More Light Rail hubbub and a few Naderite cries in the wilderness.
Last Chance for Change
Recent letter writers say we shouldn't "rush into" a light rail system without considering alternatives, such as unwieldy monorail. But as the Chronicle has reported, Austin's been studying light rail for 16 years, and it's been a Chronicle cover story repeatedly over the last eight (including two weeks ago). Don't these people even read the publication they're sending letters to?
Many folks know that monorail is prohibitively expensive because it's built on tracks up in the sky, not on the ground like light rail. But that's beside the point because, and please listen carefully:
A MONORAIL SYSTEM IS NOT ON THE BALLOT!
Light rail is the only choice being offered. You kill light rail, you don't get monorail, you get nothing.
Same deal for buses. Some oppose light rail because they want a better bus system first. Sorry, but killing rail doesn't give you an improved bus system, it gives you the same bus system you already dislike.
Neither monorail nor a better bus system will magically appear if you vote down rail.
If rail fails, expect lobbyists to seize the money that Cap Met has been saving for it and funnel it into roads instead (although Austin already has more road-miles per capita than any other large Texas city, and although more massive road building is already planned, even if rail loses). This is our last shot for anything for a long time.
We're not choosing light rail or something else, we're choosing light rail or nothing else. I know how I'm voting.
What, Like Houston Doesn't Suck, Too?
You suck! Austin sucks! Fortune 500 sucks! Traffic sucks! George www.bush.com sucks and so does Starbucks! People from California suck and so does UT.
I'm moving to Houston!
P.S. My loud horseshoe-playing neighbors suck!
Take Yer Car and Shove It
Mike Clark-Madison's ultimate apathy regarding light rail is, I feel, endemic of the feelings many of us now have about the future of Austin; that would be, fuck it ["Take the A-Train," Oct. 13]. The damage is already done. We let twisted fruitbags like Jim Bob Moffet and Gary Bradley move in and pull double-fisted land rapes a long time ago. Indeed, all that's left now are sloppy seconds for those opportunists who aren't quite as bright as their predecessors, but know that there's still some money to be made here.
And who, Mr. Clark-Madison asks, wants to drive on clogged and ill-maintained streets and hassle with the parking meters and anti-theft devices when you don't have to? That's a no-brainer ... the assholes who are currently doing it by the thousands every day. As long as the price of gas is reasonable, spoiled yuppies will climb into SUVs and BMWs every morning and make that myopic dash for their jobs. Let's face it ... it's a lot more desirable to be stuck in traffic by yourself than it is to be stalled out on some commuter train with a bunch of foul-tempered cretins who all dress alike and won't make eye contact with each other. Leave that shit to the poor and the weird; the ones who take the bus now.
I don't drive a car. I don't use public transportation unless I know I have an extra hour to kill. My primary mode of transportation is cycling, so I feel justified calling people who are willing to spend so much time in cars any kind of foul insult my limited vocabulary will allow. When I climb the hill on S. First Street in the morning, and all I can see are cars with their engines on sitting bumper-to-bumper with only one person in each car, I wish they could see themselves from my perspective: mindless self-absorbed pigs. And the way typical Austinites drive, if they could shove their cars up their own rectal vaults, they'd have a good argument for obtaining a concealed weapon license instead of a driver's license. I get the feeling that bicycle lanes are only around to lure malcontents like myself out into the open so some scumbag can take aim. (And if this letter gets printed, who knows?)
If anybody could have seen this urban shitstorm coming 20 years ago, if we had looked up from our idyllic lives only enough to see what was really happening, maybe now we'd all be taking some form of public transportation and not minding it too much. As it stands ... light rail? Why not? Bring it on. Who really cares anyway?
Other Transport Options
The light rail issue is a difficult one, and being someone who is concerned about the environment and the needs of people, I would normally be inclined to vote for the light rail. However, it feels as though Austin is panicking because of its rapid growth and is trying to reach for a quick solution. Light rail is neither quick nor has it been found to be the solution. We need to take a deep breath and explore other options before making a commitment to something as expensive as light rail.
