A plethora of environmental concerns are argued in this week's letters to the editor.
Fri., March 31, 2000
It's a Dead End
Who's doing the checking on the facts in the Circle C stories? Have they even driven out into that area to see what's going on? Do they even know what the area looks like?
Over the past few months it's become increasingly clear that the maps in almost every Circle C story, both in the Chronicle and the Austin RealEstateMan, are grossly inaccurate. Take the map in your "Proposed Bradley Agreement" story ["There's Something About Mary," March 10] on your Web site and in your paper version. It shows Escarpment Blvd. as going north out of Circle C enclave beyond Slaughter Lane, while in fact it dead ends at Slaughter. It always has, with no indication of any planned extension despite the many years of the perpetuation of this map myth.
Is this just a nitpicking point to claim "gotcha!" on the story? Not if you drive in that area on a regular basis. Coming from Austin there are only two points in and out of that development the city has put so much money into, from FM 1826 and from MoPac. A third, connecting it to William Cannon, could greatly alleviate the traffic situation there, especially on school mornings when there is a tremendous amount of teen-age traffic coming in from the west to the vastly bloated and car-dependent Bowie High School. And this situation will only get worse as developments at 1826 and Hwy. 290 further choke the flow from that intersection.
The only people who benefit substantially from the absence of this roadway are those living in Circle C, who continue to live in a development free of the increased cross-traffic it would bring. Others must continue to take a circuitous route to take advantage of, say, Slaughter Creek Metropolitan Park.
I hope that this matter will be corrected in further issues of your paper, which I do greatly admire, despite this (and other) shortcomings, as the only real alternative to the poor excuse for a daily newspaper we are burdened with in this wonderful city.
Thanks in advance for looking into this matter; I know your reporters will be able to get to the heart of this matter and be able to avoid any further misrepresentations of the truth regarding this highly controversial area of town.
As a resident of Austin for 25 years, I can honestly say what little hope and faith I had in our elected officials is now gone. What's the point of electing these people to public office, only to watch them vote in fear of the Legislature?
I watched with great interest Thursday night's council meeting on the Bradley Agreement, and while members such as Slusher and Spelman made some valid points, in the end they might as well have said "blah blah, blah blah blah ..." With little resistance, the City Council once again bends over and grabs their ankles while Bradley and the Legislature unzips and "goes to town."
I believe that clean water is the very heart and soul of this planet. Once the aquifer and Barton Springs are polluted, it's too late to say "I told you so!" and if these precious waters do indeed have a soul, I would tell it this: "I'm sorry. I'm truly sorry ..."
Dear Chronicle readers,
I have comments regarding the "Little Hotel on the Prairie" story in the March 24 issue.
1. I myself do know how to get to Lake Walter E Long. I find that it is not fenced off -- all you have to do to get in is go in, right through, amazingly enough, the entrance, and you can make your way to anywhere in the park.
2. It is not an underutilized park -- having a pretty little low-horsepower fishing lake and lots of amusing ducks and other birds, not to mention a tiny bit of unchewed genuine prarie, what else does it need? A few elitists want it to have the area's 25th golf course. A gentleman pointed out in the Chronicle a few weeks ago that the aquifer certainly doesn't need that additional frivolous drain ["Postmarks," March 10].
3. The park is not vacant land fenced off, it's a park!
4. In case no one has noticed, we already have major employers in this area. What we're short on is water.
5. If we don't need our very-low-end housing in this area that heretofore nobody else has wanted, where will we have it? The economic low end (anyone not at the top, these days) is getting larger by the day. The low end cannot, for instance, afford $100,000+ houses, but perform a huge amount of the labor that makes this city go 'round and feeds such people as Beard and Hailey.
