Words on the Jesus video, the Instrumental article, the Dance Festival, and other local points of contention.
The Book on the Public Library
Last week's "Naked City" referenced the Austin Public Library and city finances ["Austin Stories," April 27]. It reduced a complex situation to an elementary assessment of our city's economic and library system challenges. Several points need clarification and additional information.
Since September 1999, the Libraries For the Future (LFF) Task Force has studied our library system with the goal of finding ways to better serve our community and citizens. While this council and this manager have been supportive of our library in general, it was not until this January that the task force adopted a strategic vision for excellence in our library system. The LFF report articulates the needs for the public's library. The report has the unanimous support of the Austin City Council.
The Libraries For the Future initiative calls for additional financial support over the next several years from public and private sources. While the exact amount is being finalized, it does represent a new commitment from the city and the philanthropic interests of Austin, and we anticipate working with the city manager and the council to explore all options.
The city leaders are bound by law to balance our budget. While we are disappointed that the current climate may preclude critical funding for books and staff, I am confident that our city leadership will find ways to continue to move the Austin Public Library forward.
All Austinites are grateful to the City Council and city manager for their commitment to the task force's efforts. It is clear that in spite of a slowing economy, Austin will move forward in its commitment to make our library system exemplary. This is not the time in which to cut back on our investment in our library system. The public library is a critical player in improving our quality of life generally and in making Austin a more desirable location for future economic investment. Traditionally across America, public libraries have been the intellectual equivalent of public highways. They have allowed people to "travel" freely anywhere and everywhere regardless of their age, ethnic background, language, or economic level.
Roberta I. Shaffer
Dean, UT Graduate School of Library and Information Science
Co-Chair, Libraries For the Future Task Force
'Soda Jerks' Feedback
In response to your article "Soda Jerks" [April 27] about the widespread corruption in the vending business at the AISD: I was generally pleased with the story and thought it was reported fairly with a few exceptions that should be clarified.
The unidentified distributor who attempted to assassinate my reputation with unsubstantiated innuendo should be specific like I was with documentation and evidence.
Mr. Fullerton, my hands are not stained with grease, I was painting cabinets black the day you interviewed me, I often wear a tie and I do not have a lisp, and my associate Mr. Henry Carr is not a boy but a 46-year-old man.
Mr. Burckhardt, who claims that he knew I was taping him so he fed me a line of "bullshit," what a fool, hello McFly.
Robert H. Liva
Eight Million Sins of Omission
The fact that someone was willing to drop over $8 million to spam every mailbox in Texas with videos of the laughably amateurish 1979 film Jesus just goes to show how morally adrift some fundamentalist Christians are, not to mention selfish in their motives ["Jesus Is Coming," April 27]. Think what $8 million would mean to researchers trying to cure childhood-onset leukemia, or diabetes, or MS, or even AIDS, for crying out loud. But it seems the people behind the Jesus Video Project are more interested in getting people into church pews (to cough up their tithes) than in actually doing anything genuinely beneficial to anyone. Oh, for the love of reason!
Atheist Community of Austin
Mystery + Reason = Jesus Christ
I have to tell Sarah Hepola (with regard to her article, "Jesus is Coming," April 27) that there's a reason Barbara Bucklin's hand on her shoulder felt "nice" as she was prayed for; there's a reason Barbara Bucklin can pray for understanding and hope; and there's a reason for the "mystery" that has stirred Sarah, as well as each of us deep inside -- whether we know God or not. The mystery and reason is Jesus Christ.
Just as the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians, "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you ... "
There was a time in my life when I, like others, would have been offended to have seen the Jesus video in my mailbox, reluctantly receiving it as intolerant Christian dogma. But God thankfully stirred my hopeful heart for long enough that I was able (a few years ago) to accept Christ as my Savior. Sure, a lot of the way the Christian message is delivered comes across as either cornball or offensive -- who wants to be told that the life they're currently living is futile apart from Christ? -- but the message of the Gospel transcends every physical thing, which means that God can use cheesy media, films, and anything else to bring his message of hope to each child he created.
Render to Cinema What Is Cinema's --
The cover of your latest issue screams "Jesus Is Coming" [April 27]. Thus the reader is being alerted concerning a certain movie to be shown in Austin. Yet on another Chronicle page you have another ad which alerts the reader concerning another future movie, The Mummy Returns. Well, this is just great! Two basically identical movies with the same theme, i.e., dead persons coming back to haunt us. Unfortunately, I am allocating enough financial resources to watching only a single movie about the departed. So thanks a bunch, Austin Chronicle, for leaving me with this unsolved dilemma! How am I ever going to figure out which one to go see? Perhaps by flipping a coin, but I am now praying that I See Dead People 2 isn't about to hit our cinemas as well ... in which case I think I'll just allocate said budget to replenishing my stock of condoms.
