Our readers talk back.
Seaholm, Inside & Out
Amy Smith's article on the options for the redevelopment of the Seaholm Power Plant ("Throw the Switch," March 2, 2001) did a fine job describing the various proposals for the building. Unfortunately, Ms. Smith neglected to look outside the building. As shown by the ROMA Group's design that was printed with the article, the issues associated with the Seaholm redevelopment go well beyond what will be done with the building.
The ROMA Group has been looking at land uses within the entire neighborhood between Fifth Street and the river and west of San Antonio. Of particular import are the transportation issues in this neighborhood. The ROMA plan would extend West Avenue to connect to Cesar Chavez, link Third Street with a bridge across Shoal Creek, realign Sandra Muraida Way, and provide for an intermodal transfer station to provide a transfer between light and commuter rail.
The Seaholm neighborhood is also the intersection of the Town Lake Trail, the Shoal Creek Trail, the Crosstown Bikeway, and the north end of the Lamar Pedestrian Bridge, making the neighborhood a major crossroads for bicycle commuters traveling between South Austin, Downtown, and the university. The Shoal Creek Trail and the Crosstown Bikeway are also part of the proposed Great Loop Trail through north, east, and midtown Austin. All of these issues were discussed at the Bicycle Summit on February 10.
Regardless of how Seaholm is redeveloped, how people travel to and through the Seaholm site will be an important part of the project.
President, Austin Metro Trails & Greenways
Why We Love Dictionaries
I enjoyed your Feb. 16 issue cover story about the perception of APD corruption. I'm amused when the local TV news features some APD spokesperson trying to put a favorable spin on their latest snafu. The spokesperson stands before cameras with a giant wall plaque depicting the APD uniform shoulder patch behind them. The plaque/patch proclaims Austin as "the capital city," rather than the capitol city. Can we really expect competent law enforcement from folks that apparently can't pass an elementary school spelling test? I propose that the City Council budget $100,000 as a grant to me. The purpose of this grant would be to determine the cost effectiveness of correcting all of the APD emblems containing the misspelling of capitol, versus the continued embarrassment of literally wearing their ignorance on their sleeves.
P.S. Mark Twain reportedly said he could not respect a man that only knew one way to spell a word.
[Ed. Note: Actually, "the capital city" is correct. "Capitol" refers only to the building.]
Hickman the Humanitarian
I would like to suggest an additional category for the annual Austin Chronicle Music Awards: "Humanitarian of the Year." And I would like to nominate singer-songwriter Sara Hickman as the first recipient. Even with her commitments as a full-time musician, wife, and mother of two, she still makes time to help others constantly.
She donates time and money to worthwhile organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, the Mother's Milk Bank, and others. She has collected clothing for Romanian orphans, and collected clothing and toiletries for the homeless. Other people just talk the talk about helping others before herself.
She's on the Board of Directors of the Mother's Milk Bank and performed at their fundraiser last year and will be performing at their benefit concert this year on Mother's Day at Waterloo Park. She is the most selfless person I know and would be the last person to ask for praise or recognition for her charitable works.
Even if it's not possible to add a "Humanitarian of the Year" category to the awards, I would like to publicly recognize Sara Hickman for all of her good works in the letters section of the Chronicle.
And she's a darn good guitar player, too
Oh, We Should Actually See the Movie?
About the review of the movie Carman: The Champion [March 2], I found it odd that you would print a review of a movie that was not seen by the author yet. To print what someone "thinks" the movie will be like seems a little haphazard and ridiculous.
To say things like "It sounds like" and "My guess" is not a review but a prejudiced thought and prediction of what the author thinks it might be like.
This is the summary from her review: "It sounds like it'll have all the heart and perseverance of Rocky, although it bills the fight sequences as 'Raging Bull in color.' My guess is more like 'raging bull by the shovelful.'"
I would suggest that we keep reviews to just that -- reviews -- and not uneducated opinions.
He Bangs, but What're His Politics?
