The Clark-Madison brouhaha continues amidst tributes to Mambo John and more.
Chronicle 'Flatly' Mistaken
I read with interest your comments about Alfred Stanley and me ["Would You, Could You Be My Neighbor," Aug. 31]. Unfortunately, they were not true. I did not ask Alfred Stanley to be an aide nor any kind of staff person for me. He wasn't asked to do anything, nothing at all. I already had a campaign manager when I called. I simply asked Alfred whether he was already committed to my friend Gus or not, and he said he was and that Gus was the godfather of his child. End of that part of discussion. No further question was asked of Alfred, nor was he asked to do anything.
Alfred then asked about where Gus and I disagreed, and we discussed that for a short time, as I have known Alfred for many, many years politically, and we have supported each other's candidates many times.
At no time did Alfred "turn me down flat." Again, he wasn't asked to do anything, nothing at all. In Fact Daily was wrong on that point, although they were not as emphatic about it as you put it.
Please correct this factual error, as it makes it appear falsely that I asked Alfred to do something and he "flatly" refused. And that is simply not true. If you would like to call and discuss this matter, which you should have before publishing a charge such as that, my number is listed.
By the way, I have usually supported candidates and causes also supported by the Chronicle. Why the cheap shot?
'Public Housing' a 'Fluff Piece'
I appreciate Mike Clark-Madison's effort to paint at least one public sector agency in a good light, but this piece is hagiography, not journalism ["What's Wrong With Public Housing?" Aug. 31].
I learned a while ago not to expect hard-hitting, muckraking journalism from Clark-Madison. But he should know by now that you don't only interview agency officials and their hand-picked informants and call that a fair and balanced story. I doubt he would have written such a fluff piece about the environment without consulting Austin's environmental advocacy groups. Perhaps he did interview a representative cross-section of HACA residents and members of Austin's advocacy community, but those interviews didn't make it into his story. Which is sad, because we could have provided some historical perspective that is sorely missing in his story, such as the infamous "crime net" sweeps that terrorized residents at Meadowbrook and Thurmond Heights five years ago.
I'll be the first person to give Jimbo Hargrove his props. I, like others, was an early and outspoken critic of his selection as executive director. He has changed HACA into a better and more professionally run agency. And I am glad to read that he is at least a nominal historic preservationist. But in the real world (not the parallel universe occupied by HUD), you don't get awards for doing things you're supposed to be doing as a public agency.
More King, Less Everyone Else
Michael King's articles this week on the Danny Thomas/Mike Clark-Madison conflict ["Shooting the Messenger," Aug. 31] and on Statesman editorialist Arnold Garcia ["A Candle for Arnold"] were perfect. Time and again King not only writes well but identifies -- and nails -- what's most important.
Unfortunately, other recent Chronicle features have fallen short. Jordan Smith's cover story on the Georgetown City Council's emergency development ordinance ["Georgetown Smackdown," Aug. 17] failed to explain why such quick action is necessary: If local ordinances are amended in a traditional, deliberative process, developers simply grandfather themselves by filing applications during the debate. Thus the "act first, deliberate and amend later" process is one of the few ways for local lawmakers to manage the harsh, anti-local-control, state-grandfathering statute purchased by lobbyists for Stratus Properties and other Austin developers. The context (and courage) of the Georgetown City Council's actions should have been featured.
Similarly, Clark-Madison's neighborhood planning article and his sidebar comments on SOS support for Smart Growth ["Would You, Could You Be My Neighbor?" Aug. 31] misstate the facts and miss what is important -- the central failings of Mayor Watson's pseudo-Smart Growth and the damage it has done to the Austin community. When will the Chronicle cover this elephant in our living room?
That Clark-Madison is now a living martyr because of one insightful and provocative observation should not obscure the fact that his reporting rarely provides the insight that King regularly delivers and which your citizen-readers deserve.
Mitchell Deserves Some Respect
The Chronicle political staff, including Mike Clark-Madison, frequently do commendable work on local issues. In fact, God help us without your newspaper filling in a few of the large breaches in coverage left by the city daily. Although I find the Chronicle underemphasizes East Austin topics, you have nonetheless produced some good articles on the difficulties and achievements of the communities there.
