Blacks & whites & various Blues
'Blatant Racist White Boy'
I have no idea what Mike Clark-Madison wanna be other than a blatant racist white boy, of which he is ["Round Up the Usual Suspects," Aug. 24].
I wish Eric Mitchell wanted to be Austin's mayor; that would be great! I guess just knowing that he has gotten off the Democratic Plantation is enough.
The Nation of Islam is the only black national organization in this country that truly represents the interest of black people. So two out of two is not bad.
But I would like to know when Gus Garcia stopped wanting to be a Mexican living in Mexico and decided that he wanna be the mayor of this city.
Since blacks in this city didn't go back to Africa, I'm wondering if Gus will be able to refrain himself from referring to blacks using the "N" word. He should Wanna!
Dorothy Turner, President
Black Citizen Task Force
Journalism at Its Worst
In reference to the article of Gus, Beverly, or Eric ["Round Up the Usual Suspects," Aug. 24], I can't believe the article written about Eric Mitchell. I feel the writer should issue a public apology and also resign. This is journalism at its worst. Does this reflect the way Austin feels about its candidates or one individual's lack of respect for African-Americans? How can your paper tolerate such ignorance?
Mambo & the Vanguards
I played with Mambo for years (and tens of thousands of miles), and I wanted to address a factual error in Mr. Langer's lovely piece on Mambo dated July 20 ["You Can Leave Your Hat On"], specifically the idea that Mambo joined the Vanguards with prison hanging over his head. In truth, he joined more than a year prior to his and Derek's bust and subsequent time at the hard rock.
Mambo & Austin: Unique
I had the good fortune of meeting Mambo at Barton Springs. He was just recently sprung into freedom and was enjoying life in Austin to the fullest. From swims at Barton Springs and the many bandstands and nightclubs I saw him in, my best memory of him is a windy fall day on Lake Travis. The wind, sun, and water were bringing wide smiles to all of us windsurfers. Mambo was glowing. "Life is good" was his main message. I will never forget the wide smile, alive eyes, and enthusiasm he had that day and every other time I saw him. He enjoyed what made Austin unique. Good music, good water, nice weather, and good friends enjoying it all. On some of the many swims at Deep Eddy, he often told me that "Swimming will keep you young."
Mambo, may the sun shine, the wind blow, and the waters of Lake Travis keep you forever young.
The Glaring Omission Blues
Chris Thomas-King, an extremely talented singer-songwriter from Austin's glorious past, referred to as the future of the blues by Rolling Stone and Billboard, debuted in the Cohen brothers' film O Brother, Where Art Thou? and in atypical Chronicle fashion, you dropped the ball and failed to mention the connection.
Maybe the Scabs were in town that weekend and everyone from the Chronicle was busy trying to get backstage passes at Antone's.
Now, when the music documentary Down From the Mountain is released, featuring Thomas-King and the musical talent from the O Brother flick, you once again neglect your homework and fail to mention Mr. Thomas-King's association to Austin music.
Perhaps the Chronicle's crack research staff was trying to secure backstage passes to the 14th Annual Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival and were too busy to mention this little factoid.
Perhaps the blues scene in Austin and its once-prominent role in influencing the world isn't much of an interest to the Chronicle staff any more and we should just accept that and spend more time trying to nail down backstage passes to the next Bob Schneider gig.
See you there,
McBee Collection Stirs Pride
I would like to offer a slightly different perspective on the article published on Aug. 17 ["In Person"] addressing the recent dedication of the African-American Culture Collection donated by Sue Brandt McBee to the Carver Branch of the Austin Public Library. I am the Wired for Youth Librarian at Carver, and I work with teens and pre-teens daily. Just recently I heard several of our regular young patrons echo similar feelings about the new collection: "We need to learn more about black history," "We learn it in school, but not enough," "We would use this stuff for research in addition to the Internet and the encyclopedias."
We at Carver know that this newly donated collection is an opportunity for our young patrons to further explore the traditions and experiences of the black man and woman from slavery to today. I work directly with the young people in this library community and, contrary to what was reported, they do care. They care about the library, they care about being a part of our community, and they care about their heritage.
Wired for Youth Librarian
Austin Public Library
Milder Sauce Without Los Pinkys
This is my ninth time at the Hot Sauce Festival and once again it was a blast (man, it's a long way away from the days at the Farmer's Market ...).
Floramay Holliday was a nice addition to the musical lineup. However, I did want to write and say how much I missed seeing and hearing Los Pinkys. The Pinkys were almost a tradition (especially after Don Walser stopped performing), and I missed the opportunity to dance to some conjunto. I really hope they come back next year!
By the way, we have already made this an annual event for our son (once in the womb, once as a little baby, and now as a toddler). Next year, he gets to actually taste the hot sauces.
Arts Groups Are Spoiled
All the teeth-gnashing and breast-beating following the selection of arts funding recipients ["A Bad Year Gets Worse," Aug. 24] brings up two questions for me. First and foremost, of course, is: Should the taxpayer's money be used for nongovernmental purposes such as the arts? If the answer to that question is to be "Yes," then naturally following is question No. 2: What form should that funding take? Should it continue to be a lifeline for the entrenched "establishment" arts entities such as Sharir + Bustamante, or should it be seen as seed money to allow new, struggling start-ups to have a chance? An argument that could be made is that older, more established groups such as Sharir + Bustamante should have succeeded in becoming self-supporting by now, and it's time for them to leave the nest. When recipients of government largesse begin to look upon that largesse as an entitlement rather than a gift, it's time to cut them loose as one would a child who's grown and should become self-sufficient but wants to mooch off mom and dad. Welfare reform obviously hasn't made it into the arts community yet.
