What destroys a neighborhood? How can bikes help? What's wrong with the Julia Roberts/Brad Pitt vehicle THE MEXICAN? A few answers to these questions---and more!---right here, right now.
Getting Treatment to Prisoners
I read with concern the story by Amy Smith about the prisoner, Amy Smith ["Deep Blues From Gatesville," March 16]. It barely mentioned that her drugs included prescribed dosages of lithium to treat her manic depression.
My concern is that this condition may not be treated properly in prison. Almost all of her problems could be ascribed to either the manic or depressed side of this disease -- it is very common for bipolar people to try to self-medicate with drugs.
Does she have access to psychiatric care? The good news is that manic depression is based on a chemical imbalance and can be treated successfully in most cases.
Johnston's Progress Report
This is not the first time I have read about the parlous Johnston High School situation ["The Future's So Bright ... ," March 9]. I still remain puzzled and uninformed. In this article as well as the others there is hardly a semblance of solutions. Throwing another bright principal into the arena is akin to throwing gladiators to the lions. Except there will be little amusement for the parents and students involved. Why are the measures taken by the board and superintendent so inept over such a long period of time? How do they now regard the situation? What plan do they have to remedy it except for the sacrificial lion route? Where are the interviews relevant to this?
We are ill-served by our elected officials. The atrocious gridlock traffic situation. The lack of traffic law enforcement. Failing schools. And a continuing litany of such items.
Now we are failed by our intrepid weekly print media. We expect it of the daily print media. But from you, Louis. How disappointing.
P.S. The Garcia article ["Putting Himself 'Out There,'" March 9] was quite good.
David Allen Roth
Attorney at Law
Another excellent piece on our famous & former governor ("Capitol Chronicle," March 16). This piece and others like it should be required reading for all national columnists who want some background on G.W. and to better predict what he will do in office now, e.g., his action on carbon emissions was predictable and consistent with his killing the Texas air quality; his actions on worker safety was predictable and consistent with his past labor record here in Texas.
Keep up the good work.
Bike It -- Better for You and Me
In "Welcome to Austin. You're Screwed." [March 9] by Erica C. Barnett and Louis Dubose, we sadly see a display of what will continue to plague downtown and the rest of Austin long after the construction has ended. The problem is not downtown street closures, but Mike's car.
I can get from my house (Peyton Gin and North Lamar) to the Music Hall with the hot barbecue in less time on my bicycle (I have a bike trailer, two panniers, a backpack, and a basket on my recumbent and can haul over 100 pounds; that's a lot of barbecue)and enjoy doing it. From Mike's office the trip would take less than 30 minutes (most spent paying for the barbecue). I would see the heron fishing on Waller Creek, the ducks on Town Lake, and would revel in the glorious spring weather, rain or shine. (Yes, I know how to keep myself and my cargo warm and dry or cool depending on the seasons.) No traffic, no detours, no parking problems.
But let's make it perfect for Mike: no traffic, no closed streets, parking at the Iron Works. Let's forget the discussions of what Mike may be doing to the ozone layer or global warming. Why should the children of East Austin pay for Mike's convenience? (See Centers for Disease Control statistics for asthma and cancer rates in children exposed to car pollution.) Somehow this never gets figured into the cost of Mike's car trip.
Time to wake up, Austin! Wake up, Chronicle staff! There are alternatives. (Even if Mike lives in far suburbia, there are still bike racks for SUVs available for these little errands.)
James E. Burnside
The Spinning Wheel Project
Rezoning Bouldin = Raising Rent
Do you live between the boundaries of South Congress, South Lamar, Oltorf, and the south shore of Town Lake? The Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association and the city planning department will soon mail the Bouldin Trojan Horse Residential/Gentrification Survey to some 3,000 renters, home owners and businesses in that area.
Want to see your rent go higher? And home property taxes, care to see them increase steadily for the next five to 10 years to a level you cannot afford to pay? And do small business owners want their leases/rents to jump up higher then they are now?
All you have to do is fill out this slanted and deceptive BNCA Smart Growth survey and "agree" to rezone existing residential lots to a smaller size. The survey will casually ask you if you want to see "new" lot sizes for single-family housing. The choices for "new" lots to be sized smaller are 4,500 square feet, 3,500 square feet, or even 2,500 square feet.
And where will these "new lots" come from? All the "old lots" are the target, 70% of Bouldin Creek residential lots will be rezoned so that each lot can have two houses placed there.
Some survey questions rezone all commercial properties along transportation development corridors, corridors like Congress, South First, and Oltorf.
The Bouldin Creek Planning Team takes the information you send back in on the survey and makes it into a "plan for densification." The City Council will make that plan into an ordinance.
As a Bouldin homeowner you get to see your property taxes jump up to the moon. Renters get to see their rents increase as the property owners pass the tax increases on to you. And small business owners get to see massive lease/rent increases.
A Secret History of MoPac
The history of MoPac (Loop 1) has not been pleasant for Central Austin. The six-lane freeway was squeezed through our neighborhoods in the early 1970s. It split apart our neighborhoods, it led to extensive flooding of homes along Johnson Creek. Traffic and speed has increased. Currently 150,000 vehicles per day use MoPac. Initially prohibited, commercial trucks now speed past day and night. Traffic noise exceeds federal standards and grows more each day. Residents who live alongside MoPac live in fear of grim high-speed accidents, some of which have already ended up in their back yards where their children play!
