The Austin Chronicle


October 8, 1999, Columns

ACC Response


Your October 1 edition included an article about Austin Community College's new administrative computing system, Datatel. As your writer noted, our faculty and staff have worked "long and hard" to make the transition to Datatel as painless as possible for our students. However, no conversion to a new computer system is free of problems, and ours is no exception. I regret that our conversion has had any negative impact for our students, and I want to apologize to them and our faculty for any inconveniences they have been suffered.

It is important to state -- we needed a new system. The old system was not Y2K-compliant. Moreover, the old system was not able to produce accurate financial records. The old system also had virtually no features that assisted students who were academically in trouble and to retain such students in college. The new system has all these features and has significantly improved financial record keeping at the college.

I would also like to share some additional comments about our Datatel conversion to reinforce some of the points made by your writer. Yes, our administration, faculty, and staff have worked hard to make this new Datatel system work. We are still running dual systems (i.e., the old "Legacy" system and Datatel) to assure that no student records and other critical archival data is lost. Our Datatel steering committee, which includes members of our faculty, has been planning this conversion for almost two years. They tested the system for months before our first "live" test this past April, and they used our summer session, when we have fewer students, to work as many bugs out as possible. A comprehensive series of training sessions have been made available to staff and faculty alike, and these training sessions will continue until we achieve full implementation of the Datatel system.

We also have a weekly Datatel newsletter on our intranet so that faculty and staff are briefed on problems we have encountered and what is being done to fix them. We are working closely with Datatel and its other community college clients in Texas to share solutions and find ways to make a smoother transition to Datatel. The Texas clients include the large community college systems of Dallas and North Harris Community College. I want to thank all of our faculty and staff who are working on this conversion for their hard work, patience and commitment to our students.

It's important to realize that we aren't alone in this effort. In fact, most U.S. colleges and universities are converting from older stand-alone computer systems to integrated, interactive databases such as Datatel. In fact, a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education looked at problems facing users of Datatel's major competitor and concluded that "chief information officers and provosts who are trying to modernize their university's or college's systems say without exception that the projects are proving harder, lengthier, and more costly than expected, [regardless of the vendor] involved."

Replacing stand-alone "silos of data" with an integrated database for all college information is our goal, and like our counterparts across America, we needed to make the move now. Our existing system is antiquated and very costly to maintain. It also is not Y2K compliant. We also wanted to implement and stabilize the new system before our base funding year begins next spring, to avoid any negative impact on our state revenue.

I hold out the hope that the benefits of implementing Datatel will be well worth the growing pains we are facing. I know our students will appreciate such new services as online transcripts, degree audits, and automatic prerequisite checks. We also will be able to make better decisions about when and where to offer classes. And a more efficient, integrated computer system will help us hold down administrative costs.


Richard Fonté

President, Austin Community College

Get Smart!


Recent editions of the Chronicle have reported extensive neighborhood-group opposition to Smart Growth, along with specific opposition to any number of inner-city development projects (the Gotham, for example ["Condo Clash," Oct. 1]). The people opposed to these projects seem to be dreaming of a Seventies Austin where they could listen to an unknown named Willie Nelson playing at the Armadillo World Headquarters with nothing but the sound of crickets to compete with the music. An Austin where they lived comfortably in small wooden shacks which they rented for $30 per month.

Well, I have some unfortunate news for y'all: The Armadillo is gone, and those little wooden shacks you used to rent are now called "quaint Hyde Park Cottages" which sell for $350,000 a piece. Instead of crickets, we're now surrounded by miles and miles of crackerbox houses inhabited by SUV-driving Republicans with brains no larger than a pea. And I don't mean those big peas they sell in a pod at Central Market; I'm talking about the little tiny ones in the Jolly Green Giant cans.

At this point, we only have two options left. One is to succumb completely to the nightmarish stupidity of suburban sprawl: the endless miles of cookie-cutter houses with postage stamp lawns punctuated by generic strip malls, the noisy, criss-crossing web of highway upon highway, the pollution, the mundane ugliness, the loss of all contact with the natural environment. The other option is to try and turn this place into a real city, which is what Smart Growth is all about.

Message to the naysayers: You can do what you want, but your opposition to inner-city development is a resounding endorsement of option A, and I just want to make sure that you're aware of that.

Patrick Goetz

Classically Texan

Dear Editor:

I will not address the appropriateness of The Gotham to Town Lake nor comment on the merit of the proposed Page Southerland Page design (Oct. 1). But the implication is that large-scale Classical detailing is somehow unpatriotic in Central Texas. Look at scores of county courthouses, schools, banks, and churches in the region. Look at the Governor's Mansion, the Littlefield Building, the First Methodist Church, and original Austin State Hospital building. The most conspicuous example I know of an indigenous Texas building style adapted for a large building is an office structure west of I-35 near the Round Rock Historic District. It looks like a pioneer stone house pumped up to the size of a blimp.

