Readers' last gasps on light rail.

MoPacked to the Brim

To the Editor:

When I moved to Austin 12 years ago, local inhabitants informed me that "MoPac" (or Loop 1) stood for the "Missouri Pacific" railroad. I now realize they were wrong. Actually, "MoPac" is an abbreviation for "More Packed." I know this is true because each of the 12 years I have lived in Austin, Loop 1 has become more and more packed. In fact, Loop 1 is so packed these days that I rarely take it to work anymore, preferring instead alternative routes (which themselves are growing more crowded). In the spirit of Austin's wonderful music scene, perhaps the City Council could commission one of our legendary bluesmen (or women) to write a new song titled "I Got the MoPac Blues."

Of course, if Austin had a decent light rail system, then I could leave my car at home and forget about MoPac. Indeed, over time, MoPac would become less packed and the air pollution that plagues our city would diminish as well. Isn't it time that Austin started constructing a light rail system?


Charles Zucker

Rail: Wealth & Misery


This passenger train for Austin that you are endorsing is going to do a couple of bad things against the native population: Increase the property value along its lines, benefiting the European-owned northwest portion, the Middle East-owned central, and their Latino supporters selling junk food and alcohol on the Eastside; serve mostly students and middle-classers that arrived recently; and when the time comes to build it, manage it, and operate it, the City Council is going to do a "nationwide search." You guys and the Statesman are running a nonstop campaign mostly in favor of it. You know damn well that the Capital Metro aberration was created by the outsiders that got here in the Eighties boom, currently managed by this mistake-prone girl from New York, and that light rail, whatever, will be implemented by the new voters, the outsiders of the Nineties, who are bringing in wealth and leaving misery for the locals. You're not pendejo; you know that the wealthy are under siege by mother nature, and if you don't trot along, your little periodico is history.

Paul Aviña

Out, Houston, Out!

To the Editor:

The upcoming vote on light rail is a true crossroads for Austin. On November 7 we have the opportunity to choose the type of city we want to live in. If we choose the path of highways only, we create a city with more traffic, more pollution and noise, longer and more frustrating commute times and more sprawl. In short, a city that resembles Houston. If we choose a balanced transportation system that includes light rail we build a city with less traffic and pollution, less frustration as commuting time can be used for reading, working, or resting, and a higher quality of life. As everyone knows, Austin is growing fast; five years from now will be too late as traffic, pollution, and sprawl overwhelm Central Texas. Light rail is an investment that will improve our lives. Business as usual will degrade our lives. To me the choice is very clear.

George Adams

Rail Simplifies Life

Dear Editor,

With early voting already underway and the final election date less than two weeks away, I want to encourage Austinites to vote "Yes" for light rail. Light rail may not solve all of Austin's transportation problems, but it is a viable and efficient way to impact the future.

Within the past month, those campaigning for and against light rail have picked up the pace, voicing the positives and negatives of this mass transportation system. Some say it's too expensive and will take too long to build. However, widening roads and building new highways costs taxpayers millions of dollars every year, while making driving even more difficult with lane closings and construction sites. Massive road expansion projects will not solve congestion. Light rail will take people off the roads, easing traffic flow. Others wonder if the city will be able to encourage motorists, addicted to the convenience of their cars, to use light rail. With proper education, it can. Today, car owners are paying thousands of dollars for vehicles just to sit in traffic, search for parking and pay outrageous gas prices. Light rail can help ease these problems. You will always have a parking space, you'll save money on gas and, here is the big plus, you will help alleviate some stress. Just imagine, no more people cutting you off, no more stop-and-go traffic, no more road rage.

Voting for light rail is a vote for change. Air quality is not improving and oil production is not increasing. We must consider the future, not only for us, but also for those behind us. By voting for light rail now, we can start improving our lives for tomorrow, with cleaner air, less traffic and simpler lives.

Thank you for your time,

Melissa Thrailkill

Get Off the Road, Jack!

