A fresh melange of reader responses to our recent issues.
Fri., May 25, 2001
Sorting Out the 'Stories'
A little clarification is in order in the material attributed to me in the "Austin Stories" column of May 18, 2001, by Erica C. Barnett.
The paragraph referencing my statements begins: "But the truth," says Steven Collins, executive director of the Texas Legislative Council, "is that no one really knows." That lead -- "But the truth" -- suggests that I was disputing the truth of the comments of either Sen. Armbrister or Ms. Cromwell or both, which was not, and is not the case. I was not responding to anything said by either; I merely answered the reporter's question about whether the funds received from the foundation under this proposal, which is a new idea, are accounted for in the school finance formulas under current law, and whether the scheme presented constitutional problems. The direct quotation attributed to me is accurate, but the lead for the paragraph is misleading and suggests that somehow I am the final arbiter of the truth of what others may have said, which is a role I neither claimed nor desire. I merely stated that the courts have not resolved the possible dis-equalizing influence of such a foundation's contributions to the support of a school district's programs. In addition, nothing I said addressed the constitutionality of this particular bill, nor did the reporter ask about the constitutionality of this particular bill. The question asked and addressed was about the broader impact of such a district on the constitutionality of the statewide system; in fact, I stated directly that I doubted that a single such district would be found to place the entire system out of constitutional guidelines.
No Parking at Park
In case your article left any doubt, we want to make it clear that the behavior of the Park Police at the West Austin Park was as described by Ms. Uribe ["Naked City: Who Shut the Dogs Out?" May 11]. We witnessed some of the Park Police behavior. We are residents of the Old West Austin neighborhood but are not dog owners. We walk through the park frequently. One point not mentioned -- this park is in a neighborhood and there is very little parking available for parents who might attend T-ball games.
Grant Lannon & Judy McMillan
Digs on the Daily Paper
Talk about a water boy for the ultra rich, it looks like you folks touched a serious hot button with your no-nonsense excoriation of the Real Estatesman for their unabashed bias in pushing the corporate agenda without regard to local concern ["Page Two," April 13]. I so long ago gave up on Oppel's regime for anything approaching objectivity that I encourage all readers to just say no ... no more subscriptions, no more newsstand purchases. If you must find the rare excellent piece, like the recent Buchholz essay on the Bob Kerrey/Tim O'Brian comparison, do it online. Even this insightful effort was marred by a laughable error concerning the photo purportedly of Senator Bob Kerrey that actually was John Kerry of Massachusetts. Well, to them all liberals look alike, I guess.
I'll tell you what you did in beginning SXSW, you outflanked them, and they see the mountain of paperwork that will result from their FIOA foray ["Page Two," May 11] as a potential mine to dig up a little dirt. Whatever the case, their pettiness and disregard for the people of Austin are displayed as on the big screen in vivid Technicolor. As a former technical salesman who traveled to all but a handful of states on business, I was often asked where I'm from, and I had a pat reply when they would ask about Austin, that they had heard it was real cool. Yeah, I'd reply, except for one thing ... it's surrounded by Texas. Well, dude, it looks like Texas is mounting a determined invasion, and they want to make us like every other bastion of ignorance, hypocrisy, and bigotry in this pathetic state.
A disgusted fifth-generation Austinite,
In response to Mr. May's letter regarding the proposed public campaign financing initiative for the City of Austin ["Postmarks: A Bad Idea, Dollar for Dollar," May 11], I'd like to mention that Linda Curtis actually received 13% (not 2%) in a five-way race; not bad for someone who is not independently wealthy and is too principled to accept corporate backing. This same race also saw Clare Barry, another leader in the progressive community, pick up 25% of the vote, proving Austinites are quite supportive of causes such as public campaign financing and instant runoff voting. There are even (gasp) Libertarians supportive of such causes, Mr. May.
