Puzzled by Oppel
Like Lee Nichols, I too am scratching my head over Rich Oppel's recent forays into enviro-bashing ["Media Clips," Vol. 18, No. 51]. I spent about 45 minutes talking with him on the phone the week after he smeared Cooper and Harris, patiently explaining to him the whys and wherefores of so-called "alternative" wastewater management. After that, we exchanged many e-mails and I sent him some of my papers on the subject. My "thanks" for that effort was to be accused of unethical behavior while I was on the Commission in his next effort at "journalism." I attempted to set the record straight in the rebuttal that the Statesman graciously printed without too much editorial meddling, and Mr. Oppel and I exchanged several more e-mails. In the end, it seems all we agreed upon was that we disagree.
I am still waiting for him to state his bottom line on this issue. I believe Mr. Nichols pretty much hit it when he said Oppel's rhetoric is right out of the Gospel According to Jim Bob. One gets the distinct impression Oppel believes that when anyone comes to the city with any request for services in support of their development, the city's one and only response should be, "Yes sir, right away sir." That's seems to be the only thing that makes what he is saying make sense. But for the city to act like that, of course, makes no sense.
David Venhuizen, P.E.
Sixth Heads South
Louis Black's editorial on the Steamboat situation misses the point ["Page Two," Vol. 18, No. 51]. Just follow the money, Louis. The city government had nothing to do with Steamboat getting the bum's rush off Sixth Street. The hard truth is this: People just don't support live music on Sixth Street with their pocketbooks. Aside from Danny Crooks, there are some lousy business people down there; people who have no clue why filthy restrooms, sloppy service, high prices, and tip-jar bands don't enrich them. With escalating land values, those who have not aggressively operated an entertainment concern and have been unable to sell huge amounts of overpriced booze are being told to hit the bricks. Is that good? Of course not, because great music can often be bad business. Austin Blues proved that in three months. Liberty Lunch and Steamboat spent years proving it. We, musicians and music lovers alike, are poorer for it, but that's the fact, jack. Let's face it; Sixth Street is shot-bar hell, and that's what the residents of Smart Growth Land want these days. That's what they are willing to pay for in the "entertainment district," instead of live music. I say accept that reality, sack up, and let's move on. Babe's is a nice place ... it's doing good business, best I can tell. Lucy's seems pretty busy, too, but the handwriting is on the wall for the rest of Sixth: Sex on the Beach and fake ID's are the bomb. So, sell 'em all shots and let TABC sort 'em out. It's called voting with your wallet, right? But here's the silver lining: South Austin will welcome Steamboat with open arms, and five years from now Danny Crooks will be crazy like a fox.
Aielli Does Great Radio
In response to Andy Schell's acid criticism of John Aielli's Eklektikos program on KUT ["Postmarks," Vol. 18, No. 51], I couldn't disagree more. Some days are better than others, but on the whole I enjoy that show. The music is interesting, the guests are sometimes very good, and I happen to like Aielli's voice and many others on public radio. I find nothing pompous or offensive about subdued voices at all. Pompous is that dittohead crap on 590. KUT and John Aielli are a great alternative to the screaming, in-your-face, consumer cult mode of most other FM stations. I recommend it whenever I can.
I hear music on Eklektikos that I have heard absolutely nowhere else and I have no problem with Aielli's freeform style and opinions. In fact, it's actually refreshing to get to hear an announcer with the freedom to act like an independent human instead of a playlist robot or a plastic Joe Cool, even if it is occasionally quirky. This is Austin, remember? Besides, I figure he and Jody Denberg know more about recorded music than almost anybody else in town and it shows.
I don't have to like every single thing a deejay says or does or plays to enjoy a decent station or program. With Eklektikos in the morning I am also not assaulted by car commercials, no one tries to turn me into Computer Geek.com, I don't have to hear Boston or "Sweet Home Alabama" (thank God!), and nobody bores me with stupid jokes and clever sexual innuendos. That alone is worth something. I happen to think it's kinda cool to hear music from Europe or interviews with unusual artists or whatever in the morning, hosted by someone who isn't jacking a bunch of co-opted hipster garbage and booster bullshit into my brain. John, keep up the good work! And Jesus, Andy, lighten up, man. Get some kava-kava or buy an air-conditioner or something.
Comic to the Editor
Alive and KISSing
Thanks for the Julian Lennon interview, brief as it was ["Not-So-Primal Therapy," Vol. 18, No. 51]. I greatly anticipate his show here in Austin.
Two things, however:
1. Other than a mention in the "Also Playing" section, no coverage of the King's X show at the Back Room, before or after. A truly great performance by a great band, and absolutely one of the most incredible rock trios ever. No backing guitar/keyboard player needed on that stage.
