Transportation and trash are heavy on the minds of readers this week.
SOS Action Not Alliance
I am writing to thank the Chronicle for its coverage of the recent events regarding the Terrace PUD, but also to correct an important error in last week's "Council Watch" item on that issue [Jan. 28]. In her story, Ms. Jenny Staff Johnson quoted a flyer distributed by SOS Action and referred to SOS Action as the SOS "Alliance's political action committee." This misled your readers in two important ways.
First, it creates the impression that SOS Action is an arm of the Save Our Springs Alliance. It is not. The two entities are entirely separate. The SOS Alliance is a non-profit corporation which engages in advocacy and educational activities to protect Barton Springs. SOS Action (formerly known as the SOS PAC) is a general purpose political action committee with a separate board of directors that engages in political activities across a wider range of issues. The SOS Alliance has no control over or even a formal relationship with SOS Action.
More importantly, the statement erroneously led your readers to believe that the SOS Alliance endorses or supports the SOS Action quote and the flyer they distributed. While we certainly oppose development on Barton Creek which does not comply with the SOS ordinance, such as the Terrace, and the traffic it will add to MoPac, the Alliance did not endorse the flyer or any statements therein. In fact, we declined to distribute the flyer or to e-mail it to our members.
Having corrected those misimpressions, the Alliance hopes you will continue to cover the city's implementation of the Prop 2 bond program. It appears that vigilance is necessary to ensure that the ratepayers' money goes toward simply preserving land and water quality, without unnecessarily assisting proposed developments along the Barton Creek Greenbelt.
Grant D. Godfrey
Save Our Springs Alliance
The article regarding SH 130 ["Hitting the Pavement," Jan. 21] contains this quote from a Williamson County commissioner: "For an interstate highway like I-35 to get as congested and counterproductive as it has become is an embarrassment for this region."
While I certainly agree with this statement, I cannot get my mind around the fact that this commissioner is in favor of yet another highway. If it is not already obvious -- from the past 50 years of our futile road-building binge -- that a new road creates more traffic problems than it solves, one only has to look elsewhere in the same article for more proof.
In it, there is a rather lame argument that all the new house rooftops in south Round Rock are testament to the fact that new development will happen anyway, and is not caused by highways. This falls flat in light of the fact that all those folks stuck in traffic in south Round Rock are driving on something. That "something" being new roads, designed to support car-centric developments.
I realize that many people will continue to move to Round Rock and other outlying smaller towns in order to afford a house. So how about more transit-friendly mixed-use development as an alternative choice in Austin and our neighboring towns? This would enable a mass-transit system that is a regional, efficient solution to high-$$ highways, gridlock, and air pollution.
As it stands now, any future calls for a regional transit approach will be met with the valid argument that transit isn't cost-effective in low-density areas. Point taken. But please do not go forward with exclusively low-density, segregated-use development, feigning ignorance of the fact that it will render regional mass transit an impotent alternative to our traffic jams and polluted air.
The Other Side of Justice
"Executing Justice" ["Naked City," Jan. 21], by Erica C. Barnett, is the same old rights-with-no-responsibilities story that often accompanies the anti-execution advocates.
She conveniently omits the fact that drug abuse on the part of Larry Robison was the cause of his mental problems. She heaps pity on the Robison family for "all they are going through." How about some concern for the five murdered individuals and their families? Interestingly, I would bet that had he been committed for mental problems, someone would be suing on his behalf as detention without cause. Whatever the case, at least we don't have to worry any more about his preying on society.
Tune Out Tomorrow
While I generally find "This Modern World" to be a delightful strip, I must point out that the heads of all Americans should be exploding. The Stars and Stripes has become a symbol throughout the world of treachery, assassination, torture, and despotism. Where have we not perpetrated these crimes against any nation which did not choose to surrender its wealth and sovereignty in the name of "democracy" and cheap gas?
The fatal mistake Mr. Tomorrow makes is falling for the same tired old shell game that was first played on poor (read "economically devastated") Southerners by the KKK. Their propaganda said, "It's all the fault of the black man, burn him!" The pea is now under a different shell, to be sure, but the purpose is the same: direct the attention of the American public away from what is really happening.
The Republican Party, formerly nicknamed The Party of Lincoln, are the people who won that war, and ever since then they have been busily undermining the Constitution and striving mightily to make wage-slaves of everyone they can get their wretched hands on.
During George Bush Sr.'s tenure as head of the CIA, and, later as the "Vice" President (was Ronnie ever really President?), he was heavily involved with the Iran-Contra affair which involved the deaths of tens of thousands of Nicaraguans and Guatemalans as well as the importation of hundreds of tons of cocaine to the U.S., and he was lurking around while the U.S. Treasury paid billions of dollars to bail out the Savings and Loan Associations (ever hear of Silverado S&L? Jeb Bush got his share).
