A point-counterpoint on Long Park development; Austin Music Network's bad move; and a call for a car-free council member.
Leave Long Park Alone
The article "Little Hotel on the Prairie" [March 24] contains misinformation about Walter E. Long Park. The statement "visited by few and loved by fewer" is in error. Attendance at the park is down. This may have something to do with the fact that the septic system for the restrooms has been broken for years, and has never been repaired. Maybe it's because the boat fee was raised to $8 last October, supposedly to fund park improvements. There have been no improvements. The parks department has reported to the city that raising the entrance fee has reduced park attendance. Could the city want the attendance to be down?
The statement that the land has been "fenced off for 30 years" is also misleading, and the statement by Willie Lewis that "nobody's used it for 31 years" is simply false. Both these statements imply that the property is inaccessible, which is not true. I have been enjoying myself out there for years merely by canoeing to wherever I wanted to and walking to wherever I felt like going, which is perfectly legal. The property is a healthy ecosystem, and should be saved and enjoyed for that reason alone.
If I don't have the time to canoe, I will frequently drive the perimeter of the lake to look for wildlife. In winter I see large flocks of many kinds of birds. This wildlife attracts predators: falcons, hawks, owls, and osprey. This park is no wasteland, unless humans are the only living thing in Austin that matters. In the future, I predict that wild places will be in much higher demand than golf courses in the Austin area.
A private golf course on the shores of Lake Long is a bad idea because the water source for Lake Long is the Colorado River. Virtually all the water is pumped to the lake to provide cooling for the Decker power plant. In summer, the pumps run constantly. The city has promised to provide water for 350+ acres of golf course grass in this proposal. We will pay for the new pumps and their increased energy consumption. The chemical runoff that these golf courses will slowly dribble into the lake will not be flushed out, as it would be in a more natural hydrological situation, unless we pay for that, also. Goodbye, fish!
Even if one ignores the above, the creation of a luxurious, expensive, and therefore exclusive private development on public park land lacks a sense of fairness. The proposed facility will be used for recreation by the small percentage of the population that can afford the luxury. I have this question for the Austin City Council: If I offered the city of Austin $2 million a year for the same lease, with the one additional stipulation that all visitors to the facility must show an annual income of less than $40,000, would you approve such an exclusive use of the people's park land? Think about it. I have thought a lot about it, and I strongly oppose this city "welfare" for the wealthy developers. They seem to be doing fine without it.
Dr. Craig Nazor
Develop Long Park
Parkland and open space are of great value to the community, but it's misguided to jump the gun and reject the development of Lake Walter E. Long (Decker Lake). On a recent fishing trip to the lake, I was shocked to see how underutilized the facility is. Sure, you can enter through an open gate, but aside from a few picnic tables, there is little else to attract or entertain people. The overwhelming majority of land is densely packed scrub brush, completely inaccessible to those on foot. The surrounding chain fence topped with barbed wire puts out a "state hospital" vibe more than anything.
Face it, sooner or later the city needs to "walk the walk" when it comes to desired development zones. If there was ever a place crying out for development -- this is it. The surrounding area is economically depressed, sparsely populated and consists mainly of abandoned farmland. Well-planned, quality development near the lake would no doubt benefit the entire region. Perhaps it would inspire more folks to crawl out of their caves and see that Austin doesn't stop at I-35?
If Austin is really serious about limiting suburban sprawl and protecting the aquifer, the only choice is to look to the east. There is real opportunity for the city to use its planning and development controls to encourage quality growth that has the best chance of balancing economic, environmental, and social interests. Well-balanced lake development could be the spark to get that ball rolling. We can only hope knee-jerk reactions don't kill the plan before it ever gets off the ground.
Help the Teachers!
I am an English teacher at Bowie High School entering my second year of teaching. I'm writing to you concerning Dr. Forgione's proposed solution to AISD's budget problems. Most of my students like assignments that require creativity and analysis. We all have more fun learning when our imagination is stimulated. These assignments require more time to grade, but I think my students are worth it. I scramble to get 145 essays graded before the next batch comes in. My more experienced colleagues are in the same boat. They are constantly changing their lesson plans to meet the needs of their students, and finding new ways to challenge and excite learners. If Dr. Forgione requires us to teach an extra class, and give up one of our planning and preparation periods, educators like myself will be forced to rely on worksheets and Scantron tests. If I spend five minutes (usually takes much longer) on each essay, grading 170 essays will take me 14.16 hours. Then I have to enter them into the computer. When can I do this? During my one-hour planning period for two weeks straight? What about the parent phone calls I have to make? What about the neat lesson I'm planning for Lord of the Flies? What about helping Lila with the project she missed while she was sick? What about all of the other classwork that they have done in the meantime that is stacking up on my desk? What about Key club?
Teaching has engaged my imagination and my heart. It is soulful, fulfilling, and important work. I don't want to give it up, but I won't be able to provide the kind of education I think my students deserve if Forgione's plan is implemented. I will have to resort to worksheets that only require regurgitation or memorization to complete. Challenging, interesting writing assignments or projects that require a lot time to grade will simply be impossible. Austinites, especially parents, need to consider whether or not this is the kind of change that will help young people. How will they compete in a job market that requires good communication skills, the ability to create instead of mimic, and cultural literacy? Are we prepared to sacrifice the quality of education in Austin? Are we prepared to push those who feel that the teachers and students deserve more out of the teaching profession?
