Recent coverage of light rail and of access-TV personality Alex Jones pushes readers' buttons this week.
Let Them Ride Trains
Your July 21 issue was most informative.
In "The Road to Light Rail" the quote from an Austin council member at the end of the article was most interesting. It concluded, "They may moan and groan, but they'll live with it." It's reminiscent of something said about bread in 18th-century France.
Probably the only thing missing from the article "End of the Line" is that if light rail is approved for Austin there is no chance that it will go bankrupt this time. The subsidies in perpetuity from Austin taxpayers will ensure that.
Werner J. Severin
Get off Bus, on Light Rail
So Denis Fitzpatrick ["Postmarks," July 21] is planning on voting against light rail because he had a bad experience with Capital Metro?!? That's just great, punish all of Austin because you're unhappy with the bus service! Hey buddy, I'm sorry you were unable to catch your bus, but voting against light rail doesn't hurt Capital Metro, it hurts all of us. Just because you're frustrated with the bus service doesn't mean you should take your anger out on your fellow citizens.
As Austin's population explodes, many of us think it's a good idea to expand our public transit options. If we don't need it today, we'll need it tomorrow, and tomorrow it'll be too late and too expensive. The roads in the central city are already filling up close to capacity, and we can't build new roads in the already-developed urban core. Light rail offers a way to move large numbers of people quickly through this congested area, no matter what you think of the bus service.
Light Rail Full of Empty Promises
Just read with amusement about the "A-Train" plans for Austin ["The Road to Rail," July 21]. I lived in Austin 1989-94 and we talked about light rail 11 years ago! Anyway, I want to warn my fellow former Austinites about light rail promises.
We in Seattle voted for light rail in 1996, and have yet to see a single train running! Years behind schedule, billions over budget, and a design that will not do a damn thing to reduce congestion. Numerous lawsuits by affected neighborhoods threaten to "derail" the whole project after billions of tax dollars have been collected. Do yourself a big favor, Austin, and vote "no" on the A-Train! Many of us in Seattle regret our "yes" votes, and if the election were held again, many of us would vote "no" without hesitation.
I keep reading your articles about transportation, and I notice that the basics are still being left out of every transportation discussion. People plan big roads and rail systems. Does anyone ever notice that Austin doesn't have many sidewalks? That we don't have car-free bicycle paths? That traffic lights change for cars, but not for pedestrians and bicyclists?
For several weeks, construction workers have been digging up the sidewalk on the south side of Cesar Chavez Street near the South First Street bridge. They've posted a sign: "Sidewalk closed, use other side." There is no sidewalk on the other side.
It would be easy enough to close a lane of traffic to cars for about ten yards and put up temporary ramps, to let people walk, bicycle, or drive wheelchairs around the construction site. But this is not done. Pedestrian access around construction sites is something that never enters the head of anyone managing a construction project in Austin.
In some cities, one-third of in-city travel is done on foot or by bicycle. The reason so few people walk or bicycle in Austin is that city policies make it as difficult as possible to do so. Rules about keeping sidewalks open are universally ignored. Wheelchair access to sidewalks is ignored. Pedestrians and bicyclists are considered completely unimportant. Does anyone care that most people are afraid to bicycle on Austin's streets?
Please run an article about Austin's sidewalk system. Which big streets have sidewalks and which don't? What's the city's policy on sidewalk maintenance? What pedestrian infrastructure is being planned to complement the bus/rail system? An article addressing such questions could help raise the level of transportation discussion in Austin.
In the Re-Zone
Dear Mr. Black:
In "Naked City: Best-Laid Plans" (June 30), Mike Clark-Madison writes that the implementation strategy for Neighborhood Plan re-zonings in East Cesar Chavez calls for the overlay of an "NP" district. The "NP" represents the Neighborhood Plan Combining District (NPCD) ordinance established by the City Council to allow Smart Growth infill initiatives in areas with adopted neighborhood plans. This ordinance provides for a mix of business and residential uses in commercial areas, and encourages more retail and commercial services within walking distance of people's homes. The East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Plan recommended that some of these Smart Growth infill initiatives be allowed in the neighborhood which created the need for the NPCD overlay.
