The people want to know: who, precisely, was Bruce Barton quoting?
Farewell, Mambo John
Godspeed, Mambo, thanks so much for the music. I suspect we shall miss you a lot more than you're going to miss us.
Georgetown Can Do Better
Thank you for Mr. Barbaro's "Page Two" and Jordan Smith's "Georgetown Smackdown" story of Aug. 17 -- she took in a lot of information and wrote a balanced account of our sometimes amazing local politics.
A few clarifications and additions:
The interim subdivision amendments adopted on July 30 are intended to plug a hole in our existing regulations that would allow developers of large sites to avoid our platting process, eliminating our ability to require mitigation for traffic and environmental impacts. The amendments are effective until our new Unified Development Code can be adopted early next year.
The amendments do not stop commercial development (as a moratorium would have) and they exempt any pending development applications (including those on the Rivery site). They are simply designed to stop a large commercial developer from ducking the same rules that apply to everybody else and sticking the taxpayers with massive infrastructure costs that are really project costs. That doesn't seem unreasonable or "no growth" to me -- it just seems fair.
As for our budget "crisis": We could have continued funding general fund deficits from our utility fund balances, as city management has done for the past decade, effectively paying current operating expenses with bond debt. Instead, this council chose to implement a financially sustainable budget that requires operating revenues to equal expenses and phases out fund transfers by 2004 -- we received a bond rating upgrade this year for our similar effort in last year's budget.
Re Bruce Barton, you mentioned he was director of our now inactive (once city funding was cut) private industrial foundation (the GIF) and is now a spokesman for the local PAC. You didn't mention that he oversaw the Power Computing and waterpark fiascos while heading the GIF, and when he left the GIF, he immediately went to work for/with Greg Hall, the waterpark promoter, to develop the site for which he had just acquired a state road grant in his GIF shoes. Hall and company are now suing the city for $15 million over the water park road grant. As for Barton's "Mexican, food-stamp, Wal-Mart kids" quote -- I challenge him to either identify the speaker (and face the consequences) or to retract his lie, because I absolutely believe that is what it is.
You also didn't mention that Mike Sheffield's wife, who worked for Barton at the GIF, now works for/with Hall, the waterpark promoter. You also didn't mention that neither Hall, nor Sheffield, nor many of the other PAC members, even live in the city (although Sheffield is now apparently an expert on city finance in addition to his Union Boss and Union Organizer roles).
Finally, there is the booster PAC (Citizens for Georgetown) which Sheffield heads and for which Barton speaks. Its mission is truth and open government, but it won't disclose its membership, has filed half of its ethics filings late, and receives all its reported financial contributions from real estate interests. It opposed the urban design amendments to our development ordinances (drafted by a citizens committee) enacted last year, and it opposed a 1é2 cent sales tax for transportation improvements (approved by voters in May of this year).
I was born and raised between Austin and Round Rock (when there was such a place). I have personally witnessed what has happened to both those places over the last 20 years. I really believe Georgetown can do better.
The statement "Mexican, food-stamp, Wal-Mart kids" made by Bruce Barton in the August 17 article "Georgetown Smackdown" reeks of Mr. Barton's total lack of veracity with which I have personal experience. Identification of this council member, if he exists, is imperative to the peace of mind of the citizens of Georgetown. Complete the research. Name the name.
I was horrified by the quote from Bruce Barton that says, "They want this to be a small town and they don't want -- and I quote a current council member that actually said this during meetings about this stuff -- they don't want 'Mexican, food-stamp, Wal-Mart kids in this town.' I've never forgotten that and I never will as long as I live. It still gives me goose bumps" ["Georgetown Smackdown," Aug. 17].
I would like to know when this was said, who said it, and whether anyone but Bruce Barton can confirm this statement.
This inflammatory and unattributed statement does damage to our community. I want to know the details so that I and other citizens of Georgetown can respond appropriately either to the individual who allegedly made these comments or to Bruce Barton if he has misspoken.
Value Veteran Teachers
Thanks for addressing the "fuzzy math" problem at Austin ISD ["Austin Stories," Aug. 17]. I am profoundly disturbed by the educator exodus last year and believe the district is reluctant to face the facts about the cost of these departures. You cannot buy the experience that comes from years of teaching. Austin ISD isn't even trying to retain the value seasoned teachers add to our district. Now, about the way they track dropouts and the statement that "no cuts" were made at the campus level ... more new math to figure, I presume.
