ombudsmen and a colonia coordinator in his office, increased ability to grant variances to subdivision regulation to install services, and greater state agency oversight of local implementation process. Secondly, outside of the Legislature, Bomer's office announced in mid-May an initiative entitled The Texas Plan which would allocate $25 million of state and NADbank monies to provide for service hook-ups for 100,000 colonia residents.

2) "They need water lines and sewers, but it's not in his legislative package" (Rep. Garcia): Legislation from the early Nineties made funds available for colonia infrastructure, most of which is represented by the $579 million Texas Water Development Board program. A relatively low number of residents have received service since that appropriation and the reasons are complex: lack of oversight from state agencies of local implementation efforts, incompatibility of current regulation with irregular colonia subdivisions, and lack of assistance for connecting trunk lines with residents' homes, among others. Thus, a survey of proposed colonia legislation of this session from all legislators shows that nearly all of it was concerned with addressing these shortcomings and filling in these gaps to make the previously appropriated funds reach their objective and not in providing new funds. The omnibus bill, to which Bomer contributed, is not about funding but correcting the past problems in implementation.

Lastly, the author's statement that Bush's initiatives are "recommending that colonia residents try 'self-help' to improve their impoverished conditions," is unclear in its implication. Senator Lucio's SB1287 has been nicknamed the 'Bootstrap Bill' and it has been sent to the Governor though one is unsure if the author is aware of this. If so it is irresponsible to characterize such a bill as leaving residents to fend for themselves as she has implied. Owner-built housing programs have had an excellent track record both in Latin America and in this country through such programs as Habitat for Humanity; this bill is modeled on successful programs and would, upon implementation, provide loans and assistance to residents who otherwise would most likely not have access to funds.


Jeremiah Carew

Tier 2=Cleaner Air

Dear Chronicle:

Ever wish you could do something effective to keep Austin's smog from ending up like Houston's? Well, now you can. The EPA's proposed "Tier 2" regulations propose to slash pollution by requiring new car makers to put much lower-polluting vehicles on the road, and requiring oil companies to produce less-polluting gasoline. Unfortunately, Tier 2 is opposed by the oil and auto industries. The EPA is taking public comments now, and Tier 2 needs your support. Supporting the Tier 2 regulations is the best "earth day" opportunity to come along ever.

Tier 2 requires manufacturers of new trucks, SUVs, and diesels to install the same pollution controls that go on cars. That alone cuts average pollution from new vehicles in half. Tier 2 also cuts tailpipe pollution by new cars. It expands the use of less-polluting, advanced technology vehicles, such as electric and hybrids. It reduces the sulfur in gasoline (which damages emission controls). The total Tier 2 impact would be like removing 166 million cars from the road -- and there are only 207 million cars on the road. Image Austin with 2/3 less air pollution. A 95% reduction is possible eventually, if all of Tier 2 is implemented.

This is a chance to think locally but act globally. Austin's smog mostly comes out of tailpipes. If tailpipe emissions are slashed -- which Tier 2 will do -- the result will be breathable clear air here in Austin. And maybe a bit less of the climate changes that lead to Central-American smoke blowing through Texas.

Our local and national economy can prosper from being green. Pollution costs lives, health, and business productivity. The Tier 2 low-polluting cars are super fuel-efficient. Gas savings keeps dollars in our local economy, since we don't make gas here.

With the oil and automobile behemoths up in arms, Tier 2 needs all the help it can get. The EPA accepts public input during their public comment period at 1-888-TELL-EPA (1-888-835-5372); by writing: Public Docket No. A-97-10, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Air Docket (6102), Room M-1500, 401 M Street, SW, Washington, DC 20460; or by e-mail to [email protected].

Stephen McNally

Raise Money for Schools

Dear Editor:

We are in an economic "boom," a time when governments should raise taxes to provide resources for "lean" years; not cut taxes. Almost no one in Texas wants or needs a cut in school property taxes, and there is no reason to cut those taxes, except for the governor's desire to be able to brag to New Hampshire voters that "he cut taxes!"

We know about these so-called "tax cuts" in Texas. Last session's "$1 billion tax cut" amounted to a difference of about $10, in effect. This session's "$2 billion tax cut," to be applied against school district debt, would have an uneven effect based on debt, with districts like AISD eligible for nothing. Who would benefit from these "tax cuts?" Not the poor, or the average Joe, but only the rich, banks, and businesses. That money is needed for public education and teacher salaries; not to pay for buildings!

