The Chronicle endorsements (or lack thereof) under fire.
Council Needs Quintanilla
When I read that you chose not to endorse Kirk Watson, I was appalled. He's the best environmental mayor -- by far -- we've had since I moved here in 1990.
Secondly, to say that Rafael Quintanilla has "undeniable" credentials for his work in East Austin, yet endorse a much younger, "greener" candidate, shows me that the environment is more important to the Chronicle than East Austin issues. Not only are your views erroneous, they're a tad racist.
Raul Alvarez seems to be a nice guy. I've never met him, having only read his writings in The Sierran. I must say that they don't make him sound like much of a consensus builder, as Rafael Quintanilla truly is; Rafael has chaired or been the president of most every board he's been on in Austin.
Furthermore, in comparing East Austin service, when Raul was only in first grade, Rafael Quintanilla was already working to better East Austin. Twenty years-plus is no small amount of service to the people who would be represented by Gus Garcia's successor.
Finally, the Chronicle's environmental blinders have done a grave injustice in not endorsing Rafael Quintanilla, the candidate with experience in East Austin. Rafael supports East Austin and SOS, and I don't know if you'll recall, but many in East Austin in 1992 were not keen on SOS because they felt that it was an environmental justice issue -- the preservation of Barton Springs and West Austin at the expense of the Eastside. If we don't want to inflame Austin-bashers at the Legislature, the last thing Austin needs on the City Council in the 2001 session is the environmental justice director of the Lone Star Sierra Club.
Mayor Watson did an adroit job of handling the Lege in 1999, but we don't need to handicap him. I've only known Rafael Quintanilla for seven years, but he's honorable, conscientious, cares about the community, and will be a needed addition to the council. I urge Austinites to vote for him.
Stephen M. Niemeyer Acosta
Alvarez for City Council
I just want to remind everyone to vote on May 6 and to voice my support for Raul Alvarez for City Council, Place 2. I had the good fortune to work with Raul during the creation of the East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Plan. We both were involved with the transportation, land use, and environmental committees. He impressed me as being experienced, dedicated, intelligent, and diplomatic. In addition, he is extremely well-informed about the transportation and environmental issues that affect Austin. I am excited to think that someone of his caliber could have the chance to be a part of our City Council.
Misjudging the Mayor
What does the Chronicle hope to accomplish by kicking the mayor in the teeth["Endorsements," April 21]? We have a solidly progressive leader who has accomplished some really important things: He has gotten a major corporation off the aquifer and brought it downtown, he has given credibility to the environmental movement in the city and put power behind it. He is getting out in front on affordable housing and making Smart Growth a reality. Yes, he does move a little fast sometimes, and people's egos have gotten bruised, but you could have rebuked him for that and endorsed him at the same time.
I also have to take issue with your smear of School Board candidate Tom Arbuckle. I agree with Arbuckle that bilingual learning and whole language instruction are flawed, and I am not a part of the Christian right. So how do you know that his criticism of these tenets make him "informed by the religious right"? Did you bother to ask him about his beliefs? Does he believe in school prayer? Does he want the Ten Commandments posted in schools? Do some actual legwork and then you can start accusing people of being the enemy.
If your endorsements continue to be such lazy, cranky, and knee-jerk affairs, you will fail in your duty to inform Austin and be a serious voice in the community.
Mayor Deserves Better
Dear Austin Chronicle:
Reference to your April 28 article saying that Mayor Watson was not worthy of being endorsed in the mayoral race leads me to urgency in this reply. I can only imagine how Kirk Watson and his family must feel after reading your article. But, knowing Kirk Watson, he probably shook it off and proceeded serving his community, as he has for many, many years, even prior to being elected mayor. Kirk Watson has made numerous sacrifices of his time, privacy, and financial well-being to take on this huge job as mayor. Kirk Watson loves his family more than anything, and sacrificing that time away from his family to run for election was probably the most difficult of decisions. I have known Kirk Watson for over seven years, the first years (prior to mayor) as a great attorney, defending the wronged, most of them victims of the most awful of crimes and giving them (the victims and survivors) back their respect and courage to face the criminal justice system. I might add, that many times, Kirk Watson did this fight for free. Kirk Watson believes in his city and is willing to accept these sacrifices. He is willing to talk and listen to anyone with a view. He wants and works very hard to make Austin a safe city for us all. I know this for a fact. I have been with him in meetings with people. He is fair and I believe a totally honest human being. As someone who has worked with Kirk Watson for many years, I just do not understand your comments. Possibly just more thought should have gone into your comments?
