Light Rail, Green Politics, and much ado about the city's growing pains.
Monorail Makes Sense
The recent use of Austin icon Lance Armstrong in the campaign to promote light rail is curious. There is concern that the people who let their icons do their thinking for them will think that Lance has thoroughly researched all sides of the issue, considered alternatives, and come to the conclusion that light rail is, indeed, the best solution for Austin's current and future traffic dilemmas.
When it comes to education and quality-of-life issues, Austinites usually don't look at the pricetag, but this time, the looming obsolescence of light rail makes the cost seem obscene. If we do want to give a mass transit system to our grandchildren, as Louis Black suggests in his Sept. 29 editorial ["Page Two"], let's consider one that wasn't already considered obsolete when it was replaced by buses over a half-century ago. Armstrong and Black (and anyone who feels that something must be done about Austin traffic) are urged to check out the Web site promoting Monorail (www.monorails.org/), for instance. This well-organized site presents one example of a more progressive alternative to light rail. Black seems to be of the mindset that the only alternatives are gridlock or more roads, so he's rushing to jump on a transit track that experts admit will cause businesses along the route to fail. Let us look forward to, not backward for, a solution that we can all live with. Just say no this time.
Libertarians on Light Rail
Louis Black could easily have become a stereotypical dogmatic editor after 20 years on the job. Instead he retains a refreshing honesty and an open mind.
He acknowledges that light rail will do little or nothing for traffic congestion or air pollution, yet he supports it because he feels we have to do something, even if it only benefits our grandchildren. Reserving judgment, however, he asks, "If not light rail, then what?" (Louis rejects, with some justification, building more roads.)
For 30 years, China suppressed any free markets in food production, and for 30 years they knew hunger. After Mao died, they experimented by allowing very limited markets to emerge, and the famine ended. Our traffic problems are suffering from the same restrictions. We have made free markets in mass transit a crime, and we suffer from congestion as a result. Imagine if Southwest Airlines ran our transit system instead of Cap Metro. (Their passenger-mile cost is a fraction of what Cap Metro wastes.)
To put it another way, imagine that in 1980 we passed a law that all PCs would be made by one tax-subsidized government company. Do you think they would have built a 386 by now? Do you think it would cost less than $5,000? (Not including massive tax subsidies.)
Of course there are other pieces to the puzzle. Our roads represent another tragedy of the commons for which technological solutions are rapidly coming into grasp.
If you only talk to liberals and conservatives all you ever hear is light rail or more roads. Libertarians have other ideas.
Libertarian Candidate for Travis County Constable, Place 2
'Tekken' Produced in Austin
I'd like to add one more correction to the "Animation Station" article in the Sept. 22 Chronicle. Ms. Hepola includes "Tekken" in a list of titles that were "all produced out of Houston." "Tekken," with over 100,000 copies sold, may still be the largest-selling title in ADV history, and was produced right here in Austin.
It features the phenomenally talented voices of John Paul Shepard, Adam Dudley, David Stokey, Edi Patterson, Gray Haddock, Claire Hamilton, Ellie McBride, Jessica Robertson, Ken Webster, Mark O'Brien, Jessie Schwartz, and Douglas Taylor (among others). If you don't have time to watch the whole show, at least catch the first minute, and listen to David Jones provide the most engrossing piece of table-setting narration ever.
Yours in awe of local talent,
Free the Airwaves
On October 4, FCC agent Lloyd Perry and a U.S. Marshal committed larceny by stealing the equipment of Radio One, 94.3 FM, in an illegal and unjustified raid.
Radio One is a nonprofit community radio station that broadcasts music and public affairs programming that had relevance to our city. Its absence from our airwaves is wrong.
But even more shameful is the fact that officers from the Austin Police Department participated in this raid. Radio One broke no local or state laws by broadcasting, and the alleged violations of federal regulations were in fact actually legal. (The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that the federal government is limited to those powers specifically given to it by the Constitution. Since the broadcast signal of Radio One crossed no state lines, the only competent jurisdiction to regulate its signal would be the state of Texas.)
The Austin Police Department should be held responsible for participating in this kind of state-sponsored criminal activity.
If elected as constable, I assure the voters that I will not cooperate with the FCC in any illegal raids on community microradio stations.
James M. Branum
Candidate for Constable, Pct. 5, Travis County
High Tech, High Rent
Austin's politicians are on a fast path to replicate many of the economic problems evident in California's Silicon Valley. The root of the problem and the explanation for the inevitable future demise of arts and music locally can be attributed to an undiversified local economy that has become far too dependent upon high wage/high tech employers and corporate high tech relocations to fuel growth.