Robert Sindermann

Rambling Ranting

Dear Editor:

Well, I guess everyone will lose their free TV in a couple of years. I wonder how the huddled masses will react! The po' folk just won't be able to access the propaganda, er, information available to the well-heeled, market-playing, young, good looking, outta sight, outta mind, future fascistic people who vote less and less and who care even more/less. 1984. Idiots.

Oh! I surely do believe that bombing the Yugos into submission is gonna make them stop their 1,000-year feud, it's worked on all the others. And after all, shouldn't those countries be totally hip and tolerant as us, the biggest superpower in the world! Idiots.

Oh, by the way. I'm a smoker. I'd love to quit. But I guess I'll stay in Texas, which got all that money (where?) so when I get emphysema and cancer and all that other good shit, I can just suck on the taxpayer's (rich folk) tit for a little while. You'd think they'd spare a couple of hundred to help me quit. Idiots.

Speaking of idiots, you'd think half the people reading this letter with half a brain cell would consider dedicating half their living hours to halfway waking up to the future fact that we're turning into a monarchy. Sure, you get to vote for the most familiar name you know 'cause it's mentioned 50 times a day, and he (or she) has got friends in big places and, well, they're probably related to someone who is/was in office. Didn't we vote against that or something way back?

But they're our "natural born leaders." Of course we're talking about "the world community" and "it's for the children" and all that other bullshit. Man, can we kick ass on everyone (including ourselves in the future) and totally kiss ass at the same time? Buy, sell, buy, sell. And we're proud of it. Idiots.

Well, I've had my rant.

Don't be an idiot!

Yours sincerely,

"Uncle" Paul Mitchell

P.S. All these countries have all their nukes, chemical weapons, and other super fancy shit. Maybe it's time to try 'em all out. I ...

Come to Texas

Dear Editor,

My class is doing a project where we have to plan a vacation to a state, which I chose yours. If you could please do me the favor of printing my request in your paper, so that your readers can send me some info or facts of Texas, I'd gladly appreciate it.


Vanessa Poblete
c/o Mr. Rob Paulukonis
1170 Fargo
San Leandro, CA 94579

Paging Tom X

Dear friends,

Could someone please tell me more about Tom
X Hancock? I found his excellent book on dancing. What a great way to meet the ladies! I'm new to Austin and would love to learn more about this Tom X fellow.

Keep up the great work at the Chronicle. I moved here from the Valley. Getting a Chronicle there was like finding gold.

Your friend,

Bruce Quallry

[Ed. note: The 1999 Austin Chronicle Musicians Register says Mr. X may be reached at 469-7887.]

Real Public Transit

Dear Editor,

I think that most people here who oppose public transit have never seen or used a real public transportation system. Unfortunately, there are no such systems in Texas. They exist in the northeastern United States (Boston, Philadelphia), in Europe (Paris, Munich), in Japan, in San Francisco, and elsewhere, but not near here. So most people here have never seen one.

A real public transportation system is a magnificent thing. It gives every citizen (young or old, rich or poor, blind or sighted) a route from any given corner of town to any other corner. And you don't need a schedule to use the system. Buses and trains arrive at stops at seven-minute intervals. Commuter trains run at 15-minute intervals. The system does not stop working at 10:30pm. And it doesn't dump you on a busy car road in the blazing sun, half a mile from your destination.

What we have in Austin is substandard public transportation. It is much, much better than no public transit at all. But it is too inconsistent to appeal to people who have cars or good bicycles.

Unfortunately, Capital Metro board members have been talking about cutting services and raising prices. This will not help us get a first-class public transit system.

There is much more freedom in good public transit than in near-universal car ownership. Children can go to soccer practice by themselves. Old folks can go out alone. You don't have to worry about losing your job when your car breaks down. And you don't have to support the car and oil companies.

Cars work well where there is plenty of open space -- in small Texas towns, for example. A crowded city (e.g., Austin) works better with first-rate public transit and as few cars as possible.

Yours truly,

Amy Babich

Healthy Growth

Dear Editor:

To Mr. Torres-Torres, as for your colorful letter trying to speak for all citizens about Amy Babich's opinions ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 40]; most of us, though we may not always agree with her radical views, are smart enough, patient enough, and forward-looking enough to see that if even a small part of her suggestions were met, Austin could continue to grow in a healthy direction.

Had people been thinking about this problem "back when Austin was reaching pop.100,000" then we wouldn't have to backtrack now. Now it is more costly and thwarts development to do what needed to be done decades ago. Yes, a city grows, and Austin is growing. The thing that makes it so popular (one of the things) is the fact that it's not like Dallas, Houston, or San Antonio. You think it's hot now?! What 'till we spend our tax dollars building those stadiums, museums, and concert halls (and the parking lots to go with them) that you want. Then we may beat Dallas in its ongoing record for constantly being 10º hotter than the rest of the state due to all the concrete and steel that absorbs the sun. Let's see your "city" grow then.