Clean Campaigns for Austin
The Cons of Public Campaign Financing
Re: ["Postmarks: Greens on Campaign Reform," May 18]
I am heartened to hear that Sean Hale agrees with Linda Curtis that the current campaign financing ordinance is a failure. Libertarians made that observation before it passed.
The proposed new public financing scheme is worse:
1) Black citizens of Austin would be forced to fund the campaign of a KKK candidate. It is a perversion of free speech rights.
2) If an affluent donor gives $200 and a poor citizen can only give $5 to his preferred candidate, the affluent donor receives 40 times more matching funds.
3) A wealthy contributor could give $200 to each of five different candidates and receive 200 times more public funds than the low-income person who can only afford $5 for one candidate.
4) It would seem that Greens should have a keen sense of ballot access problems, yet Sean states that "qualifying [for matching funds] is not exactly easy." This means that the poorest candidates get zero public funds under his plan.
Finally, Sean inquires as to why a person who doesn't live in Austin would care about the people of Austin. I care about the loss of freedom whether it happens in Chiapas or Cuba or Austin.
Insecticides in the Water
Rep. Green has done it again. Brought foot n' mouth to our shores single-handedly and prematurely. "Rick Green declares ... he would condone the destruction of the salamander: 'Not even a contest, not even close. I wasn't elected by the species, I was elected by the people. If it came down to the needs of the salamander vs. the needs of the people, I'd go for the people every time.'" ["Trench Warfare," May 11]
Noble words worthy of an uneducated electorate, but I believe we in Hays are perhaps a little more intelligent than Mr. Green counts on for his slim voter margin. Could someone please explain to our man-cub representative that this disenfranchised salamander happens to swim and live in the same Edwards Aquifer that tens of thousands of his Hays constituents rely on for their daily needs? The same water my 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter drink from, untreated? And that I, for one, and my neighbors, for a few hundred more, are hardly interested in his hydrological carelessness. We do not need the insecticides and pesticides and nitrates and fertilizers and heavy metals in our wonderful water that his efforts and anti-environmental attitude will invariably cause. Rick Green's seeming belief that we can do whatever we want developmentally over the ground and that fate will take care of under the ground is irresponsible and frightening.
Robert C. Baxter, Jr.
Kudos for Alt.comics
Let me be the first (if I was fast enough) to thank you for adding Troubletown by Lloyd Dangle to your comics page. Being a long-term fan of alternative comics it's nice to see the Chronicle emerge from the comics dark ages and add some more quality modern strips. As instrumental as Lynda Barry and Matt Groening were to alternative comics in the Eighties, it has been a long time since either of their work has been important. Groening in particular has been on cruise control for nearly a decade now. I would encourage the Chronicle to pursue more quality weekly strips for publication. Tony Millionaire's Maakies, Kaz's Underworld and Doug Allen's Steven come immediately to mind. It's pretty embarrassing that the Statesman has had you guys "one-upped" on the comics dept by cornering the market on Chris Ware's strip. The Chronicle should strive to regain its comics edge.
Music to His Ears
Shortly before press time for last week's Chronicle (which included my letter chiding AISD for its lack of support for the orchestra program at the McCallum Fine Arts Academy ["Postmarks: Same Old Song," May 18]), the AISD administration announced a change. Answering concerns from dozens of parents and the needs of a growing number of orchestra students, AISD will fund a full-time orchestra director at McCallum. Their responsiveness is greatly appreciated.
I have an idea on how we can reduce air pollution, promote tourism, and help the economy!
How? By granting a waiver to the $50-per-quarter fee that the city charges for pedi-cabs.
By doing this, Austin will gain cleaner air (pedi-cabs are human-powered and pollution-free), a very cool tourist attraction (what other city our size has so many pedi-cabs?), and a residual boost in the economy from the tax cut.
If you agree that the city should do this, be sure and sign the online petition for this proposal at pedicabpetition.cjb.net.