TxDOT (Texas Dept. of Transportation) is currently studying possible changes that will increase traffic, noise, air pollution, and accident risks. Among their options is a 33-foot elevated HOV lane, dumping traffic into already crowded downtown streets with no plans on how this will be managed. Since the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) 2025 study indicates that 82% of the respondents to the survey say they drive alone, and a recent TxDOT home survey indicated only 28% "very likely" would use HOV lanes, is this cost-effective? We think not.
MONAC, The MoPac Neighborhood Associations Coalition, made up of nine neighborhood associations, says "Enough is enough." We have already paid the price for this freeway through our neighborhoods.
It has been shown that "if you build it, they will come." Every time you expand a highway, it is only a matter of time before it is congested again. An alternative to driving cars must be tried.
TxDOT and city leaders have done little to prepare for today's transportation problems. Unless we move toward subways, light rail, and other means of mass transportation, in 20 more years we'll still be talking about traffic, having done nothing to improve it today.
Bill Woods, Pres.
Bryker Woods Neighborhood Assoc.
South by Sound Check
I attended a SXSW showcase event at the Continental Club last Friday night. Although I enjoyed all of the bands quite a bit, the show was ruined by the amount of time the bands spent setting up and then tearing down. I simply could not believe that well over half the time was spent taking up and tearing down, taking up and tearing down, taking up and tearing down, etc. and so forth. What made this particularly annoying is that no one seemed to be in any rush whatsoever to either set up their equipment or tear down the equipment.
Why do people put up with this? Am I the only person who actually wants to see music? Would be people tolerate going to a football game (that normally takes three hours) if it was spread over six hours for the same game? What if you went to see a two-hour movie, and it took four hours because every 30 minutes they took a 30-minute break? Are the people running SXSW (and the bars) relying on the public to be so drunk as to not notice the difference? Why are steps not made to expedite the setting up and tearing down process? Why does the Chronicle not dare mention what steps might be taken to remedy the situation? Or, am I just not cool enough to understand that two hours of actual music is supposed to take five hours of my time?
Wanted: Texas Fun
I am an eighth-grade student at Washington Manor Middle School in San Leandro, Calif. I am currently doing a school project that entails planning a vacation to your fine state. I would greatly appreciate any information or memorabilia that your generous readers could send me. I am interested in family activities, interesting historical sights, and unique artifacts that make your state special. Thank you for your time and consideration.
1170 Fargo Ave.
San Leandro, CA 94579
These Boots Were Made for Walking -- Out of the Movie
People go to movies to be entertained. And art is open to each individual's interpretation. But a movie I saw over the weekend was so awful I feel compelled to spread the word. I was tempted to stand up and yell at the packed movie theater to think! The Mexican is a travesty, not just because of the bad acting (Roberts trying to be the over-therapied lover and Pitt the bumbling, air-kicking con man's lackey) nor the even worse dialogue, but because of the negative stereotypes and beliefs it reinforces and the "dumbing down" of America it represents.
I haven't walked out of a movie in years and I had to leave this one. After hearing Roberts tearfully ask her kidnapper (Gandolfini, the only redeeming quality in this film) if he was going to rape her, him replying "not likely," and her gleefully discovering his homosexuality as he did not, I sat there, incredulous. Does she want him to rape her, to reinforce her idea of her beauty? Is she not pretty enough to be raped? My breaking point hit after the pair pick up a gay man in a diner and give him a ride. He talks about the brown packages he receives in the mail, the pornos, magazines, etcetera: all the "dirty" paraphernalia middle-class homogenous Americans like to attribute to homosexuals.
Have we so degraded ourselves that we will put up with awful, ignorant stories replete with the glorification of the wrong ideas our society claims to be attempting to erase just to watch two yoga-fied, Atkins diet-shaped stars carouse across the screen together? If this is the crap that is rising to the No. 1 spot in America then what does that say about the pool we're swimming in?
Cancer & the Communist State
Pockets of communism continue to exist in all the liberated lands, and many are plotting their day of revenge. Guided by the similarity between communism and cancer, we can see that secondary communist cancers remain in power in China, North Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba, while cancerous communist infiltration threatens the Philippines, South Africa, and other countries. Malignant communist cells persist in the colleges and universities of the U.S.
Demoralization provides a favorable climate for communist growth. The moral degeneration in America is appalling. The breakdown of the family, the annual slaughter of one and a half million pre-born babies, the prevalence of sodomy and the AIDS epidemic which it has spawned, the mendacity of Hollywood, and the corruption of high office bear eloquent testimony to coming catastrophe. The message that "Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people," must be proclaimed throughout the land.
Stop Your 'Lost Austin' Whining
I swear to God, the best way to "keep Austin the way it was when I moved here" is to keep publishing letters from the cadre of professional whiners who can seemingly do nothing but bitch about how Austin "is no longer the city I love." If Austin is not the city you imagined it was 30 years ago, get your dog, get your old lady, start your status-symbol 1976 Volvo wagon and get the hell out of town. Simple fact here some people seem unable to grasp, things change. There should be a section of Austin that is exactly like Austin circa 1975. One radio station, no cable, no Internet, nada, and all the closed-minded old whiners can go live there. Jesus, it gets old. Seems that, according to the whiners, everyone but them are the problem when in fact the real problem is people desperately clinging to the past. Look, I used to be thin, good-looking and had hair down to my ass, but that ain't the case anymore. At least I don't walk around wringing my hands about it. To a lot of residents, the cliché mentality is in full swing, any change at all "is destroying Austin." Give it a rest. Seems a lot of the real problem here is status quo fake WASPs walking around bitching about everyone and everything that has happened since Sonny and Cher got canceled. Austin is a great city full of great people, it is exciting and vibrant, and if some don't like it, get lost or at least have the courtesy to bitch quietly.
Have a great day, amigos!
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
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.