Dear Chron:

I've been interested to note that in the recent debate over roads, rails, or buses being waged in your letters to the editor, no one has mentioned the heart of the problem. Anyone can quote what a good mass transit system schedule should be, but until the traffic through which it must operate is at least as fast and regular as we expect the buses to be, all the money and planning and voting will be just as ineffective as it always has been. As long as buses carry only pedestrians, they will be that slow.

Until these opinionated drivers actually put their butts on the bus as a daily routine -- not just some token visit to sniff at the body odors -- no transportation system will get through traffic any faster than the fastest car (my friend has one that can go a million miles an hour and still is late half the time). Yes, buses can meet schedules, but not in traffic filled with drivers that should be on the bus! Anyone not willing to do their personal share of making the transportation system better by riding the bus and working within the system through participation and constructive criticism doesn't deserve an opinion about the solution, they are the problem. Something about a sacred cow/ox getting gored.

Here's the crux of the matter; rather than the convenience of paying lip service to the clean air, environmental good sense of better mass transit through conversation, council meetings and ballot box and then sitting back and waiting for the powers that be to make it so, the basic solution to this vital problem requires that people will have to vote that way every day by riding the bus instead of driving their car to make anything they cast a ballot for work. Spending new money now on anything more than public education about this corner we've driven ourselves into can only go to line the pockets of the same bureaucracy that hasn't done it yet. Let's get the system we have now working by having it begin to carry people who actually have cars but choose to keep them out of the bus' way. It's time to have a true modern social revelation and not just something about which one offers opinions from the comfort of one's personal air conditioned isolation chamber, sacred cow though it may be here in the land of oil and wide open spaces.

And while I'm at it, what about all these new high tech industries using their expertise to network with their computer-operating employees at home. The savings on parking and work space overhead alone should offer them enough incentive to start today. There's more traffic off the road and gas money in the pocket and mass transit didn't have a thing to do with it.


Todd Green

33-year Austinite, pedestrian, and bus rider

Lightening Our Load


Austin has a vital chance, on Tuesday's ballot, to take a big step in reclaiming part of our city. I'm talking about the large part of our city that is paved over, overburdened, and overshadowed by the vast structures devoted to automobiles. From freeways that run like sterile and deadly zones through the city to mammoth, property-killing multilevel interchanges, to dim gray parking garages, our city is groaning under the weight and bulk of the private automobile. These very structures dictate sprawl, as they eat up huge portions of our land area.

I became a light rail supporter as a young man in the early 1970s, when I was publishing a magazine called Ecology in Texas. It was then that I learned the many advantages that rail enjoys over other forms of transit. In a word, the advantage is efficiency. It occupies less land. It uses less fuel. It pollutes less.

But the advantages go further. Rail transit creates community. Rail stations and rail platforms are places for people to gather. And where people gather, they meet, they talk, they contribute to the web of community.

This is a fundamental choice. Do we take a big step toward creating human transit, or do we continue our thrall to the dehumanizing and destructive automobile?

If we make the positive decision, there will be many more decisions to make about how the rail is built and where it goes. These are decisions thousands of Austin citizens will haggle over in our publicly involved city. The final product will be one of compromise, as all our decisions are. But the first step is to decide to move forward.

Robin T. Cravey

Member, Austin Planning Commission

A Liar or a Patriot?


If Louis Black thinks 19th-century transportation is so great, why did he leave Boston and all that splendid mobility?

In 1983, when the liars, manipulators, and boondogglers proposed a 1% sales tax increase dedicated to mass transit, they made a lot of promises of things they would and would not do. They chiseled those promises in granite and sealed them with blood ... if only the taxpayers would give them a 1% tax increase.

They have broken every promise they made, so if you hear anyone say that Dallas Area Rapid Transit is successful or has come in on time or under budget, take a step back and tell that person that you know he is either a liar or is criminally ignorant of the facts.