Yaron Sheffer, Ph.D.
Foggy Facts in POFG Story
In the March 30 edition, an article on Police Oversight ["The People vs. Mike Sheffield"] contained some factual errors that need to be corrected.
The reporter stated that "... Mike McDonald ... endorsed the POFG [Police Oversight Focus Group] plan when it first went to the City Council." That is not true. Assistant Chief Michael McDonald did not endorse the plan. He did say he supported civilian oversight, but, when the discussion arose at Council regarding the group's recommendations, he voiced several areas of concern, including: (1) The POFG's recommended process would have a chilling effect on officers. Most serious cases against officers are successful because other officers come forward. If too much information is disclosed about the people providing information, etc., then those individuals could potentially face retaliation within the department. The POFG's recommendations, had they gone forward as proposed, could have significantly affected future investigations; (2) the recommendations did not go far enough with respect to what cases should be investigated, citing only nonsustained complaints. Indeed, Assistant Chief McDonald supported -- and successfully incorporated into the Meet and Confer agreement -- giving more latitude as to what cases could be reviewed. He believed that the general public would want to see officer-involved shootings and other issues, such as claims of racial profiling patterns, investigated too; (3) the POFG did not define "independent investigation," and did not develop any sort of process for it; (4) there were many issues with respect to violations of the Charter and Civil Service Statute contained within the proposal; (5) the POFG's original proposal envisioned wide-ranging public disclosure of the Internal Affairs investigation without considering the common law and statutory privacy rights of the accused employee, the complainant, and witnesses, as well as the negative effect that widespread public disclosure would have on the ability to prosecute an officer for criminal misconduct. These are just a few of the concerns Assistant Chief Michael McDonald raised concerning the POFG's proposal. However, it is very clear that he did not -- at any time -- endorse the entire plan.
Also, POFG Chair Ann del Llano, was quoted as saying, "... the City Council signed away all of their authority over this [Police Oversight] forevermore." This is simply not true. The police Meet and Confer contract lasts three years, and where changes are necessary, the council can certainly ask for those changes when the contract comes up for renewal.
Public Information Officer,
City of Austin
Research First, Posturing Later
Your recent article "The New Rites of Spring: The Last Word in Instrumental Rock, Austin and Otherwise" [April 27] was seriously lacking. If this article was the last word, then I guess we can go ahead and bury all of the instrumental bands. I didn't read anything in this article that I haven't already seen in the Chronicle in previous issues. The writer somehow managed to completely ignore the fact that instrumental rock is not new, and has been going on since at least 1960.
I won't go into naming bands or sub-genres, but this article completely ignored many longtime Austin instrumental bands. I know that you can't possibly rave about every Austin band that plays instrumental music, but you could have found plenty of local instrumental bands to at least mention if you had only consulted The Austin Chronicle Musicians Register. You didn't even do enough research to notice that Austin is home to at least two independent record labels that devote themselves exclusively to unsigned instrumental bands from around the world. Don't you guys get a copy of the Texas Music Industry Directory?
Instead of an informative exposé on the brewing Austin instrumental scene, we get more fawning, sycophantic praise for Graham Reynolds (whose brief history of instrumental music is almost as self-serving as the rest of the article) and Peter Stopschinski. Both of these men are fine artists and composers, but they are not the only people in Austin who are playing instrumental music. Golden Arm Trio could release a CD full of looped fart noises and nursery rhymes, and The Austin Chronicle would give it five stars and a live review of the release party.
This was a blatant attempt to prop yourselves up as purveyors of cool, just in case 2001 actually becomes the "Year of Instrumental Rock." Please open your ears and do a little research next time, instead of just browsing through a back issue of your own publication.
Have a nice day,
Fest's Snafus Few & Far Between
As co-stage managers of the Austin Festival of Dance, we feel compelled to respond to Dawn Davis Loring's review of the evening, and in particular to her critique of the technical elements ["Exhibitionism," April 20].
To answer the question posed in Ms. Loring's review, toward the end of the first intermission, the front-of-house staff at the Paramount Theatre utilized their normal methods to warn the patrons that the show would be resuming shortly. As stage managers, we have to allow the audience to take responsibility for returning to their seats promptly after intermission, in the same way that we have to allow them to take the responsibility for arriving on time for a performance.
Ms. Loring goes on to indicate that not only was the start of the second act an inconvenience to the audience, it was downright hazardous to the performers. As professionals with extensive background in aerial performances, Lisa Giobbi and Timothy Harling have an intimate understanding of the inherent danger in their work, and accept full responsibility for it. Under no circumstances would they consent to work in a blatantly unsafe environment. Additionally, under no circumstances would the professional crew and production company of the Festival allow them to place themselves in undue danger.