Ms. B. J. Lashley-Hassell
Victim Services Coordinator
MADD, Heart of Texas Chapter
The Wages of Watson
Dear Kirk Watson and Readers,
Mr. Watson, you have spent over three years in office accomplishing absolutely nothing. You got for yourself a huge palace. You remind me of Bruce Todd. You use people. Period.
This is obvious to the majority of people in Austin. Therein, 90% of those individuals will not be voting for you on May 6.
You don't give a damn about wages or housing. For four years you have been intimately aware that that the city runs 99% apartment occupancy, which, among other destructive factors, forces one-third of UT students to never complete their degrees. We have repeated to you and Mr. Bush concerning these matters. You don't give a damn.
Therein, 90% of the residents of Austin have been so unimpressed by your lack of doing anything beneficial that on May 6 they will not vote for you.
I am just not stupid enough to vote for either you or Mr. Bush.
I am writing to express my support for Monica Loera in the race for Place 7 on the Austin Community College Board of Trustees.
Among the four candidates running for this seat, Loera is the most progressive. She has come out strongly against building a new campus over the aquifer, and she is in favor of social and economic justice for ACC employees.
I ask Chronicle readers to look closely at the candidates in this race, and I feel certain that they will agree with me that Loera merits their vote.
ACC Adjunct Faculty Association
[Ed. Note: We received four similar letters]
Edwards for AISD
I am writing to express my disappointment that the Chronicle did not endorse Mrs. Johna Edwards for the Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees, District 3. Your assessment of both candidates for the District 3 post in the April 21, 2000, issue of the Chronicle seemed too superficial. Over the years, I have come to appreciate and to depend upon the Chronicle's insightful analysis of local property developers and members of the Chamber of Commerce who cynically attempt to manipulate local government bodies for their own selfish interests. It is in this context, that Mr. Arbuckle's candidacy concerns me.
Mrs. Edwards, on the other hand, is a professional educator who has devoted herself selflessly over a number of years to working within the Austin schools at a grassroots, elbow-grease level, as well as serving a term as president of the Austin City Council PTA, as you indicate in the April 21 Chronicle. Mrs. Edwards has given of her time and her resources for the good of Austin's schools, serving on Campus Advisory Councils, booster clubs, PTSA's, and textbook adoption advisory committees as well as logging in countless hours volunteering in the schools helping with these schools day to day operations. In all of her activities, Mrs. Edwards is a committed and conscientious worker. I know that she would bring this same integrity to the Austin School Board. I urge you to endorse and your readers to vote for Johna Edwards for District 3 of the Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees District 3.
Sylvia A. Perry
Dear Mr. Black,
I am writing to agree with your comments in your "Page Two" column about the Chronicle's endorsement process [April 28] and to disagree with the method in which your paper has conducted the current endorsement process.
I have been involved in the local political endorsement process with several political groups for the last several years. I served as president of Brentwood Neighborhood Association and on the steering committee of Allandale Neighborhood Association. I previously taught at ACC as a part-time instructor and have served as an officer of the adjunct group.
Twenty years ago, the neighborhood groups sponsored political forums and we had good participation from the neighbors. However, that type of event declined in popularity and the endorsement process has basically replaced it. I believe the endorsement process has become a simplistic approach to voters' education on the issues, and I now prefer the Statesman's current coverage of the City Council races, with detailed answers to multiple questions from each of the candidates.
My disagreement with your current endorsements is with your coverage of the ACC Board of Trustees race. I have visited with each of the four candidates and have chosen to endorse one of them. Your paper has endorsed another of the candidates, and that in and of itself does not bother me. Good people can and do disagree. However, when I was told that the Chronicle had not even contacted the other candidates, I do not understand how in good conscience you can endorse anyone in the race. This is a disservice to your readers and casts doubts on any and all of your endorsements. I am extremely disappointed in your actions. I would much prefer for your paper to not endorse anyone, if you are not conducting your own investigation of the issues. The Chronicle has not covered the issues at ACC well (see recent letter from Hunter Ellinger for specifics["Postmarks," April 21]), but to make endorsements without knowledge of the issues or of the candidates is not appropriate.
I would be glad to discuss these issues in more detail if you are interested. However, if you are not, please discontinue endorsement of candidates without complete knowledge of the current situation.
