City council elections must be coming up soon...
For the past 10 years, without expectation of praise, I have worked in our community to give our youth a place to play and compete. I have worked to assist individuals with drug and alcohol problems, and I have helped neighborhoods whenever they were in need. No one questioned my eligibility as a convicted felon to do that. Now that I want to do some of these same things in an official capacity, questions have begun to surface. I have done these things in my community because I love Austin and will do all I can to make it the best city in the world for all of us who live here. This is and always will be my agenda. I will not give up.
There is no local law that prevents me from running for City Council. Our political leaders often preach against the big government's involvement in local issues. This is a local issue. The City Council Place 6 seat is not a state office. It's a local office. The city clerk's office does not possess a city charter or city ordinance that prevents me from running for office, being on the ballot, or serving on Austin's City Council. The city does not have a document that prevents my candidacy.
I wonder how many people in this state have truly turned their lives around and have become productive citizens. How many people have become valuable assets to their community despite past drug addiction or incarceration? I wonder how many would run for public office and present the facts about their pasts with sincere honesty. Over the past 16 years, I have had to overcome many tough circumstances to recover from alcoholism, crack addiction, incarceration, and embarassment. At the same time, I have had to be a father to my daughters and learn how to live a functional life, and the truth has always set me free. We all must face the consequences of our past actions. I have done that many times over. I want to apologize to all of you for my past wrongs. I cannot explain crack addiction or the behavior that it causes. There are no excuses. I was wrong, and I am deeply sorry.
California restored my rights in 1988 after I completed my parole requirements. When my campaign associate checked with the city clerk's office, we were given the green light for my campaign. I thought I could run for City Council because of this opinion. I remember a few years ago when a known felon ran for mayor. Some say John Johnson's candidacy was never a serious challenge, so no one questioned his eligibility. I would like to thank all the newspaper reporters and various other individuals for at least taking my candidacy seriously.
I will seek solutions to the questions raised about my eligibility with my legal counsel. To qualify for a pardon, it is necessary to stay out of trouble and to remain off parole for at least 10 years. I qualify. This is but another wall that I must climb. No matter what happens, I will continue to be an advocate and a community servant for our youth, our poor, our environment, and last but not least, our East Austin community. I will not give up.
Lewis' Record Strong
In the January 21 politics section of the Chronicle, a prominent critic of mine was quoted making some uninformed comments about my Place 6 City Council record. Let me set the record straight: I've accomplished a lot for the citizens of Austin, and plan to do more. For example, the council dais is no longer a combat zone. Our council works together and gets things done, even though we don't agree on every issue.
To ensure that East Austin gets its fair share of city services and infrastructure, I worked to make sure that the $10 million Carver Museum expansion and the $10 million Mexican-American Cultural Center were added to Proposition 4 in the 1998 bond election. These projects failed to receive approval during previous referendums when voted on separately, but when put together with our library expansion efforts, these projects received voter approval. Five major East Austin railroad crossings in disrepair for decades received needed improvements, and Doris Miller Auditorium on Rosewood Avenue was repaired six months after I took office. After I worked to secure funding, the first YMCA east of I-35 has just been opened. A new Windsor Park Library will open later this summer.
I'm proud to "chime in" on every issue before the council. This council has secured our water supply for the next 50 years, and our neighborhoods have a stronger voice in determining their own future. The police force is up to full strength for the first time in 20 years, with pay and benefits that compete with the private sector. Taxes have been cut twice.
There is still much to do. Thank you for your continued support.
Willie C. Lewis
Austin City Council
One Man's Vermin ...
"Squirrels, racoons" (sic) are vermin ["Real Life Rat Tales," Jan. 21]? That's in the eye of the beholder. Some folks in West Lake Hills consider deer vermin, while their neighbors feed them (heh heh).
The squirrels in my West Austin neighborhood get fat on the plentiful pecans, but I put out food for the possums and 'coons, just in case. I've had a 'coon in my bedroom while I slept so I repaired the damaged screen and started putting out food. No big deal. He lived under the house until my neighbor's wife found out. He had been in their place, too. So my neighbor trapped him in a cage and asked me to release him (and subsequent generations of family, and a possum or two) in West Lake Hills. (Ha.)
There are free-roaming cats in this neck of the woods which probably explains why there are no rats or mice to be seen. They get a bird once in a while to my dismay, but hey, they're cats. I don't consider birds vermin, either, though they decorate my truck on occasion.
So you work your side of the street and I'll work mine.
One Man's Trash
Scott Barnes in his reply to my letter supporting the new duplexes on Speedway maintains that "-- the issue was not about affordable housing --" ["Postmarks," Jan. 21]. Mr. Barnes refuses to acknowledge what to me is an obvious connection between neighborhood associations blocking new housing development in the inner city and the total supply of housing available. The political power of the neighborhood association has blocked apartment development in the inner city neighborhoods for over 10 years and this action has contributed not only to the housing shortage but also to traffic and environmental problems as people are forced to move farther and farther out in search of affordable housing. The compact city idea is the wise one; but it can't be implemented as long as neighborhood associations oppose most apartment development efforts.