However (and this has been lost in the debate over Mr. Clark-Madison's comments about Eric Mitchell ["Round Up the Usual Suspects," July 24]) your newspaper has been oddly insensitive to the voters of black East Austin by constantly denigrating Eric Mitchell. Mr. Clark-Madison's smear was just the latest in a series of references to Mr. Mitchell that have been tainted by a tone of ridicule. I recall in particular your mocking tone in reporting his rumored interest in running for the state legislature last year. This may stem from a combination of things: his skepticism of the environmental movement; the stupid, reprehensible comment he made four or five years ago about gays; the apparent mutual enmity between him and Daryl Slusher.
It bears remembering that Mr. Mitchell overwhelmingly carried the black East Austin precincts in 1997, and that Willie Lewis soundly lost those precincts when he ran for re-election last year. While I hardly know Eric Mitchell, I can report that he went to bat for my clients in the Cedar Avenue police riot case, that Willie Lewis did nothing to help these plaintiffs, and that current Councilman Danny Thomas has been an effective champion for them. This is just one example of the importance of having a black council member who truly cares and speaks for his/her racial community.
When your newspaper shows a lack of respect for Eric Mitchell, I think that may send a message of disrespect to the thousands of African-Americans who support him and the job he did as councilman. I am a fervent Democrat. But if Mr. Mitchell is a Republican, he is proof that a black Republican can be a good leader and spokesman for the black community. Did Eric Mitchell put his foot in his mouth? He most certainly did. Is he the first politician to do so? No. Should every story about Mr. Mitchell hearken back to comments made in the immediate aftermath of a bitter, unexpected defeat? I submit they should not.
Can't We All Get Along?
Please, help clarify something for me. Has the discourse on issues regarding race relations in this country sunken so low that it is perfectly acceptable for an African-American candidate for City Council to refer to his victorious opponent, who is also an African-American, as a "house nigger," and then, when a Caucasian Library Commission member quotes this incredibly offensive racial epithet, softening the language somewhat, it results in the loss of his job ["Shooting the Messenger," Aug. 31]? When, oh when, will this lunacy end? Can we not all get along?
Another thing: How, exactly, does an organization such as the Nation of Islam, which preaches that Hispanic people, Native Americans, Asians, and, finally, "White Devils" are the result of the experiments of an evil black scientist named Yacub some 6,800 years ago, over a period of 600 years, no less, and that a giant flying saucer called the "Mother Wheel" follows Louis Farrakhan everywhere gain such mainstream acceptance?
Shaking my head in bewilderment,
By the Book, Some Corrections
I appreciate the fact that Ms. Moser talked about my book, Telling Stories, Writing Songs: An Album of Texas Songwriters, in the same paragraph with Burton Wilson's book documenting, through photos, the Austin music scene ["Twenty Flight Rock," July 20]. He is a real hero of mine. I want to correct her statements of fact, though. As she declared that my facts were wrong, she used incorrect information. She said, "Hudson said 'airplane' accident regarding the death of Stevie Ray when we all know it was a 'helicopter' accident." Page 298 and page 20 of this book both say "helicopter." Where did she get that information? Not from reading this book. She also commented on the spelling of Jimmie Vaughan's name. I assume she knows the spelling. Page 299 and page 209 both say "Jimmie." My research says this is correct. Again, I'm not sure what book she was reading. I'm not sure if she read this book. Her interpretation is her own. Misrepresenting the facts in her criticism is inexcusable. I'm left confused as to where she got her information, and I'd love a real review of this book in the Chronicle! And yes, I'm a gushy fan and an academic. Just read the introduction where I admit this!
[Margaret Moser replies: The copy of Telling Stories, Writing Songs: An Album of Texas Songwriters provided by the publisher was not a finished copy and contained factual errors. I apologize for construing them as the author's; Ms. Hudson's exuberant love of her subjects is evident in every page. And there's nothing wrong with gushy.]
SOS & Smart Growth: the Truth
I would like to correct Mike Clark-Madison's recent statement with regards to SOS and Smart Growth. He states, "SOS has been a crucial player backing Smart Growth" ["Would You, Could You Be My Neighbor?" Aug. 31]. This is inaccurate noise. The SOS board of directors never voted to support this silly attempt to greenwash corporate welfare by supporting Smart Growth. However, it is true that two previous SOS leaders supported the smart growth scheme. Brigid Shea as a paid "advisor" to Vignette and Robin Rather ... not SOS.
