Good cops and bad cops, radio waverings and global warming warnings.
Setting the 'Off the Record' Straight
Dear Lou Dubose:
Correcting the item in your "off the record" ["Off the Desk," Feb. 9], Ken Herman was not "packaging up clips of his coverage of GWB on the campaign trail and sending them to the Pulitzer committee."
Herman did not submit an entry, nor did he ask that one be submitted. This newspaper, over the name of Managing Editor Fred Zipp, nominated Herman.
To Protect and Serve
Hopefully, this time, the police will be held accountable for their actions. Kudos to the Chron and to those who came forward to expose this latest round of corruption ["Bad Blood," Feb. 16]. Also last week we saw another example of children as the real victims of the "war on drugs" along with our civil rights. The Travis County Sheriffs Dept. must have known that Edwin Delamora (accused killer of Deputy Ruiz) had a regular job with regular hours and that he was home alone with his wife and children on the night they attempted to serve their search warrant. It seems to me that they could have picked him up coming/going to work or found a safe way to serve their warrant. Instead, they chose to assemble a group of heavily armed "police" to crash the door in the dead of night. Clearly, this wasn't a drug house full of armed thugs. It was a house where a family lived, where children lived and were staying at the time.
Remember Waco? Why do police insist that they have to put police and citizens into these situations where it's inevitable that someone is going to be killed? Now we have two families with children who don't have fathers anymore. Do we just add their names to the list of the innocent who are victimized by the brutal and militaristic policies of those whose duty it is to protect us?
POFG & City Priorities
Mike Clark-Madison's article "Gross Oversight?" ["Naked City," Feb. 16] attributed to police union hatchet man Mike Sheffield comments that are ridiculous and insulting. Consider Sheffield's Janus-faced obfuscations, summarized by Clark-Madison as follows: "... what became clear during meet-and-confer is that the rank and file would not agree to, let alone embrace, what the [Police Oversight Focus Group] proposed."
What a pile of garbage. For starters, meet-and-confer negotiations were secret, so the "rank and file" had no more information about the agreement while it was being negotiated than did police accountability advocates. It is impossible that the "rank and file" could have expressed any opinion on the negotiated agreement that wouldn't have been expressed during the public negotiations by the POFG.
More importantly, it stretches credulity to imagine that Sheffield negotiated the POFG agreement himself over 10 months and signed off on the agreement without running the traps within his own union. Did Sheffield never check with the "rank and file" to see whether the agreement was acceptable? God knows the police union's attorney pored over every word. Why did Sheffield sign off on the POFG agreement if it was not acceptable to the members of his union? And if he knew it was unacceptable, was he just playing the public and the council as dupes? Of course he was. You'd have to be very naive to think otherwise.
Finally, we mustn't forget the city manager who council instructed to implement a system with a council-appointed board that included the POFG agreement "in its entirety." Instead he felt free to gut the thing like a fish. Not only that, but he now claims city legal has legal issues that prohibit the POFG proposals. Funny thing, huh, that neither city legal nor Jesus Garza raised these supposed "legal issues" during the 10-month POFG negotiations process, but suddenly discovered them during meet-and-confer's secret meetings?
This whole thing stinks. Council should reject the meet-and-confer agreement and send it back to negotiations with instructions to the city manager not to accept anything less than the full POFG agreement that Mike Sheffield signed last May. If not, there are lots of other city priorities on which Austin could spend $40 million.
The People vs. the Parking Garage
Our thanks to Erica C. Barnett for her comprehensive and insightful piece on Hyde Park Baptist Church's proposed parking garage ["Wall of Separation," Feb. 2]. Her thorough examination of the history and players on this project was a pleasure to read -- or as pleasurable as it gets for those of us facing the prospect of a five-story commercial-scale garage looming over our homes!
We did want to correct one error in the artwork accompanying the piece. The illustration captioned "Alliance to Save Hyde Park Garage Proposal" shows an extension to the church's existing Speedway garage, which lies on the eastern half of the block. In fact, the alliance opposes this extension on grounds that it violates the city's NCCD ordinance, which clearly restricts the garage to the western half of the block. Also, it's not really our "proposal," but rather represents what our land use attorney and other experts tell us is the maximum legally allowed under city code. The question is whether the city will enforce that code or allow the church to violate it.