In the 1880s, the State Capitol might have been considered very un-Texan: out-of-state architect, East Coast architectural style, insensitive to the scale of downtown. Yet to many today it is the most Texan of buildings.

Thank you for your consideration.

Yours truly,

Peter Flagg Maxson

Architectural Historian

Lamenting About Architecture


In response to Jenny Staff Johnson's October 1 article regarding the proposed Gotham project for 200 South Congress ["Condo Clash," Oct. 1]:

The city should be concerned not only with the obstructed views and the height transgressions of this project; it should consider the architectural implications of the building itself. The choice of a Greek revival style, symbolizing unrestricted power and the exuberance of capitalism, represents the current charge from the city's periphery into the interior. The counterfeit edifices and columns of suburban housing developments are about to land in an extremely visible area. Post-modernism certainly wants to lift its ugly head again, in this case looking directly into the eyes of all those who enjoy the diverse attractions of this part of town.

What does this aesthetic say about Austin? It certainly questions the stability of the current economic situation. Historically, neoclassical structures have been built either by untried, nascent civilizations or by those in decline.

Ironically, the site of Gotham is just down the street from the culturally booming downtown Congress area. Will central Austin continue its growth toward a young-minded, yet sophisticated, community, or will it become a playground for wealthy Houstonian developers and others intent on mining the uniqueness of this city for a quick buck?

A final word on the project's name: Isn't Gotham the modern myth of a metropolis that drowned in its own excesses? Think about this.

Marvin E. Wylie

The Way of Buffalo

Dear Editor:

Speaking of transportation issues ["Corner to Corner," Sept. 10, and "Buses for the 'Burbs" editorial, Sept. 24], Mr. Black's quote "the only way to limit the number of cars is to limit growth" has my disagreement too. I had just spent an interesting day with Texas Community Project as they canvassed Austin to gain members in support of light rail. Their position is that this type of public transportation, which can be added initially along MoPac and I-35, would do wonders to move people between the northern 'burbs and downtown, helping to restore better clean-air standards in our city, and lowering the number of cars on the roadways every day.

While I have not participated in such a lengthy Austin commute, my experience of riding the Metro-rail when I was working in downtown Buffalo, New York, were wonderful. Instead of the daily commute (of only a half-hour each way, I must add) and parking expenses, I arrived at work in 15 minutes, feeling fresh, relaxed, and ready to focus on the tasks at hand. Instead of spending my time weaving in and out of traffic, looking for parking, or worrying if I would be on time, I spent my commute time talking with a friend or reading a book or magazine.

If Buffalo, with all its financial problems can put the beginnings of a people-mover system into place, surely thriving Austin can too. Moreover, I strongly feel that in order to preserve its quality of life, Austin must address this problem in the more effective way possible. To me, that means light rail.


Beverly Horozko

Mixed Opinion

Dear Editor:

A major tenet of Smart Growth is mixed-use development. In other words, a development like 200 South Congress would include pedestrian-friendly retail at the street level. In this sweet deal on Congress there is no such mixed-use component. There are $700,000 condos. And there is a world-class view of the lake for the tenants, albeit a 256-foot-wide by 120-foot-tall obstruction to the view for the rest of Austin. And there is an incredible profit to the developer on this little piece of land -- thanks to several bendings of laws the rest of us would need to comply with. One can't help but wonder what exactly is Smart Growth in Austin, Texas. It is surely not mixed-use at 200 South Congress; perhaps retail would be too much of an encouragement to the hoi polloi, and ruin the view.


Paul Bacon

Shea Declines Award

Dear Chronicle,

While my husband and I normally enjoy the BOA issue for bestowing well-deserved recognition or barbs we were both disappointed by the misleading inference about us in your Critics Pick Politics "Award." [Sept. 24]

The headline "Best Score by a Former City Council Member" about plans to redevelop our Rainey Street neighborhood gives the impression that I personally profited from my community service. Anyone who knows us (including our financial advisor!) knows that my husband and I and our two children live very modestly in part because we have spent our time working to improve our community. Only after we learned that we were virtually the only ones who wanted to keep our neighborhood residential did my husband and I support the wishes of our neighbors to rezone their land and sell it. And the potential sale price is a fraction of what you stated in the award. While my husband and I would normally be honored to receive a Chronicle award, we won't be flying this banner from our house! As it stands, we respectfully decline what we feel is an innacurate and misleading "award."