2. 1.5 stars for Detroit Rock City? Some things never change, and anything associated with KISS gets slammed by the critics. I wonder if Marjorie was even alive in 1978. "Goony"? What are teenage rocker kids supposed to be? You don't need Sean Connery to play a stoned, 8-track-listening high schooler.
Dodging the Facts
In Jerry Renshaw's review of the 1950 movie Armored Car Robbery ["Scanlines," Vol. 18, No. 50], he states "a heist at Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium." Pardon me, but weren't the Dodgers still in Brooklyn at that time?
Stupidity Isn't Destiny
Shawn Bodmann's hysterical screed against some imagined boogeyman he calls "Environmentalism" [Vol. 18, No. 51] shows, yet again, the environmental movement's dangerous failure to influence America's dummies.
Confront the facts: Bodmann can write, in all seriousness, that "Environmentalism" claims "that man should live as the other animals" -- that, presumably, we should all live in caves and hurl spears at wildebeests. This disastrous misapprehension lets our nation's innumerable Bodmanns sneer at efforts to clean up our air and water, preserve topsoil, purify our foods of toxins, and prevent suicidal climate damage. Those Bodmanns pile into their SUVs and guzzle all the gas they can afford, confident that "Environmentalism" suggests no alternative but to move to a wattle hut and snuffle in the mud like pigs.
Mistakes in promoting a sustainable society -- shrillness, tedious moralizing, calls for Amish-style austerity -- have bred in our Bodmanns a Hindu fatalism: "Rather than adapting to his environment, man survives by adapting the environment to himself. This is an unchangeable part of man's nature, and he cannot live otherwise." In short, we're just meant to introduce countless genetically engineered foods into the population without adequate testing or supervision. It's our genetic destiny, so shut up.
This nonsense highlights the need for a new vision -- a way to make good sense respectable and a healthy ecosystem attractive. The unpleasant truth is, we can't build a sustainable world without the consent, silent or otherwise, of multitudes of ignorant nimrods.
Bruce Sterling is developing a creative new approach, the Viridian movement (http://www.well.com/conf/mirrorshades/).
Viridian is not political but aesthetic, a design movement that works by pointing out that 20th-Century America's carbon-dioxide addiction is ugly and tasteless. It's (literally) filthy. Viridian style emphasizes attractive, high-fashion consumer couture that doesn't rely on sordid fossil fuel. Sterling's approach may not work better than existing methods, but Bodmann's example shows that it can't possibly do worse.
Pricey Urban Jewels
In the August 13 issue of the Chronicle, Amy Babich reported that Rick Hall used numbers in a misleading way when he discussed the cost of rail on a per ride basis. Her complaint was justified -- the cost a ride on the Green Line would be about $14, $12 to the taxpayer and $2 to the rider.
I would like to complain about the way Cap Metro uses misleading numbers. The $612 million figure for the Green Line is a lowball number floated by Cap Metro to alleviate sticker shock which would scare taxpayers. An old political ploy, Councilman Daryl Slusher often wrote about this tactic during his stay at the Chronicle. As I recall, he said public projects are likely to carry cost overruns of 20 to 30%, and he cautioned that these potential cost escalations should be kept in mind when voting on such projects.
Thirty percent in cost overruns added to
$612 million produces a figure of $796 million. This is construction expense only. There is another cost equally large -- the cost of borrowing money. Since Cap Metro does not have cash in hand to build this rail project, and its tax base is maxed, bonds, presumably, would be issued to pay for construction. And a new source of taxes would be found to amortize the bonds. The cost of such bonds -- $700 million -- when added to construction costs would more than double the project's previously estimated bottom line. We would be looking at a $1.5 billion expenditure, and perhaps more, certainly not less!
We are talking a lot of money here: $50 million a year or more in new taxes to amortize rail bonds,
$30 million in operation costs, and the $100 million Cap Metro already spends. This amounts to a very expensive piece of urban jewelry Cap Metro would hang around our necks, and there is nothing misleading in saying that.
Robert P. Gerstenberg
Cars Are Tired
In response to Rick Hall's letter ["Postmarks, Vol 18, No. 51], I would like to ask what he has in mind as the "modern transit system" that does not depend on some kind of more dense land development. It is no secret that mass transit is doomed unless there is a certain minimum development density in and around its area of operation. To mindlessly superimpose a transit system onto urban sprawl is a waste of money and resources. Surely Mr. Hall is not talking about status quo single-occupant vehicles as his transportation panacea? The mind-boggling waste of money and natural resources associated with this tired old system has been well-documented. I would like to challenge Mr. Hall to take a look at some Transit-Oriented-Development around the country that works -- the results can actually be quite pleasant, human-scaled, and desirable. Is this the dreaded gentrification -- to make our neighborhoods more desirable, walkable, bike-able, and sustainable? Then sign me up!