Since Mr. Clark-Madison is no longer on the Library Commission, perhaps he can invest some of his new free time to fact-checking his stories prior to publication.
20-Year-Old Parody Still Stinks
Maybe it's just me, but is shooting frat rats funny ["20th Anniversary Issue: 1981-1982," Sept. 7]? Yeah, I know, it was "a parody," which usually means someone is acting out what they really want to do and then claim it is all in good fun. Twenty years, tens of thousands of articles and columns, and this makes it to a "best of Austin Chronicle" edition? First, you guys run Jimbo Hightower and his frantic rags on "Big Corporations," one of your editors writes constantly about how "Shrub" and the "pubbies" are in the pockets of Big Corporations, and then you go and take advertising from the tobacco industry.
You seem to support candidates who favor more gun control and who abhor violence, but you show someone blasting someone with a 12-gauge in an article about Texas Cinema, now you run a deal about shooting frat rats. First off, it makes you look somewhat hypocritical, secondly, if that is something you consider funny, shoot fratties, I might suggest you seem a bit intolerant. So what if Fratties are born rich empty-headed twits ... big deal. Get over it. I just don't get the class envy of the liberals and the extent that they go to vilify people who are guilty of the high crime of not agreeing with them.
Promoting violence is wrong, even as a parody. Period. Not ragging, just asking for you to take another look at some things from a different perspective. Robert Kennedy had something to say on the subject: "What is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents." Shooting Fratties, even in parody, says a lot.
Seven years ago, the New Orleans band the Radiators played at the Austin Music Hall. I went to Waterloo Brewing Co. after the show, and a short time later a few of the bandmembers showed up, and we stayed until closing. At 2am, Dave Malone, one of the guitarists, said to the manager, "I'll make it worth your while if you keep the bar open." The manager said "No way! You may be able to do that in New Orleans, but this is Austin, Texas." Too bad Waterloo wasn't in New Orleans, it might still be open, instead of being bulldozed out by the lofts.
Old Friend Remembered
I missed The Austin Chronicle's July 20th issue and learned only recently of the death of Jeff Whittington. Thank you for your "Page Two" tribute.
When Jeff was a student, our paths often crossed in Waggener Hall and at the Club Foot. We shared a love of New Wave music, and I understand it better thanks to Jeff.
I am sorry he had to leave us so soon.
Louis H. Mackey
Shake It Up, Stir It Up
I enjoyed your article about bubble tea shops, but I must disagree with one statement you made ["The New Cold Concoction," Aug. 17. 2001]. You compared making a tea by shaking it instead of stirring it with creating a martini. You stated that shaking was the accepted method, as it is with martinis. I disagree. There is no consensus among martini drinkers in the "shaken vs. stirred" debate. While it is true that James Bond insists that his martinis be shaken and while Mr. Bond's opinion should be, and is, given great weight in the martini world, there are many other qualified martini drinkers who believe that a stirred martini creates a superior drink.
Racism Not Under Every Rock
It was with much sorrow that I read the reaction and response to Mike Clark-Madison's characterization of Eric Mitchell. There is no doubt that racism is alive and well in our culture and must be exposed by the bright light of justice, but to find racism under every Anglo rock undermines the search by compromising the integrity of the seekers. Rather than condemn Mr. Clark-Madison for his portrayal of Mr. Mitchell, I'm aghast at the narrow-minded, knee-jerk reaction by Council Member Thomas and the subsequent spineless response from Council Member Slusher ["Shooting the Messenger," Aug. 31]. Dorothy Turner's castigation of Mr. Madison ["Postmarks: 'Blatant Racist White Boy,'" Aug. 31] was predictable. And just as racism is alive and well so are the legacies of Cotton Mather and Joseph McCarthy. I hope Mr. Clark-Madison wears Ms. Turner's labeling as a badge in much the same way that all those who were honored on Nixon's enemies list wore theirs. Mr. Madison is a journalist whose job, as I see it, is to paint everyone, black, white, red, green, and brown, with the truth. I, personally, was deeply offended by Eric Mitchell's arrogant reference to Mr. Lewis as a "house nigger." I was likewise offended by Clayton Williams' characterization of rape as "lay back and enjoy it." I'm neither black nor female, and yet I know that neither of these people is fit for public office and any self-respecting journalist should discredit them wherever possible.
