Expanding on neighborhood expansion, taking C. Robison to task, and much more.
Neighborhood Group to Blame
Erica Barnett's "Austin Stories" article on the proposed redevelopment of 11 tracts along Marathon in the Alta Vista neighborhood [June 29] provided an extremely unbalanced view of what actually transpired. The previous owner, Live Oak Development, had planned to do a mixed-use building at the corner of 45th and Lamar as a precursor to developing the 11 tracts using similar Smart Growth ideas. Under the city's SMART Housing Plan, this development could have included a considerable amount of affordable housing. However, the Rosedale Neighborhood Association pitched such a fit in opposition to this plan that Live Oak leased the 45th and Lamar parcel to Chili's instead, and decided to sell the other land rather than try to continue to negotiate with a completely unreasonable and hysterical neighborhood association.
Scott Barnes' subsequent "Postmarks" letter ["Keep Neighborhood Integrity," July 6] merely serves to reinforce how unrealistic these people's expectations are. Barnes writes "the Bruces would have better served their street through the renovation of the existing housing stock." Sure, and the Bruces could do an even better job of "serving their street" by handing out $10,000 in cash to each current resident, a move which would be fiscally equivalent to what Barnes is proposing. In north Central Austin, vacant lots are selling for an average of $100,000. This means that the cost of just the land (including taxes) is about $850 per month. Using the city of Austin's SMART Housing guide, "reasonably priced housing" for a family of four can cost no more than $975 per month. Under these conditions, how can anyone afford to provide reasonably priced housing given the land use model proposed by Barnes and his fellow neighborhood association Luddites? Neighborhood associations who reject any land use other than the status quo are directly responsible for the urban sprawl, accompanying traffic congestion, and lack of affordable housing that Austin is suffering from today.
Corporate Welfare Sucks
As a semiconductor technology company founder, property owner, and chair of SOS, I have been fighting corporate welfare and the Smart Growth scheme since my return to Austin in 1999. I was therefore both surprised and pleased to read that Robin Rather and Brigid Shea are opposed to the city's $95 million welfare offer to AMD. I am surprised because when I met them both, they (Brigid was a paid lobbyist hired by Vignette) were shopping Vignette's Smart Group welfare package to the community. One of the most insulting arguments was that since Vignette was unprofitable, the city should subsidize the company's move downtown.
I am pleased they are now opposed to AMD, because prior support for deals such as Intel, CSC, and Vignette provided our elected officials green cover for corporate welfare. Unfortunately, it also suggested to the community that Austin's "Environmental leadership" must be living within a distorted reality field to support these subsidies.
Smart Growth provided over $100 million dollars in welfare to companies that had a combined market value in an excess of $250 billion dollars and not a single acre of environmentally sensitive land was permanently protected from development under the Smart Growth scheme.
Here's a better idea. Regardless of the economy, our city should not provide any corporate welfare, period. Our city's quality of life is suffering and the cost of living is rapidly increasing without pause. Instead of focusing on corporate welfare for business, our elected officials should focus on restoring and sustaining Austin's quality of life by ensuring that all businesses not only meet 100% of their financial commitments but go beyond the call and assist in other areas as well ... just like the average Austinite does. The best way to protect Austin's economic future is to restore and sustain the quality of life for its citizens.
To date, the city has provided $100 million dollars and now is considering $100 million more for AMD. Just imagine what $200 million could provide the citizens of this city.
Keep MoPac Expansion on Ice
Kudos to Mayor Watson and others responsible for putting the brakes at least temporarily on TxDOT's plans to add multiple lanes, HOV lanes, and/or newly designed exits to MoPac at the cost of bulldozing homes in the inner city ["Austin Stories," July 6]. Let's give two honks for them and for Austin's "Smart Growth" initiative which encourages inner-city development!
The only problem with MoPac is during rush hour(s) when it slows to a crawl as do all freeways across Austin and the country, no matter how many lanes they have. Adding lanes will only mean more cars will magically appear to use them. (In Ann Richards' words at the public hearing held a while back by CAMPO, "If you build it they will come!") As to the safety of some exits, simply cutting down the speed by 10 or 15 miles per hour on MoPac would solve the hairpin turn problems at some exits (exits which were designed poorly by TxDOT in the first place when the road was built).