Alternatives to Light Rail
Austin did not just become "high tech" in the Nineties. Business giants like IBM, Texas Instruments, and Motorola (to name a few) have existed here for quite some time. Modern thinking abounds here.
As a former Yankee born in Detroit, Mich., I, like so many established Austinites, would like to extend a big friendly howdy to all newcomers. Admittedly my Scottish-born father moved me here when I was six months old and my memories of Motor City are somewhat blurred.
Should you greenhorns and/or carpetbaggers find yourself the center of some friendly ribbing by "Texans by choice" that came before you, please try to understand that does not mean you are not welcome here.
Some yahoos are calling for a public transportation system that is high-speed and exists either above or below ground level. Well get in line with Austinites who have been saying that for the last two decades. Bushwhackers take note, blur the issue with road congestion all you want, cities with light rail are still congested.
On the Light Rail forum at Austin.CitySearch.com
(http://www.io.com/~bumper/cs_rail.html), you will find links to almost every modern transit system that exists in the world. September's Popular Science magazine just featured Jerry Schneider's "Innovative Transportation Technologies" Web site as one of "The Hottest Sci-Tech Sites" in their "Best of the Web" feature. Jerry's ITT web site has been linked on the LR Forum for two years.
Ludicrous fans of 19th-century pulmonary styled light rail say the plans for Austin are a startup line. They say that more trains can be added to increase capacity and the system can be expanded in the next 50 years. Well, duh!
Those statements also hold true for "fast" new-millennium network transit systems which would better serve "all" Austinites.
Parking in the Park
Why do planners strive to fill parks with people without considering how these people are going to get to the park? People talk of having a park to which people flock at lunch time, on the model of parks in New York. But in New York people get to parks on foot and on public transit. Here, the plan is for each person to arrive in a separate car. Aren't we leaving out something essential?
I wish that would-be planners of Town Lake Park would go to Zilker Park on a Sunday afternoon. There is always a traffic jam on Barton Springs Road and around the soccer fields. Cars park on what used to be grass near the soccer fields. The grass has been replaced by a miniature dust bowl. Barton Springs parking lot is bigger than Barton Springs Pool. Pedestrians have real trouble crossing Barton Springs Road. The park is full of exhaust fumes. When you look around the park, you see an ocean of cars. Our state's department of transportation, TxDOT, wants to turn Barton Springs Road into a freeway.
We could try fixing this problem. Here's a temporary solution for immediate use. On Saturdays and Sundays from 6am to 10:30pm have a shuttle bus run every 15 minutes from downtown to the soccer fields, Barton Springs Pool, and elsewhere in Zilker Park. People in cars can park them in a downtown parking lot or garage (currently underused on weekends) and take a bus directly to the soccer fields or Barton Springs. Don't allow car parking in the park. Or charge $10 per hour per car.
Please, when we plan a destination for many people, can't we think about ways to get them there that won't ruin the charm of the destination?
AISD Must Learn
Wake up Austin! You're about to get taxed out of your homes. In light of a state comptroller's audit, poor TEA school evaluations, and growing public mistrust over "misreported" TAAS scores and dropout rate figures, AISD has the gall to propose another 15-cent tax rate increase!
This will be the fourth consecutive year AISD has raised their tax rate and signals major problems in the school board's ability to manage our money responsibly.
This kind of mismanagement is a slap in the face to every Austin household struggling on low or fixed incomes. When our budgets don't balance we sacrifice something and learn to live without it. But AISD's board arrogantly returns to us for more money each year, raising the cost of living considerably. Ever wonder why rent is so high? For some, the reality of losing their homes is a result.
AISD should find another way! Instead of picking our pockets each time they need money, they should first cut wasteful spending like administrative salaries and perks (such as health club memberships and car allowances), energy conservation, and excessive consultation fees.
If you don't feel it's right to pay AISD several hundred dollars more than you did last year while they continue to waste and mismanage what you've already given them, please voice your opinion. E-mail the board (firstname.lastname@example.org). Attend the board meeting on Sept. 13. if not, they'll take your absence as permission to tax again. You'll then see a few more "for sale" signs around town. One of them might be yours.
Bruce A. Hop
Kurt's Crystal Ball
"Smart Growth" huh? Is that something like "military intelligence"? Once upon a time a pitch man could say the same thing over and over again and the sheep would mindlessly follow. Flash forward to 1999; anyone who supports the homosexual agenda can testify that repetitive rhetoric no longer wins friends nor influences people.