James M. Branum
Free Speech Doesn't Discriminate
Thought I would respond to Stephen L. Trapp's letter on his arrest at the Texas History museum dedication ["Postmarks: Notes From Underground," May 18]. I do agree that you were seemingly singled out for search and interrogation, although you fail to mention who started the argument and what was said, so I don't know.
Let's beat a dead horse, Stephen. You do realize that the Confederate battle flag is just a symbol, right? And being a symbol, it means different things to different people. To some, it is a symbol of racism and "white power," which is why it is offensive to you and others. But to some people, it's a symbol of "rebel pride" against a government trying to control people's lives. Hell, to some, it's a symbol of Bo, Luke, and Cooter taking on Hogg, Cletus, and Roscoe every night on TNN.
You want to ban the flag? Make sure you ban the cross too, since racist jackasses in the KKK use that symbol as well, and I find the cross to be the most offensive symbol throughout history, which is why I personally don't wear one. Hell, I'm sure American Indians find the American flag to be pretty offensive.
You see, I'm only assuming that you identified the other individual as a "purveyor of racism" because you "engaged in a brief, but heated verbal altercation." I'm hoping you didn't identify him first as a racist, and then "got into it with him" ... because if you truly want a better world, then you need to learn about tolerance yourself. You need to realize that freedom of speech does not only protect types of speech that don't offend you, or people who agree with you. Why don't we all focus on real change, instead of symbols, flags, and trinkets that mean different things to different people?
Oh, and in the future, if you're going to call attention to yourself and protest, you may want to take care of existing arrest warrants first.
Yours for a fairer world,
Think Austin's Summers are Bad? Try a Nuclear Winter
This week's Tom Tomorrow cartoon about Space Commander Bush and his missile defense shield [This Modern World, May 18] made me laugh, and think. In Tom's third frame, Commander Bush sets off a bomb that blows up an incoming nuclear warhead "harmlessly above the atmosphere." Tom's "harmlessly" comment is what made me think. Here's why:
If three or four multiple warhead ICBM's were destroyed over the Pacific Ocean by our missile defense shield, within weeks every living thing on Earth would die. The nightmare scenario of "nuclear winter" would blanket the Earth and deadly radiation would quickly encircle the globe.
It is pure folly to believe we can destroy ICBM's in flight and not pay any life-threatening consequences for setting off so many horrific nuclear explosions. It is also folly to believe there is no way to construct an ICBM that could detonate its entire multi-warhead payload when hit by another missile. If this total detonation capability doesn't already exist it probably soon will, having been inspired by the deployment of our missile defense shield.
If we go ahead with this missile defense shield idea, the race will begin to find a way to improve ICBM technology that can outwit our clever shield, so that once a missile is set aloft it won't make any difference where it explodes, meaning Space Commander Bush won't walk away unscathed. No one will.
As a matter of fact, if the U.S. and some other country exploded just five warheads each, the nuclear winter scenario would still occur. Keep in mind we're talking hydrogen bombs many times more powerful than the two relatively "small" atom bombs dropped on Japan. I think it would be wise to consider the damage just one multiple warhead missile carrying a dozen or more bombs would do if it was "shot down" in the atmosphere. Hardly a "harmless" bang would occur.
The [mutually assured destruction] scenario of nuclear winter has kept the world in a mutual state of fear and restraint all these years. During his campaign, Commander Bush said more trust and humility was needed to solve the world's differences. That's the kind of talk that got him elected. So it should be no surprise to him that many people don't believe we need a missile defense shield and the inevitable multibillion dollar arms race that will accompany it.
HB 1771: Bad News Bill
I am writing as President of the Goldenwood Property Owners Association regarding Sen. Ken Armbrister's Senate Bill 1771 (the House companion bill is Rep. Rick Green's HB 3641).
Our subdivision is located in North Hays County and adjoins land affected by the bill. We rely on wells and a handful of rainwater collection systems for our water supply.