The celebration of Mambo John's life last Thursday was one of the most joyous and heartfelt days that I have experienced in my nine years of living in Austin. I feel so lucky to know that Mambo's spirit will be with me forever! I am so thankful that I am welcomed and a part of his special family. Austin is indeed a very special place.
Love and thanks y'all,
A Taxing Betrayal
Perhaps you've traveled up and down South First or South Congress between Oltorf and Ben White and seen the red signs, "No Zoning Changes" that have sprung up in the last two weeks and wondered what it was all about. The much ballyhooed Neighborhood Plan Process is sparking anger and cries of "betrayal" from property owners over the city's implementation of Neighborhood Plan Combining Districts (NPCDs).
Promised to residents was the right to have a say in "local land issues." As intended by the city, Smart Growth infill "options" are a "means of enhancing our tax base," a euphemism for a stealth property tax increase. By reducing the land required to build a single family residence from its current minimum of 5,750 sq. ft. with 45% impervious cover, to as small as 2,500 sq. ft. with 65% impervious cover, this highly inflates land values and the taxes paid upon that land. Voila -- a politically correct tax increase that required no public vote that can be used against politicians by their opponent(s) in future electoral races.
Think this can't happen in your neighborhood? The mere creation of an NPCD appears to allow any land in the area, currently zoned Single Family 3 to have the equivalent density of a mid-range apartment complex -- without existing property owners giving their consent. NPCDs allow developers to never have to get another zoning change to erect these McMansions next to your property. And you get stuck paying for them with higher taxes.
Photo Credit Corrections
The very talented Lori Eanes, now living in San Francisco, photographed the two covers attributed to me (Barton Springs and SK8 or Die ["20th Anniversary Issue: 1982-1988," Sept. 7]). Musician Van Wilks took the photo of me on the same page at the 1985 Music Awards.
Otherwise, a stunning issue, a "keeper" for sure!
Love & XXX,
Someone e-mailed me the URL for your June 22, 2001, article by Devin Greaney titled "Crying in the Chapel."
I am astonished that no mention whatsoever was made of the fact that the founder of the monastery of New Sarov is a convicted pedophile. Father Benedict (Samuel A.) Greene and another of the monks, Father Jeremiah (Jonathan) Hitt, were convicted of molesting one of the children who attended the monastery school. While Father Jeremiah is now in prison, Father Benedict continues to reside at the monastery, as noted in your article.
Moreover, the monastery's claim to "Orthodoxy" is now somewhat dubious. Father Benedict and Father Jeremiah were suspended from the priesthood of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in December of 1998, pending an investigation into the abuse charges. In July of 1999, New Sarov was ordered closed by ROCOR for its continuing failure to cooperate with a financial audit. Those monastics who wished to remain in obedience to their Synod were ordered to relocate to other monasteries at the expense of the church.
I realize that the disobedient monks who remain at New Sarov are eager to raise money to defend the lawsuit filed on behalf of the injured child, but I hardly think that it behooves your publication to help them in this regard.
Melanie Jula Sakoda
'Who Rapes a Child?'
Thanks for running the Peace Council's ad concerning child abuse, "Who Rapes a Child?" August 31, 2001. I appreciate your concern more for the victimized children than for the sensitivities of those who'd rather ignore what's going on all around us. I'd also like to publicly thank the Peace Council for their efforts in helping the Children's Advocacy Center get the word out on this most serious issue.
President, Board of Directors
Children's Advocacy Center
Mambo's Song of Life
I had the pleasure of working and hearing Mambo's music when I bartended and managed the Continental Club, which seems like only yesterday but it was almost 10 years ago. I'm one of the girls Mambo wrote a song about, and I was extremely flattered that Mambo would write a song about me. Today my heart is moved every time I hear the song, and recently I have heard "Rosi" quite frequently thanks to KGSR and KUT and their wonderful and complete tributes to Mambo. Mambo's funeral was the most spiritual funeral I have ever attended; we raised him to the heavens.
I was visiting a mutual friend of ours in Spain when he was in his last hours before he left us. So I wanted to take this opportunity to say what a gift Mambo was not only musically but spiritually as well. He taught me to love without expectations or strings attached. He loved me drunk and sober. He taught me how to ski on the air chair on Lake Austin on the coolest boat in town. I will miss him along with the rest of Austin. He touched so many, many lives. Mambo lives!