Yes, Mr. Torres-Torres, a city grows. Yes, that means "more cars." You're failing to look closer at the things around you. I imagine that you, like the rest of the rat race, sit in traffic during daily rush hour. Tomorrow instead of looking at the cars, look in the cars. I observe this myself. At least nine out of 10 vehicles stuck out there next to you contain only one occupant. I'll even bet yours does. If not, congratulations, you are on your way to Babich-ism. Keep carpooling!

Here's an idea! If more people did ride buses, more people would put money directly into the Metro system, and we wouldn't have to spend 1% of our city tax to pay Metro for upkeep. (I'll bet you didn't know about that.) Then we could use that 1% for those museums you want.

So tomorrow, Mr. Torres-Torres, why not donate some of your hard-earned money to the city's museums so they can grow better, and take a bus to work? Better yet, instead of sending people who like this city away to smaller towns, why don't you take a bus out of town ... to Dallas, Houston, or San Antonio?

Yours truly,

Ashley Paige Hill

"Bike Talk"

Dear Editor:

May I suggest that if Amy Babich's letters to the editor are worthy enough to publish each week, then The Austin Chronicle should do the right thing; put her on the payroll and compensate her for her writings.

Thank you,

Sarah Shaw

P.S. Cars vs. bikes isn't the issue. The real issue is that it's the year of six billion people, October 1999 (and they all want to move to Austin).

Take the High Road

Dear Editor,

Something is missing in the "Postmarks" repartee between the anti-automobile car-mudgeons (Babich, et al.) and their critics. Granted, some of the anti-car letters are incoherent or snobbish, but many others make a rational point: We face social problems in the way we use cars, and we should make a priority of solving them. Unfortunately, rebuttals to this point are inevitably these hysterical "shut up stupid bitch" replies.

I realize that the editor has to take what correspondence they can, especially to maintain a dialogue. Still, when replies get away from issues and into personal attacks, it is both disappointing and disturbing. Can we please have a defense of the automobile more grown-up than insults?

Mike Librik

Babich Fan


Thank you for printing Amy Babich's letters. Me and both of my roommates enjoy her letters and agree that there are many saner alternatives to cars. I think that most people who have tried it would agree that bicycling in and around town is fun, but it's best to avoid busy major roads whenever possible, because of the filthy air and danger involved.

John O'Neill

Bicycles OK


Let us ignore Mr. Torres-Torres' argument of automobiles as a magic wand which will instantly cure the problems of underprivileged families ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 40]. Such fallacies in thinking (and unfortunately, Ms. Babich's arguments sometimes succumb to the same magical thinking. Forgive me, Amy.) require little disputation to put to rest.

Let us instead focus on his mythical underprivileged family and consider the justice of a culture which places major physical obstacles to the access of basic human needs (i.e. jobs, food, medical care, etc) without the expenditure of thousands of dollars annually on two tons of pollution-belching metal. Access to the basics of life should not be limited to those who have automobiles, and too often this is the case.

Much as I would like to see automobiles banned from our cities, more important is a transportation system that does not require me to spend vast amounts of my money to access what I need and want. A transportation system that is friendly to priorities other than speed and mass consumption. A transportation system that does not isolate us in our own self-contained little world, oblivious to the destruction of our communities, our environment, and our spirits.

I understand that Mr. Torres-Torres and most of the rest of our society are addicted to automobiles and the thought that others might not share this compulsion brings great fear. I pray daily for Mr. Torres-Torres and the vast majority of others in our society that they will become aware of their addiction. Just please, make room for myself, my wife, Amy, and others riding our bicycles on the road. Forgive us if we delay you a few obviously vital seconds in your mad dash to wherever you are racing towards, or curse and honk if you must. We're used to it, but make room. We have rights too.


James E. Burnside

Ride a Mile on My Wheels


I'm new here to Austin, moved from Seattle to follow a new job. I have read two issues of the Chronicle and observed what looks like an ongoing discussion between Amy Babich and many others.

In the May 28 issue, Eric Harwell addressed Ms. Babich with commentary about the feasibility of cycling as sole transportation, the convenience and comfort of cars, and finally about rude cyclists sharing the road with him.

The last set of comments about rude cyclists is the epitome of motorist cliché. Why is it that wannabe PC motorists bring this up? It's almost as though the carnage wrought by cars is somehow justified by rudeness, and that a little respect will make everything better. That's a total line of crap.