One of the primary goals of the East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Plan is to increase the opportunities for more residential development in the neighborhood without eliminating existing homes. One of the zoning recommendations would allow property owners the flexibility to add residential units above or on the same level as the current CS-1 uses. This increases the opportunity for housing in the neighborhood without changing the current zoning of the tract.
While zoning issues can be difficult to understand, great efforts were made to include and educate all segments of the neighborhood about the planning and implementation process. Members of the East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood helped develop the plan, monitor its progress, and propose the resulting zoning recommendations.
Austin S. Librach, P.E., AICP
Director Planning, Environmental and Conservation Services Department
Chron Arrogant, Cowardly
Your story on Alex Jones ["Media Clips," July 14] was a cowardly piece of fluff. I don't know the guy; I don't know if his underlying intent is fame and fortune or what. And who cares? The only important question regarding Jones should be, "Is he speaking the truth?" The man is out there gathering information that you're not going to get from Ran Dather or Jeter Pennings. Did you investigate the credibility of what Alex Jones says? No. Nowhere in your article is there any kind of objective analysis of Jones' work. There's one paragraph listing some of the topics that Jones tends to discuss, and five paragraphs about a parking lot disagreement that took place four years ago. Useless hesaid-shesaid pre-high school irrelevancy. The rest of the article is about your friend Charlie Sotelo.
And Louis Black introduces the story in "Page Two" by thoroughly distancing the Chronicle from Jones, while sarcastically disregarding his work. And please, let me quote Mr. Black: "Unlike a journalist or historian, a conspiracy theorist starts out with an assumption, garners all information that supports their theory, and ignores or discredits information that disagrees with it." My mind reels from the irony, Mr. Black. You're worried about defining Jones as a "spokesperson in our community?" How arrogant you are.
The fourth branch of government -- the national news media -- continues to puke out the non-news hype and propaganda copied from a central news source rendering the concept of true investigative journalism extinct.
Ain't that right, Chronicle? Aren't you guys supposed to be different from the Statesman? You guys have integrity, right? You're the voice of the people, right?
Your ivory towers aren't really made out of tofu. They're quite clearly ivory.
No Case Against Parker
In the article "Mad TV" ["Media Clips," July 14], Lee Nichols treats us to the perpetual after-school drama that is the Austin Community Access Center. The article clearly derives its ironic intrigue from a tongue thoroughly in cheek. Hence, I'm baffled when Nichols ends his piece with Max Kane's abrupt assertion that Terry Liberty Parker is "more or less a plague on free speech." Nichols gives Parker nary a mention in the proceeding paragraphs.
Terry Parker has been a champion of the right to hold outrageous, unconventional, and certainly unpopular views since either Alex Jones or Charlie Sotelo were old enough to work a telly. Parker has stood for the free speech rights of sex workers, black radicals, communist revolutionaries, drug users, MOVErs, Shakers, and Branch Davidians everywhere. His whole life has been a statement in defense of freedom, privacy, and autonomy. If Lee Nichols has a case against Parker's well-documented record, I'm waiting to read it.
[Lee Nichols responds: Kane did not name Parker as one of the bunch whom he considers to be "a plague on free speech," nor does he consider Parker to be such. The insertion of Parker's name was a mistake on my part, and I apologize for any confusion caused by it.]
For Controversy's Sake
Lee Nichols' story in the July 14 Chronicle ["Media Clips"] about some of the controversies surrounding access TV poseur Alex Jones was a pretty good summary of the situation, but glossed over the central issue that should be made clear: Jones' (once quaint) overheated, paranoid tunnelvision has progressed to the point that it now verges on a dangerous mania. Odd, don't you think, that all the altercations and controversies involve Jones, and none are between the other producers mentioned in your story? Controversy simply feeds this young man's ego, and questioning of his position on anything drives him into an absolute foaming frenzy.