No Justice in Lacresha Case
Lacresha Murray killed a baby.
I didn't make that up. Not one, but two juries were convinced beyond a doubt that this then 11-year-old girl "stomped the toddler to death."
Now she gets off on some technicality and we see Barbara Taft's big smiling face ["Naked City: D.A. Caves on Lacresha," Aug. 17] and read how a huge injustice has been corrected and hear Lacresha say things like "I have sympathy for them" and "I was just ready for it all to be over with."
Ms. Taft "think[s] the police department ... [and] the medical examiner's office were criminally negligent ..." and that Ronnie Earle was "just indifferent."
This monster killed a 2-year-old baby. She threw the child down on the floor and stomped it. She lied about it afterwards. She shows absolutely no remorse about it now.
I must admit that I am constantly dumbfounded and amazed at the seemingly pervasive incompetence of police departments and investigators. I also think that politicians such as Mr. Earle usually act in their own political self-interest.
But, Ms. Taft, how could you pose with that big smile holding a picture of a murdered baby? Did you intentionally cover Jayla's parents picture with your hand? Do you, O Great Founder of the People of the Heart, give even a tinker's damn about the fact that a little child was murdered?
People of the Heart, indeed.
Remember Jayla Belton.
Save KUT's 'World Music'
Yesterday morning I ran into Hayes McCauley, the host of KUT's World Music show since Dan Del Santo's departure years ago. Those who have heard Hayes' show would probably agree with me that he does a beautiful job of blending the old and the new, the traditional and the pop, the hot and the obscure in world music. Whenever I heard the show I always marveled at Hayes' taste, depth of knowledge, and obvious love for what he was doing.
Hayes gave me some bad news yesterday: KUT has canceled the World Music show. When I incredulously asked why, he said, among other things, that not enough people listened to it (according to a survey, perhaps). I'm sure there are myriad "reasons," but I plan to protest vehemently to the program director of KUT and urge your readers to do the same. To me, this is like throwing out a precious jewel that has been in your family for a long time merely because it doesn't match the current fashion trends. I say to the decisionmakers at KUT, the programs that make KUT special and unusual, the programs that people think of when they say "I've traveled the country and have yet to find a public radio station like KUT" -- these are the programs that should be protected and respected. Do we want to reflect this city's diversity in its public radio station, or just go with "the numbers"? Isn't there a creative way to save this jewel of a radio program?
There is an international community in Austin whose members were represented and honored by the presence of a high-quality world music radio show. We as human beings are all honored and enriched when we can be exposed to art and music from all over the globe. KUT was always commendable in its choice to offer this. Its choice to silence the World Music show, however, is anything but commendable.
Jeff Whittington Remembered
Your article about Jeff Whittington ["Page Two," July 20] was much appreciated. My wife, who worked with him at KVUE, brought it home to me to read. I was stunned by the news that Jeff has passed away. We both had wondered whatever became of him after he left Austin.
She still remembers Jeff working the late hours at KVUE, always with a giant bottle of Dr Pepper nearby, always ready with a quick smile for anyone who came upon him.
My most memorable experience with Jeff was when I had never met him but knew who he was from reading his Statesman music reviews. When I was a freshman at UT, my roommate and I went to see the Dictators at AWHQ. There weren't many people who knew who they were (I think it was their first visit to Austin), so this was not what you would call a large-drawing show. We claimed a spot just a few feet from the front of the stage and parked ourselves on the nasty carpet with our pitcher of beer to wait until the show began.
Jeff sat close by, and we noticed his notepad, and he asked us if we had ever seen the Dictators before. We told him no, but we had their album and listened to it religiously. He was thrilled that he had found other fans of the "'Tators" and even offered to try to get us backstage with him after the show. It turned out that we met several members of the band after the show in the beer garden and they were quite affable and amused that their music had made it all the way to Austin.
I've never known anyone more devoted than Jeff as he used his writing to share the passion he felt about music and the New Wave/punk scene in Austin in the late Seventies. Your column was a moving and heartfelt tribute to his skills and personality.