6. It's just incorrect to assert that nobody has used the park for the last 31 years.
7. Obviously, I, too, want a new playground at Lake Long, preferably one with membership dues equal to my income.
8. So congratulations to Beverly Griffith, whose voice appears to be the only sane one involved.
Bike Bridge Essential
On Monday, March 27, the Bicycle Advocacy Council (formerly the Bicycle Advisory Council) organized a nonviolent demonstration on the Lamar Street Bridge. The reason for the demonstration was to help the City Council and the citizens of Austin understand that the current plans for a scaled-back bike/ped bridge will not get commuter cyclists off the current Lamar Bridge. After spending $4 or 5 million, the current bridge will still be the only access across the river at Lamar for commuters, motorized and nonmotorized. We were not trying to anger, harass, or intimidate automobile drivers, although we know that many were probably angry and frustrated by our presence on the bridge. Our demonstration was a way to dramatize the fact that we are part of traffic on the current bridge every day, and will continue to be part of traffic on the current bridge every day after the scaled-back version of the bike/ped bridge is built, not as demonstrators, but as commuters going to and from our work, our jobs, our friends. We were not trying to embarrass the current City Council. This has been a good City Council for the bicycling community, and we appreciate what they have done. There is one thing left to do, however: Build the Lamar Bike/Ped Bridge as it was originally designed. Find the $2 million. Who knows whether future City Councils will be as friendly. Finally, we wish to thank the Yellow Bike Project for their strong support and the Austin Police Department for their friendly approach and quiet presence.
James E. Burnside
The Bicycle Advocacy Council
I attended the Mopac Expansion public forum last night at Camp Mabry. Along with a lot of other neighborhood folks, I walked along the table displays showing the proposed addition of lanes and probable "displacement" of neighborhood homes needed for the "right of way." I asked the representatives questions like "What expansion projects are you using as examples that this project will actually improve congestion on MoPac?" The best examples they could give were Houston and Los Angeles. They said this was a "cutting edge" design. Another neighbor asked about noise abatement. The representative said that there was no requirement to do noise abatement until studies were done to prove a need after the project was built. Doesn't matter the sound level already exceeds allowable levels because legally, they don't have to retrofit existing roadways.
I left my statement with the court reporter. I said that I think the state and the city both should be responsible to quantify this "expansion" with proof that the result is indeed relief of traffic congestion. I asked if they were aware of the 15-year study performed by the Texas Transportation Institute of 70 metropolitan cities (Austin included) that clearly demonstrates that overall, adding capacity to roadways does not relieve congestion. I wondered if they were aware that added capacity in fact often causes a phenomenon the TTI calls "induced traffic," making the congestion problem even more profound. I asked if they could show me a more comprehensive study than this 15-year (recent) study that included towns like Phoenix, Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, and Austin?
We promote ourselves as some sort of high-tech mecca, yet we don't even have companies actively encouraging telecommuting. Why not offer a tax incentives to companies who actively promote telecommuting? Why not offer a tax incentive to people for using Park-n-Ride? There are options. The big high-tech companies we are so "proud" of here in Austin, the ones we are catering to with this "required growth," are some of the area's biggest polluters. See the Web site http://www.scorecard.org or the http://www.epa.gov site for more details on who is polluting Austin.
I think we should call this expansion project the MoPEP, the Mopac Pollution Expansion Project. I find it disappointing that so many Texans are more concerned about making money than their long-term health and well-being.
Sidewalks, not Highways
As the air in Austin becomes too dirty even to satisfy the EPA, the mayor is planning to spend $75 million, mostly on roads for cars. Transportation spending hereabouts is always for big things, such as highways and one light rail line. Small things, such as sidewalks, bikeways, and pedestrian bridges, are always woefully underfunded. Although a man was recently killed by a car on the sidewalk of Lamar Bridge, the Lamar Pedestrian Bridge project is now at a standstill.
Suppose that we were going to spend $75 million on sidewalks, bikeways, and pedestrian bridges, just as an experiment. This money would go much further if spent on pedestrian rather than car facilities. We could have sidewalks in neighborhoods and on big roads, such as 45th Street, Burnet Road, Lamar Boulevard. We could have safe bikeways to Oak Hill and other suburbs. We could finish the Town Lake hike-and-bike trail with a boardwalk near I-35 on the south side. This would make the trail a transportation corridor for UT students who live in the apartments where the trail disintegrates. There are many, many such things that need doing. If we did a lot of them at once, Austin would become a city where people are comfortable walking or bicycling distances of a few miles. This could change the transportation pattern here, and clear the air.