We oppose the bill and ask you to do so, also, for at least two reasons:
1) This is not just a local item. As their neighbors, we are closely affected by the special taxing district empowered by this bill. But this district is directly over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone, which provides water for 45,000 people. So, the district's influence reaches from our next-door neighbors through the city of Sunset Valley to the city of Austin.
2) It is contested. Our little neighborhood has recently been made aware of the effects and power of this district to condemn and annex land, and to tax us. It is governed by an unelected board. We, the locals, have no vote in the district. If our wells run dry or are impacted, there goes our property values and rights. As I understand it, our neighbors, including the Radiance Water Supply Corporation, the city of Sunset Valley, the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, Hays County Water Planning Partnership, SOS, and Save Barton Creek Association contest the bill. We add our names to this list of people contesting the bill.
In conclusion, this bill seems to be on a fast track to passage. It has been presented as a "local consent" item. As one of the locals, who represents several hundred more of the local residents in Goldenwood whose property values and rights will be impacted, we ask you to join us in not letting these bills go through.
Goldenwood Property Owners Association
Municipal Gaffes Keep On Coming
The City That Couldn't Get It Quite Right strikes again. The Ullrich water treatment plant pipeline -- with nary a drop delivered -- requires millions of dollars in repairs. And the best that the City That Couldn't Get It Quite Right could do by way of comment in the Austin-American Statesman and other local news outlets?
"Uuuh, I don't know who's going to pay for this but somebody's going to pay for it and it's not going to be the city." Eloquent.
So now the City That Couldn't Get It Quite Right has hired a lawyer to spend more money on deciding who is going to pay for the repairs. Let's review: some recent highlights in the City That Couldn't Get It Quite Right include:
The City That Couldn't Get It Quite Right -- the live municipal ****-up capital of the world.
Oh, and watch out for the forthcoming, "Well, no. Nobody's actually been pushed off the sidewalk into traffic or off the bridge into the river but that doesn't mean we don't have to take a lane out of the Congress Avenue bridge to accommodate the five-minutes-a-night, four-months-of-the-year bat watching, does it?"
If Mr. James Weaver of Bellmead is at all interested in understanding why Jim Hightower, and millions of other progressive thinkers, tend to cast a jaundiced eye on the actions of corporations, I'd like to suggest that he read a few books. Hundreds are out there, but let's start with these three:
Who Will Tell the People by William Greider. This book documents how our government has been corrupted by the influence of corporate money. How laws made in the interest of public health and safety regularly go unenforced when Corporate Money comes to call on the House, the Senate, and the White House. In other words, who our representative government really represents. (It ain't you and me, Mr. Weaver.)
Corporations are Gonna Get Your Mama by Kevin Danaher(available at www.globalexchange.org). This book demonstrates how transnational corporations control our lives and our choices in ways that have destroyed the traditional "American Dream." (Corporations are capitalist until it comes to cleaning up their waste; then they become socialists, leaving the dirty work to you and me, and a government that increasingly doesn't care.)
And to help understand why we, the people, are not kept informed of these encroachments on our personal liberties and of the deconstruction of our American democracy, I recommend The Propaganda Model by Noam Chomsky and Ed Herman. This book demonstrates how ordinary market forces keep important news stories out of the mainstream media, so that citizens of this country are not properly or fully informed.
Since the Republican Party has traditionally been the party of Big Business, it's only natural that they should be seen as the party largely to blame for the current sorry state of our democracy.
Conservative: tending to preserve established traditions or institutions and to resist or oppose any changes in these.
Conservatives need to know that the institutions that they want to preserve have been corrupted, and if we wish to preserve them, we ought to preserve them in their original states, not in the current, corrupted state we find them today.
Liberal: favoring reform or progress ... specifically, favoring political reforms tending toward democracy and personal freedom for the individual; progressive.
Liberals need to be reminded that real change is possible, if we want it. Our government was established to represent "We, the people." (And this includes, as Mr. Weaver puts it, "the enviro-nuts, feminist, queers, [and] racist blacks.")