Hyde Park Baptist foofaraw and assorted cultural allegations.
Eyes on Hyde Park
I've been closely watching the situation with the Hyde Park Baptist Church parking garage. When I voted for the current council, I did so with the understanding that they were all supporters of our city's neighborhoods. The neighbors in Hyde Park are not disputing the church's right to put some kind of garage on this site. But the garage that the church is proposing is hugely out of scale for a residential neighborhood and will devastate the nearby families. I attended the city council hearing and listened to the facts, and I do not believe that this size of garage is allowed under city law. I ask this council: Do you want to be remembered as the council who sold out one of our city's most treasured neighborhoods? I know that many neighborhoods around the city will be watching your decision on this. I hope you don't disappoint us all.
The People vs. HP Baptist
For many of us in southwestern Hyde Park, the nightmare began at a neighborhood meeting in the fall of 1999. Speaking to a packed room, representatives of the Hyde Park Baptist Church presented their plans for future growth. Like imperial conquerors, they displayed a map with lines drawn to indicate the areas they intend to take over. To my horror, I saw that my home, the house that I worked on so hard and that I love so much, is directly in the path of destruction! My residential community -- the neighbors I have come to know so well, my little boy's playmates -- they want to annihilate it all, to send us all packing.
How can this be possible in a free country? The first step of this invasion is a proposed five-story, city-block-sized parking garage immediately adjacent to homes. With an incredible zero setback, this monstrosity will plunge houses into shadow, wrap around two sides of one house, and spill all its cars onto a tiny residential street. It can be virtually proven that they have no need for more parking: The church's own traffic impact analysis, filed with their site plan, showed that the current garage does not fill to capacity, and those of us living in the area see plenty of empty parking spaces near the church every Sunday morning. The main effect of the new garage is to harass the neighbors, to begin to tear at the fabric of my community in preparation for the takeover to come.
Tonight (Thursday, March 8) the City Council will decide this issue. The legal case against the garage is very strong, but the church knows how to pressure the city. According to the Nuremburg principles forming the basis of the Nazi trials after World War II, each person is responsible for their own actions. Each council member must look into his or her own heart and conscience, and decide whether to protect the rights of their citizens -- or bow to pressure from a rich and powerful private institution, bury their head in the sand, and hope that this nightmare never happens to them.
Hey Hyde Park! WWJD?
Jesus Christ wasn't a politician. His love was deeper than that. I hope and pray Hyde Park Baptist Church bears witness to this fact when relating to its neighbors. I agree with the council members who advocate a compromise for the proposed parking garage. It would be a shame if this matter had to be settled in the courts.
Sorta Free to Speak
"Freedom of speech should only go so far, and when you are paying disrespect to any people, it should not be allowed."
(in response to the "offensive" Feb. 2 Straight Dope column)
"There ought to be limits to freedom."
George W. Bush,
(in response to a satirical Web site devoted to him)
Free Speech Isn't Selective
"Freedom of speech should only go so far, and when you are paying disrespect to any people, it should not be allowed" ["Just 'Straight' Offensive," Letters, Feb. 23]. Chilling words, Ms. Schulze.
Change the words "any people" to "our democracy" and you will be practically quoting McCarthy! We fought too hard for free speech in the 60s to lose it now in the 00s. Yes, the First Amendment guarantees free speech, and unfortunately some might be offended. But only unpopular speech needs the strength of the First Amendment behind it. Popular speech doesn't need to be protected.
So you may be offended by Cecil Adams, and you certainly have the right to call him an "arrogant, self-centered, egomaniacal, white racist pig" and a "pompous ass." Some may find your words offensive. Aren't you glad, Ms. Schulze, that you have a right to speak (or write) them?
Too many people think our civil rights aren't necessary or important, or think that only some people should enjoy them. That doesn't only offend me, it terrifies me.