It is hard to see how the possibility of cutting a few minutes or seconds off of commuting time for those who choose to live away from Central Austin by TxDOT's so-called "improvements" is worth destroying the lives of thousands of residents along MoPac who would have to endure 24 hours a day of added noise, air and visual pollution, and more traffic on local streets ... not to mention the terrifying prospect of losing their homes to a widening of the expressway. Let's get our priorities straight.
Claude M. Gruener
Standing Up for Alta Vista
In the eight years I've lived in Alta Vista I've neither seen nor heard of drug dealers or drag races in the neighborhood ["Austin Stories," June 29]. Just people of modest means trying to make a living. Also, the streets are too narrow for drag races.
It sounds like the new owner is trying to build "snout houses," which tend to discourage pedestrian traffic like "mothers with strollers." You won't see "dad mowing the lawn" either because houses of that size don't have much room for grass.
Comin' From Cali No Crime
There was an excellent article about feral cats in the June 29 edition ["Naked City"], but the writer used the article to denigrate people who moved to Austin from California. When Texans move to California no one talks bad about them. Many people moved to Austin from places other than California (like Houston and Dallas). The writer's opinion is no better than racism.
Robison Is No Earle
I am a bartender at the Exit/In ["Right Man for the Job," June 29]. First let me say Charlie is a fine talent and I enjoy his music, however, please tell your music writers to do at least an iota of research. At least spell our fuckin' name right. Second, Charlie's got a long way to go before he can be mentioned in the same breath as Steve Earle. While his music is pure, some of us little people out here still feel he's got a ways to go.
'Chron' Establishment Phobia
Once again the Chronicle is engaging in its favorite pastime of slamming Nashville and the country music business. As a former resident of both Austin and Nashville, I know that Nashville doesn't appreciate assholes like Charlie Robison coming to town to tell them how much Fan Fair sucks ["Right Man for the Job," June 29] any more than Austin would appreciate a band from Po-Dunk, Iowa, coming to town to bitch and moan about SXSW. If Charlie doesn't like it there, he can go start his own genre, attract his own major labels, and create his own radio format (and he won't even have to marry another celebrity!).
And the best part is that Andy Langer and the Chronicle would have a whole new genre that they could lambaste. Your cynicism against the Nashville Establishment, the Music Establishment, and Any Establishment in General is job security to you, but death to musicians who would like to see a thriving music business in Austin.
New York, N.Y.
Hasta la Vista, Austin!
I'm a newcomer to Austin. I've only been here since January, 1985.
But I'm already leaving. It's tough because there's a lot I'll miss: sunsets over the Hill Country and spring wildflowers. The City-Wide Garage Sale and breakfast at Cisco's. Eating ribs at Artz, dancing at the Broken Spoke, and saying the Pledge to the Flag with the Downtown Lions.
But there's more I won't miss. I won't miss spending the equivalent of 15 days a year sitting in traffic and exorbitant property taxes. Mostly, I won't miss the retreat from common sense disguised as "political correctness." I won't miss a city that gives undeserved scholarships to kids who misbehaved at an unsupervised party but nothing to teenagers whose parents didn't allow them to attend. Or a city where police "can do nothing" when militant bicyclists terrorize a single mother trying to get past their blockade to pick up her young son. And I won't miss a city that pays lip service to East Austin in planning meetings but has systematically transformed downtown into a yuppie playground beyond the means of many Austin families.
There's no perfect place, but Austin used to be about as close as you could get. I'm glad I was here when people still knew that the Armadillo and the Night Hawk are not endangered species and that Cactus Pryor isn't just another xeriscape plant. The great irony is that in the rush to embrace all of the uniqueness that once was Austin, that very "Austin-ness" has been lost in the fray. Sounds like an opera. Maybe one you'll see in the new Performing Arts Center. After you pay to park. If you can afford tickets.