One writer wrote in last week directing readers to a Web site promoting monorail (www.monorails.org). I also would like to encourage people to take a look at another form of mass transit that has been worked on for over 30 years and is ready to go. It is called the Personal Rapid Transport system. It was designed to entice commuters who are reluctant to use public transit because they desire privacy or because cars get them directly to their destination. PRT operates as a system of little cars accommodating one to three people along an elevated track. There are no stops because the rider punches in a destination and is then taken directly to desired station. The PRT is cost-effective (it actually operates at a profit), energy-efficient, quiet, handicap-accessible, biker-friendly, and can be up and running in five years' time (half that of the light rail). Routes can also be added on in the future and the PRT is highly compatible with already existing forms of mass transit. These folks have thought of everything.
Sounds too good to be true? Check out their Web site at www.cprt.org. The Web site is a little hard to glean information from and it is necessary to look at a few of the links, like the www.taxi2000.com. There are other options out there.
R.I.P. Reform Party
We already know who is going to win Texas' 32 electoral votes, right? As Ralph Nader last week so eloquently pointed out, don't waste your vote this year for Bore or Gush in Texas. The Greens can win permanent ballot status in Texas if they receive just 5% of the vote in any statewide race. The Libertarians -- who are providing the only opposition to longtime incumbents in some races -- deserve your support as well.
Meanwhile, us Reformers are SOL. Pat Buchanan's unethical and unlawful conduct -- backed by the Federal Elections Commission, notwitstanding -- we have ourselves to blame. The bottom line for Reformers is we failed to unify the independent movement behind political reform. I, for one, don't believe independent voters will ever be empowered in this two-party monopoly without the political reforms needed for third parties and independent candidates to seriously compete with the big boys in the two parties.
Just in case you think we don't need reform here in the city of Austin, check out the deal that went down two weeks ago on the Mexic-Arte Museum. Council Member Will Wynn recused himself from the dais when the vote was taken, I presume because he felt this was adequate to cover his conflict of interest -- some 20% interest. Since the project is $100 million, hopefully it's not fuzzy math to figure that's about $20 million for the council member. However, when I was running against Mr. Wynn for council last May, he pledged to completely divest himself of his interest in this project as a downtown developer.
Where is Brigid Shea when you really need her? Wasn't she the one that was after Eric Mitchell for supposedly having similar conflicts of interest when he was on the council? Or, is there a racial double standard in city politics that exempts white millionaires? Perhaps Brigid or Council Member Wynn can shed some light on this to calm our fears.
I will continue building independent/reform politics in Austin. The Reform Party is dead, long live real REFORM and the independent political movement! Call me.
Urban Design Lacking
Mike Clark-Madison claims to have written 50,000 words on public transit ("Take the A-Train," Oct. 13). I've read many of them, but I think he has failed to elucidate the most important issue influencing the success or failure of public transit.
Lack of transit ridership, lack of other mobility options, traffic congestion, and degraded air quality are not problems, they are symptoms of the problem. To eliminate a problem, you must solve the problem, not the symptoms. And the problem is poor urban design in Austin, and in all the municipalities and counties in Central Texas. Our entire system of entitlement, financing, and constructing the built environment is based on the suburban pattern of large zones called "subdivisions," "apartment complexes," "shopping centers," "office parks," and "community institutions." All of them require a car trip for each and every daily need, even the simplest.
Until we change the land development codes and all related financing and approval mechanisms from the post-WWII suburban pattern to the pre-World War II neighborhood pattern (which supports automobiles just fine, by the way), then we will continue to suffer the symptoms.
Having said that, I do support the light rail referendum as one step needed in solving the problem. But it is far from the biggest step needed. Change the codes!
Gunfight at the Constable Corral
In last week's Chronicle (Oct. 20), you endorsed Bruce Elfant for Constable, Pct. 5 because he "has become a hub of local (not just Democratic) politics -- forming his own think tank, fighting the gun lobby, being everywhere at once. If there was no Bruce Elfant, local politicos would have had to invent him."
OK, let me get this straight. You endorsed the incumbent for the office of constable because he uses his political power to push his pet political causes? How about his performance as constable?
Folks, if you want Elfant to fight the gun lobby, great. Hire Elfant to be your paid lobbyist. But don't elect him to use his elected position as a platform to push his views on the public.
James M. Branum
Candidate for Constable, Pct. 5, Travis County
Don't Criminalize GHB
Politics editor Louis Dubose tells us ("Off the Desk," Oct. 13) that Sheriff Margo Frazier wants to know why Congessman Ron Paul cast the lone vote against criminalizing GHB, also known as "the date rape drug." Frazier should look up Paul's remarks in the congressional record.
