Our readers talk back.
This letter is to correct information on the item in the May 19 issue regarding the Montopolis Land Use Plan ["Naked City"]. Contrary to statements of a used car sales rezoning applicant and the printed assessment of the Chronicle, I did not singlehandedly concoct this plan. The Montopolis Land Use Study was funded by the city of Austin and produced by the University of Texas. It consisted of many workshops and culminated with an all-day charrette on October 29, which was attended by 125 people. I have enclosed with this letter a list of 170 people and 12 groups and agencies, which have been on record at the City Planning Department, who participated in the Metropolis Land Use Study. It was not fair to the Montopolis community, which is in the midst of dealing with several adverse zoning cases, for the Chronicle to have written incorrect information about a plan that many people have worked very hard to produce. One phone call, and this is called basic research in journalism 101, to find the facts and the Chronicle could have produced an accurate story.
Babich Can Bike Me
I have lived in Austin for a long time and I am good and tired of Amy Babich's spate of whines about biking. Although this Johnny One-Note has raised some valid points in the past, she brings nothing new to the table. Enough!
Ms. Babich is not the only person in Austin with an opinion. Why is it others who write don't get published, yet almost every issue of the Chronicle has yet another tired, one-track letter from Ms. Babich? She has been allowed to dominate the letters section of the Chronicle. That is not fair to the countless others who want to be heard and are consistently overlooked because Amy One-Note is "pedaling" her obsession.
Does Ms. Babich really expect all city funding to go toward bike-related issues? Be real, Amy. Drivers don't push an automotive agenda on Ms. Babich, so why does she keep condemning people who drive? As wonderful as biking is, it is not a viable option for everybody. Be fair!
Caryl Weiss raised some excellent points in the March 31 issue of the Chronicle ["Postmarks"]. Ms. Babich has been using the Chronicle to advertise her bike shop for free. That is wrong and unfair to the companies who pay for and count on advertising for business. If Ms. Babich was elected to the City Council, it would be unrealistic for her to even think she could cover this city by bicycle to meet deadlines throughout the day. Her incessant braying about biking has really gotten shopworn and needs to be put to rest. Every Chronicle reader has gotten her single message. Let others have a turn at bat!
Lisa N. Collins
Says developer Robert Knight: "We've stimulated residential and office development, so the consumers are here, now let's let retail take care of itself."
Here's the result of letting retail take care of itself: Offices have replaced retail, leading to a single-use, non-diverse downtown. Rents are too high for stores to be profitable. Today's venture-funded downtown companies can pay any price short term. The shakeout of dot-coms has already begun.
Gone are places to buy groceries, shoes, cars, clothes, luggage, books, hardware, paint, lumber, furniture, pets, fabrics, sewing machines, appliances, etc. Also gone: first-run theaters and bowling alleys.
Retail shoppers are mainly female, but the new downtown is mainly male.
Commuters with no option other than driving are feeding meters in parking spaces that retail customers used. Street closures for festivals, construction, and movies further restrict both access and parking.
Tourists are visiting less, since their preferred pastime is shopping.
Downtown ought have the tax increment financing structure proposed when downtown was down and out. The excess tax money ought to go to subsidizing retail.
And appointing someone like Knight to head our Downtown Commission is like appointing a chemical industry executive to lead the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission.
Topless Bars Are Harmless
Thank goodness Austin officials are sensible enough to realize that topless and nude establishments are not a threat to the moral character of this town ("No G-Strings Attatched," May 26). Dancers merely provide entertainment, and pretty tame entertainment at that. I imagine that if the option of seeing naked girls in the context of topless bars were removed, even more men might seek the services of prostitutes than do now. As for the Justice Department's allegation that topless bars promote the spread of sexually transmitted diseases due to sexual activity between dancers and customers, I have this to say: For all the dancers I know, the job ends when the club closes, and we are just about as eager to have spikes driven under our fingernails as we are to engage in sexual conduct with the customers.
So kudos to the city officials who realize that topless bars are pretty harmless and that more regulation is just not necessary.
"Veronica," Exposé dancer
Place 7 Endorsement
In the runoff for the Austin Community College Board of Trustees election (June 3), we support the Chronicle's endorsement of Barbara Mink for Place 7.
Mink has strongly pledged not to consider building a new campus over the Barton Springs aquifer.
She strongly supports fair pay and health benefits for the adjunct faculty.
Finally, we feel that Mink's long experience in higher education will be best for the college as a whole.
We urge readers of the Chronicle to vote for Barbara Mink for the ACC Board.
John Worley, ACC Board of Trustees
John Herndon, President,
ACC Adjunct Faculty Association
Respect L. Ron
I respect your opinion regarding Battlefield Earth ["Movie Reviews, May 19"]. I saw problems in the movie, as well. However, I disagree with you on one point:
Unintentionally hilarious? I disagree. See, if you had read anything of L. Ron Hubbard's besides Dianetics, you would understand this guy has humor coming out his ears. A combination of subtle, some not-so-subtle, and definitely a lot of Mr. Magoo-type satire (where characters are being made fools of but do not realize it ... I don't know what to call this except for "Mr. Magoo-type satire") that will have you howling. Even with your rightly justified dislike for Dianetics (is this bandwagon dislike or have you actually picked up the book? I dropped that book at page 5), I highly recommend a read of Battlefield Earth. Or ... read the 10-book satire series, Mission Earth. I'm convinced Dianetics and that religion he started are merely his grandest joke.