I'll be back. Because Austin is a great place. To visit. I just don't want to live here anymore.
Room 710's Silenced Partner
Hi. My name is Adriana and my husband and I own Room 710. I'd like to thank Chris Gray for writing such a refreshing story about the bands, bars, and venues that make Red River a force to be reckoned with ["Red River Valley," June 22]. Unfortunately though, you never mentioned Asher Garber. He's our partner, too.
And without him, Room 710 wouldn't and couldn't exist today.
Thanks for listening,
Thanks for the Biking News
I really enjoyed Dan Oko's write-up on the new restriction on biking on parts of the BCP ["A Liquid Proposition," July 6]. Well researched and well written, good stuff.
Defending the King
You'd think that Hard Day's Night would be a good enough movie to stand on its own (with its recent promos in the popular press), without slamming Elvis ["Special Screenings," June 29]. Elvis acted and starred in 31 feature films, all of them box office successes because Elvis was the star. Elvis was also the highest-paid actor in Hollywood. The Beatles "acted" (as themselves) in a total of four movies (if you count Yellow Submarine, a cartoon). Elvis also made two high-energy concert documentaries, That's the Way It Is and Elvis on Tour. Director Martin Scorsese was montage supervisor for Elvis on Tour, which was voted Best Documentary of 1972 by the Hollywood Foreign Press. That's the Way It Is has recently been re-edited and digitally remastered as a special edition to include more of the dynamic performances of the greatest entertainer to walk the Earth ... the King himself. Elvis invented the rock & roll movie. Thankyouverymuch!
Be Car-free This Fourth
Amy Babich is right to question the insanity of more cars downtown ["Postmarks: Seaholm Plan Will Clog Streets," June 22]. Perhaps we should merely send cars (with no people in them) into the parking garage bowels of those new buildings.
That's no less ironic and incongruous than motorists driving to reach the new pedestrian bridge in order to walk on a structure named for a visionary architect killed in a plane crash, whereas pedestrians were killed using the old Lamar bridge, and posters for the Pfluger Bridge dedication showed no people on it.
Parking garages and cars prevent us from celebrating July Fourth by Town Lake, so why not celebrate Independence Day by declaring independence from the carbarians and declare less dependence on the auto, especially in the downtown area, where we must Stop Terror on Pedestrians (STOP)!
Don't Dump on Barton Creek
I just came from Barton Creek, just below Barton Springs. I can't believe how much trash there was this time. That particular spot has never been "unspoiled," but I have never seen it that bad., the worst culprit being beer bottles and cans. They were every place that you looked! Being a non-drinker, I find this particularly disturbing! Even when I did drink, I would have never thought to leave an empty wherever I happened to be sitting. How rude! I was wondering, when these people who left the trash go back there, are they at all bothered by the sight of it? I guess not! I have friends coming to visit from out of town, and that was one place I had planned on taking them to swim. Now, I would be way too embarrassed for them to see that filth, especially since I have been telling them how nice Austin is. It's really too bad, too, because I really like that spot. Maybe they need to catch the people who did it and make them clean it up.
Banging the Corporate Drum
Loved the fireworks at Zilker Park. Really cool people, great show. One of the highlights of my night was when we approached a drum circle. As I got closer, I saw these were people with a message, and that message was "Corporations Suck." Exxon specifically was singled out. The drummers were beating their little faux Rastafarian heads off. They were banging on plastic water bottles and white 5-gallon plastic buckets. Course, plastic is oil-based. So Exxon provided the percussion section. I love it.
To comment on the front page ... finally, by July 3 ... (in the chaos now known as Central Austin) -- I finally figured it out. Some musical guy walks into Furr's -- and then goes to prison. I had a roommate -- Mac -- who was Hispanic ... in 1991. He disappeared for a few days ... I figured he had found a girlfriend. He came back after about five days ... saying he was sitting waiting for a bus ... (to go to one of his two jobs) ... cops threw him in jail for days ... told him there was a 19-year-old Hispanic who robbed a taxi ... and he was about 21 -- Hispanic -- so they jailed him for days. Mac wasn't perfect, actually exhausted -- ???? from overwork -- but no taxi robber. I've had two cars beat up in this city. One was in the beautiful brick neighborhood. The sheriff's department wasn't interested in catching the delinquent who stole everything -- out of the brick homes. The second in the UT condo area -- the APD still has no interest in prosecuting the guy who ran into me ... although they have his signed confession.
