Our readers holding forth, but not holding back.
As a member of the Austin Public Library Commission since 1994, I strongly disagree with Mike Clark-Madison's portrayal of that Commission as "grouchy" and ineffectual until the very recent past (and, one can surmise, until the Commission had the benefit of Mr. Clark-Madison's wisdom to enlighten us -- why else would he have exercised the extremely poor judgment of interviewing himself instead of any other commissioner for this piece?) ["Boards! ... and Commissions," May 18]. Throughout my tenure on the Commission, I and my fellow commissioners have taken very seriously our responsibility to serve, on behalf of the City Council, as a forum for public discussion for Austin's citizens regarding their library. In my experience, the Council has been open to and appreciative of the work the Commission has done over the past decade. (This, I must note, despite Mr. Clark-Madison's personal attempts to undermine the authority of longtime and highly regarded Commission President Chip Harris through a petulant letter-writing campaign to City Council.)
The majority of Austin's citizens, as expressed by their approval of all recent bond packages, support the improvement and expansion of the Library's neighborhood branches, both current and new. As such, the Commission's recommendations have largely reflected this preference. This is not to say that there is not also support in the community (and certainly among Commissioners, new and grouchy) for a new central library facility as well. I sincerely hope that the efforts that are currently under way to give Austin the library system it deserves will result in a system that truly reflects the diversity and unique character of this city. Unfortunately, the process to date has serious problems -- most importantly the lack of any true efforts to involve either the citizenry or rank-and-file APL staff. (The single public hearing that was held prior to the completion of the Libraries for the Future report was given less promotion than Ralph Nader at a Democratic Party fundraiser.) Given the fact that this process has been spearheaded by the Library Foundation -- a group that, while holding only private meetings, has been making more and more of the day-to-day decisions for the public library on everything from where computer resources are located to lobbying for new high-level administrative library staff positions -- this is not surprising.
From Mr. Clark-Madison's "interview," it would appear that the best role for the Library Commission now is to wholeheartedly and unquestioningly support any proposal put forth without regard to the proposal's merit, long-term implications, or public sentiment. I, for one, will work to assure that the Commission continues to carefully examine and recommend proposals that truly reflect the needs and desires of Austin. Please attend our Commission meetings (fourth Monday of each month at the Austin History Center) and let your voice be heard.
Mimi Martinez McKay
'Chron' Fumbles Boards Issue
Your story on Austin Boards and Commissions ["Boards! ... and Commissions," May 18] missed the mark. Your readers need and deserve solid investigative journalism from the Chronicle, especially on local affairs. Instead, we got interesting but fluffy personal testimonials featuring -- guess who? -- your reporter. This approach was particularly unsuitable for the topic since board and commission members are understandably reluctant to be quoted publicly speaking ill of the council members that appoint them.
The real story is that the Watson council majority has time and again demonstrated no patience for or interest in board and commission participation in the most important decisions for our city. Since the whole purpose of the board and commission process is to encourage and gather the most intelligent and creative ideas from Austin citizens, council disinterest in the boards and commissions is the same as disrespect for the role of citizens in shaping Austin's future.
For the big decisions, deals spring from the Mayor's office, fully formed, with citizens' boards and commissions left to the role of tweaking done deals. Examples are many: the billion-dollar, 100-year water deal with LCRA; the "Bradley development deal"; the recent $150 million road bond package traded by the Mayor in exchange for a promise from the Chamber not to oppose light rail; the recently floated "Stratus deal," etc. Even those who appreciate the mayor's intelligence and energy can understand that concentrating power into a few hands while discouraging meaningful public participation is doing great harm to our city.
While Madison is right that boards and commissions do continue to play an important role on a myriad of public policy details, this ignores the big picture. How he could write and the Chronicle could publish a cover story on the topic without mentioning the Urban Transportation Commission's recent threat to resign en masse is hard to imagine. Former Council Member Gus Garcia stated some months ago in the Chronicle that too many important decisions were being made in the mayor's office. We still need the Chronicle to tell this story.
Save Our Springs Alliance
Not All in Cyberspace Is Fast
Why does the Web site lag so far behind the print version? Chronicles are available in most places west of I-35 by noon on Thursday, but the Web site isn't updated until some time in the late evening. If you don't leave the office for lunch on Thursday (I teach a class at lunchtime on Thursdays) and grab a Chron then, then it's altogether too easy to miss a great show on Thursday evening. Can't log on to the Web site and check for events before leaving work, the site's still last week's issue!