UT Cop Watch
I am an author and visiting professor from Scotland and write to you in that capacity. Two weeks ago my colleague Dr. Mia Carter was attacked in a most humiliating and vicious manner by members of the campus police force [UTPD]. This occurred during a public meeting to protest an exhibition then on display within the campus. Not only is Dr. Carter a highly respected teacher and critic but she is also the interim director of the Center for Asian-American Studies. This comes at a time when the University of Texas is acquiring a nationwide reputation for the excellence of its Ethnic and Third World studies program. The irony cuts more deeply if we consider that this attack on Dr. Carter bears the hallmarks of racist assault.
To the best of my knowledge no public apology has been forthcoming to Dr. Carter, not from any source. Instead, the assistant chief of police has used the media (see The Daily Texan of March 1) in an attempt to justify the violation by stating that "Police have a right to use force when it is necessary"; a comment which, given the circumstances, indicates a peculiar contempt for both democratic procedure and the political process itself. We have to remind ourselves that here in a prestigious American university, in broad daylight and in front of very many onlookers, a female professor and some young students were assaulted and manhandled by a number of uniformed members of the UTPD.
Those of us experienced in other educational cultures are appalled by such displays of violent authoritarian control. These are breaches of basic human rights. The reputation of the University of Texas is thereby damaged, damaged further by the lack of official condemnation. This is my third semester teaching here and I consider myself a friend to this university. I must register my personal disappointment at the apparent lack of general response from within the wider body of UT staff, faculty, and students, and my consequent misgivings for the future if this kind of attack on freedom of expression is to continue unchecked.
Faires' Revisionism Reeks
After reading Robert Faires' review of the new play Roses and Thistles ["What a Piece of Work Is Woman!" Feb. 23] I was immediately provoked to react to it. What struck me was the extremely narrow-minded and uninformed delivery of his description -- a thinly disguised rant against males in general. The paradox is clear when we spell it out: Feminists strive for equality for women, a thing which precludes the dominance and oppression of women by men, or else there would be no need for feminists to be fighting. It is true that men are not only obliged to support women in their cause but that their assistance is vital to that cause. Authority can only be shared by those that already have it. Mocking us incessantly is the anathema of progress. Robert Faires' acquiescence with the play's theme should have been delivered a little more carefully. A coming out of the Shakespearean women to berate the author's treatment of them is a refreshing idea, but making it a hard-line feminist critique of Shakespeare himself is ridiculous without including and blaming the society in which he lived. Women should no more base their behavior or the things expected of them on the work of a 16th-century playwright than men should go to war with spears and arrows. Attacking the modus of Shakespeare, the "male chauvinist pig" who is no longer living and not privy to our infinite 21st-century wisdom, for the way he thought or wrote about things 500 years ago is trite at best, and though the idea of modernizing his women for the purposes of a play is a good one, the author is a hypocrite if Shakespeare himself is not also modernized and allowed to take part in the half-a-millennium-premature maturity of the females. If we argued that Shakespeare's women were all utterly liberated and realistic, we would be talking about a playwright still living today ... and probably not even that.
History and history's art will never change for all our complaining, and the practice of judging historical art based on our own constantly revised book of accountability is petty and meaningless.
SXSW 2001: Golden Oldies?
You wrote, "The only thing that concerns me about the SXSW Music Festival schedule is that I recognize so many of the acts, which I'm pretty sure is not a good thing" ["Page Two," March 2].
No shit, Sherlock! (Or, more politely, "You make an excellent point, Louis.") It is indeed a troubling sign when I see so many "familiar" Austin faces in the SXSW music festival listings. I am a huge fan of SXSW, attend religiously each year, and fully understand and support the festival's dual purpose: 1. Give everyone a taste of the brightest up-and-coming acts, and 2. Show off Austin's fine local musical talent. I'm all for showing off our homegrown, but the real reason that I attend the festival each year is to check out the new bands, both the local ones as well as those from beyond our famous city limits. As I study this year's lineup, I see far too many names that seem to have been given a free pass to proceed directly to "Go." Nothing personal against any of the "familiar" names, but is there really anyone out there who has not had the opportunity to see the likes of Steven Fromholz or Omar & the Howlers? Are there any new bands out there, either local or from elsewhere, who were 86'ed in order to make room for Sara Hickman or Malford Milligan (question is rhetorical, since I know that at least one band -- the one that I belong to -- was respectfully asked to not play at the festival)? I'm not whining about my rejection (we probably weren't good enough to get in), but I bet that there are plenty of bands that are good enough to get in, but will never have the opportunity to show it.