FYI, City Council has now pushed our appeal up a week to March 1, 6pm, at the Conley-Guerrero Senior Center, 808 Nile Street (off Pleasant Valley Road just south of Rosewood Avenue). You may want to check our Web site before going. We hope to see many friends, neighbors, and Chronicle readers there that night! Please help us oppose this insanity.
Alliance to Save Hyde Park
Just 'Straight' Offensive
Hello, I am writing in regard to the column "The Straight Dope" that was in the Feb. 2 Chronicle, titled "Inuit Fit." I am guessing that this is nationally syndicated, and I am sickened by the thought that such garbage can be read by millions.
Mr. Adams has shown us what an arrogant, self-centered ego-maniacal white racist pig he really is with his poor treatment of the discussion of the Inuit people. More specifically, his handling of the lady who wrote in to combat his ignorance peeved me off to no end. He has displayed what happens when one begins to believe that they are the epitome of grace, style, sophistication, and intelligence. He shot off his mouth, and revealed, without a doubt, what a pompous ass he really is!
I am of Native American descent, and I really felt for the lady. There is nothing that burns you more than when you see some self-serving jerk trash your people, and is then too thick-headed to let you defend them in a dignified manner. (Although, I think she was quite dignified. He was not.) His response was pre-pubescent and offensive, and he took the all too often used approach of one-upmanship. ("I have a thesaurus and an editor, so I can sound smarter than you! ... unfortunately, I ain't got no brains ...")
Freedom of speech should only go so far, and when you are paying disrespect to any people, it should not be allowed. We all have the right to put arrogant jerks in their places, and we do not have to be made public fools for doing so!
Amen to Ken Pfluger ["Postmarks," Feb. 9]. It's good to know that another taxpayer recognizes the job the UT advisors have done to ruin an educational radio station of the "first class." Maybe the "Psych" department is testing to see what shit they can get away with.
I have phoned the "adviser" in the past and been told if improvements are attempted "they" will get together to fire the adviser. With the inmates in charge, the station is lost. There will be nothing but "disc" jockeys and money spent on salaries, not NPR programming.
Luckily, sometimes the San Antonio station comes in with a weak signal. There is quality NPR. We get "unga unga music from banga banga" -- my country (that jerky is in jail now I guess). Recordings made in New York are not "local" because they are played here.
This is so rotten that a clean sweep is needed. Let another college in the city "advise" but get this bunch out there. After 25 years they should be looking for a real job. Increase the power for S.A. and just forget this station. There is more news about Austin and Texas on KSTX than KUT. I can easily stand S.A. traffic news, etc. if "free form" moves to a commercial station. Six hours a day, five days a week of an "ego-trip" is too much.
On their way out, please check this bunch for 25 years of music collecting -- there is not that much storage space at the studio. Have a complete accounting of funds collected (above and below the table) for "happy birthdays" etc. spent for staff compared to other NPR stations.
Commercial stations do a better job of prostitution and they are professional. If KUT can only work for the lowest common level it does not need taxpayer support.
Lost Austin Flashback
Perhaps it was 1974, maybe 1975, but I remember afternoons at Hansel & Gretel on 30th Street. I remember half pitchers of dark Lowenbrau on tap, gray overcast skies, and a waitress named Liz Anne. Maybe it was the beer, maybe it was the angle of the light, or maybe it was just a dream, but I can tell you, my friends, Austin has never felt the same. Thank you for the "Lost Austin" issue.
Samuel E. Sims
Five Hours Isn't Enough?
I don't necessarily keep up with everything, but I haven't noticed any stories in your paper about the cutting back of John Aielli's Eklektikos program on KUT. I don't know when the decision was made to replace his 8:15-9am hour with NPR's Morning Edition, but it seems to have taken effect some time after the election and then entrenched itself on their schedule. When I phoned Aielli about it he said firmly that he could not give a word of explanation; a receptionist at the station only said that it was a "programming decision" and that she knew nothing about the reasons.