Excuse, wasn't the Fourth of July about ... fixing apathetic police, City Councils, etc.
Back & Forth in the Barrio
Only the smartest of drivers could cut through the hellish traffic that Austin became in 1999. It's a direct consequence of the 100 people each day arriving in search of desk work since the early 1990s. Now, the city feels a little more relaxed, with a lot less people crisscrossing downtown. I've started to see more and more moving trucks hauling some of them off, and I think is a good sign. I remember reading an article about the same thing happening to the happy Muscovites in 1995. The only remaining hurdle, at least in my barrio, is the overpriced shacks we live in, thanks to the exuberance of the appraisal guys that ran with the flow. I hope this gets reversed pronto, for people who stay here in good and bad times.
Taking Back the Airwaves
First of all, a shout out to Emily Pyle for writing about our sisters and brothers at Free Radio Austin (FRA) and KIND Radio in San Marcos ["The Death and Life of Free Radio," June 22]. We also appreciate the mention of www.Radio1Austin.com, though we're a bit disappointed that more was not said about our own situation with Johnny Law (a.k.a. "Big Money's FCC") or about the politics that essentially killed the previous administration's Low Power FM (LPFM) licensing plans.
RadioOne volunteers spent countless hours and many of their own dollars putting "non-licensed, non-commercial micro-radio for Austin -- Radio1Austin" on the FM airwaves from May 6 to October 4 of last year. That's when we got our own unpleasant visit from the FCC's Loyd Perry a few days before FRA got its second visit -- not coincidentally, just before the Fortune 500 Conference came to town. Volunteers then looked into putting our station on the Internet, and by the end of November we started streaming our mix and contacting our programmers about coming back to do Net radio. Slowly we improved our Web site, though it's been hard keeping programmers motivated when so few folks are listening at any single moment.
Yet, Johnny Law continued to pursue a legal vendetta against the station. Recently two of the station organizers were forced to accept a $1,400 settlement, which has put us in danger of being unable to continue operating the station. This also included a permanent injunction barring one organizer from additional unlicensed radio broadcasts with an automatic $10,000 fine for doing so. (Checks to help us defray the expense of the settlement can be made out to Radio1Austin and sent to: P.O. Box 4502, Austin TX 78765)
It's no secret that Big Money's lobbyists killed the possibility of LPFM for most of us. Corporate radio's National Association of Broadcasters (NAB, which is what they've done to our airwaves) pushed hard for Congress to hamstring the FCC's LPFM plan. They argued that LPFM supposedly created interference that would muddy their broadcasts, but of course the real threat lay in giving folks without multimillion-dollar budgets access to their airwaves. Some members of Congress were actually leaning toward support of broader LPFM licensing until a significant player joined the NAB camp.
It was National Public Radio's support of the NAB's position that tipped the scales, and in December of last year a rider was attached to a budgetary law that Clinton wouldn't dare veto. (For more info, see some of the Web sites listed in Ms. Pyle's article, or www.lipmagazine.org/articles/featsakolsky_77.htm.) The law basically stripped the FCC of the power to grant LPFM licenses, putting that power in the hands of Congress instead and guaranteeing -- for a time at least -- that LPFM would not be a threat to complete corporate domination of our airwaves.
Yet, resistance is not futile.
LPFM can slowly come back from the moribund. KIND's legal case holds some slivers of hope. Other unsung heroes around the country continue to challenge corporate hegemony on our airwaves via their own microradio stations. In the meantime, we at Radio1Austin will continue a while longer to air underrepresented music, commentary, and views, even if you can only tune in via the Internet.
[Ed. note: This letter was signed by eight other programmers of Radio1Austin.]