They promised 126 miles of light rail to be completed by 2006 at a cost of $1.79 billion. They promised a pay-as-you-go system and no long-term debt.

They promised to never, ever, never, never ever get the federal government involved or to take federal money. Local control was their blood oath. Dallas was not going to let the federal government cause them to fail as other cities had done.

Less than five years after approval and not the first foot of rail laid, they were taking federal money, and they were going back to get long-term debt approved for 93 miles of light rail, and the cost was now $2.9 billion.

Bus service has been reduced because of money siphoned off to support rail, but I saw a bus the other day with three passengers on board, and it was not rush hour.

Dallas has eight or 12 or 16 miles of light rail, depending on which liar you're listening to, and to date they've spent more than $4 billion and they are soon going to have to go back for another 1é4- to 1é2-cent tax increase to build overpasses or tunnels when they start crossing major cross-town thoroughfares.

Of course I was called everything but a human being and a patriot when I analyzed the figures and said that they could not build 126 miles for under $24 billion. Of course I was wrong. Their build rate/cost is now over $30 billion and climbing, and DART is the epitome of mismanagement, malfeasance and waste.

Your mileage in Austin may vary ... but I doubt it.

Warren Hudson


Don't Overlook Dugger


I am amazed that you overlooked Gary Dugger in your endorsements. Gary is running for the Railroad Commission, and is carrying the banner of the Green Party. This is one of the few contests in which the Greens have a legitimate chance to win 5% of the vote, thereby qualifying for the automatic ballot status which the Libertarians enjoy.

Should the legendary Ralph Nader not receive 5% in the presidential race, which would qualify the Green Party for ballot status at the federal level with matching funds, Gary would be the best hope for the Greens to go on the ballot in Texas.

Gary is the son of Ronnie Dugger, who fought the good fight in Texas for years at The Texas Observer. In 1998, Gary ran for the Railroad Commission as a Democrat, and received 36.7% of the vote, establishing his viability as a candidate.

Gary Dugger is a progressive in the tradition of his father and of Jim Hightower, and would make quite a difference at the Railroad Commission, where corporations, industries, and utilities play at the expense of the people.

I would urge every enlightened Texan of any political persuasion to consider a vote for Gary Dugger, truly a man for all seasons!

Roger Quannah Settler

T-Birds' Ferguson & Hubbard


With all due respect to Preston Hubbard: He most certainly has paid dues and played great music over the years on his own merit. However, his memory and/or perspective of the importance of his role in the Fabulous Thunderbirds seems a bit blown outta proportion (as evidenced by the review of four Thunderbird albums by Christopher Gray on page 78 of your October 20 issue -- all of which Keith Ferguson played bass on!) ... Clearly Preston benefited from the foundation that Keith laid. One would have hoped that Preston would have come back to "the World" wanting to express more humility, respect, and gratitude -- rather than attempt to eclipse the bright and genuine star that was ... is Keith Ferguson.

Thank you,

Conni Hancock

Sensationalizing Sadness

Dear Austin Chronicle:

For many years I have read various articles in your publication, some of which I agreed with and some I did not. This letter is a protest to the article on Preston Hubbard ["Jailbird," Oct. 20]. I only wish my voice to be heard.

I was born here in Austin in 1970 to two young parents who were part of that era's cultural revolution. All through the seventies we children crunched around on beer can heels and made endless chains out of the old pull tabs on dirt floors of beerjoints like the Armadillo and the Split-Rail. Having parents that were too often shot-loose, the hippie kids of Austin united in their own child-subculture way that was a precursor to a lot of the punk rock folks who hung together in the Eighties. In this street scene, obscured was a double-edged sword. One side was strength, love, youthful idealism, and family -- the other is of constant attack, division, and heavy death-culture drugs (like heroin). I was 12 at my first hardcore show, and my sister Marion was 14. Two years later she became addicted to smack, three years ago she died a sad death. She too, like some of Hubbard's strung-out young girls, had an old man on dope who seemed to cultivate her enslavement. I loved her so much, of course I have an ax to grind. However, from an underground idealist's view, the sensationalism created in the coverage of some two-bit smack dealer, with no moral bone in his body, is plain wrong.