For many of us who know about such things, the first hour of Eklektikos was traditionally the best -- the hour when John Aielli responded most spontaneously to whatever mood he was in as when he came to work for the day; and the hour that wasn't dominated by guest interviews. For many of us, it was the daily soundtrack to our breakfast and/or commuting. It's a major, if hidden, loss; it does away with one of the things that made Austin special.
Perhaps the people who made the decision don't know or care about that. I can understand that having Morning Edition instead of Eklektikos might please group-minded program directors who want their listener-sponsored station to play what all the other listener-sponsored stations are playing.
And now all the cubicled yuppies in town will have a program to exchange e-mails about with their friends in Mountain View and Somerville.
But that's just it: You can get Morning Edition anywhere. (I can pick it up here in town on at least one other nearby NPR station.) You can only get Eklektikos in Austin.
For what it's worth, I'm not going to renew my KUT membership when it expires this spring. To a great extent it was Aielli's pledge-drive spiels that convinced me to join in the first place. As anyone knows who's listened, his requests for contributions are more entertaining than any other deejay's regular programming; during past pledge drives, I used to switch away reflexively to other stations, thinking, "Oh, no, they'll be asking for money all morning," only to switch back to Eklektikos because it was irresistible. I'll bet the station loses some pledge dollars during its 8:15-9am hour this year.
I hope you'll look into this story and keep us all informed. John Aielli, like Willie Nelson and a very few other people, is the soul of Austin.
[Ed. note: The shortening of Eklektikos was mentioned in "Dancing About Architecture" on Feb. 2.]
Gentrification w/o Representation
The city of Austin is railroading Smart Growth rezoning gentrification through the Bouldin Creek neighborhood with strong help from the Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association.
The BCNA membership soon realized that low-income residents living in Bouldin Creek would not agree to work with the city of Austin to plan Smart Growth rezoning gentrification ordinances. Why would the poor or elderly/disabled residents willingly agree to sign a MOU contract like this? Why would those residents risk removal from their homes by swift rezoning tax increases? These taxes amplify and force land values to the point of no return. Higher housing costs are leveraged on to Bouldin residents; this is gentrification.
Initially, city staff members repeatedly laid down this guideline. Only way the chair of the Bouldin Creek planning team could sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was by complete consensus. In other words, all members of the planning team had to agree to sign the MOU, which is a legal contract with the city of Austin.
To negate the initial consensus decision guidelines the city planning staff set up, BCNA members started mobbing the Bouldin Creek planning meetings. At two separate meetings the chair ignored the consensus decision process laid out by the city staff. At the Nov. 27 and Dec. 11 meetings, the chair of the team, without any motions/discussion conducted under any form of Roberts Rules of Order, railroaded through two different illegal votes. One illegal vote was to sign the MOU. Did we understand this contract, heck no! We wanted legal help, yet no lawyers appeared to explain the MOU.
Did all members of the planning team agree to sign the MOU? No we did not, yet the city planning staff wrote in the minutes that we did.
Don't Mess With Austin
I'm really concerned about Austin's trash. This city is looking neglected. We need to have a Clean Up Day, and people in their communities come out and pick up trash, papers, cups, cans all over the place. Come on people, respect the environment.
Christina L. Pino
The District v. the Kids
Representative Dawnna Dukes has introduced HB1387 so the state can micromanage AISD and allow what it could not win in an impartial court. AISD attempted to pro-rate the Johnston and LBJ graduation rankings between "magnet" and "host" students. The magnet students won a federal lawsuit against this district policy, ruled discriminative, unjust, and unfair by Federal Judge Nowlin. I am amazed and disgusted the district fights these students to the district court and wastes my tax dollars to harm these kids, invalidate their hard work demonstrated through their grades, and violate state law and the federal constitution.
I understand the school district supports HB1387; possibly wrote it. It infuriates me that the school district tries to circumvent the federal court by using the state to impose an unfair policy. Such a policy is supported only by insulated administrators upset that their "right" to make stupid policy was challenged and defeated, a school board too intimidated to act for the good of students, a handful of citizens with clearly selfish motives, and the law firms making money from this case. I am unhappy with the continued district efforts to harm kids rather than enhancing educational resources available to the historically underserved East Austin community. The best way to enhance the chances for members of this community to go to college would be to ensure their K-12 education is as good as the district finds easy to provide to west side students.