Aside from those two caveats, Ms. Loring is unable to specify any other technical snafus that kept the evening from running smoothly. Keeping in mind that the Festival comes together in only two days of rehearsal, the excellent crew and production team should be commended for their efforts to make each piece, and the evening as a whole, flow seamlessly.
Finally, if Ms. Loring is only able to see recurring themes for the evening in the bare skin and the unlimited bag of tricks employed by the performers, perhaps she missed the point. This year's festival was themed "Celebrate the Human Spirit." The diversity of the performances was, in itself, the recurring theme. In one evening, an audience was taken from the spiritual to the sexual; from languorous fluidity to intense stamina, all in a joyous and exquisite celebration of the human spirit.
Co-Stage Managers, Austin Festival of Dance
Austin is "terminally democratic." That is one of the best things I have ever heard about our town. We have built a community that has a lot of input in everything, and because of that we have become one of the most green, fun, safe, and prosperous places to be.
That is why all the discussion lately about reorganizing our 60 or so boards and commissions is missing a clear and obvious answer. Instead of minimizing the community's voice in our local government, we should capitalize on it. We should promote the boards and commissions as a great place to get involved or to be heard.
We have created an oasis that is Austin. Not just a city, but a community that likes to be involved and cares about what makes us special. Promote the boards and commissions and the community will stand and be recognized.
Matthew D. Curtis
Austin Telecommunications Commission
Giving Credit Where It's Due
We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Chronicle, Wayne Alan Brenner, and Kenny Braun for putting together such a positive article on our own involvement with the new history museum and our efforts in installing fun landmark artworks around town ["They're History," April 27]. Unfortunately, we were credited with creating the armadillo frieze around Threadgill's World Headquarters, at Riverside Drive and Barton Springs Road. The person responsible for this work is local artist Jim Franklin. Rory Skagen painted the mural on the exterior of the building. Thank you.
Partner, Blue Genie Arts
The Irony of Earth Day
The Earth Day 2001 celebration in Waterloo Park was fun and good-spirited. But it was marred by the driving of many, many cars, trucks, and SUV's through the middle of Waterloo Park.
Ecology Action, which organized the event, sent a flier to groups running booths at Earth Day. It said, "Please do not drive on the park lawn unless absolutely necessary." But almost everyone who set up a booth drove a truck, or even several trucks, over the grass in Waterloo Park.
The people who ran booths at Earth Day are nice folks who truly want to stop polluting and tread more lightly on the biosphere. But people are so much in the habit of driving cars and trucks to exactly where they want to go, that they just don't think. The result is absurd: trucks rolling through a park for Earth Day.
Even if you bring your display materials to the park in a truck, you can leave the truck outside the park and carry the materials in on foot. If the stuff is heavy or bulky, get more people to help, or use a cart or dolly. Better still, get the materials from your headquarters to the park by human power, using heavy-duty trikes and bicycle trailers This equipment exists, and it is well suited to Earth Day.
People in Austin have a very hard time realizing that their own cars pollute the air and cause traffic jams. But it's true. And eventually your car ends up in a very toxic landfill.
Thursday, April 26, was this year's first official Ozone Action Day. Your car produces ozone-forming gases, even if you're a nice person.
Maybe in 2002 we can celebrate Earth Day without driving trucks through the park.
A Bad Idea, Dollar for Dollar
How much damage can one woman do? Linda Curtis has launched her second assault on the First Amendment rights of Austinites ["Austin Stories," April 20].
When Curtis ran for City Council, about 98% of eligible voters chose not to vote for her. Now she is promoting a city charter change that would force those people to fund her next campaign. Of course the taxpayers will have to fund the campaigns of skinhead Nazis too.
Public Campaign Financing has a more insidious aspect. Rich people who can spend $1,000 on their favorite candidates in one election cycle will get $2,000 of matching funds. Poor people who can only afford to give $10 will only get $20 of matching funds. Does Linda think it wise to amplify the voice of the wealthy by a hundred times what less affluent folks get?
The poorest candidates get nothing. Libertarians, unite.
Vincent J May
When Intel's Chips Are Down, AMD's Are Up
I just read "Deconstructing Downtown" [April 20] and was once again reminded why I moved out of the city of Austin. For years the mayor, the City Council, the news outlets, etc. in Austin have done everything they could to ignore the world's second largest producer of microprocessors, Advanced Micro Devices. Most of AMD's chip producing and design facilities (several billion dollars' worth) are located right here in Austin. AMD employs about 4,000 people in the Austin area and provides support for countless other employees in the semiconductor industry.