Chron Supply Not Meeting
Oak Hill's Demand
My wife and I enjoy the Chronicle, but could get used to skipping it. This is the second week my local H.E.B. (Oak Hill, Rt. 71) had no copies left by 8am on a Sunday. I have no desire to gallivant with a load of groceries on a Sunday morning to find a copy of the Chronicle.
Almost a year ago. I wrote about the same complaint after five weeks without the Chronicle -- after which there were sufficient copies every week until last week and today.
'Green' City Council a Misnomer
I wish that members of the so-called "green council" would stop criticizing Beverly Griffith for proposing to spend more money on parks and green space and less on roads. Buying up green space is the only protection Austin has against overdevelopment and water pollution. If we had set aside $120 million for more green space in the last bond election, we could afford to buy out the developers who are steadily ruining Barton Creek and the Edwards Aquifer. Instead, we set aside that amount of money to build roads to fuel development and population growth.
We still keep building highways. We haven't yet built one cycle path for transportation. (I hope that someday we'll see the crosstown bikeway, but even this is actually not planned as a car-free cycle path.) We won't spend more money on parks. We don't expand our public transit system. But we spend plenty of money on places to park cars and ways to whiz them across town faster.
These are disastrous policies for the local environment, and there's no sign that this is ever going to change. A truly green City Council would spend more on green space, would repair roads but not build new ones, and would construct car-free cycle paths.
If we keep putting car mobility and car parking first, we're going to have an ugly, overpopulated city with dirty waterways. It's really too bad.
Bad Bill Not the Answer
I have read the Dukes and Barrientos bills about class ranking for magnet schools carefully (H.B.1387, S.B.752). There is no "complex calculus" involved. All these bills do is make the magnet program and the host program into two separate schools only for the purpose of class rank for university admission. Your column ["Off the Desk," Feb. 23] missed the point in its quick, shallow praise of the Dukes bill.
AISD has always had the ability to treat the magnet schools separately from the host schools. It is legal and inexpensive for AISD to request separate TEA numbers for the programs that would accomplish this. If this were a desirable option, the district would not have had to pursue an illegal ranking scheme this fall. This option was not acceptable because it is a complete separation with a cost that AISD does not want to pay.
Magnet students serve the district's political needs by masking the low TAAS scores of the host school children. If the magnet schools are treated as separate schools, the district will need to face and remediate the abysmal education the host school children are receiving.
So now the Dukes bill assures the top 10% of host students will have a shot at college, as they should. But this same bill condemns the 90% that are not on top to the same inadequate education they've always had, by letting AISD off the hook. Super.
I'd like to suggest that perhaps our representatives should look at other options. Maybe we should consider reforming a district that persists in failing to educate a large group of its students while manipulating other students to hide the problem into smaller districts that might actually meet local needs.