Working artists and musicians require and thrive in an environment where the cost of living is affordable, as few will ever realize million dollar deals or stardom. Nevertheless, they continue their pursuits not for money, but for the love of what they do. When these folks suddenly have the communities in which they live invaded by masses of wealthy workers who drive the cost of housing beyond their means of affordability, they are forced to make a decision. The answer to their dilemma can best be found by observing all the thriving artists and musicians living and working in the SF Bay area. (LOL) Another dire implication of this economic transformation can be observed by the lack of teachers, cops, firefighters, and other working wage stiffs who do not live near where they work. Why don't they live close to work? They cannot afford to, since the local economy is too dependent upon high tech companies whose employees push the cost of housing to obscene levels that they cannot afford. Why are their roads clogged up? Because these folks must commute great distances to work as they can only afford housing far away from citadels of technology.
Mayor Watson would call this sprawl; I call it economic crowding-out and it is a major cause of sprawl. Wealth within a community is good and an essential ingredient to a healthy economy, but when it becomes too concentrated, it has dire implications for the entire community. If this issue is not addressed, and soon, Austin is destined to become an economic replica of Silicon Valley with all of its accompanying problems. Austin does not need any more high tech relocations, but it does need more economic diversification.
The Girth of Growth
The Who Asked You question of your September 8 issue is a serious one. How can we keep more people from moving to Austin?
We ought to think about this question, instead of laughing it off. This region already has too many people in it. And people here do not live with clean air and water in mind.
If the people of Austin were to get serious about respecting the ecology of the region, the number of people who wanted to move here would decrease. People will flock here only if they can drive their cars everywhere without restriction, run air conditioners all day, water their lawns and spray them with pesticides, and pollute the river with power boats on the weekends.
If fuel use per person were rationed in Austin, far fewer people would want to live here. Many people who live here now would leave. Only those who really love this region, hot weather and all, would remain.
An advantage of rationing fuel, as opposed to raising fuel prices, is that it affects rich and poor equally. Raising fuel prices widens the gap between rich and poor; rationing fuel narrows it.
Without overuse of air conditioning, there would be no population boom in the southern United States. People only want to live here if they can change the climate to suit their whims. And this is environmentally disastrous.
Austin could be affordable, uncrowded, and much less polluted if we would only start rationing fuel use. Our local ecology can't afford the way the city lives now. Let's ration fuel, and watch the population shrink.
There Went the Free Beer
I was reading your best of issue and, sure enough, no best brewpub category! I thought maybe there was a mistake in the poll listings, and at least the critics picks would include it ... no dice. Well, why the hell not? You got some kind of prejudice against Waterloo Brewing Company, who won it every year? Raoul Hernandez sure didn't mind me buying him a beer last time he came in. And come to think of it, every time I see Ken Lieck I throw him some suds. Various staffers frequent us all the time. So what's the problem? I'm not saying we should have won again, but hey ... not even a category!!! I don't know what's going on over there, but I'd like to express my extreme discontent and call shenanigans on The Austin Chronicle. I'm going home to get my broom.
PS: If someone buys your drink, it's nice to throw at least a buck in the damn tip jar.
PPS: I found out there was no category there last year either. Hmmm.
Lighten Up, Austin
When I moved to Austin, I relished in the fact that I was moving to a city where freedom of expression and open minds were commonplace. That is until I read the reactions to your Summer Smut issue printed in the August 18, 2000 issue. I cannot understand why all of these people are so concerned about one issue of your weekly publication simply because it revolves around the S word. I personally found it amusing. Because the Chronicle does one issue of risqué material does not mean that every article is uninformative. The article concerning the civil rights of gay and lesbian couples here in Austin was informative and needed to be printed.
To all the people out there offended by such a lack of taste on the part of the Chronicle, I have just one thing to say. Lighten Up! Just because a symbol of free speech in Austin prints an issue focusing on something you do not agree with does not mean that Austin is going to burn to the ground.
Thanks for your attention,
Baptists Should Brush Up on Bible
This note comes after reading about recent neighborhood settlements with HPBC in the shadow of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons (otherwise known as the Render Not Unto Caesar Act) ["Off the Desk," Sept. 15]. This act, to borrow a phrase from Jerry Falwell, is ascriptural and immoral. The context of the following quote from the Bible is a question about church law contradicting civil law (Romans 13:1-7):
"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment."
Unfortunately, the Hyde Park Baptists' actions actually cry out to the need for further Christian Education of their leadership. They should read the Bible carefully and repeatedly. It would go a long way to solve their problems with the neighborhoods.
