More letters about music, art, and urban planning
Butterflies, Glitter, and Dust
We turn into glitter, we turn into dust, we turn into butterflies and float away with the wind. And in turning back for one last glimpse, we see the smiley faces of our friends glowing in the sun. They wave goodbye like pals at the leaving train. Through this love, we know our journeys will be magic and endless. It's not so bad in the clouds.
Randy J. "Biscuit" Turner
Bizarro Planning Survey
The Bouldin Planning Team sent out neighborhood planning surveys to around 3,000 residents and business owners. The surveys that the city of Austin Planning Dept. received back from that mailout have been tabulated and the results are in the form of numerical data produced from computer software. This data has been presented at a Bouldin Neighborhood Planning Team meeting.
Here is a report on one of these numerical findings generated by computer software. That would be the question on the survey to reduce the size of single-family residential lot sizes to 2,500 square feet. The results were presented in this bizarre appearance: The "Descript" read like this, "Q3: Q2b: Reduce lot size to 2500? On a 1/2 Scale 1: Likert-type," with "1=Strongly Agree, 5= Strongly Disagree." Like wise the "Freq" on that same question is "298." The "Percent" is "74.13." The "Median" is "5.00," and the "Mean" is "4.35"
To understand the computer-generated data as it has been presented to the Bouldin Planning Team members, you need to be intelligent, very well educated, and it does not matter if you are rich, poor, or fall somewhere in between.
What does the data on the Bouldin Planning Survey question "Q3: Q2b" mean in plain English?
To pass an ordinance in the Bouldin Planning area which would lower the current size of single family residential lots to 2,500 sq. ft, would be "about as popular as passing a law making it legal for people to hunt small children."
Some of the residents in Bouldin who filled out the survey are poor, some rich, some are smart, and some are dumb. Barring a few adjustments, most Bouldinites already like Bouldin single family housing (SF-3) just the way it is.
Marathon Blvd. No Battleground
Carter and Brooke Bruce will probably build a row of big green houses, but people are wrong if they think that those houses will have the power to kill the unique charm of Marathon Blvd.
Before all this began, we were a block where neighbors shouted greetings up and down the street to each other. Cats sauntered from porch to porch eating out of each others food dishes, and people leaned over picket fences to talk about their vegetable gardens. However, today a dark enigma had fallen over our neighborhood, something that will kill our unique charm faster than greased lightning.
We have depicted Carter Bruce as a hammer-wielding Frankenstein, "Green houses gooood!" But in our zeal to storm the castle with pitchforks and hatchets, did we forget that we, the people who live on Marathon are what make our street precious and unique, not the houses?
One day I decided to walk right up to the Castle Yonder and find out for myself what the Bruce family was like. (I left my pitchfork at home.) What I learned is that Carter and Brooke are not greedy or snobbish. They invited open honest conversation and exchange of ideas. However, they have been getting anything but that from their critics. I was embarrassed when I learned that strangers have been driving past their house shouting and throwing things on their lawn. Their son is afraid to play in his own front yard because, he says, "These people don't like us." In addition, there have been many negative letters in the Chronicle from people making speculations and assumptions about their character and motives. Why don't some of these people walk up to them and speak face to face or offer viable alternatives? An ironic twist to all of this is that the Bruce's offer to Live Oak Development was the only one that was residential. Our other choice would have been a commercial development.
I walked away from the Bruce's house feeling sad and embarrassed for the once-great neighborhood that I live in. I thought to myself, how hypocritical for us all to call them snobs. How sad that we have become what we despised. We say that we are unique. Is that because we talk to each other over picket fences, or is it because we rush to judgment and know how to harass 4-year-old boys?
Respect the 'Sacred' Springs
Native Americans who lived near what is now Austin regarded the lands around Barton Springs to be sacred and considered the water from the Springs to have magical healing powers. For over 10,000 years, the Barton Springs salamander has thrived in the cold, clean waters of Barton Springs. Now, in less than 50 years, we've driven the salamander to the brink of extinction, as the springs slowly turn into a cesspool of heavy metal contaminants, petroleum hydrocarbons, and fecal coliform bacteria ["Mercury, Cadmium, Arsenic, Grease ...," Aug. 3].