While reading the "Dancing About Architecture" column, I found myself amused once again at the concept of open-minded free-thinking on the Left. How typical for liberals to respond in such a mean-spirited manner to Ricky Martin [March 2]. His performance at the presidential inauguration by no means speaks to his personal politics. But the mask is off again for those who pride themselves as champions of free speech and association -- if you are not in lock-step with politically correct thought and liberal orthodoxy, you will suffer the wrath of professional peer scorn. This thought-police mentality serves to point to a sort of left-wing fascism that seems prevalent in academia, media, and entertainment. How dare an artist be different in thought or action than his fellow performers. Besides, Ricky was probably doing it for the money, not to win the popular vote.
Pete Allen Coatney
Free Speech Still Isn't Free at UT
After reading Mr. Kelman's letter ["Postmarks: UT Cop Watch"] in March 9, 2001, issue; it further reinforced my belief that certain members of our local elite law enforcement feel they have been empowered to silence any person or persons when it is in their judgment that this group of peoples' point of view would be considered objectionable to the majority. Since when has it become illegal to argue with a law enforcement officer? The right to express our views has been the foundation to the creation of this country, and allowed us to become the number one world leader in all areas, trade, technology, etc. "Use of force" is not acceptable within a nonviolent demonstration. I firmly believe that "use of force" is authorized by the upper management, which is where the problem originates. Give the patrol officers a break, they're told to do what they do.
Last of all, has the media (TV, newspapers, radio) over-sensationalized what really happens? True, accurate journalism does not speculate nor slander; it reports the facts, nothing more.
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.
Free To Insult You and Me
I think Leslie Schulze's comments in the February 23 issue of the Chronicle were offensive ["Postmarks: Just 'Straight' Offensive"], but I will fight until my dying breath to see she has the right to say what she wants. I too am of Mexican and Native American descent. Did the column titled "Inuit Fit" offend me racially? No. Taco Bell, that offends me. Mr. Adams never mentioned in his article to incite violence, disrespect a people, or have any other malicious intent.
He is smug, sarcastic, and tends to get on a high horse, but it is always done with humor. If the public stops reading it and Mr. Adams stops publishing it, then so be it. But to say "freedom of speech should only go so far" is truly an outrage. Who decides the limits of what is in good taste? Who decides whose opinions are worthy and whose aren't? I wouldn't want to do that, and I certainly wouldn't want you to decide, Leslie. Oh and is "Schulze" Cherokee or Apache?
Joshua M. Dominguez
Just wanted to say thank you for continuing to do a great job!
Thank you in particular for carrying Lynda Barry's "Ernie Pook's Comeek." I've been a fan of hers for years and it's truly a pleasure to read her strip in your paper every week. Austin has a large Lynda Barry fan base and I'm so glad that we're able to count on her charming strip to be there for our reading pleasure! I love reading the Chronicle, but "Ernie Pook's Comeek" is the most delicious part of all.
Thanks for the A&E Coverage
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you and your publication for your continued help in the never-ending effort to let people know what's going on, not only with us, but with all the art and music spaces around town.
Your current listing mentions "South Austin pride," and we were kind of taken aback by the phrase at first, but now we realize how appropriate it is. We think we have something unique, a venue presenting the best new original music twice monthly ("The Art of Song") alongside outstanding visual arts in a comfortable, family-friendly atmosphere. We are indeed proud of our new decor and the caliber of art and music we are presenting.
We acknowledge that it is due a great deal to the chance you so graciously afford us to let both art and music lovers know about our events. Thank you.
Gregory P. Wilson
Owners, Laughing at the Sun
David Frankel, Owner
Anonymous Rex Records
I spent several days protesting the gory display at UT that humiliated a woman's right to decide about the ownership of her own body. I talked and talked to the anti-abortion activists. No matter how rational our perspective, their arguments remained in a loop, returning continually to the assumption that a woman is not the master of her uterus.