Brigid Shea and John Umphress

Best of Both Worlds


In the "Best of Austin '99" issue [Sept. 24], there is an entry on page 60 for "Best Reuse of a Building" (American Atheists becomes AIDS Services of Austin). I know that in these hyper-evangelical days we are making such a mess of our own society that many feel that the only recourse is to dump that mess in the lap of a deity and hope that he will resolve our problems. I also know all too well that atheism is an unpopular and maligned set of beliefs (or lack thereof).

As a gay atheist, I am delighted that AIDS Services of Austin has a suitable location (although I'm saddened if they are promoting religion in that setting). The catty remarks about the previous tenants inferred by the comparison of the uses of the building was really unnecessary.

Kenneth Jefferson Cottrell

Go Figure

Dear Editor,

When you printed my letter on October 1, you inadvertently added a zero to one of the numbers. Of the 37,000 deaths attributed to firearms in the U.S. each year, 2,500 (not 25,000) are classified as accidental. The 40,000 (or 42,000) deaths each year from motor vehicles in this country are nearly all considered accidental. These figures are from a 1994 world almanac. They're for 1992, but they're about the same this year.

Yours truly,

Amy Babich

Promised Land


... and let it be written that in the early days of the new millennium the Baptist people, not of Hyde Park, paved over all that was good. And the Baptist god left the new building because the building had become the new Baptist god.

Eddie Pruitt

Biased Reviews

Dear Sirs or Madams:

I am a regular reader of your magazine and I can't help noticing the biased way in your magazine rates films. I just saw Mumford and Blue Streak and they are both very good movies. However, you have given such bad ratings to these two movies. I also knew that you have given a bomb to As Good as It Gets which has won the comedy of the year. I hope your rating scheme can be more fair so that the film rating section can match the image of the rest of the magazine.


Vincent Wong

1001 Thanks

Dear friends and fans of 1001 Nights Orchestra,

We want to thank all of you and the folks at The Austin Chronicle for choosing 1001 Nights Orchestra's presentation of Thief of Baghdad at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema as The Best Single Silent Film Revival of the Alamo Drafthouse's silent film series in 1999. [Sept. 24] We are proud and honored to have been given such a title. I personally have seen all of the films in the series and must say that every one of those projects were a fantastic work of art and dedication. I would also like to thank Tim and Carrie of Alamo Drafthouse for the idea and the passion to make it happen.

The Thief of Baghdad live soundtrack project was a group effort and would not have been possible without the talents of all the following artists: Allen Cline, Amie Macisewski, Jeff Kahan, Lisa Shneider, Eric Vormelker, Erin Foster, Hedia Chaffai, Don Weeda, Ken Maranian, and Dan Benkman.

Thank you all!

Kamran Hooshmand

Director, 1001 Nights Orchestra

Steamboat Chugs Into Sunset


Steamboat 1874 is dead. Officially. The club is a shambles thanks to its loving patrons!

Everyone who has helped support the Steamboat and their choices of local talent deserves this note -- many of us left the club's last show on Sunday covered in Joe Rockhead's mix of sweat, beer, flour, V8, toilet paper, whipping cream, EZ cheese, and precious ice-cold water.

The action didn't stop when the audience left -- the club had just warmed up. Some of the walls were already covered in graffiti from the previous night (thank you Steamroller!). The guys in Joe Rockhead took it to the next level -- down came stairwell banisters, up went more graffiti on the stone walls (and floor), and the beer bottles started to fly. That must have been fun! Then they really went to the next level -- the "third" floor, the club's upstairs underbelly -- and positively buried a couple of chairs and a table (yes!!) into some sheetrock walls up there. They stick out of the wall like you should be standing on the wall to use them! There's nothing like the physical expression of emotional frustration to create a work of albeit violent art. That's what the building has become over the last few days -- a huge piece of dangerous, inviting, smelly, trash-filled, spray-painted, partially disassembled artwork -- sprouting bits of glass, nails, boards, graffiti, and unidentifiable Joe Rockhead goo wherever you look. The only unbroken bottles are the plastic ones.

The new occupants may find that some remodeling is in order when they get there next week and the club is ripe. From what I understand there won't be any cleaning crew employed by the Steamboat.

Last night I was invited to come hang out with the club's employees and friends for a final attempt to kill the liquor. What resulted was truly what Austin is all about, people playing music and making friends. Greed can't stop everything!

Da 'Boat did not go quietly, and its inspiration will live in many of us. Best of luck to Danny and everyone who worked and played at the Steamboat.

Ben Laws

Rebel Yell


Now the NAACP has entered the controversy over the use of the Confederate flag. Is the same group that preaches diversity, multiculturalism and the reclaiming of their pre-American heritage denying Southerners the right to their heritage? Their reason for this is that some small portion of Southerners owned slaves and therefore all of their heritage must be obliterated! Slavery existed in Africa (and still does) for thousands of years before America was "discovered" and colonized. The majority of slaves that came to America were brought into their unfortunate circumstance by their fellow Africans before coming into the hands of their white Southern owners. This fact is uncontrovertible. If you want to obliterate all traces and symbols of slavery then you must include in your pogrom all aspects of African culture. You can't have it both ways.