I'm a little bit saddened that L. Ron Hubbard, who has written so many genius sci-fi books, is remembered with such negativity by so many who have read only one of his books, the worst one. It seems like another bandwagon people are eager to jump on. Please enlighten me as to what Scientology has done that is bad? I really don't know much about that religion. I just know that many of my friends and associates have a negative feeling about it, yet know nothing about it. I had enough with those five pages of Dianetics and my idea is it is probably a big scam like most religions. But is it evil? Should I filter a movie made about a great book through my dislike for a different book by the same author?
Let the Sunshine In
Dear Mr. Black:
On June 1, 2000, the City Council will consider adopting the Police Oversight Focus Group's Recommendations to create civilian review of complaints filed against Austin Police Officers. Austin Police internal investigations generally clear officers. Nearly 500 complaints were filed against officers in 1997, of these only a handful received disciplinary action. Many people do not file complaints in cases of serious police abuse because they are too intimidated to give their complaints to police officers at Internal Af-fairs.
I am writing to urge all Austinites with concerns about the police to take advantage of this golden opportunity and act now support the long-overdue creation of civilian review in Austin.
Highlights of the recommendations are:
To improve on these recommendations, we also ask council to:
Come with us to speak to City Council -- let your voice be heard and your presence felt from the dais! If you are unable or don't wish to speak, you can just sign a speaker's card saying that you support the proposals. If you can't make it in person, contact Mayor Kirk Watson via telephone (499-2250), letter (Kirk Watson, 124 W. Eighth, Austin, TX 78701), or e-mail at email@example.com. The mayor needs to know that you support the recommendations of the Police Oversight Focus Group as well as the above improvements.
To see the complete POFG Recommendations, visit www.aclutx.org, or contact the city clerk at 124 W. Eighth, 499-2210.
Theresa M. Gorman
Sunshine Project for Police Accountability
Light Rail: The New Nuke?
I looked through some old files today and found a copy of The Rag. Dated November 12, 1973, the headline was: "Vote Against the Nuke on Saturday."
The Rag, a little university-area newspaper, was the only media voice against the Nuke. The Rag simply took the high ground and told the truth when running articles that condemned nuclear power. The truth was there for all to see.
Mayor Roy Butler, along with most of the City Council, was a loud cheerleader. City manager and city government was for it. Austin's heavy hitters were for it. The media favored it, though time on radio stations and KTBC television was donated for debates. The Statesman ran article after article promoting nuclear power. We had to have it, the Statesman told us. Rumors said a Houston contractor would get the contract to build it and had donated large amounts of money to promote it. And even some of the local unions came out for it.
Only the voters were against the nuke. We had voted it down previous to this election, but the issue was brought back again and again, until we were worn down.
Today, we have a new nuke; it's called rail. The game is the same with a few new players. Mayor Watson is a loud cheerleader. City government, and the city council are for it. Big players are for it. The Statesman can't get enough; Sunday's edition carried yet another editorial praising it. The new players, a group of monied techies, just came out for it. They held meetings and the Statesman carried their speeches. The Chronicle likes it, and seems to like the techies. In the latest issue of the Chronicle, Robert Bryce said the techies had already bought billboards and radio time ["Naked City," May 26]. Is that what the contest over rail is coming down to -- a media blitz featuring thousands of dollars spent on radio jingles and clever billboard and newspaper ads, something to wear the voters down?
One might think, if these people cared about Austin they would be spending money on open forums, town hall meetings where all sides could be heard. Radio and television programs featuring all viewpoints of this issue are sorely needed. What harm can be done by having all sides heard?
Robert P. Gerstenberg
Green Party's Uphill March
Re: Green Party Ballot Access Drive in Texas
Texas Legislators have made access to the state ballot for new political parties a very difficult and daunting task. At least 60,000 signatures are needed to ensure ballot access, and these signatures must be collected within 75 days. In addition, individuals signing must be a current registered voter and could not have voted in the presidential primary, the latter of which cuts out a lot of politically active individuals. A conservative estimation of the volunteer hours needed would be 6,000 hours over 75 days, or 80 hours a day.
I find it ironic to say that we are the cradle of democracy, when we do not have the infrastructure to support or promote political diversity, yet we have one of the most diversified populations and economies on the planet. We should change this legislation soon, and we should promote to citizens to participate in politics and support parties that fully represent their unique needs and beliefs.
The Texas Green Party is passing this 60,000 threshold this week, with the last day of petitioning ending Memorial Day, ending the 75-day collecting period. I would like to thank all the volunteers that made this happen and thank those who supported us by signing the petition for ballot access. The Green Party candidates will focus on a cleaner and healthier future promoting renewable energy and address social-economic factors such as educational opportunity, health care feasibility, and a living wage.