Refuting Clark-Madison's Defense
Ever since I read Mike Clark-Madison's recent words about former City Council member Eric Mitchell ["Round Up the Usual Suspects," Aug. 24] and the ensuing letters and commentary, I have been unsettled. Here are some of my thoughts.
I admire journalists who are brave enough to say the unpopular thing -- the stuff that might make others angry -- if this reflects some truth about the world, and if this kind of writing can help to illuminate an issue or an idea. I confess that I personally found it jarring to read the words "self-styled field Negro" in reference to Eric Mitchell, and I didn't understand what Clark-Madison meant. Indeed, he didn't explain what he meant in his initial article.
Clark-Madison defends his characterization of Mitchell saying: "'self-styled field Negro' is a direct reference to ... Mitchell's own description ... of his opponent Willie Lewis as a 'house nigger'" ["Clark-Madison Responds," Aug. 31]. But Clark-Madison is anything but direct in his article, for instead of merely reminding us of the incendiary words Mitchell used against his opponent, he seems to imply that Mitchell actually characterizes himself as a "field Negro." This is a lot to assume, and Clark-Madison's analogy doesn't work for me. I read the words "self-styled field Negro" written of a black man by a white one and red flags start going up all over the place. These red flags should have gone up at the Chronicle, not to censor Clark-Madison, but to encourage him to write about Mitchell in another way. A way that is not demeaning to black people, evocative of slavery, and, well, racist. (e.g., why is it mentioned that Mitchell is a sharp dresser? No one else's mode of dress or race are mentioned in the same article.)
As a journalist, Clark-Madison would have better served his readers (and, ultimately himself) by using his words to illuminate, not obfuscate. Ultimately, I think he failed his readers because he was so unclear. (Or was he being really, really clear?) He didn't elevate the discourse, he went down and mud-wrestled in it, and as a result did more damage than he himself might have imagined.
Mid-Eighties 'Live Shots'
Your 20th anniversary issue [Sept. 7] turned the Bittersweet Nostalgia knob way up. Didn't know I had that knob until a few years back, yet lately I'm twisting it daily, which sounds misleadingly kinky.
In the mid-Eighties, when the Chronicle's "Live Shots" weren't only about music, I wrote "Live Shots" about Terra Toys and G/M Steakhouse on the Drag and Electric Ladyland and Publishers Clearinghouse giveaways and Tearjerker Gumballs and rain. For the Chronicle I wrote one of the earliest articles about Daily Texan cartoonist Chris Ware, and in 1986 I wrote about the Austin game company where I worked, Steve Jackson Games. I remember visiting Chronicle Editor Louis Black's office on alternate Fridays to cadge a $6 contributor check, and smiling guiltily as, with sullen resentment, he pulled out the checkbook.
Ah, nostalgia. So many things changed in only semi-predictable ways. Sure, anyone with eyes could recognize Chris Ware's genius; he went on to produce the amazing Acme Novelty Library series and his recent breakthrough graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth. But four years after my SJ Games article, the U.S. Secret Service surprised everyone by raiding Steve Jackson's offices and seizing computer equipment as part of the government's ill-advised Operation Sundevil. The Chronicle ran the first important coverage of that raid, Bruce Sterling's "The Cyberpunk Bust," the seed of his 1992 nonfiction book The Hacker Crackdown. (In 1993 Jackson achieved law-book immortality by winning a landmark case against the Secret Service. Read the whole story at www.sjgames.com/SS/.)
The Chronicle has changed the most, and just as unpredictably. In October 1989, the day after busybody Mark Weaver got HEB to stop carrying the Chron, I asked Louis if this would hurt the paper. "The Chronicle is at its best when people are after us," Louis said, tapping his desk, talking fast and grim with a Nixonian shoulder hunch. "When we've got our back to the wall, that's when we fight best." I translated this response as, "Yes." But the aftermath of the Weaver fiasco marked the Chronicle's emergence as a recognized Austin institution and the foundation of its subsequent success. Nowadays it has an accounting department that mails contributor checks unasked.
What makes my nostalgia bittersweet is that I no longer get those contributor checks, because today's young whippersnapper editors don't know me and won't look at my work. But mark me (hunches shoulders), when my back is to the wall, that's when I fight best. (Turns Nostalgia knob) Why, I remember when ...
Here's to many more years,