Regarding Editor Louis Black's "Page Two" [April 28] questions about endorsements in future elections:
Since The Chronicle covers local happenings so well, your endorsements mean a lot to prospective voters and should be continued. But please be realistic and deal only with actual choices the voters will faace on the ballot (no musing about "better mayoral possibilities").
Your current requirement for concensus seems to give undue voice to a small minority, however, and I suggest requiring something like a 60% vote to endorse. Please contiue giving the two or three strongest reasons for each endorsement and always consider the candidate's past record in addition to performance during a half-hour interview. And if you ever cannot find a "best" candidate, you should then choose a "lesser of evils" candidate and inform your readers accordingly. Haven't we all been faced with such dismal choices in the past?
Thanks for your consistently excellent coverage of the local scene.
While I appreciated Louis Black's "Page Two" musings on the Chronicle's endorsement process[April 28], I appreciate your endorsements even more. People are very busy, and they rely on the Chronicle and trusted community groups to sort through the issues, the records, and the stands, and to make specific recommendations for Austin voters. That is a valuable public service. Just look at your record: It has been nearly six years since a Chronicle-endorsed candidate lost a race for City Council. In fact, in recent head-to-head contests between Chronicle and Statesman endorsees, the Chronicle has won hands-down, every time.
That's why I was amused (and certainly not surprised) to see that the Statesman had joined with Circle C and the Police PAC in endorsing Rafael Quintanilla, Will Wynn, and Danny Thomas, as opposed to the Chronicle, all of the environmental groups (SOS Action, Sierra Club, Clean Water Action) and the Lesbian and Gay Political Caucus endorsing Raul Alvarez, Clare Barry, and Willie Lewis. Makes for a clear choice.
Hmmm ... I wonder who I'll vote for.
Stop Central Booking Move
Hi. My name is Anthony Garcia. I own the Tocai Restaurant & Wine Bar at Sixth and Nueces. I also live at the Regency Apartments at 11th and Nueces. On the 20th of April I participated in a citizens communication before our City Council. The topic was our opposition to moving Central Booking to 10th and Nueces. Just one and a half blocks from Pease Elementary School. Everything from a public intoxication arrest to a murder arrest will move through one of Austin's oldest neighborhoods. Central Booking is currently at Seventh and I-35. While this essay aims to shed light on the problem of criminals running through our beautiful neighborhood, it also aims to shed light on the incompetence of our city government and the dangers of a having a lack of candidates, especially for mayor. As Paul Martin, a neighbor and a respected businessman, and I spoke to the City Council, I noticed a complete lack of interest by our council members, the mayor, and the city manager. I did not expect the council to hang over every word I said, but as a constituent and moreover a taxpayer I expected more consideration on their part.
I graduated from UT with an honors degree in government back in 1993. Suddenly, I remembered some of the things I studied while at school. Why should Watson care? Politicians listen to two things: votes and money. So why should a gentleman who has virtually no opposition for this mayoral election care about our neighborhood? Herein lies the problem. Uncontested candidates hold too much autonomy. Hypothetically, a credible challenger would take the opposite stance on the Central Booking issue. Watson would have to join the club or look like a real ass. But he is virtually uncontested and thus too powerful and too blinded with his own agenda. This is precisely why no fundamental impact study was done on this issue. Common sense should tell you that having a Central Booking so close to an elementary school inherently creates problems. I'm sure Chronicle readers who frequent the Red River entertainment district two blocks away from the current central booking facility cannot fail to notice the criminal element on the street.
I felt like City Council viewed Paul and me as pesky fruit flies. We were being shooed away. But apparently for those with uncontested power, that's what we were and unfortunately so are all my neighbors and the children of Pease Elementary School.
I generally like your magazine, but am disturbed by your failure to include Ralph Nader, Harry Browne, Pat Buchanan, and John Hagelin (all candidates who will be on enough states' ballots to have a statistical chance at winning the election) in your "Presidential Race" section of your Politics section. Has The Austin Chronicle decided to join the mainstream media in boycotting legitimate candidates? If so, shame on you, and get busy correcting this oversight!
Your periodical's recent coverage of the AISD School Board elections has neglected to include, and therefore to inform, the residents of the Central and West Austin district of a third candidate in that race: write-in candidate Ron Ray.