A recent book about the extreme right wing's invasion of talk radio, shortwave radio, and the Internet (Waves of Rancor: Tuning in the Radical Right by Robert Hilliard & Michael Keith, 1999, M.E. Sharpe Inc.) includes on page four a nutshell (no pun) summary that clearly fits Jones and his legion of cattle to a T: They "(1) are dissatisfied with their life and seek to blame it on an outside party such as a government or a group or a few individuals, or (2) lack sufficient education to judge either the truth or the impact of media materials upon them, succumbing as media illiterates to emotional appeals, or (3) are sufficiently psychologically disturbed to seek support from what they consider alternatives to conventional attitudes, no matter how destructive those alternatives may be." And the great thing is, when Jones' destructive impulses finally come to bloody fruition, we'll get to see it played out, hopefully live, on cable access. Now that's great TV!
Donley, Not Sahm
Dear Jim Caliguiri.
Doug Sahm did not write "Please Mr. Sandman" ["Record Reviews," July 14] and I don't think he was particularly known for it, though I have heard him perform it. The great swamp pop artist Jimmy Donley wrote it, shortly before he shot himself.
AMN All Right
There are a lot of great national programs that are going onto the airwaves from Austin. But you seem to overlook one network each time you do an article on favorite television shows. The Austin Music Network, though it has management problems, produces programs highlighting music from the Live Music Capital of the World! Texas' Best features only Texas artists, What's the Cover, which is shown in hotels as well as homes, lets Austin folks know what is going on each and every night. Fly features hip-hop and rap music and I've seen interviews with national special guests on the show with Medgar and Omar. How much more credibility do you need when Mya, Jennifer, Hip-Hop Mecca, Phife (from A Tribe called Quest), and Lil' Kim have all appeared on the show?
These are national labels and names hanging out with Austin Music Network, and not even one mention from the Chronicle. Those in the business of using the entertainment of Austin to boost their image should take the Austin Music Network onto their shoulders and carry them to the national level. This network is what is giving Austin credibility as the Live Music Capital of the World. Because without outlets like the network, that slogan is just crap that the city uses to give itself an unproven message to the world. But as Austinites, we know it's bullshit.
Wimbledon Color Commentary
Coach is right ["Coach's Corner," July 14]. When Chrissy Evert said she was only repeating fixed-game charges against the William's Sis because it was "already out there" reminds me of an incident in junior high school. The teacher finally catches little Billy in the act of cracking wind and Billy says in his defense: "But Jack, Harold, and Steve farted first!"
As for Evert and Co.'s color commentary in which the Sisters Buffalo were compared to more refined gazelles, I had to wonder: How did these girls ever make it off L.A.'s municipal courts?
I do take exception to Coach's reference to "politically correct America" (in the corporate personage of NBC) not raising a stink. Who is P.C. in America? I mean, would you want to be accused of standing for something? That means you'd have ... an agenda! Arghh ...!
Stephen W. McGuire
P.S.: I'm still waiting for my Venus Tree: one leg three feet off the court, the other six feet; the racket higher still, coming down, fast.
Fighting Fire With ...
In Mike Hanley's letter to the editor in your July 14 issue he states he has "never seen nor heard of" armored fire-fighting equipment. It does exist, but is primarily used in oil well fires. The Czech Republic in a swords-into-plowshares economic conversion developed the apparatus. It is a T-72 tank chassis and hull with an aircraft jet engine mounted to serve as the power source for a massive pump. It is capable of extinguishing oil well fires in hours rather than days.
While it is doubtful that such equipment was available at Mount Carmel, it would have been nice if those in charge had ordinary fire trucks on standby. The wood frame construction was questionable at best in regard to building code compliance. "Concern for the children" was supposed to have been partial justification for the original government assault.
Very truly yours,
P.S. A Bradley is an Infantry Fighting Vehicle, not a tank. The media would do itself a favor by substituting the term "armored vehicle" for "tank" when describing unfamiliar military vehicles.