Instead, as usual, we'll spend most of our money on highways, with a much smaller amount for pedestrian and bicycle projects. (And the money for these projects may well be diverted to road construction.) We may build one big light rail line, but we won't fund sidewalk infrastructure to make it work. We won't try electric trams, lighter and cheaper than light rail. We will only fund very large projects. Then our leaders will wonder out loud why more people don't get out of their cars.
Let's do something different for a change. Sidewalks, not highways. It might make a difference.
Babich out of Bounds
Dear Amy Babich,
I'm going to ask you once again to stop your bikebabble. It's obvious to everyone that you're using the Chronicle for free advertising for your bicycle shop. How cheap.
You say that you want to be on City Council. Address this: How do you plan to fulfill your public appearance obligations? You may have to be at a meeting in Oak Hill at 9am, downtown at 10am, at a luncheon at the Arboretum at noon, and out at the airport at 2pm. How do you propose to do this on a bicycle? How do you propose to look like a responsible adult at these meetings?
Amy, please wake up, get real, and stop acting as if you've been dropped on your head one time too many without your helmet.
In all sincerity,
Odd Fan Out
I am not a musician. I am a fan; and where rock & roll is concerned, a band called Spoon is one of my favorites. Last Saturday night was my birthday and when friends asked me what I wanted to do, I said I wanted to see Spoon at SXSW. We arrived a couple of hours early and had no problem paying the cover, getting stamped, and getting into the club (Gallery Lombardi Lounge). We stepped out into the parking lot at various times to smoke and see the other bands playing there. We used our stamped hand to gain readmittance each time, like everybody else. At one point we were outside, Spoon was due on in about twenty minutes, and I noticed the club filling up. I suggested we go on in, but when we got to the door we were stopped. The club was at capacity and there was a "one out, one in" policy in effect. After about 10 minutes of this there appeared to be a discussion amongst door people, club owners, security, and SXSW officials. Then someone asked all badge holders and wristbanders to come to the front. There was a rush of musicians, label heads, and their concomitant following of groupies and sycophants. I explained to the bouncer that we had paid, been stamped, walked freely in and out all night, and had just stepped out to smoke. He politely told me he was sorry, but these people now had priority. I was stunned. I had come there for one reason, to see Spoon. Sure I can see them anytime, but I wanted to feel proud as I watched this fine band give their all for this special audience. I thought about throwing a fit, but reminded myself that this is really a trade show for people in the music industry. I, as a fan, didn't really belong. Upon hearing my story, a sheepish Paul Minor seemed bothered by his conscience, but unable to do anything about it. I shook my head and went to Amy's Ice Cream where some kindly teenagers fed me and listened emphatically to my sob story. I woke up this morning and was still bothered by something until I realized what it was. It was the same thing that seemed to bother Paul. You see, none of this would exist without the fans. None of it. True, I am just one fan in a sea of many, but anyone who has spent any quality time on this earth and knows anything about true success will tell you they sooner or later came to the realization that the one is the one that matters the most.
I didn't get what I wanted. Big deal, I'll live. But I hope that everyone directly involved or benefitting from SXSW in any way will at some point during this time stop, get real quiet, and remind yourself how you really came to be here.
Support Music, Kids, Books
A big "Thank You" to Jeff Smith and Debbie Rombach @ the Hole in the Wall for hosting a benefit for the Half Pint Library of Brackenridge Children's hospital on Monday night, March 20.
Also a big "thanks" to the bands who donated their time and talent: Larry Seaman Quartet, Amberjack Rice, the American People, David Waddell Band, T. Tex Edwards, Zero Skills Inc., Rich Minus, and Texacala Jones. We appreciate everyone coming out to support the project, volunteering to work or play and the Dave Waddell Band for giving us their $72 tip jar.
Despite overwhelming post-SXSW exhaustion, everyone had a good time while raising money for books for kids in the hospital. So, everybody get out and support live local music and the clubs that book them!
Thanks to all,
Mo Murray, Half Price Books #7
Beck a Genius
Raoul Hernandez wrote in his recommendation of Hank Williams III (under Friday SXSW Picks, March 17) -- "This is best whispered out of earshot from twentysomethings who believe Beck to be the second coming of Elvis: Hank Williams III, the spitting (and shaved) image of his grandfather, blew the B-boy off the Austin Music Hall stage recently."
Not even close. Hank III is enjoyable (if uninspired and a little obvious). Beck is a genius. I'm looking for a velvet Beck.