Mr. Barnes claims it's all about appearance -- "the style and character" -- in other words architectural aesthetics and compatibility; but to the typical neighborhood association mindset no three-story apartment house will ever look beautiful even if it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright! Did Mr. Barnes ever think about the inner space of those Speedway duplexes looking very beautiful to the Austinite searching for some place to call home in a close-in neighborhood? Architecture is not just about exteriors and should not be judged only on the basis of exteriors!
Architectural compatibility tests would simply be another weapon used by the neighborhood associations to freeze existing low density single-family land uses in the inner city.
I hope that this speed bump/stop sign mentality does not win out in Austin; because if it does, housing costs will continue to escalate upward and we will have no chance to build our way out of the current shortage.
Theatre of Shame
Dear Austin Chronicle,
I'd like to thank Ada Calhoun for the moral judgment she handed down in her review of the State Theater's production of Dark of the Moon ["Exhibitionism," Jan. 21]. You can imagine my shame as I read her condemnation of my participation in this project. Unfortunately, my contract with the State Theater is legally binding, so I must slog through the remainder of the production clinging to the last few shreds of my dignity. How could I have fallen so low? What perverse desire drove me to participate in a venture that employs some of Austin's finest actors, musicians, designers, and technicians? Why did I lower my standards to accept a role in a classic American drama? My only consolation is knowing that I can now rely on Ms. Calhoun's self-righteous indignation to sound the alarm when I stray from the cutting edge of Austin theater.
Shift Work Paradigm
(Re: Amy Babich, "Half+Half=Full" [Jan. 21]) Thank you, Amy, for your astute assessment of employment versus personal liberty. One should be able to work when one damned well pleases, if one has a marketable skill or profession, and the employers are screwing themselves out of a lot of highly qualified intellectual resource by not accommodating this growing population of good folk who live their lives in a higher state of consciousness that most often does not include the 9-5 robotics of filling the streets with even more fuming transports. (Making it suicidal for all of us fools on bicycles, wheelchairs, skateboards, even -- forgive us, for we know not what we do -- and thanks, Amy, for not mentioning the B-word even once in your great little letter. Does the Chronicle pay you?)
It begins to sound as if Ms. Babich is as qualified for City Council as some of the stooges regularly elected in Austin. Obviously, a democracy should include all of the citizens, and if the business community should ever democratize, it would find itself with an improved work force, its employees would be higher-caliber people, and their profits would increase, due to a healthier society. Theft losses would be reduced, because people with higher consciousness do not steal time or material.
Flex-time is increasing, however, and is a tiny part of solving our environmental crime of all driving at the same times each day. How fucking stupid can we get? Perhaps Shrub-Dub Boy George was right: "There should be some limits on freedom." Perhaps the freedom to hire only full-time prostitutes should be limited. (The "world's oldest profession" includes the entire working class, we must remember.)
If our society is to survive the next decade without economic and social chaos, a new paradigm must emerge. It will invent itself, in the higher-energy psychic reality that is occuring. Those who have ears, will hear. It is the exact opposite of the WTO New World Order the globalists seek to impose, fired by the force of human spirituality. Or, we will either perish as a species, or return to a stone-age, or Road Warrior world. The 7-Eleven will be closed. The ATM boxes might survive us.
Thanks again, Amy. You have my support for City Council, and I want to talk to you about a Cannondale 18-speed.
Sincerely, peace, love, and part-time,
Pace Is Everything
In your "Naked City" column you say that, in debating raising the minimum wage the City Council faces a difficult choice: leave wages low and let the underclass grow, or raise wages and risk slowing down the economy. This choice doesn't sound so difficult. What are the risks in slowing down the economy?
Slowing down the economy would result in slower population growth, slower road building, slower pollution of air and water. This really doesn't seem like a problem. Economic booms do at least as much harm as good. A slowdown would be a very good thing.
On the other hand, the risks associated with a growing class of people who can't even afford to rent an apartment are very real.
The difficulty of the choice seems imaginary. Only an economist who makes $50,000 per year or more could have any trouble making a decision. If minimum wage is too low to live on, it needs to be raised. And anything that slows down an orgy of building and population growth will help preserve everything we love in Austin.
Cap Metro is in a dither because it discovered that one of its buses carries an ad for rsub.com, which in turn has a link to the erotica site nerve.com. How is that any different from a Cap Metro bus bearing an ad for the Statesman, which runs ads for topless bars and other sexually oriented businesses? Sounds like a silly double standard to me. Somebody at Cap Metro has a technophobic knee which jerks to the tune of "Internet bad, "family newspaper' good."