I wanted to say "Thanks" to the folks who put on the rave called "Massive Attack" in Austin on Saturday, July 15. Being a curious parent, I went to this event. I first encountered a well-lit parking lot with people showing you where to park. Next, in order to enter this venue, we all went through a search. We had to empty our pockets or backpacks for their inspection. No guns, alcohol, or drugs were permitted. I saw the paramedics, fire department, and security next to the entry area. There was a catering service available with food and drinks for sale. One booth was giving away one type of soda. With plenty of porta-potties accessible, there were no lines. The music was loud, the light shows entertaining, and fans were set up in corners of each tent. Because there was no drinking, there were no fights or obnoxious behavior witnessed by me during the hours of 9pm-1am. Everyone seemed to be having a great time dancing, playing with glow sticks, and walking around. It all reminded me of the concerts that I went to 20-plus years ago. Then it was sex, drugs, rock & roll; now it seems to be dance, glow sticks, and cigarettes. I would prefer that my teen goes to this kind of party than a drink till you drop frat party, any day.
Something About School
Sir, Miss, or Madame:
If a cut in federal spending is needed to match cuts in IRS collections like no marriage penalty.
Since California allows for home schooling, if making a federal case out of a Texas School Board lawsuit against Texas Educational Agency, then a single school program for families with four- and five-year-old children equally.
Some parents work afternoon shift; make parents who may work afternoon shift as police officers, utility workers and assorted factory workers in some factories with afternoon shifts.
Since, in times past, private schools made no guarantee to teach ABC skills or number skills to children under eight years, even dyslexic mothers and fathers can say of children ages four years to seven years that ordinarily parents raise children better than governments in regard to money-back guarantee if a child did not learn to read.
Alice Kennedy Spooner
Regarding Chicken Run
Please allow me to respond to some of the comments reader David Sanborn made in his July 21 letter about the movie Chicken Run ["Postmarks"].
I don't know whether Mel Gibson retains U.S. citizenship, but he was born in the USA. His family moved to Australia when he was 12 years old. Gibson participated in Chicken Run because he wanted to (it's that 800-lb. gorilla thing), and the film's producers wanted him to because he's Mel Gibson (it's that super-famous thing).
An American character was included in Chicken Run at the insistence of the American movie studio (Dreamworks) financing the production, in order to bolster the film's appeal in the U.S. Any excesses to Rocky the Rooster's stereotypically American personality traits are very likely the distillation of the feelings Nick Park and Peter Lord, the film's British creators, had about having to submit to orders from Hollywood suits.
You, David Sanborn, didn't find Chicken Run amusing. Oh well, no accounting for taste. But your inclusion of a "blind joke" in your letter leads me to suspect you might be better off sticking with movies that deliver their humor at a lower level. I suggest you check out Scary Movie. It's got fart jokes!
Singles vs. Sharks
Week after week I read the Chronicle and week after week I pause to consider the motives behind certain groups who advertise here. So, I wrote a little poem to take a little swipe at them (no names mentioned of course) ...
For us singles who are walking thru the parks,
To you we seem like such easy marks
Have you yet had your fill,
As you send us your bill
All we can say is, "touché," you hungry sharks!!!!
'Existential Angst' at 3AM
Once again Michael Ventura succeeds in delivering an eloquent wake-up call to examine what hides in the dark corners of our souls ["Letters at 3AM," July 21]. Thanks to Ventura, I finally understand why viewing The Wizard of Oz has often left me feeling existential angst. Becoming conscious of all the good and bad within us is indeed like living in Technicolor. How sad that Dorothy "accidentally" (i.e., unconsciously) killed off all the "bad" only to return to her black-and-white "safe" world more fearful of ever leaving it again. When I watched the film as a kid, I blamed my tendency to run out of the room as merely being creeped out by the green-faced wicked witch. Ventura's words showed that I indeed had much more to fear; that is, the loss of vitality that comes with letting fear rule my life. We all have "wickedness" inside of us, and as long as we "kill it" instead of taking responsibility for its power, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. How many times have we killed in the name of wiping out evil that exists "out there" somewhere? If more of us dared to make peace with our own shadow, the false safety of the proverbial Kansas would surely lose its appeal. I believe we can get a good night's sleep in a Technicolor world, but only if we reject what Glinda tells Dorothy about how "the sooner you get out of Oz altogether, the safer you'll sleep." (Glinda, a "good witch," presumably doesn't even have a shadow. So what does she know about living fully as a human being?) How refreshing that Ventura does not claim to be "good" or "wicked" -- he is merely a human being whose wise advice seems to come from a commitment to understand what it means to really live. We should all heed his advice more often.