Some Tips From the Big Easy
We in New Orleans were sorry to hear about disturbances arising from Mardi Gras celebrations in your city. My concern is that this celebration has been marketed inaccurately by our state and city tourism officials and media. Mardi Gras stems from a religious observance. Historically, the idea was to party before the solemn Catholic observance of Lent, which begins the day after Mardi Gras. While the rest of the world looks at Mardi Gras as drinking, reveling, crazed leaping for thrown beads, and exhibitionism, it is also a tremendous family and bridge-across-people event. We touch -- physically come in contact with -- people we never would otherwise meet, see, smile at, approach at any other time of year. Most people say "thank you" for what is thrown from the floats. People share what they catch with older people, children, the handicapped, and each other, and this extends across races and socioeconomic lines. People help each other's children get access to the floats. They say "excuse me" when passing through crowds. There is shared laughter and shared appreciation for the favorite local bands and the goofy float themes. As a rider on a float, I noted the faces yelling up at me: Some of the men looked threatening -- like TV stereotypes of urban ruffians -- and yet the beautiful smiles and shouts of appreciation when I handed/threw a bead or gave their child a stuffed toy transformed my pre-set assessment of them -- and, I hope, theirs of me. People were joyous and merry and united in their awareness of how silly it all is. Yet, many of the krewes have community-assist projects, so it goes beyond a good time. Mardi Gras provides a wonderful "cement" among New Orleanians. The local news coverage of the incidences in your city was scant. However, I fear an attempt to imitate the French Quarter drink-and-exhibit scene, which misses the essence of Mardi Gras both from the religious perspective and the community one.
We're All at Fault for Losing Austin
I have been quiet for far too long. The recent spate of letters condemning KUT for not carrying the full slate of NPR programming are obviously from newcomers. Now wait, before you jump on me, I was once a newcomer. Born and raised in Dallas, I longed for a place that was smaller, quieter, and more tolerant than Big D. In 1980, I made the move and KUT was part of the reason. I wanted everything Austin had to offer and nothing Dallas had. I never told anyone how we did it back home, I learned to do things the Austin way. The bottom line is, Austin didn't need me, I needed Austin.
Back then there were only a few radio stations, and KUT was the only one with a huge range of musical styles. It still is, and I hope they don't change it anymore.
The fact of the matter is, it is now 2001. People have over 20 radio channels (even more on cable), hundreds of TV channels, and the Internet. If you can't get NPR broadcasts, you're not trying. Nothing has made me more angry than changing KUT programming. Not the stupid "Amy Babich" letters, not the arguments over AIDS (hoax or real threat), not even the ongoing battle over Carl Swanson's lack of knowledge about global warming.
If there is a "Lost Austin," it is because of people who don't or won't respect what was here when they came.
You Draw More Flies With Honey
So, it's Friday, before a long weekend, I'm waiting for my to-go chicken club at the Chili Parlor. I grab a Chronicle and figure I have time to read the "Postmarks" while I wait for my sammie. The first letter I read was from Sabrina Coppola [Feb. 16]. I have no idea what she is so angry about, but do you think she kisses her mother with that mouth? Whatever, wherever her point, it is lost in the vitriolic, obscene rant. Thank you, Amy Babich, in the same issue, for clearly, concisely, "with malice toward none" expressing your opinion. OK, so if you scream loudly enough, push hard enough, are bigger, meaner, nastier, you will sometimes get what you want, but is that really what you want? And will you even know when you get it? Or will you still be angry that you didn't get it soon enough? In Amy's letter, she urges those who write strings of insults disguised as letters to the editor to consider their options. I would like to extend that invitation to anyone who thinks that aggression and violence solve the problem rather than add to it. So, Sabrina, you didn't go to finishing school, but there are still anger management classes and writing courses available that could give you the skills necessary to fight those battles against the establishment, but this time fight to win.
Donna Rene Johnston
Check Your Local Listings
I noticed a bit of bellyaching around concerning the Ken Burns Jazz series. If you thought that was bad, just wait till PBS captivates the nation once again with the 10-part series on hip-hop hosted by Alan Alda.
Justin B. Andrews
No More Above-Ground Garages
I hereby propose that the city of Austin ban all further construction of above-ground parking garages. Developers would be required to provide adequate below-ground parking for residents and employees. All land that would have been allotted for above-ground parking garages or parking lots would be converted to landscaped open space, i.e., parks. What to do with all that excavated dirt? Take it to flat parts of the state that wouldn't mind having a little Hill Country of their own.