Our Screaming Trees
Patrick Goetz is right when he describes Barton Springs as sacred and magical ["Postmarks: Respect the 'Sacred' Springs," Aug. 17]. Austin is full of magical places less spectacular than Barton Springs. There's magic here, even in the heat and drought of summer.
Magical places tend to have trees in them. They tend to be free, or nearly free, of cars. Many of Austin's alleys qualify as magical places. Hidden spots where you can walk across a creek are usually magical.
Unfortunately, the city of Austin and other political and commercial entities are still in the business of cutting down trees. Trees are cut to build roads, widen roads, install water pipes, build houses, build walls to protect houses built in floodplains, and so on.
Trees whose diameters are large enough are called "protected trees." Anyone who cuts down a protected tree must get approval from someone, and often must offer "mitigation" for cutting the protected tree.
Builders and planners are very careful about cutting down trees, according to their own testimony. When they present projects to city boards and commissions, they always tell how many trees they've managed to save. Thus, the original plan called for cutting 10 trees, and now only four will be cut. Or the original plan called for cutting 500 trees, and now only 90 will be cut.
Road projects are big tree eaters. Think before you vote for road constructions or ask city officials to speed up your commute time (by car). You are asking for more trees to be cut down.
Please, let's have a moratorium on cutting down trees to speed up car travel in Austin.
3R: Redistricting, Revenge, Republicans
Rep. Ann Kitchen's comment in "Naked City" [Aug. 24] regarding the new House District 48 ("That's my district as far as I'm concerned") was quite humorous. She may think she is the incumbent in the new House District 48, but she is not. She no longer lives here and is now a resident of District 49.
Only nine out of 47-48 voting precincts in the new District 48 come from the old District 48. Most of us out here know that our current state representative is Terry Keel and not Ann Kitchen.
These lines will probably stay the way they've been drawn in Travis County. Federal law does not protect white liberals in redistricting. So Glen Maxey will have to stop hijacking Travis County Hispanics as they and African-Americans have both been given seats they can win and the federal courts will look after their interests.
Ann Kitchen is clearly too liberal for the new District 48. Anyone who looks at the election returns in the new seat would be a fool not to realize that it would take a miracle for Ann Kitchen to beat Commissioner Baxter or any other Republican.
Even neophyte Republicans running for county clerk, county treasurer, and county surveyor ran ahead of the Democrat incumbents they challenged in 1998 in the new 48. Both Judge Julie Kocurek and former Judge Ernest Garcia received over 60% of the vote here in 2000.
Glen Maxey depended on the votes of the white liberals of Travis Heights, Clarksville, and Zilker to win over his last serious Hispanic challenger. This time he will have no such luck as they have all been moved to District 49 -- along with Maxey.
Maybe Kitchen is desperate now that she realizes Elliot Naishtat is running again (she would lose to him by a mile) and she must find a way to stay in office to pay off her $100,000 campaign debt. After all, who wants to give money to a defeated or out-of-office politician?
And now that Glen Maxey has vested in the state retirement system, he should simply take the money and go. Or does he want to declare personal bankruptcy again?
For us conservatives, we take great joy in seeing Kitchen and Maxey return to private life next year.
Whither Low-Cost Housing?
Someone said, "if I do the math correctly, a 2,500-sq.-ft. lot (vs. a 5,750-sq.-ft. SF-3 lot under current zoning) would mean lower-priced lots and more affordable housing" ["Postmarks: Low-Cost Housing No Puzzle," Aug. 24].
Use 808 W. Mary in Bouldin as an example. That lot is 6,150 sq. ft., and under 2,500-sq.-ft planning could be made into two lots.
Last year's tax appraisal on that lot: $79,000. The house was valued at $39,000, and the land valued at $40,000. This year the house is $38,000, the land value is $100,000.
At a Bouldin Planning Team meeting the owner of that property asked this: "If I divide my property into two lots and sell the other one, will the taxed value of the remaining land my house still sits on drop to half price and be taxed at $50,000?"
"No" was the answer. The taxed value of the now smaller lot would remain at $100,000 and would "probably go up thereafter." And the newly created second lot would be taxed at a land value of $100,000.
Housing construction costs are $100 a sq. ft. in Austin so a tiny house just like the 700-sq.-ft house on the 808 lot would cost $70,000 to build. And a reliable source in the construction industry informs me that a developer will be expecting a profit of $30,000 on top of construction costs.
So a new SF-3 2,500-sq.-ft. lot with a tiny 700-sq.-ft. house would cost around $200,000. And a modest 2,000-sq.-ft. two-story house would run over $300,000.
So where is the "low cost housing" that small-lot Smart Growth densification is supposed to bring to Bouldin Cheek neighborhood? And why overbuild impervious cover on our land and then flood out our neighborhoods along the twin Bouldin creeks?
Collusion to fix retail gasoline prices is against the law. Although I haven't passed every gas station in Austin, everyone I did pass charged exactly the same price for regular: $1.299/gal. Up to about two weeks ago, the prices varied from $1.219 (and lower) to above $1.30 (at the dozens of stations I passed).
Is this coincidence, or did all the gas stations decide to forego competition because of the upcoming Labor Day holiday, when most vacationing drivers probably won't care?
Very truly yours
Intel's Days of the Dead
I had an idea ... as you know, people have a tendency to adjust or forget, even when something stinky gets dropped into their lap.
The "dead" Intel building pisses me off every time I drive by. Knowing 99% of Austin feels the same way, and the Chron can't write a new story on the eyesore every week ... please consider placing "Downtown Austin Held Hostage: Day ___," a small area (maybe 1é8th page ad size), that runs every week with an update on how many days construction has been held up.
Please consider it. You guys have a unique and great newspaper.