As a community, do we really need another office park in the Barton Springs recharge zone? Couldn't this office space just as easily be developed on one or more of the nearly vacant lots on the east side of the central business district? Citizens such as Bill Bunch who do what they can to try and stop the unmitigated development in the environmentally sensitive recharge zone are labeled "environmental extremists." What is not well known is that these so-called environmental extremists are also trying to save you money. The dirty little secret that no politician will tell you is that development in the recharge zone is costing you, the taxpayer, hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure development costs. Why, at this very moment the Travis County bond committee is planning to spend another $250 million of your money on roads outside of Austin, many of which are in the Barton Springs watershed. Higher property taxes for you so that unscrupulous developers can make money on office parks over the aquifer.
People often speculate out loud why anyone would make such a big deal out of the extinction of a two-inch long amphibian. The answer is quite simple, really. When the last salamander dies, we can be relatively certain that whatever it was that Native Americans considered to be sacred, magical, and priceless about Barton Springs will be gone forever.
Naked Does Not Equal Art
Fuck Katherine Chronis and her naked performance art stroll to the Capitol ["Naked City: Bush Returns to the Capitol," Aug. 10]. What a bunch of bullshit. It doesn't offend me that she was nude, it offends me that she is whining about getting arrested over it. If it had been a naked, hairy old guy who didn't invoke the name of art, you wouldn't have written a story about it. I'm not saying it isn't art, I'm just saying it isn't very interesting (although maybe I'm making it so by reacting to it. Damn). Now she'll have to throw a benefit to repay her friends that bailed her out of jail. Oh, how she suffers for her art! This is the kind of stuff that makes Jesse Helms drool when looking for more reasons to cut NEA funding. I'll admit, I am biased against performance art (In art school I noticed the performance kids usually couldn't draw. There, I said it), but I have seen some performances that blew my mind. Not this kind of crap, though. Naked does not Good Art Make. There are hundreds of artists in this town more worthy of that kind of coverage.
Stephen W. Schwake
Starving Artists Will Interview for Food
At one point in Robi Polgar's interview with actor Michael Miller ["Blood and Guts and Dirt and Joy," Aug. 10], we are told that Mr. Miller is "disinterested" in publicity. At another point, we are told that he "hates interviews." Well why, then, I found myself shouting at Mr. Miller via the Chronicle, are you allowing yourself to be interviewed? Was someone threatening to blow your head off it you didn't come across with the interviewing goods? Can you say disingenuous much?
And why -- I'm looking at you now, Austin Chronicle -- are you devoting all this space on Mr. Miller if he, as he would have us believe, doesn't want you to?
How about giving the space to worthy actors who would like to be interviewed? Thank you.
From the Lake, by the Lake
Please inform Virginia B. Wood that the title to her article "Dining del Lago" [Aug. 10] means "Dining from the lake." Del is a contraction for "de el" which means "of" or "from." For example: "Soy del sur" means "I'm from the south." Hopefully, you noticed that "I'm" is also a contraction. If Virginia meant to write "by the lake" she should have written "junto al lago."
John F. Kennedy and/or his aides should also have consulted a dictionary before he proclaimed to his Berlin audience that he was a "jelly-filled doughnut!" Whenever this comes up, I always assure my German friends that if Kennedy claimed to be a jelly-filled doughnut, then I'm sure he was!
Unhip in Eye of Beholder
I read the July 20 review of the Billy Idol concert at Stubb's ["Live Shots"] with a feeling that the reviewer wasn't at the same concert that I was at. I find it interesting that reviewers seem to be scared to admit they like something that isn't in the latest Rolling Stone college chart. Or even review the concert with an open mind. Is Mr. Hernandez afraid to look unhip in front of his fellow critics? Almost nothing was said about the music I heard at that concert, which was state-of-the-art hard rock music. The crowd I saw was represented by all age groups from teen to way past -- pretty evenly mixed. And it was the most crowded show I've ever seen at Stubb's, and I go to a lot of shows there. Billy Idol was in great voice, Steve Stevens played rock-solid guitar, and the rhythm section was dead-on. I would prefer to see a review about the music instead of a smirking commentary reflecting the reviewer's prejudices.
Stop the Corporate Cop Corps
It's a travesty that the U.S. looks, in the eyes of the rest of the world, like such a retrogressive, isolationist nation, and that we are basically becoming Big Corporation's bitches. It's sad that because our "leader" lacks vision, our nation plunges into deep idiocy. There are great strides in diplomacy going on in the world's highest diplomatic arenas, and we are stubbornly digging our heels into the turf, trying to run the other way. Many people in this country disagree with Bush's foreign relations tactics and stances, but our foreign emissaries speak in Bush's language. After all, they are his appointees and friends. I hope the rest of the world isn't fooled into believing that we as a nation are behind him in all this.