We asked three of the representatives of this anti-abortion group, standing behind their metal barricades: "If your 14-year-old daughter was kidnapped and her friends brutally murdered, yet your child survived the rape but was pregnant from this act of violence -- would you force your child to bear the pregnancy to term that was conceived in such hate and horror?" All three insisted that they would not allow their child to terminate the pregnancy "even if she begged." No matter that she was haunted by the thought of carrying the child of the man who had murdered her friends. How can this be justice? This is not love. This is torture by ideology.
When we accused the anti-abortion zealots of capitalizing on gore and heartless disgusting images of death and discorporated body parts, several replied as if programmed, "If you don't like these bloody images then you must be against abortion because this is the truth." What is the truth is that these people have exploited images of women's bodies in a most disgusting, distasteful display. They have enlarged an image the size of a thimble and made it into a billboard. This is a misrepresentation of the truth designed to cause fear and shame. It capitalizes on the sorrow and heartbreak of women who have had to make this decision.
We asked one anti-abortion activist if she could justify the murder of doctors and service providers at women's clinics and she said, "That's nothing in comparison to the millions of fetuses murdered every year." We asked her if she was ready to adopt those millions of unwanted babies and she glibly replied "Yes, I would." If these people are so ready to force women to have children against their will, why are they just as willing to leave these women without prenatal care, without insurance or a chance for decent life?
Not every ejaculation needs a name!
Misappropriating the Abortion Debate
Last week my mother and I spent four days protesting the offensive use of bloody images of women's anatomy featured in a gargantuan anti-abortion display on the UT campus. Particularly offensive was the section dealing with breast cancer and the gruesome surgical photos of mastectomies underscored by the claim that there is a direct correlation between abortions and breast cancer. These visuals exploited women who have dealt with this disease. Never mind the feelings of the brave women who have overcome such a challenge -- they were featured graphically as an example of a women's disfigured ugly anatomy. In these photos my sisters are labeled in full color as breastless, deformed, and guilty through a warped misappropriation of medical jargon. This is a sick, cruel form of sexual harassment. I object strenuously.
Just as appalling was the appropriation of the term genocide and the language of human rights in the service of an agenda that strives to deprive half the population of their bodily rights. Featuring a photo of Jews gassed by Nazis, along with a photo of an African-American lynched in the South, and equating genocide to a woman's right to choose, disrespects the horrors of the Holocaust and the pogroms of the KKK. This strategy turns a woman's body into a battleground of untold evils.
These photos of the Jewish Holocaust, the killing fields of Cambodia, American Indians, and a black man hanging from a tree that were displayed by these anti-abortion zealots were a travesty and an insult. Those who murdered millions of Jews and lynched thousands of African-Americans also thought it was their god-given duty to deprive others of their rights and their lives. The ideology that guides this anti-abortion crusade is based on the same political philosophies that encouraged the Nazis and the KKK to control the bodies and futures of others. How dare they pretend to represent the disenfranchised! The right of a person to control his or her own body should not be denied by Nazis, the KKK, or this group who sponsored this misuse of images, designed to insult and shock.
Krystina S. Siebenaler
Time to Clean House at APD
I am a relatively new resident of Austin and find myself appalled by the apparent corruption within the government of the city of Austin and the Austin Police Department.
I can find no other explanation for why the agreement reached last June by the Police Oversight Focus Group, with the support of the City Council, would have been so compromised and modified during the police-city labor contract negotiations. I see no credible explanation for why the city administration would conspire with the police department to modify this previously ratified agreement. A viable and honest city administration and police force should have absolutely nothing to hide from the public. This city apparently has a great deal to hide. It is because of this apparent corruption that it is so important that the beginnings of a cleanup be initiated.
The City Council members must be adamant in demanding the inclusion of the full and unmodified agreement crafted by the Police Oversight Focus Group as a part of and condition to the police labor agreement.
This is a critical step in the beginnings of a proper clean-up of the Austin Police Department. It will have the ancillary benefit of beginning a simultaneous cleanup of the Austin city government.
These steps are crucial to the future credibility of the Austin City Council and its membership.
P.S. I am not an ACLU member, however, for a bit more detail on the original agreement and the disabling modifications made by the city and police department see: www.aclutx.org/projects/police/