Wake Up America! Propagating racial tension is the oldest trick in their book. If we do not unite against these despots they will crush us, regardless of our color, and we will blame each other while they quietly amass all the wealth of the planet.
Bergstrom Bus Woes
Why has Austin's City Council moved its meeting place from the central business district to the inaccessible new airport? It seems as if the Council wishes to discourage the public (especially the car-free public) from participating in local government.
The last bus from Bergstrom leaves at 9:30pm. At the Council's other new meeting place, the LCRA headquarters, the last bus is at 7:45pm. The Bergstrom site is a long, scary bicycle ride from downtown. Would any of the council members dare to ride a bicycle back to town at night at the end of a meeting? Even people with cars are not crazy about driving to the new airport.
The new airport should be easily accessible by bus (all day and night) and by nonmotorized transportation users (walkers, bicyclists, wheelchairists). And the city government should meet in a place accessible to the public. The central business district is the most accessible. Why not move the meetings there?
Traffic Culture Jam
While I agree with Prentiss Riddle's criticism of Cap Metro for having a "double standard" when it comes to the affiliations of their advertisers ["Postmarks," Jan. 28], it misses the more fundamental issue that seems to have escaped public debate entirely: the presence of advertising on our public transportation system. When I first noticed the small banner ads appearing on the sides of buses more than a year ago, I wrote a letter to the Chronicle hoping to start such a debate. Since then, Cap Metro has continued to expand its mobile billboard business, and has now progressed to buses actually shrink-wrapped in advertising.
I understand that advertising dollars may help to improve the frequency and reliability of bus service for Cap Metro riders, and I appreciate the effort -- but surely there must be another way. When are we, as a society, going to stand up and proclaim that we have had enough? Isn't our environment sufficiently cluttered with commercialism already? Think about all of the places that advertising has magically appeared over the last few years: gasoline pumps, shopping carts, airline seat-backs, movie theatres, bathroom stalls, stickers on bananas, even our children's schools! Is this the result of market forces? Are consumers dissatisfied with their present daily exposure to advertising and are demanding more? I don't think so.
We should reclaim our public spaces, and resist the temptation of taking this "easy money" in exchange for the continued pollution of our mental environment.
Living With Living Wages
Dear Sir or Madam,
I read Ms. Babich's letter and some of your coverage with some puzzlement. Both pose a living wage ordinance as a proposition that would slow growth. The Austin Living Wage Coalition has researched both the federal minimum wage and local minimum wage ordinances. We find that living wage laws spur growth, stabilize employment by reducing turnover, and do not contribute significantly to price increases. This is simply historical fact. Over 30 cities have enacted living wage ordinances without any negative effects.
Naturally, the immediate benefits of a living wage will first be noticed in the area where the employees who receive it live. The gains will soon spread through the whole city. A living wage ordinance is an issue of fairness, compassion, and good business. It is an idea whose time has come. It is, if anything, a pro-growth action that is long overdue.
An Uncentered Society
Re: Amy Babich ["Pace Is Everything," Jan. 28]. Blimey, Amy, one can hardly keep up with you. One week it's flex-time, next week a living wage, keep it up and you might get some of Austin's disenfranchised workers to get off the couch and vote for someone who speaks for them. God knows, next you might even address health care, or affordable housing. The people elected to provide minimum wage standards are also in charge of rent controls and some form of assurance that the work force, paid a living wage, can afford decent housing for the families that support the weight of any economic boom: the workers.
If this sounds Marxist, it is pure coincidence: Karl Marx never worked a day in his life and Freidrich Engles channeled money to him from the industrialists and Ruling Class designers of what has become the New World Order, Novus Ordo Seclorum, as it says on our one-dollar bill. Some people think that means nervous odor, which would be true.
Slowing down growth by raising the minimum wage is not even an issue. Raising the minimum wage would obviously bolster economic growth: it would avail many hardworking people a few more dollars per week to be spent in the growing economy. I mean, the workers aren't just going to hoard the extra quarters they receive -- they will spend them, on stuff like a new pair of shoes for their kids, or a better diet for their family. And actually, Amy, slowing down improvement of roads around Austin ain't gonna sell, no matter how philosophically or environmentally correct it might sound. Our roads suck.