So please, in the future consider the victims' families, and the struggling to recover. This article is so insensitive to them. The veneer of social documentary is false. This chump is no victim himself -- the guy is a damned Minotaur.

Thank you,

Abe Kinney

Daily Recommended ...


While the Graham cracker was certainly named for Sylvester Graham (as detailed in Oct. 13's "Mr. Smarty Pants"), it was actually invented by a disciple of his nutrition theory by the name of James Caleb Jackson. Jackson later earned the dubious honor of inventing the world's first cold breakfast cereal, calling it "granula."

"Reformer" doesn't quite describe Sylvester Graham fully. A Presbyterian minister, he had an unusually decent grasp on human dietary needs for a guy who lived in the first half of the 19th century. However, his first calling was a strong desire to eliminate the weaknesses in the populace brought on by, you guessed it, masturbation. According to Graham, a masturbator grew up:

"... with a body full of disease and with a mind in ruins; the loathsome habit still tyrannizing over him with the inexorable imperviousness of a fiend of darkness. The cause of acne in self-abusing teens is revealed, and the result, ulcerous sores, in some cases break out upon the head, breast, back, and thighs, and these continue to enlarge into permanent fistulas of a cancerous character, and continue, perhaps for years, to discharge great quantities of fetid, loathsome pus, and not infrequently terminate in death."

Sounds pretty grim. It was Graham's hope that his diet would aid others in suppressing their own indefatigable lusts. His harangues against meat and bakery-produced bread led to a number of assaults on his person by disgruntled Boston butchers and bakers. After numerous women fainted at the frankness of his masturbatory lectures, he directed his energies toward training nutritionists and advocating things like toothbrushes and seven hours of sleep a night.

However, two of Graham's disciples, John Harvey Kellogg and C.W. Post, carried on the struggle against onanism and founded the cold cereal industry besides ("granula" never really took off). Who'd have thought breakfast and masturbation went hand in hand?


Ian Quigley

Editor, History House

Discrimination Question

Dear Editor:

I am writing in order to clarify an issue of importance to your readers in House District 48, where Democrat Ann Kitchen and Republican Jill Warren are campaigning to replace the retiring Rep. Sherri Greenberg in the Texas House of Representatives.

The advertisement by the Log Cabin Republicans last week said that Jill Warren, Republican Candidate for State Representative, District 48, is "on record opposing discrimination against gays and lesbians." To the contrary, I have seen Ms. Warren's answers to a questionnaire from the right-wing Free Market Foundation. In this questionnaire, Ms. Warren quite clearly states that she is opposed to hate crimes legislation that includes sexual orientation, opposed to anti-discrimination employment protection for gays and lesbians, opposed to gay and lesbian marriage, and in support of banning gays and lesbians from adopting children. This is hardly a record of opposition to discrimination.

I'd like to urge your readers to support Ann Kitchen, the candidate who actually does support equal rights for gays and lesbians, in this race.


Dianne Hardy-Garcia

Executive Director

Lesbian Gay Rights Lobby of Texas

P.S. For those interested, the questionnaire is available online at in the "East Texas Region" section of their 2000 Voters Guide.