As a citizen, a voter, a strong believer in equal opportunity, and a taxpayer I oppose these school board efforts and will work to thwart such efforts including voting these rascals out. I propose the board re-examine its ill-conceived policies and actions and take a public stand to positively support all AISD students.
Earth Is Worth Maintaining
With reference to Mr. Swanson's letter of Feb. 16, may I point out a simple fact, perhaps simpler than the junior high facts about age of earth or the universe? When conservationists or environmentalists or in general, people who simply care, think responsibly about the fate of the earth and life, they are not talking about the conservation of earth's angular momentum.
Needless to say, it is extreme self interest (perhaps part of the adaptive power of man, perhaps not) to speak of life in terms of our brief stint on the planet, but (hey: surprise!) this is what concerns the present tenants of an apartment, for example. Nobody in their right mind would deny that a given dwelling might not stand forever, yet, for a current tenant, it is of paramount importance that the tenure be comfortable to them. One could take the side of the atoms in the bricks and feel happy upon its demolition, but that sort of cold rationalizing is an escape at best. A time for such an approach regarding our planet, one hopes, is still far away.
Sure, the earth is a speck of dust in space, and it is only a planet, and one day the cats we love might morph into crocodiles, but for me, for now, it is important to keep the house in order.
Science & Subjectivity
Incredible! I write a letter pointing to the facts about the very real threat of global warming, and all Carl Swanson can do is turn around and accuse me of "homocentrification" [Feb. 2]! Honestly Carl, for all your posturing, I was expecting something more concrete from you. I challenged you to explain the correlation between CO2 levels and mean global temperatures (with a rapid upswing beginning "coincidentally" around the time of the industrial revolution), and that's the best you can do? Well, that and some gibberish about how South Padre Island is still above sea level. Clearly, Swanson is so smart that his eyeballing the sand level at South Padre is more accurate than the (literally) thousands of warning signs documented by scientists (Climatehotmap.org). (Just as well really, because you can forget about partying in Bangladesh when half that country becomes submerged.)
Well, if that's the best Carl has to throw at me, I'd better say this slowly: The Earth does not need us. We need the Earth. A corollary is that taking action on global warming is not about saving the Earth. It's about saving us. The Earth did quite nicely without us for about 4 billion years and will continue to do so. And regarding the hole in the ozone layer, no, I don't claim to know how to "fix it." Nor, I suspect does anyone else. It's going to take an incredibly forgiving Earth a century or so to mend itself. That's why I happen to believe that an ounce of prevention is better than a ton of "fixes." Anyway, I could go on, but instead I think I'll just leave you with a gem from his most recent letter: "Man ... will either adapt or go extinct." Well put, Carl. I couldn't have said it better.
Sister Cities of Hipness
Max Minor's letter, which the Chronicle titled "Hipper Than Thou" [Feb. 16] hit a nerve with me. I live in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.) and a friend in Austin sends a copy of your paper now and again. I've been a musician here for going on 20 years and let me assure you, the hipper than you and your brother attitude was perfected right here in Minneapolis. Everyone in the country heard of that chic Minneapolis Music Scene a few years ago, and other than Prince, it had most of us actually playing music here a little baffled.
Apparently we were so cool, in fact, that getting good gigs became a pretty restricted affair. A few select names, playing the same type of select music, garnered all the select jobs. And if you're foolish enough to play percussion as I do, forget it, we already have two guys who play those bongo things. The end result is that there is no Minneapolis Music Scene.
I've heard a lot of great things about music in Austin. I even heard that blues is somewhat popular there (we prefer our blues to be restricted to the color of our toes in January), and I actually saw ads for percussionists -- not bongo thing players -- in your classifieds. Well shoot, how 'bout that.
But be careful, Austin. The lesson here is that you're only as good as you are. Not as good as you say you are.