Priorities in a techno-society become blurred by the sheer speed of change. Millionaires are made in an ever-increasing rate, but the gap between the rich and poor widens correspondingly, creating a serious problem in social stability, because poverty breeds crime, breeds domestic dysfunction, breeds health problems, your worst nightmare, alongside a growing upper middle class with little care for the growing underclass. We must address this, or our booming society will fly apart, for the center cannot hold on the potter's wheel if the pot is not centered and balanced in its spin. We must face this.
Thank you again, Amy, for not mentioning bicycles.
Peace, love, and living wages,
Dear Mr. Black,
I appreciate your coverage of the local artists in the article titled "Musical Class of 2000" [Jan. 14] who have landed major label deals, and the accomplishment that that is even in itself. Although a few indie artists were reviewed, the glaring omission of Ginger Mackenzie, who had long list of successes in 1999 was very surprising.
Ginger created a new music business model that empowered her as an independent artist. I want to share some of Ginger's accomplishments of '99 because I think you should know the extent of what was overlooked:
As an independent artist I look to the Chronicle as a source of informative reporting of the arts and the business of the arts in Austin, which is inclusive of the technological explosion, and how it is impacting and constantly expanding all of our resources. Writing only about accomplishments associated with the major label deals propagates the myth that the power of the artists really is in the hands of some unseen force, and it is a million-to-one-shot deal to "get signed" and more importantly, get your project released and promoted once you have made it through the gauntlet.
Isn't it a periodical's duty to report the entire picture of what's happening? Personally, I am inspired by Ginger and think that her story should be shared with as many people as possible, especially in such an energetic community of entrepreneurs.
Loosen the Thong
Dear Austin Chronicle:
Somebody needs to loosen the strap on David Jones' leather thong. His overreaction to Ada Calhoun's review ["Postmarks," Jan. 28] was squeaky at best.
Calhoun lauded Jones as one of Austin's finest actors (and he most certainly is). Calhoun was questioning the powers that be who chose to mount such a dinosaur of a script as Dark of the Moon. My read of her writing was that the producers chose a play that couldn't challenge the intellect or aesthetics of most high-schoolers, yet hedged their abominable crapshoot with some really great talent.
Folks, sometimes the reviewer nails it right on the head. It's unfortunate David's thumb was in the way. I find it interesting that those who were criticized most didn't respond to Calhoun's review. In this instance, I choose to stand by the reviewer. David Jones is one of Austin's finest actors, but Dark of the Moon shouldn't be produced past junior high.
Confederacy of Dunces
There's been considerable discussion lately about Texas' numerous public memorials to the Confederacy and how George W. Bush might respond to this issue.
One controversy involves the refurbished Texas Supreme Court Building, which has a prominent plaque with a very visible Confederate flag in raised bronze. There's also another very conspicuous plaque there, with the Seal of the Confederacy, "Dedicated to Texans Who Served the Confederacy."
Why do these plaques occupy such prominence in the Supreme Court Building, and why were they recently placed there when the building was refurbished? Wouldn't it be more appropriate for the walls to exhibit something about equal justice -- perhaps the 1972 Texas Equal Rights Amendment that "Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed, or national origin"? Most high court buildings in the nation proclaim equality, but not Texas. Rather, ours recalls a period of slavery. Nor is there any memorial in the Supreme Court Building honoring Texans who fought to abolish slavery, or who were its victims.
Perhaps Governor Bush and the Texas Supreme Court should attend to this issue. And, while they're at it, they ought to consider why all but one of the 70 elegant portraits of jurists hung on the court halls as part of the renovation are white men. Symbols are important in our justice system, and those in the Supreme Court Building are contrary to Texas' rich and diverse history. The Confederate seal and flag need to come down, and the portraits need to be changed out so they reflect all Texans.
James C. Harrington
Director, Texas Civil Rights Project
This past weekend my son and I decided to hike over to Barton Springs and rent a canoe. We were both very excited about this, and were looking forward to getting a little closer to nature in the heart of our beautiful city. I was very sad to see all the trash lined up against the Town Lake shoreline. There were cups, bottles, paper, and plastic to-go containers from many of our fast-food eateries. My heart sank, as it took me back to a day in June 1996, when we had our first "ozone alert day."
No matter where your neighborhood is, or to which social class you belong, we all share the same green parks and blue waters of this city. This is everyone's responsibility, and the results will affect us all and our children and their children. I want my son to enjoy canoeing and the many other activities on Town Lake with his children. Remember, we also share this with the wildlife that have made Austin their home long before most of us were here. I am begging you people, please, walk to a trash can and discard your waste properly!
This weekend I shall return to Town Lake on my rented canoe. But this time instead of bringing a picnic basket, I'm going to bring a rake, shovel, gloves, and numerous trash bags. Wake up, people!
P.S. Don't Mess With Texas!