This Just In
A couple of weeks ago you printed a letter from me asking people to go to a public hearing scheduled for August 23. This hearing is about widening Lamar Boulevard at 24th Street. It will not take place on August 23. It is expected to take place on October 25.
I'm sorry for the confusion.
Low-Cost Housing No Puzzle
Interesting work, that Bouldin Creek neighborhood planning survey ["Postmarks: Bizzarro Planning Survey," Aug. 17]. If I do the math correctly, a 2,500 sf lot (vs. a 5,750 sf SF-3 lot under current zoning) would mean lower-priced lots and more affordable housing. This being the case, I would add one word to the end of Mr. Rick Hall's last sentence of his letter. It should read: "Barring a few adjustments, most Bouldinites already like Bouldin single family housing just the way it is: exclusionary."
I would like to respond to a letter sent to you from Kimberly Clooney ["Postmarks: Starving Artists Will Interview for Food," Aug. 17] regarding the Aug. 10 Chronicle feature on Michael Miller ["Blood and Guts and Dirt and Joy"].
I have known Michael for almost four years. I have acted in five plays with him in that time and Ms. Clooney, I gotta tell ya, you have produced the first negative criticism of the man that I have ever heard. If you had truly comprehended what you so obviously merely perused, you would have noted that Michael's statement about his distaste for interviews and interviewers was a playful jab at interviewer and friend Robi Pogar. And as far as his "worthiness" to be interviewed is concerned, I can think of few more worthy, and would hardly recognize you as judge of that. Gotta lot of time on your hands? Go see some of his work. I think you might be compelled to apologize.
God Doesn't Drive an 'Indie Bandwagon'
So I just read the record review of God Drives a Galaxy's new CD by Michael Chamy ["Texas Platters," Aug. 17]. I was left wondering why the CD was panned as inexplicably and personally as it was by Mr. Chamy. He sounded mighty whiny and bitter to me. This especially true having heard the GDAG CD and finding it very good and having seen this band literally bring a large Continental Club crowd to its feet a few weeks ago after an amazing, raucous, and hard-pounding performance. Given the review's bitterness, I was compelled to read some of Mr. Chamy's past reviews to see his history and surprise surprise, most of the high praise reviews were saved for Euro brooding bands. Chamy made such descriptions of these "good" records as, "... The snow-capped majesty of '-----,' augmented by bowed strings, the static crackle of falling snowdrifts, and other ethereal rumbles, is the most immediately striking element of ..." etc., etc. [Sigur Rós review, June 8]. Or, "... Lending the album a certain sense of direction is a percolating ebb and flow that remains constant even as the ingredients shift from whale-song organ hums to subtle whispers and jittery digital clicking sounds" [Aix Em Klemm review, Jan. 19].
It's obvious Mr. Chamy prefers black turtleneck brood stew to good rock. Even in giving very rare nods to harder driving bands, they are inevitably the writings of someone just following the "indie" cool factor bandwagon after the bands are bigger than "indie." As if that hasn't been done before. In trying to slag God Drives a Galaxy's CD, Chamy proclaims, "... you'd swear it was a hot KNAC summer, circa 1995." Hmmm ... sounds all right to me. Personally, I don't think Mr. Chamy would know good, driving rock music if it kicked him in the ass ... which it should.
Music of the Heart
On April 18, a small, little-noticed event occurred. Tish Hinojosa came to visit Alan Castro and his family, in the small town of Seguin, to share some of her music and heart. Alan, who has been diagnosed with a type of bone cancer, was having some rough times. This illness had been the cause of an amputation of one of his legs. The disease, which was in remission, came back, and at the time no one knew what was going to happen next. He had made his feelings known about going to a concert (his favorite band is Queen). The doctors were telling his family that if an injury occurred in his remaining leg, no matter how small, the risk would be high of losing his other leg. I remembered a little anecdote I had heard about Tish, many, many years ago: My friend said to me, "she will drop everything if there is a benefit or cause that is related to children." That was an impressive statement. I had the privilege of contacting her management, who was so wonderfully gracious to contact her for me -- for my friend, Alan. For a moment, times, fatigue, worries, and sadness was set aside to hear the wonderful songs, stories, and conversation between new friends: Tish, Alan, his little sister, Vanessa, and his parents. Today, we still worry about Alan. That day, four months ago, we worried a little less. Thank you, Tish.