By the way, Chronicle readers, you've got a pretty good weekly here in your hands. The Twin Cities' weekly has about as much flavor as some leftover Norwegian hotdish.
Power-Line Reform Needed
As a longtime resident of Austin I am aware of the need for reliable citywide uninterrupted electrical and communication service. The recent minor ice storm and subsequent power disruptions are a prime example of how our lives can be altered by the lack of electricity. On the surface the primary cause for these types of electrical outages seems to be trees and other vegetation that falls on the wiring during wind or ice storms. Austin Energy is, and has been, very proactive in minimizing the possibility of power loss by trimming or removing trees that are either too close to, or in the way of, power lines. This is very expensive and must be done often (every 10 years or so) in order to remain effective. It might be cheaper to spend more money now and remedy the cause of this reoccurring problem instead of spending any more on the symptoms. It is unrealistic to expect to be able to control where homeowners plant their trees or where vegetation grows. If exposed overhead wiring were relocated underground, it would be extremely costly, although considerably cheaper than the cost of trimming trees citywide every 10 years in perpetuity. The long-term benefits of commencing work on infrastructure improvement would be more than just financial. It is hard to place a dollar value on improved safety and quality of life. Buildings would also be able to be shaded better, reducing electrical demands during peak summer load hours, allowing more flexibility in the grid. It may be easier and cheaper, in the short term, to keep doing things the old way. The road toward building a higher quality of life with improved services and safety is often not the easiest one, but the one that should be traveled none the less.
Legislating Our Livelihood
Thank goodness somebody cares about our safety. Sen. Wentworth obviously understands that American drivers, the most dangerous in the world, need help in order to drive safely. With this in mind, I'd like to recommend he submit the following bills to the legislature to go with SB 238:
These may be harsh laws, but we must keep safety in our uppermost thoughts. Sure, Republicans haven't shown much interest in the past for safety (i.e., gun control, air bags, etc.) however, we must join them now in their pursuit of protecting us from the dangers of daily living.
Tennessee Voting Fraud?
I loved the wonderful article about Funeralgate ["Naked City: The Lawsuit That Wouldn't Die," Jan. 26]. It gives me hope that the art of investigative journalism may not be dead after all! I certainly hope that Bush has to testify within a year; however, what you may not know is that an even more serious issue is looming in front of him. I am the founder of the Tennessee Truth in Voting Project. We are researching evidence of massive race-based vote fraud in Tennessee. The evidence to date is at www.nashvilleinsanity.com/NPbreakingnews.html. A minimum of thousands of African-Americans were disenfranchised; it's even possible that enough votes were lost to turn the tide of the presidential election for this state. The national NAACP will be holding hearings in Nashville next month to get at evidence of fraud, and they are, of course, filing a national suit as well. As much as I would like to believe that these vote irregularities could be explained by error, racism of individuals, etc., I do not believe that this is possible. Evidence has already begun to come out in Florida regarding ChoicePoint that clearly links the Republican Party with vote fraud. There is also evidence that the Bush camp may have committed vote fraud in the primaries in South Carolina, against Sen. John McCain. Based on the evidence, I believe the same -- and more -- will be true in Tennessee. If such is the case, George W. Bush will find himself facing an indictment for conspiracy to commit mass vote fraud.
Let Me Work!
I am a 13-year-old kid who would like to get a job but due to certain laws I am unable to. There are several things I would like to be able to save up for such as college and a car but I have no sufficient way of earning money to do so.
These days the need for money is becoming more and more demanding for young people. I'm not saying we should be able to work like 10 hours a day but more like four to six. We might not need as much money as say, a 17-year-old, but we would still like to be able to earn some money for ourselves. I'm not sure about other people but I would like to be able to learn what it's like to be able to earn money for myself to prepare myself for when I move out of my parents' house.
I hope you will consider what I have said and maybe do something about it.
Prepubescent Learner's Permit
I am a 12-year-old boy and I have been wanting to drive but I have to wait two more years. I think we should have more practice and get to get your driver's permit. Also your parent can be with you until you're 16. It takes a lot of skill but you get to have some fun. I hope you read over this and think about it.