Jeff Burke

Stop! In the Name of Life


Friday a young man died as the result of a fight Wednesday at the Lake Travis High School. The "winner" of this fight has to live with the result of his violent behavior. The families and friends of both young men have to live with the results of anger not handled well.

As a martial arts teacher for 15 years at Tukong Martial Arts, I have seen many people change their response to violence. They have learned not to be bullied and not to bully others. They work it out!

As adults, set an example of tolerance. Learn to handle your fear, terror, anger, and feelings of helplessness.

Stop the vengeance.

Stop the violence.

Stop and think of the results of your actions.

Practice consideration, patience, and forgiveness.

I would be happy to help anyone who is affected by this tragedy.

Lonnie Lepp

Papa Saw a Grand Old Man


S'cuse me, but sometime in mid-1967, down at the Howard Theatre, at Seventh and T Streets in Washington D.C., I saw James Brown!! and I hasten to assure you all, Paul Minor is not James Brown, not by any stretch of the imagination. ["Texas Platters," Oct. 1]

The red velvet curtains were closed as the announcer said "... and now, the hardest working man in show business, James Brown." The curtains started opening, the band was playing "Night Train" at 160 beats a minute, a strobe light was flashing, and James came sliding across the stage on one patent leather-shod foot, stopped dead at center stage, spun around, dropped into a split, came up waved his arm at the Famous Flames and kicked off "Try Me" in perfect time and pitch and did not break time or pitch for the next hour and 10 minutes. He fed the audience what they came for and I recall a time of mutual uplifting and rejoicing ... something I don't see much of from a lot of performers nowadays ... along with not enough attention paid to time and pitch.

I saw James a few years ago at the Erwin Center, and while his moves have modified (he is over 60), his zest for delivery and punctuation has not diminished one iota.

Yes, Virginia, what Paul does, he does well, he does with dedication, but when they tally my vote on the subject, it will say: James Brown and only James Brown is James Brown. No comparisons.


Jamie Lee Bradford

Bush Hypocrisy


While presidential candidate Texas Gov. George W. Bush remains conspicuously ambiguous concerning his "youthful indiscretions," it should be remembered the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Institutional Division (TDCJ-ID) incarcerates tens of thousands of people that have not had the privilege of ambiguity.

They have had to answer for their indiscretions in no uncertain terms.

I am one of those people and as such I can empathize with Gov. Bush when he states what he did in his past does not fairly represent the man he is today. It is obvious Gov. Bush does not reciprocate this empathy.

I recall during Bush's gubernatorial campaign against then-governor Ann Richards (circa 1994), a representative from the news media asked candidate Bush, if elected, what his policy would be concerning in-prison drug treatment programs. Bush's response, to paraphrase, was, prisons are for punishment. Prisoners could pursue treatment upon their release.

Having been on the receiving end of Gov. Bush's draconian law & order/crime & punishment practices and policies for the past four years, I am abundantly qualified to proclaim George W. Bush a hypocrite beyond compare.

Yours for a better world, I am

En lucha,

Stephen L. Trapp

TDCJ#515234, Wallace Pack Facility

Bush: Preach What You Practice

Dear Editor and Parents,

Now let's think about this clearly and logically. Children copy our leaders' behavior and habits. Therefore, it is logical to have someone as governor or president who we wish our children to copy the behavior of ... or emulate.

If we elect George W. Bush, our children will gain the "message" that: It is OK to use cocaine, as long as it is him, but this is outlawed for everyone else. Cocaine, that I have never had any desire to even try, causes many people to become violent, depressed, and aggressive. Therefore, these children will do as he did and become violent, and aggressive. Therein, our actual violent crime rate will go up.

The same is true for people who teach us "morality." For some reason that escapes reason, we find ourselves paying for the homes, air-conditioned buildings, for people who lived a bizarre lifestyle, and once they calm they "repented" we allow them to become preachers? They then go on to repeatedly present a distorted and contradictory view of God and morality that is the opposite of clear thinking. In contract the Bible says that stable, principled people should be our leaders and pastors.

Since both these people, most preachers and George W. Bush, have these bizarre histories, we are under no obligation to pay for their rent or homes. They are disqualified from holding those positions.

The protesters are right, that Bush cannot jail people for cocaine use, when he used it. Since he violated both state and federal law, he should receive the same punishment that anyone who violates state drug laws has received. I hope the protests continue.

Why do you tolerate Bush?

Frank Bartlett

Copyright © 2024 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.