And what's with the "East Austin sprawl" protests? Don't think of it as "East Austin." We'll call it West Houston. Look to the future!
On behalf of Buck Owens, Casper Rawls, Steve Wertheimer, and the Children's Advocacy Center, I want to thank the sponsors of the Continental Club's Eighth Annual Buck Owens Birthday Celebration: The Austin Chronicle, Austin Motel, Delta Airlines, KGSR, Music Lab, Phumann's, and Texicalli Grill.
Just as important to this annual event, which benefits abused children in our community, are the fabulous musicians and technicians who so generously give of their time and talent.
We can never thank you all enough for helping us protect Austin's most endangered species -- children.
Sandra A. Martin
Executive Director, Children's Advocacy Center
Blowing the Cover
I enjoyed Tom Tomorrow's cartoon ["This Modern World," Vol. 18, No. 51]. It encapsulates the neo-McCarthy mood of the WOD. One good thing about the flap over GW's alleged coke use: We may actually start a rare public dialogue about the war. And if it is shown that Bush didalitta blow, then an investigation of his dealer(s), friends, and general oeuvre might determine how the governor could avoid what hundreds of thousands of blacks and white tra' could not. Why, this is news you can use.
Stephen W. McGuire
Show Compassion, Bush
There has been a lot of talk about George W. Bush's past "lifestyle" and cocaine use. Cocaine use alone is a felony. There is no statute of limitations on cocaine as a federal crime. I believe the media should stop asking George W. if he used cocaine in his past. It is now obvious to me that he has at some point in his life. He just won't say when.
Instead, I propose the question for George W. Bush now should be this: Mr. Bush, if elected President, will you issue pardons to the tens of thousands of men and women currently in prison as a result of cocaine use prior to their 28th birthday, if they make the statement that they have now grown up, as you have done?
The follow-up: If not, why is your situation of achieving adulthood at age 40 any different than theirs??
Doing Bush's Laundry
Why is it that George W. Bush, a self-proclaimed born again Christian, has decided to evade the drug question? For one, it is hypocritical to hold President Clinton to greater scrutiny and at the same time say that Bush's past cocaine use is irrelevant. If Bush has nothing to hide, than why can't he just say "no"? Or would he be perjuring himself if he did? I for one haven't forgotten the character attacks from the GOP on President Clinton for his conduct. We should not allow George W. Bush to easily ignore the issue. His past is everyone's business and there are no exceptions to the rule once you seek public office. Bush's past drug usage and sex life are important because he wants to moralize and legislate on these very issues. President Clinton has never foisted his personal beliefs on these subjects onto the public. The double standard is disturbing. How can we then entrust him to lead this nation? It's obvious from his poor public record that his only constituency is big money and big business.
One World Order
"Unless we learn from history, we are bound to repeat it" is an old but profoundly true statement. Upon looking objectively at the Clinton history as governor of Arkansas and as president we see: 1. The federal debt has increased by more than $1.5 trillion; 2. An impeachment trial for perjury; 3. Over 35 former employees, assistants, and former lovers of Clinton have died in mysterious accidents (suicides, plane crashes, etc.); 4. The cover-up of massive drug running at the Mena Arkansas Airport; 5. The theft of federal money through Guaranty Mortgage Co.; 6. Turning over the Panama Canal to COSCO, a communist Chinese company. This is referred to as Canalgate (which most Americans know little or nothing about); 7. The total cover-up by the Department of Justice pointing toward certain federal agencies' illegal activities at Waco and Oklahoma City; 8. Filegate and the blackmailing of elected officials; 9. Massive illegal campaign contributions from agents of communist China; 10. The unconstitutional and immoral bombing of civilian populations in Iraq and Serbia which have killed thousands of women and children; 11. NAFTA and GATT, international treaties which to date have cost this country a minimum of 750,000 good-paying industrial jobs; 12. Turning over not one but dozens of top secret nuclear military technologies to China.
Before any good grassroot Democrats get too angry, please just check out these facts. Secondly, know that most of the leaders of the Republican party are also selling out our country. In truth the high echelon leaders of both parties are controlled by the political and economic manipulations of the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR), an incredibly powerful international organization openly dedicated to the creation of a World Government -- strange but true! Now we as citizens of this republic can do one of two things; 1. We can continue the "ostrich syndrome" and keep pretending that everything is "OK" as our nation is destroyed from the inside, or 2. We can get informed, educate others, and work for a truly sovereign nation that operates within a rule of impartial and equal laws and justice based upon the ideals of the constitution and the Bill of Rights.