A teaching assistant within the district for three years, first at Covington Middle School and for the last two years at Austin High School, I found it increasingly difficult to remain a silent co-conspirator within an educational system that not only allows for poor teaching to exist, but seems to encourage it. The lack of a real, meaningful evaluation process for Austin educators has resulted in far too many classrooms where learning does not take place. Instead, valuable learning time is being wasted, and wasted plenty!
I believe the most difficult job in all our society, after parenthood, is teaching. I believe we ought to place value in teachers, and to expect teachers to be of value. This philosophy, however, is not reflected in the current policies of the district. Improving the quality of teaching is "the single biggest factor affecting academic growth," says William L. Sanders, professor and director of the Research and Assessment Center at the University of Tennessee. As a school board member, I would make it my first priority to have revised the insufficient and meaningless educator evaluation process, coupled with a merit-based incentive program (bonuses) to encourage educators to become the very best that they can be.
There are many fronts to this battle. Raising the bar on the performance of Austin educators is but one step toward turning the Austin Independent School District into a stellar educational institution. For more information on other steps I propose be taken, please take a moment to visit the campaign Web site at http://go.to/RonRay.
AISD School Board
Remembering Miles Wilson
I join with many in the Department of English at Southwest Texas State University in praising your report on our MFA program in creative writing ("Habits of Mind," 21 April 2000). However, as a 17-year member of the department, I was saddened by the lack of mention -- in this or any previous Chronicle article -- of the program's founder, Mr. Miles Wilson. He campaigned for an MFA program before there was any support from the Coordinating Board for offering an MFA in Creative Writing anywhere in Texas. His imaginative design of the program attracted such writers as Mr. Grimes. Further, Mr. Grimes assumed the directorship of the MFA program in September 1996; the AWP visit that found the program "wonderful" took place in November 1996. It would be a shame if Mr. Wilson's heroic effort to create that "wonderful program" should disappear down the memory hole of the Austin-area writers' community, as it apparently has at SWT.
Springs Need Innovation
Editors and Robert Bryce,
Thank you for your pertinent report on Barton Springs ["Slimed," April 21]. Some points need reinforcing: Thanks for the information on the well-being of the salamanders. Why didn't the monitor step forward and report his findings to the pool users? We didn't know that wildlife biologist Hansen had taken on the role of salamander monitor.
The city Parks Dept. has several bulletin boards in the immediate vicinity of the BS entrance office. These are full of all sorts of injunctions to the public about how to behave and use BS. It seems reasonable that Robert Hansen and Lechner provide public copies of their reports on these bulletin boards.
As government scientists, they must write on their activities, analysis, and recommendations to their superiors for recording and promotional reasons. Would it be appropriate to contact their immediate superiors. Maybe they, the superiors, have classified their reports? Why should the wildlife biologists take all the heat from the public? Let us step up the administrative ladder. Let us know who the superiors of Lechner and Hansen are.
Several people mentioned the slipperiness of BS pool bottom as a safety problem. This is blamed on the algae. If swimmers will notice that the cement cover of the underground drain is not slippery, at least not much. (I deliberately walk on it to avoid sliding.) The difference in slipperiness between the cement cover and the natural bottom is a matter of texture. If slipperiness is considered a safety hazard, the pool bottom's texture can be changed by a thin veneer of cement or any of many non-slip covers, e.g., epoxy and silicon sand. Or, the surface can be roughed up by some of the scarifying machines used to grind, flatten concrete surfaces.
In our retirement community a local company ground off the uneven surfaces of cement panels when they moved and became a walking hazards. Grinding/roughing limestone is much easier in comparison to grinding cement.
Is it clear that fish eat algae? If so, why not re-seed the pool with fish from our local hatcheries, or simply by capturing small fish from Town Lake with nets? The major predator of BS fish are the cormorants. The dictionary describes cormorants as greedy, rapacious. The cormorants visit BS in the early mornings when there are fish or crawfish. They stay until their plate is clean. They swim faster and better than fish. Fish without cover have no hope.
Some protection for fish can be provided by use of plastic netting anchored to the bottom. Fish growers use screens routinely to protect fry from predators. A little experimental innovation would be fun and just might solve algae problems. A new fish population might clean up some of the algae and survive the predations of the cormorants.
Note: We have sent several letters with proposals and suggestions to the city administration and the commissioners for the Parks board. Virtually none of these has ever been acknowledged. (Is this normal? One suggestion about harvesting water weeds and aeration of Town Lake was tersely acknowledged by a fax. But nothing was done.)