Aina Dodge (age 37)
Triple-Bogey for Austin
Any doubts I had that Austin is losing its soul were obliterated by Brian Conners' March 24 rant ["Postmarks"] which painted an insufficient supply of golf courses as an important Austin growth and development issue.
Women in the Kitchen
Virginia Wood's "bee in her bonnet" must bee the same one as mine ["Food-o-File," March 10]. I too read the festival roster every year, hunting for the women chefs in the lineup. With the exception of 1995, it is usually less than a handful. I think that the reason for this is that many of the women chefs, myself included, have opted for alternative chef's jobs rather than the grueling restaurant cuisine kitchen. With some exceptions, most of the women chefs in this town are involved in other forms of food ventures including pastry (Wood is herself a fabulous pastry chef), catering, take-home food, consulting, writing, teaching, corporate chef work, and the packaged-food business.
This was actually a subject of an article in The New York Times about a year and a half ago. It concluded (as I remember), that the top graduates of the culinary schools are the women, but for a variety of reasons women do not end up in the top restaurant positions. Reasons cited included grueling hours, low pay, lack of family time, and lack of support in the traditional male-dominated kitchen.
I feel that the board of the THCWFF could be more attentive to promoting women, but I also think that women can be more attentive to their involvement in the festival. Erika Brown is a good example. She is an active member of the board and she has two of her restaurants represented at the Friday night event.
This year the board has done a great job of bringing in from out of town some very highly respected chefs in French cuisine. I would particularly like to encourage people to attend the Thursday-night dinner with the executive chef and the executive pastry chef from Les Ambassadeurs at the Hotel Crillon. This is a wonderful hotel in Paris, with outstanding cuisine. As a 1999 graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, in Paris, I had an opportunity to quiz many different Paris cuisine authorities about which restaurants they would rate as the best in Paris. Consistently, two restaurants were on everyone's list, Taillevent and Les Ambassadeurs. Although $150 is quite steep for a dinner, this would be quite a "deal" in Paris. I encourage you to go, if there are still tickets left.
Quincy Adams Erickson
AMN in Ruins
I want to let you all know about the troubles and hardships that the Austin Music Network and its employees are going [through]. First off, I would like to apologize for the substandard quality of programming that AMN has been broadcasting since the move to Threadgill's North. On the technical end, there is the unfortunate, random video source bleed through, poor lighting, hum bars, and radio-frequency interference in the audio, thanks to the wonderful neon lights at Threadgill's. Lack of funding and mismanagement has left us with old or outdated equipment, without any salvation in sight. On the content end, there is a lack of new material (bands), grainy videos on SP tape, old wrinkled tapes, canceled or watered-down shows, and veejays and producers are dropping like flies. Let's not forget the abrupt firing of all the Rock.Alt veejays, the Morning Show and some upper management, like Don Harvey, Sheila Cosper, and Jim Ellinger. The general feeling among most AMN employees is discontent with putting out a poor product. Ever since the move, AMN has been in disarray, and the desire to move on to better things and places seems to be a main topic of discussion among us employees.
Moving to Threadgill's seems to be a mistake (I am being kind). Broadcasting in a restaurant with people dining, some of whom do not even care about what we are doing, is just a stupid idea. It was pitched and spun as a novel idea, teaming up with Threadgill's and its long music history, but in reality, it isn't really working. Every day there is a complaint from the customers about the volume or content of the music. This is especially true when we play the "rock en Español" show, No Borders, or the hip-hop/electronica show, Fly. Most people eating cornbread and chicken fried steak don't go to Threadgill's to watch AMN; they go there to eat! Yet, we are told that we are the entertainment for the customers, but it seems to me that we are just trying to shove AMN down their throats. Most patrons just ignore the veejays. So why are we there? To save money, or to become the Threadgill's Music Network?
Now that SXSW is just around the corner [Ed. note: this letter was dated March 10], AMN is struggling to fill the 30-band, three-day marathon at Threadgill's. Last year, AMN had around 30 bands in its former downtown studio for SXSW, but the service was free, and definitely of a superior quality. I doubt that many bands will want to play at Threadgill's, especially since AMN looks more like access and less like cable. Is it possible to have a quality band shoot while people are busy eating and talking? We'll see.