The notion of corporate police mostly exists in movies and fictional stories, but the threat is real. The police reaction to anti-corporate demonstrations is a milestone in our cultivation of corporate police dominance, wherein the main role of the police is to protect the profits of the few giant corporations. These corporations, in turn, basically pay politicians directly to get the laws passed that most benefit their bottom line. The executive branch of our government is catalyzing this process by tearing down the separation of business and state. This is not a movie; this happens every time corporations are granted more freedom without taking on any more responsibility.
We "separated" our church from our state, but have created a comfy live-in affair with business. This will not be any better than having a religion or an army in control of our country's law and policy. I try to practice what I preach, and to avoid using many goods produced by megacorporations. I enjoin everyone to think more about who's getting paid the most from what you're buying, and whether there's not another producer who has more than just profits and limitless corporate growth as their goal. I'd love to be a nationalist, if we're willing to help get the country into a lovable state.
Read: Library Needs Support
Council Member Will Wynn has the right idea when he says, "Our library system is nowhere near what it can and should be" ["Naked City: Council Watch," Aug. 10]. The fact is, our library is overdue.
Council Member Wynn's leadership on this issue is appreciated, and it's encouraging to see the City Council and city manager take a long look at how they can make the Austin Public Library a superior resource for our community.
The Austin Libraries for the Future task force (ALFF) has worked for two years developing a plan for what the Austin Public Library system can and should be (a copy of the report can be found online at www.ci.austin.tx.us/library/lff.htm). Literally thousands of diverse Austinites were either surveyed, participated in focus groups, or were directly involved on the task force. Our hope is that the City Council will begin implementing the plan right away. We know it won't all happen in this tight budget year, but a good start will include stable and adequate funding for books, computers, and self-check machines to improve frontline customer service.
Council Member Wynn is to be commended for his leadership when it comes to the Austin Public Library. Our library is overdue. But it sounds like we have a City Council and a city manager who are working for positive change.
Hays County Shuffle
The existing Austin ETJ that almost surrounds Buda and that negatively impacts the communities of Neiderwald, Hays, and Kyle is an abusive situation that people of northeastern Hays County have had to suffer with for many years. The Hays County Austin ETJ lands in question cover over 8,000 acres of land. The Buda City Council and the Austin City Council have recently agreed to release 579 acres of land. This is a step in the right direction, but this is only a partial release of the 5,465 acres of land that the city of Austin had promised to Buda in this round of discussions. Also approved as a part of this agreement is a plan of action that should allow an additional 4,886 acres to be released one or two parcels at a time over the next five to 10 years.
The Austin ETJ still practically surrounds Buda. The Austin ETJ still negatively impacts the communities of Neiderwald, Hays, and Kyle. As the dust clears after the Austin-Buda agreement has been finalized it is obvious that much work is still left to be done.
John Sanford, Chairman
Community Alliance of North Hays County
Middle School With an Attitude
The Austin School District suffers many ailments, some of which have been identified and are under remedy due to the level of their publicity, and to Dr. Forgione's initiatives since becoming superintendent two years ago.
Still, there remains an underlying ailment infecting the whole of the district. That ailment is attitude. A poor attitude from too many within the district toward the district itself, toward the jobs they chose to apply for and were hired to perform, toward the parents of the children they are to be educating, and unforgivably, even toward the children themselves.
As an employee of the district I have witnessed appalling displays of negative attitudes from those with whom I have been surrounded, the most recent example coming throughout this past summer at Dobie Middle School. The treatment of the students by the Dobie Middle School staff was often jaw-dropping. They were approached as if rodents; unwelcome interruptions in an otherwise pristine day of campus-wide rearranging, cleaning, and semi-closure. Especially disturbing were the attitudes of the janitorial staff there, smoking cigarettes and cussing in front of the children just outside of the school. Attempting to get a janitor's assistance, even for the most simplest and routine of tasks, would result in either complete refusal or disgruntled resistance.
Such attitudes, and the atmosphere these attitudes create on a campus, are crippling the district. Children and their parents ought to feel a sense of warmth and embrace upon entering a school's campus. Not the cold and chilly stiff-arm greeting them this summer at Dobie Middle School.
AISD's "Attitude Ailment" must be confronted by its superintendent and school board. Failure to provide leadership in this area can only impede Austin's school system from becoming the stellar educational institution its children rightfully deserve.
Former School Board Write-In Candidate