Citizen of North East Austin
Chron Not Doing Its Part
Heeeeellllooooooo!!! What the fuck are you thinking? Bush is a gnat's ass from the White House and you people aren't saying a thing! With less than a month to go in the election -- no letters about Bush for two weeks, no articles in your Politics section??? The Statesman is doing a better job pointing out the fact he's unqualified for president than your paper is. I'm ashamed of you guys ... dropping the ball at the exact time we need your voice of reason. Wake up!!!!!
A Nod to Nader
Left-leaning Texans who vote for Al Gore as the lesser of two evils will be casting a totally meaningless ballot. Governor Shrub has an insurmountable lead in polls of Texas voters. Gore knows this and does not waste time or money campaigning here. Because of our anti-democratic winner-take-all system, Dubya Fratboy will undoubtedly win all the Texas electorial votes.
The only way to assure that your vote will count is to cast it for Ralph Nader of the Green Party. If Nader recieves only 5% of the vote, the Green Party will be placed on future ballots without going through the petition process. It will also receive millions of dollars in presidential campaign matching funds, enough to make them significantly more able to compete next time. If disloyalty to the Democratic Party somehow pains you, realize that historical precedents indicate that having the Green Party on future ballots will force the Democrats to pay much greater attention to progressive interests and anti-corporate perspectives.
Actually, Oilpunk George's lead here gives us a great opportunity to vote for our real political principles instead of holding our noses and voting for the less disgusting corporate hack. In Nader we have a candidate whose leadership, intelligence, and impeccable progressive credentials are legendary.
Even Time magazine put him on their list of the 100 most important American leaders of the 20th century. Please take advantage of this unique opportunity to send a message that will ring in the ears of the political powerbrokers for years to come. Vote Nader!
Stakes Too High
I wonder if the Green Party recognizes the immense paradox they present in this upcoming presidential election. Essentially each vote for Nader will be a vote for Bush, by taking a vote from Gore. Thereby the irony of a vote for the environment helping to elect two oil men (Bush/Cheney) cannot be ignored (or even dismissed as anything other than hypocritical). If that scenario occurs, let the unfettered Republican rape and pillage of our precious natural "green" resources begin.
While I strongly support election reform (third parties in and money out), maybe this is not the year to make a statement with your vote for a Green presidential candidate. If so, you can kiss your ass (and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) good-bye ...
Bruce A. Hop
Prague, Czech Republic, Sept. 29, 2000 -- Capitalism lay in disarray Friday as protesters declared victory on the streets of Prague.
"We have destroyed the evil system of greed and wealth by trashing a McDonald's, a KFC, and a few other local businesses," said protester Andre Norick, an avowed Communist, as he kicked through some rubble in his Nikes. "Soon workers of the world will all be equal, celebrating their freedom as they wait in line eight hours for toilet paper."
Fellow protester and anarchist Pavel Jasek agreed: "Look at what we have accomplished! It all shows that a few young idealists, armed with hundreds of cans of spray paint and some rocks, can truly change the world for the better." Taking a drag from his Marlboro Light cigarette, he dismissed claims that the aerosol in paint is bad for the environment. "Yes, perhaps there is some damage, and the architecture of Prague may be somewhat damaged now, but please, just think of the hungry children worldwide whose lives we've saved."
Thousands of impoverished African and Asian children readily backed him. "By smashing the windows of McDonald's, they have provided me with rice for a year," said an eight-year-old Ethiopian identified only as Atietie. "The spray paint was also exceptionally helpful."
World Bank President James Wolfensohn agreed. "This has been truly enlightening. In just a few days, these shabbily dressed punk rockers have done more to fight poverty than our international aid packages could possibly do in years. We have decided to disband, and all our supporting governments have agreed to shut down all factories everywhere, creating immense wealth for all." Food production will also cease, he added.
former citizen of Austin, reporting from the front lines
Spy vs. Spy
If Gore's people had a spy in the Bush camp, they certainly wouldn't call the FBI to investigate their own spy's secret package.
If the receiver of that package had chosen to use its contents to help Gore, after the first nationally televised debate, the Bush crew could then use copies of those very same documents to prove only a Gore spy could have known Bush's debate tactics in advance. Bush aides could then denounce Gore's untrustworthy debate tactics, and with public sympathy their boss could refuse to participate in the next two nationally televised debates.
But the receiver of the package didn't take the bait.
I hope the FBI is considering what a Bush supporter's motive would be for mailing that debate package. I don't believe Bush was aware of this ploy, but if a pro-Bush motive is investigated, eventually the Bush camp's desperate "petard hoister" will himself be hoisted.