It has been widely known for over a year that AMD is planning a new $4 billion chip-making facility, and it would behoove the city of Austin to make some serious effort to get this facility built here. But did they? Nope. Not until Intel pulled out of their little $124 million dollar eyesore project.
Maybe I just don't understand politics in Austin, but it seems to me that you should really try to get the business of the company that is in Austin, has supported Austin for over 25 years, and has a project 32 times bigger.
But when AMD's biggest competitor, Intel, waltzes in and puts on a dog and pony show for the council, millions of dollars in tax breaks and a prime piece of real estate are lavished upon them.
I really hope AMD builds their new chip plant near here. Maybe in San Marcos. They've been nice to AMD for a long time.
Just a guy with an AMD Athlon that can blow the doors off any Intel chip
P.S. AMD's sales grew last quarter. Intel's plummeted.
Sixth Time's the Charm?
Today the public airwaves are filled with the news that the Austin City Council is considering changing the city charter to restrict voting by Austinites to a single member of the City Council. The spin that city political operatives have put on this idea (and that the media seems to have bought hook, line, and sinker) is that "Austin is the largest city in Texas still using at-large voting for the City Council."
What is missing from the newscasts is that restricting voters to the election of a single council member is such a bad idea that Austin voters have rejected it at the polls in 1973, 1978, 1985, 1989, and 1997.
Single-member district voting is good for office-seekers and their backers -- and that is why it keeps being proposed over and over again.
Initiative for Texas
Texas History: No Habla Español?
They call it "The Story of Texas." It's "For everyone in Texas and the Texan in everyone," as the slogan goes. There is no end to the superlatives we can use in describing the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum; it truly is impressive ... spectacular ... the shiniest new jewel in Austin's crown. The designers and builders have spared no expense, attended to every detail. Oops. All but one teensy little detail, that is. They seem to have forgotten that "Texans" include a huge and growing number of Spanish-speakers. Nowhere among the exhibits in our magnificent new museum will you find even a single caption written in Spanish. An English-only museum in Texas in the 21st century? Shame on us! Perhaps we need to qualify that slogan a bit: "The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum ... for every English-speaker in Texas."
Mary Beth Metcalf
What a Wonderful Web
I just ran across your Web site. I moved from Austin seven years ago and always make sure to grab an Austin Chronicle whenever I come down to visit my parents, who still live there. I'm really going to enjoy reading some of your articles online now. Thank you very much!
Unions Deserve a Good Bashing
I love liberals, I really do. They cling to their beliefs, never correct but always sure they know everything. Suggest changing a failed welfare system, and according to liberals, that means you are a racist. Suggest changing a failed national health care system to something that gives better service to the recipients and costs less, and you hate old people and want them to die. Yawn. Now I see a bunch of people writing letters to this outstanding publication having their panties all in a bunch because someone might have been "union bashing" ["Union's Due," April 6]. See, liberals love unions because the idea that workers are helpless dolts is so dear to most liberals, and unions "prove it." Less than 14% of American workers are represented by unions, and in almost every instance where unionization has come up for a vote, workers have overwhelmingly rejected the unions. The concept behind unions is simple: Workers are stupid dolts who could never get fair compensation for their efforts, so for the price of their dues, someone goes and talks to "the boss" about pay and benefits for them. A few fallacies about unions. "They represent the workers." Bullshit, they represent the Middle of the Road members, leaving the "fringies" on both ends hanging. "They care about American Jobs." More bullshit, the UPS strike a few years ago put thousands of non-union workers out of a job, and the most recent UAW strike against General Motors was aimed specifically at putting non-union shops out of business and they did it. GM started outsourcing parts to non-union shops, so the UAW went on strike and forced GM to stop doing business with the non-union shops. "They stand for international brotherhood among oppressed workers." Bullshit, I watched Teamsters at the border when NAFTA was signed, calling Mexican truck drivers scabs, wetbacks, and spics. Unions are a thing of the past, they represent less than 14% of workers and in reality are nothing more than another special interest group. Workers are educated now and able to settle their own agendas with their employers. Anyone bashing unions has my respect and support.
This Might Hurt for an Eternity
You'd be surprised what you can learn when you pull your secular humanistic head out of the sand. Yes, Jesus is coming ["Jesus Is Coming," April 27], but to listen to liberals yap, nothing is really true unless they know about it and agree. This might come as a shock to many of your readers, but truth is not dependent on your opinion. Just because you don't know about something doesn't mean it's not real. It just means you're more ignorant than first thought. You can have more degrees than a thermometer but still not have a clue about truth. Let's face it, you don't know, and you don't want to know, so why not put a lid on it and stop embarrassing yourselves.
One of the few reasons I read The Austin Chronicle is to see what kind of aphasic lunacy the secular humanistic sodomites will screech about next. Being incorrigible malcontents, it's always something ...