'Chron' Archives Go Deep
To the editor, webmaster, and everyone else responsible:
This is a letter of appreciation for the comprehensive nature of your archives on the Web [austinchronicle. com/issues]. I needed to recover a recent article, and couldn't find my own Chronicle copy. The article was readily accessible, with photos, and helped my research project immensely. Many publications don't archive, or charge for access. I appreciate your thoroughness and generosity to your readers.
More Than Just Beans
In the May 18 "Food-O-File" column, Virginia B. Wood writes that now that TFB and Formosa restaurants have been forced out of the shopping center at the corner of Windsor and Exposition, that corner is losing any community feel.
Not true. The CC's Coffee House there has turned into a neighborhood hangout. Lots of "regulars": Retired folks come to read, parents chat while kids play, grad students (like me) slurp coffee and peck away on laptops. The staff know people's names and come around to chat. They have music some nights. And the food and coffee are pretty good too. CC's might be a big chain, but they're a real asset to our corner of the city.
Just Say 'No' to Dumb-Ass Agents
Thanks for exposing the ineptitude of the drug warriors that raided Sandy Smith's home ["Naked City: No Weed, Just Dopes," May 25]. Smith is most likely correct in her presumption that the raid was precipitated by mean-spirited neighbors falsely reporting marijuana plants. That's exactly the type of sinister behavior narcs rely on to prosecute victimless crimes.
Santa Cruz, Calif.
In her letter in the May 25 Chronicle, Debbie Russell bundled public campaign financing with the issue of Instant Runoff Voting ["Postmarks: Fact Check"]. Her wording might lead some readers to conclude that the Libertarian Party supports both issues. For the record, the Travis County Libertarian Party has endorsed the concept of Instant Runoff Voting but has taken no such action on public campaign financing.
C. David Eagle, Chair
Travis County Libertarian Party
Please thank Mr. Ventura for having the guts to write about the great American malaise ["Letters at 3AM," May 25]. We need more writers like him to help burn off the fog of banality that clouds our perception. Bravo.
Quit Desecrating Memorial
Many Austinites are familiar with the touching memorial on the northbound Lamar/Fifth street underpass pillar. It was made by a mother whose teenage son was killed at that spot by a drunk driver. It read: "Ivan Garth Johnson, 1971-1989. Fair sailing, tall boy," and at the bottom was this poignant admonition: "Don't drink and drive. You might kill someone's kid."
The memorial was there for over 10 years, until a few weeks ago, when it was inexplicably painted out. News 8 Austin did a story about it, and apparently I was one of many who were troubled that it had been desecrated. So, how wonderful it was to drive up Lamar again yesterday afternoon (May 23) and see a homemade poster taped up on that same pillar, with those same familiar words ... and how sickening to see that by this morning (May 25), the poster had been ripped down and left crumpled on the median.
I'm stunned. When did Austin become a place we have that little respect for one another? If a place of worship were similarly defaced, it would be an outrage. A beautiful, worthwhile, deeply valued kid lost his life at that spot -- yet he went on to touch thousands of people through a quiet remembrance made of concrete, wood, cheap spray paint, and more love than most of us will ever understand. If that's not sacred ground, I don't know what is.
Coach's Dirty Laundry
It has taken me a while to catch up on my backlog of things to check out. I finally read the "Coach's Corner" of May 11, where he provided some historical background regarding my sports habits. Everything my son wrote in his column is true. The Red Sox would always take priority, regardless of what the family occasion might have been. I also admit to indiscretions when it came to the Celtics. And most important of all, $200 on the nose of a horse coming in at 10-1 was the ultimate. Other than horse racing, my interest in sports has diminished.
But let's set the record straight. Never, I repeat never, did I ever rush home to watch a hockey game on the tube. When I read junk like that in his column concerning his hockey-viewing habits, that is truly a family embarrassment. The only other person who ever rushed home to watch a hockey game was some poor soul in the northern Yukon, who probably shouldn't have been out in the first place. The answer that I get from the "Coach" is that it is his job. Some job. Better you should write about your pathetic golf game.