GHB is a natural substance produced by the human body and is far less toxic than any pill your pharmacist deals in. It was sold in health food stores for 10 years before it came to the attention of the authorities. It is prescribed in Europe for several conditions ranging from jet lag to use as a mild sedative during childbirth. In large doses GHB induces sleep but it does not obliterate mental function the way alcohol or prescription sedatives do.
GHB did have some drawbacks. It was unpatentable and cheap. Drug corps paid off every member of Congress except Ron Paul and Helen Chenowyth, who also voted to keep GHB legal, to outlaw the competition. The pretext was to call it "the date rape drug." That's it, Margo.
Progressives wrote the drug laws in the early decades of this century. Have they learned anything? Will Margo lose the election because she has locked up half of her voting base?
People wanting change can vote for Libertarian Darrin Roush. End the Drug War.
PS: Alcohol is and always has been the date rape drug.
Vincent J May
So you have decided that Al Gore is your man [Oct. 20]? You don't want to back Ralph Nader because he hasn't a chance to win? I guess companies like my catering business shouldn't advertise in the Chronicle because no one in the business community will read it. It is stupid assumptions like these that have gotten this country into the hole we call home. Next are you going to say don't vote for light rail because it won't have any immediate effect on traffic? You see the problem with your assumption that Ralph Nader can't win has problems; maybe he doesn't have a chance, but every vote for Nader is a statement: Something is wrong, and something needs to be done about it. The Green Party will have a new slogan in four years, it will be the "I told you so" party.
I cannot believe that you would endorse Al Gore over Ralph Nader, when, in your own words, this would be a wasted vote [Oct. 20]. What happened to "alternative press" in Austin? You recognize the values Ralph Nader stands for, and yet you urge people to "throw away" their votes for Al Gore. Texas, especially Austin, needs to support the Green party in a effort to rid the country of the corrupt duopoly which is tightening its stranglehold on our freedoms through corporate sponsorship. Ralph Nader needs our vote, if only to receive the 5% of the national vote needed to garner government funds in order to serve as a watchdog over the two dominant parties; bringing to light their hypocrisies and lies. Lacking the funds to do so in the mainstream methods, his message relies on organizations like the Chronicle, the self-titled alternative news source. Were you scared of losing corporate advertising, or have you simply lost your sense of idealism in opposing the mainstream?
Product Placement Blues
I realize this letter (e-mail) might be too late to make a difference, but as a former producer/supporter/lover of KOOP Radio, I checked on their Web site (writing from New York City) today and was distressed to find advertisements and "product placements" for Randalls grocery store and U.S. Airways. I understand I've been out of the loop for about three years now, but isn't there anyone left at KOOP Radio or at The Austin Chronicle or in Austin who can stand up and say: "This idea for a nonprofit, noncommercial, cooperatively run radio station has been ruined and we must save it so that the 'nitwit left' won't have a monopoly on a radio frequency that the FCC can't physically shut down (ô la Free Radio Austin)?!"
Maybe that's too much to ask for, but I remember the "glory days" of KOOP Radio with Jenny Wong, Jim Ellinger, Ricardo Guerrero, Jerry Chamkis, Dave Davis, Noel Waggener, "Say It Loud," and, of course, (my favorite) two-minute-long daily show "HighlifeHighlights."
David Kay (Mr. E)
Why not vote for Nader, stand up for what you believe, otherwise what's the point in voting. This is the problem with this democracy. People are so afraid of standing up for what you believe for fear of losing, so we just go along even when we know it's not the right decision. We need to start now before it's too late. This democracy is in danger! Apathy and fearmongering have paralyzed the voting population. If newspapers like The Austin Chronicle would take the step of backing a candidate like Nader, the people would follow. As long as this continues our democracy and our right to free speech will continue to decline.
You had the chance to make a true statement, and failed.
A Voter from El Paso
Council Members Pushing Their Personal Politics
After nearly every election the elected or re-elected tell us they intend to represent "all the voters." If so, then why do our mayor and some council members campaign for one side of an issue when obviously the electorate is deeply divided? Are they representing "all the voters"?
If they claim they advocate only their personal views then why do they use their official city titles to identify themselves?
Werner J. Severin