Production Woes at AMN
I want to let you 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 sub-standard quality of programming that AMN has been broadcasting since the move to Threadgill's North. On the technical end, there is the random video source bleed-through, poor lighting, interference in the audio, thanks to the wonderful neon lights at Threadgill's. Lack of funding 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 and wrinkled tapes, watered-down shows, and veejays and producers leaving AMN. Within two weeks, most of the production crew will also be gone. There was also the cancellation of the Morning Show, the abrupt firing of all the Rock.Alt veejays, and most of upper management, like Don Harvey, Sheila Cosper, and Jim Ellinger. The general feeling among most AMN employees is discontent. Ever since the move, AMN has been in disarray and the desire to move on to better places seems to be the discussion among us employees.
Moving to Threadgill's was a mistake. Broadcasting in a restaurant with people is just a stupid idea. Every day there seems to be a complaint from the customers about the volume or content of the music. This is especially true when we play the Latin show, No Borders, or the "hip-hop, electronica" show, Fly. Most people 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?
Unfortunately, I still work at AMN, loitering behind a restaurant, but I am not proud of it, and I apologize, Austin.
Expand the Horizon
Okay, here we go ...
For many thousands of years the world around us has grown and changed. We can't stop it; it just does. Now I am just as sad as anyone when I realize that Austin isn't the same town it was 10 years ago. But the truth is that this area of Texas has become a mecca for growth and expansion, and there's not much we can do about it except try and find ways to cope. As long as people keep breeding and moving the world is going to get more crowded. What's so hard to understand? I'm sure people have fought growth in the past when it comes to technology and expansion, but did it work? No. Change happens.
Now, I'm all for pursuing something you believe in but you've got to be realistic. Amy Babich, quit with the damn letters, already. Move to some smaller town or adapt. I'm a musician and haul large amounts of heavy equipment around every day so Austin can keep its "Live Music Capital of the World" title (which is a joke in itself). The thought of making downtown a "car-free" zone is nuts. Maybe Ms. Babich will help me carry my Hammond organ on her back for six blocks for me. Yeah, right. Fight for what you believe in but don't assume it's right for everyone else. And besides: Change happens.
Now people are in a rage about the proposed 130 route east of Austin. What are you people talking about? You want Austin to be less congested so it doesn't "become another Houston" and you think less highways will help? What kind of stupid logic is that? I would think everyone would want to steer more of that nasty traffic off of murderous I-35 and away from the beautiful city we're trying desperately to preserve. I hate road construction as much as anyone else, but it seems like a better idea than remaining in a congested mess and blindly hoping maybe people will just stop moving here. And why?
Because change happens. Move on.
Bryan T. Shaw
Bikes, Feet, & Buses
In a letter published March 31, Caryl Weiss demands to know how a car-free council member would deal with a schedule involving meetings in Oak Hill at 9am, downtown at 10, the Arboretum at 12, and Bergstrom Airport at 2pm.
If I am elected to City Council, I will continue my present policy of traveling on foot, by bicycle, and by public transportation. If I am faced with the sequence of appointments described above by Weiss, I will ask that some meetings be rescheduled. Meeting schedules can be changed; the damage done to our air and water by too many cars cannot.
We need to recognize that our relationship to the world we live in, the world of air, water, insects, birds, and snakes, is more important than an artificial schedule that can be changed. Our schedules should revolve around our treatment of our environment, not the other way around.
Austin is full of so-called environmentalists whose busy schedules require them to drive cars everywhere. Such people are vaguely aware that they're damaging the natural environment, but don't like to think about it. So they go on driving to environmental meetings, instead of demanding that these meetings be easily reachable by public transit. They go on regarding parking space for cars as more important than sidewalks, bikeways, trams, and buses. And they consistently rank motorist convenience above pedestrian safety in importance.
This is why I think that there should be at least one car-free person on Austin City Council. I regard my car-free status as a qualification for office, not a disadvantage.
When Greenhill Elementary School Went Bankrupt.
The principals told the kids the school, so Greenhill Elementary School went bankrupt. Maybe newspapers do not say that, no way. But some Congressman's signature, so we heard, on some U.S. president's signed executive order.
So long ago, and old man Brad Redford just did not go over draining a swamp, misappropriations of designated funds, so the old folks said, "not letting their," oh, "not letting their right hand know," it was said, "what the left hand was doing."
The principal mostly maybe hoped on boards, possibly dreamed the volunteer unpaid boards, perhaps could be dropped if he said, often enough, "Carthage had boards," especially after the Christians rebuilt Carthage.
Boards, of course, could leave the water alone. Wetland bogs can be left undrained, be fine. Boards, of course, could make do with old buildings, rather than go bankrupt on unneeded building programs, which has little or nothing to do with academics.
Long ago in the Thirties, when Greenhill Elementary happened to be a school district declared bankrupt so back then when a job in hand was just fine, the teachers' salaries were discounted 30% or a pay-cut of a voluntary type the law reads, 18 teachers cashed paychecks discounted 30%.
So rather than a financial crash at Greenhill, it was a controlled contradiction of expansion that was perhaps imaginary. Leaving aside nomads like building contractors or on swamps, those who drain the bogs and wetlands.
Mrs. Alice Lavene Kennedy Spooner