Unfortunately, at the moment, I still work at AMN, loitering behind a restaurant, but I am not proud of it, and I apologize, Austin.
Audio Engineer, AMN
The Real Bush?
Dear Editor and Readers,
There are two images or photographs that have recently been appearing in newspapers of Bush vs. Gore. First, there are photographs of Gore leaning over sideways and listening to children and his secretary of labor. I can respect a president who listens.
Then there is a photograph of Bush that recently appeared in the Austin American-Statesman of Secret Service surrounding him and him pushing back, even, it appears, the press. That seems to be real Bush, the one common working people, UT students, and even environmentalists run into at the Capitol.
I can find no evidence in his six years in office of him responding to anyone in need. I do recall the photograph of some individuals in the Austin American-Statesman trying to stop him from having radioactive wastes dropped into Texas because they feared it would wander into the water and him having the person arrested. (I had no involvement with that group.) I really believe such arrests are in total violation of federal laws such as the constitutional right to "petition the government for regress of grievances" (First Amendment).
May I remind the DPS that false arrest at times carries with it a $13 million fine according to decisions in the federal court?
Gay Agenda Illegal
Suzy Spencer ["Fanning the Flames," March 24] forgot to mention some very important info in her shameless, degenerate screed promoting Out Youth Austin. The Texas Penal Code 21.06 informs us that homosexuality is a criminal offense in Texas. Now let's look back to Chapter 7, sub-chapter A, regarding complicity and criminal responsibility for conduct of another, 7.02, to wit:
A) A person is criminally responsible for an offense committed by the conduct of another if:
1) acting with the kind of culpability required for the offense, he causes or aids an innocent or non-responsible person to engage in conduct prohibited by the definition of the offense;
2) acting with intent to promote or assist the commission of the offense, he solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid the other person to commit the offense.
In spite of the Chronicle's stop-at-nothing promotion of the homosexual agenda, A.I.S.D and Out Youth Austin are in violation of the Texas Penal Code. If you sick malcontents want to play nit-picking legal hard-ball, then Batter Up! See you in court.
P.S. As a Chronicle reader, I am used to reading tripe that makes no sense, but I can't make heads or tails of what Mrs. Alice Spooner has been trying to say.
No Choice, No Clue
In response to the gay-bashing letter from Kurt Standiford: Kurt, ask yourself this question; When did you choose to be heterosexual? Your sexuality has nothing to do with choice, God, or anything for that matter. Do you think you're any different than gays and lesbians? Think again. To harbor such useless hatred toward gays and lesbians only makes you look like a fool. As far as our "pathetic demands for political correctness" are concerned, last Thursday the Vermont House of Representatives passed a bill that would recognize same-sex "civil unions" in the state, allowing same-sex couples to receive all the legal benefits of married, opposite-sex couples. Legislation such as this is being introduced all over the United States. Seems like the world is moving forward without you, Mr. Standiford. Step into the new century, and get a clue.
Coffee & Shoes
Dear Austin Chronicle,
Wouldn't it just be easier to each week reserve the last portion in your "Postmarks" section as "Trash Jean-Paul Villere Only" rather than "Ooops! Here's Yet Another Letter That Doesn't Quite Get It but We'll Print It Anyway Because It's Pro-Chronicle and It's Pro-Mojo's"? After all, that's what each week is amounting to. Don't get me wrong, I love picking up your paper every week to find yet another letter about me from yet another more than biased "reader." What could be better? Perhaps how quaintly and conveniently one-sided this issue has become? Not that I haven't written responses since. Gosh, it's enough to make a Starbucks employee feel misunderstood, almost unwanted. Sniffle. Sigh. Whatever. It's clear you guys are full of self-love and dedicated to presenting a decidedly one-sided view. How does it feel to propagandize such a censored, corporate perspective? If the shoe fits, my dear Chronicle. If the shoe fits.
I love the Chronicle!!! I love Austin. I plan to move to Austin within the next year. I just wanted to let you guys know that you all do an excellent job with your paper. I travel to Austin at least three times a month and I always pick up a jam-packed issue of the Chronicle. Anyway, I just wanted to let your whole staff know they all do an excellent job.