Light Rail Concerns


The Chronicle has encouraged me to vote yes on light rail. Yet, I find that I still have reservations that have not yet been addressed, and I hope that the parties involved (the Chronicle, the city, Capitol Metro, and the Yes and No campaigns) will be able to give me some more facts so that I can make a well-informed decision. I represent a part of the community that has been hard-hit by the same influx of high techsters and their SUVs that has made light rail an issue: those of us who earn marginal incomes and are forced to take the housing leftovers of the more prosperous newcomers and to wait in fear of the next rent hike, wondering where we'll go next. I am having trouble figuring out why my tax dollars -- and those of people still less fortunate than I -- should be paying for a light rail that seems to be geared toward serving the already-overserved middle and upper classes, rather than going toward better bus service to the Eastside or even a light rail route that would serve the longtime Austin residents who are being chased out of Austin proper. Instead, in a shockingly undemocratic move, the Legislature has threatened us with worse bus service if we don't pony up and agree to light rail. The Chronicle's endorsement of the light rail proposition argues that we voters will at least have a say in establishing light rail routes. Will the routes come to the vote as well, or is it better said that citizens can, if they choose to and are able to get off work, attend the Capitol Metro meetings in which those decisions will be made? Light rail proponents have indicated that it doesn't matter how many people will ride a light rail, but that is a vital concern. If we serve suburban yuppies first, are we really to believe that their $50,000 SUVs will sit elegantly in their driveways all day? Has it been taken into consideration that perhaps one-quarter of those who generously declare that they will ride light rail will, in fact, do so regularly? Has it been determined whether, with all the stops and inevitable breakdowns of a light rail train, the ride will still be at least as fast as a car trip? I also wonder how the fare of a ride on the light rail will be determined. On San Francisco's BART, for instance, a ride costs more than a car trip, including the bridge toll and the exorbitant gas prices. High fares mean that light rail would exclude those of us whose tax dollars are hardest to spare: double jeopardy. Essentially, I wonder whether, in assessing the usefulness of a light rail, the city is banking on and fostering more of the same kind of corporate growth and sprawl that it claims to be controlling. This comes at the cost of fairness to the average citizens who live here now. I hope you will help me resolve these important concerns.

Sincerely yours,

Cameron Scott

Sam Malone: Next Guv?

Dear Chronicle:

Thank you so much for putting Ted Danson on the recent cover of your publication [Oct. 27]! I am tickled pinker than a big toe ... notwithstanding, I am curious as to why his eyeballs are glowing. Did he fall in Town Lake or did he eat one of those genetically altered taco shells?

Amber Gail



In the Oct. 27 "Postmarks," my name was included in a list of individuals, some of whom have publicly declared strong personal feelings against the current management of KOOP radio. Please note that I am a member of KOOP and I harbor no ill will against anyone affiliated with this unique station.

David Davis

Choose, Cowardly Voters


Dear Mr. Black:

I'm having trouble understanding a couple of your comments in last week's Chron, so maybe you can help me out.

First, I don't quite get what you mean when you refer to the "tedious sanctimony" of the pro-Nader letters. Is that really a precise description of those who wrote in support of Nader? Or does it better describe the Chron's pathetic whining after being "Starbucked"? I'm sorry, I guess my brain's just too little to make these subtle distinctions. Personally, I thought the emotion which best characterized those who wrote in support of Nader was "passion," but I guess that's an emotion with which supporters of Gore are unfamiliar.

Second, you write that if Nader voters help to elect Bush, they will in effect be hurting progressive causes. Do you actually mean to say that if Nader voters, prostrate in abject fear of the idea of Bush as president, defect en masse to vote for the centrist Gore-Lieberman ticket, leaving the Greens below the 5% hurdle and effectively eliminating them from future presidential campaigns, that they will be helping progressive causes? It seems more to me like a betrayal of progressive causes and a capitulation to centrist causes, but, like I already said, I ain't that smart.

If one is voting for Gore because he or she feels the Veep is the best candidate on the ballot, then I applaud that person for voting conscientiously. I hold the same of someone voting for Ron Paul for the same reason. However, a vote for a candidate one does not fully support which is cast as a result of fear is nothing short of a cowardly defense of the status quo. In the end, as a friend of mine once said, the American people deserve the government they end up with.


Harry Louis Roddy

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