My Dear Virginia,
Based on the lead photo in your article ["Carrying the Burden," April 28], the only pockets in Austin are pockets of fat. How can you be hungry if you are fat?
[Ed. note: The people in the photo were delivering food to the Capitol Area Food Bank, not receiving it.]
The Meaning of 'Is'
Regarding allegations that high schools are overstating the numbers of students in the "top 10%" for college admission purposes ["Margin of Error," April 21]:
"Designating more than 10% as 'top 10%' is a criminal offense," said David Anderson, legal counsel for the Texas Education Agency. "It's falsifying government documents," he said. "This type of lying is a criminal offense."
Depends of what the meaning of the word "is" is, don't you think? The legislation should have specified and defined the term "10%" -- how are ties counted, and can an average GPA be used, etc.? In the absence of such legislative specification, TEA's David Anderson is just blowing smoke. For instance, was Grover Cleveland one or two presidents? And how do you count ties in the various Austin Chronicle polls? Depends on how you count -- that is, how you define "is" -- doesn't it?
Such inflammatory language from TEA reverberated through the Chronicle doesn't seem the least bit useful. What we don't need is a bunch of TEA-version, Ken Starr-like bureaucrats running around trying to turn jaywalking into federal crimes. The fact is that schools seem to be trying their best to implement the rather nonspecific new law which is a unassailably brilliant replacement for Hopwood-banned affirmative action. So now what? Are we going to abolish the 10% law or start throwing school counselors all over the state into the pokey?
Why not examine AISD's own Mussolini, who is not only trying to get the trains to run on time but to get the trains to all run on the same schedule?
Stickin' It to the Man
I hate to be the first to tell you this (if I am indeed first), but after reading your "Page Two" in the April 21 Chronicle, it is clear you are unaware. Mr. Black you are The Man. That's right. These people you bitched about at the Springsteen concert with their waiting limos are you, my friend.
Look at it realistically: You have a yearly for-profit event for which you amass a huge crowd of volunteers to do your bidding while you rake in the cash. Oh sure, they get a form of scrip in exchange -- free entrance if they do their required number of hours. Tom Joad would call that the company store, wouldn't he?
And then there's your publicly stated policy toward freelance writers in the Chronicle as printed in The Writer's Market (a paraphrase from memory): "We'll get back to you when we feel like it." Add this to the constant nepotism (You're Margaret Moser's brother? Sure, you can write for us ...) and in-group exclusiveness and you might as well be on Wall Street.
Yes, Mr. Black you are The Man. You have the means of production, you hold down others, and you make a tidy profit that you remain unwilling to reveal to the public.
Is this making you nervous? Reality often does. Meditate on this and either live in reality or make some changes greater than driving yourself to an arena rock concert.
It just makes my stomach turn to see Louis Black's editorial decrying the presence of limousines outside of the recent Springsteen concert ["Page Two," April 21]. As is often the case, the Chronicle wants to have it both ways -- limos are decadent, but what about those wild parties at Lakeway, or holding a grudge against Byron all these years for not letting Margaret backstage to meet the Clash? I seem to recall many a mention of Toxic Shock in her old columns, but never once the realization of the absurdity of people driving home in their Toyotas after punk rock shows given the politics behind punk. Louis' final words in The Daily Texan come to mind, especially the bit regretting missing all those perks. Plus, it's always a surprise to see someone who's not a major advertiser in the Chronicle win a "Best of Austin" award.
If you're going to endorse quasi-left candidates who preach a balance of corporate interests with neighborhood and environmental concerns, how can a bit of conspicuous consumption become a matter of outrage? An advocate of the enfranchised "left" whose lifestyle depends on pleasing his many advertisers cannot with integrity disavow the choices he has made.
As to the transportation angle, while it seems that half the city streets are being worked on at the moment, and bottlenecks like 183 northbound at 71 go unnoticed, the visions for transportation in Austin seem to teeter between the DFW model and Babichian extremes. Part of the blame lies with the lack of coalition building, exacerbated by people like Louis who seem threatened by anyone to their left.
Absurd as it is for Louis to represent himself as an "old lefty," then proceed to tell us how to live our lives, I recall that "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" were declared to be unalienable rights of individual citizens 224 years ago. Suffice it to say that Louis' views are not those of all the left. Many of us would suggest a more effective outlet for Austin Chronicle editorials would be toward reforming the political system (national, state, local) that most of us think needs more attention than the decadence of a few concertgoers.