Bottom line is that the meanest, nastiest, right shoulder riding, glass dodging, finger sticking, rock throwing world champion hasn't got a chance in a contest against a car. Fact is, bicycles don't run cars off the road, it's the other way around.

Here's a challenge to contemplate:

Most adult cyclists are also motorists and do indeed understand completely the motor vehicle operator's point of view.

I suggest the opposite is not true. Most motorists haven't got a clue about the issues facing cyclists.

So here's the challenge: Ride a bicycle to work for one week and stay off the sidewalk. (That's for pedestrians, not bikes.)

If a motorist really tries this, they will understand that most of the "rude" behavior of cyclists has to do with negotiating crappy gutter lanes littered with broken beer bottles and the residue of the many public auto copulations.

Point is: Respect requires understanding, so put the money where the mouth is.

Sincerely yours,

Allan Mark

Programming vs. Politics

Dear Editor:

I have never stepped inside the studios of KOOP. I do not know personally any staff or board member. I am, however, a member and an enthusiastic supporter of KOOP's diverse and non-commercial programming. And I am sick and tired of the whining and complaining of its staff members about the board. All I hear is a chronic, nebulous drone of name calling -- "mean, undemocratic, bigoted." The fact is, KOOP is still fabulously diverse, and most of the kinds of programs which have gone on for years are still on the air. So shut up already. These problems are inside-the-beltway: we outsiders don't care. Austin's need for a voice like KOOP is too great -- don't let internal bickering dilute your strength.

Robert Wilks

AISD Wins Callous Award

Dear Chronicle:

I received an invitation to attend my son's academic awards ceremony at Lamar Middle School -- only parents whose kids won awards got these invites, so my son was pretty excited that he was to get an award. The entire seventh grade was present at this assembly. Name after name was called -- most improved, hardest working, highest TAAS scores, on and on. No Zach yet, but we kept on waiting, clapping politely for each name. Then the awards got more serious -- highest GPA, student athlete of the year -- and we got to see the same two or three kids walk up the stage to get increasingly bigger trophies. Meanwhile the kids in the back, the ones who knew they weren't getting any awards, enjoyed cheering and booing loudly -- a rowdy crowd watching the spectacle. Zach's dad and I started getting worried -- why were we here, what was going on? Then my name was called -- I had chaperoned some field trip to the park during the fall semester -- they wanted to thank me. My son sat in the middle of the group of kids in the front -- all of them now clutching their awards but him. The ceremony wound down, and an announcement was made that cookies and drinks were available in the back. I waited for Zach to go get a snack, trying to process how I just became an instrument in my son's humiliation. My pissed-off husband went to find an administrator to complain to -- he missed work for this!? Zach came back empty handed. It seems that only the award winners were allowed to have snacks. The thought came to me, "No wonder kids bring guns to school."

AISD -- you can do better than this! I know there were teachers at that assembly who cared about kids. Do you think this ritual humiliation was helpful to anyone? Some kids stood there clutching handfuls of cookies and awards, giddy with their success, yet hurt and puzzled that their best friends couldn't share in their good fortune. Their friends were too busy holding back tears. Never mind that this was the only end-of-year party they were getting. It seems that the administration had forbidden any parties in the classroom, so the kids got to do worksheets on their second-to-last day of school while their teachers yelled at them to be quiet.

To parents of children leaving elementary school for middle school: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Leslie Smart

Shorts, Jeans, and Skirts


I found out at the last minute that Mercer Ellington was playing at Spiros and I was willing to to pay the astronomical $30 ticket. I left straight from work, wearing shorts, a short sleeve button down, and patent leather boots. The rent-a-cop at the door looks me up and down, "We have a dress code: no shorts." "But we're in Austin," I reply. "So what?" I go to Club DeVille and trade a bartender my shorts for his jeans and race back. I'm greeted by a large man wearing a bolo. "Sorry, we have a dress code: no jeans." "But that guy said no shorts." The cop comes over, "You can't come in here, no jeans ... you know it costs $30 don't you?" "Yeah ... and?" I go to DeVille pissed off and decide to trade a waitress my shorts for her Donna Karan skirt. The cop and the bouncer look at me, "We have a dress code." "I know: no shorts and no jeans. I have a skirt on." Confused and dumbfounded, I waltz in. As I'm about to pay the $30, a fat Greek man approaches, Spiro I assume, "We have a dress code." "I know: no shorts or jeans. This is a skirt." "We have a dress code." I point, "Look she has a skirt on, so does she." "We have a dress code. We have a dress code. We have dress code," he keeps stating as the rent-a-cop escorts me out the door. Toto, are we still in Austin?

Wade Beesley

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