Our readers talk back.
'Dawson in Danger?' No Doubt.
As a 27-year-old residential property owner in Dawson neighborhood, I am terrified by the city of Austin's mandatory zoning changes which create a "Neighborhood Plan Combining District (NPCD)" ["Dawson in Danger?," Nov. 16].
I, like SOS and other environmental advocacy groups, share similar concerns. I do not want our creek, East Bouldin Creek, to be converted into an inanimate, treeless, stone-cold, concrete-lined culvert -- all FEMA-required flood control measures in urban watersheds when NPCD zoning changes allow density and impervious cover equivalent to a midlevel (MF-3) apartment.
Many citizens of my neighborhood are in favor of affordable housing for the next generation, but it is sad to state that existing affordable housing has been wiped out everywhere "Cottages" and "Urban Home" lots have been created and built upon. A simple check of the Travis Central Appraisal records show the areas around Kinney Court, South Fifth street and Live Oak, and in the 3600 block of South Second have all greatly increased in taxes in the past three years, way beyond the increases brought by our hot housing market.
Looking over the horizon, we are leery of the Trojan Horse that is being offered by the city of Austin's imposed Neighborhood Plan Combining District.
I ask Mayor Garcia and the City Council. Please don't wrench apart the tranquility and affordable housing that exist in my neighborhood now.
Dawson is in danger.
Jose H. Alejo
Don't Play the Race Card
I get very tired of people trying to play the race card both ways. Gonzalo Barrientos is careful to "emphasize the importance of Garcia's election as the city's first Hispanic mayor"["Dale Gas, Gus," Nov. 2]. If race doesn't matter, as many people claim they believe, then the race of Austin's mayor is of no consequence. On the other hand, if we are to take Sen. Barrientos' statement seriously, I'd like to know exactly what uniquely Hispanic characteristics he can identify as inherently desirable in governing a city, and also whether he can name any uniquely Hispanic characteristics he can identify as inherently desirable in governing a city, and also whether he can name any uniquely Hispanic characteristics that are inherently undesirable.
Personally, I'm far less interested in Mr. Garcia's race rather than in whether he can convince me he won't approve another sweetheart deal like the Don Limon restaurant loan-guarantee fiasco. Is that disgraceful decision to be considered a result of Mr. Garcia's thought processes as an Hispanic, or simply a stellar example of porkbarrel politics that could have been executed by someone of any race?
Kirk and the Beanstalk
You ask, "Where's Captain Kirk?" ["Austin @Large," Nov. 9]. He's climbing Jack's Beanstalk, high in the clouds above real-life Austin. When all's said and done, Mayor Kirk Watson will be remembered as a tool of developer interests. I suggest we rename that stupidly designed Town Lake bike bridge after him: "MKW's Monument to Bad Judgment." Okay, the new airport's not so bad. I'll give him that, but not much else.
Jarrin' Jack Jackson
Del Santo a True Classic
Thank you for your coverage on what happened to Dan Del Santo ["The Last Sunset," Nov. 9]. He was a true Austin treasure and was irreplaceable when he left us to go into exile nine years ago.
I remember when the L.A. riots broke out, and I was working an all-night job at the time. I would listen to his overnight show, and I recall him telling his listeners to "keep cool" that "violence is not the way to fight the system." He said it over and over again, and I could tell he was really concerned about this town. One might say he even helped the "authorities" by this message over the radio waves at that time, and look at the thanks he got. From "those authorities."
I could rant forever about the goddamned "drug war" this nation has raged against its citizens. But I won't waste my energy.
All I can do is offer my condolences to his family and his fans for this loss of a good man.
Wherever you are Dan, I hope you're tokin' on some kind bud, and I'm sure there aren't any narcs there.
Gregory J. Gauntner
Missing Champ Hood
Although I have been away from Austin for nearly 10 years now, I stay in touch with at least the singer/songwriter and folk/country end of Austin music and regularly house many of Austin's best artists at my little bring-your-own-beer joint the Blue Door in Oklahoma City. My friend Mandy Mercier told me of Champ Hood's illness, and I immediately remembered when I asked him to sing Willis Alan Ramsey's "Boy From Oklahoma" at my annual Austin Woody Guthrie tributes. Anyone who knows Champ knows he is a man of few words, but with just a glance, a grin, and a sparkle in his eye, he tells you all you need to know.
"Sure, Greg I can do that," Champ said, "Just tell me when to be there," he added. Although it didn't make our 1993 record Pastures of Plenty, I do have a recording of Champ singing his friend's song, and with the wonders of modern technology I got to play it on my weekly radio show when I honored Champ last week. Last year Willis played a couple of Champ's songs at the Blue Door before a packed house and afterward commented, "You know, I need to bring Champ up here sometime."
Mandy said the same thing when we talked about her finally making a visit here, and the last time I saw Champ in October of 2000 at Willis' Austin City Limits taping, he said "well Greg, I hear you have a great thing going up there," and I reminded him that on several occasions we almost got him and Walter Hyatt on our stage. Champ Hood was one of the kindest men I have met in my life, and just after he died I started going through old pictures from gigs and parties and came across a great shot of Champ at Lucinda Williams' birthday party. They say pictures say a thousand words, and this one was typical Champ, smiling with his eyes shining. When someone wants the definition of Southern gentleman, just say Champ Hood.
The Blue Door
Baumgarten, Get Motivated!
I'd like to take a second to comment on the review by Marjorie Baumgarten of the film Shallow Hal.
Although I found the review to be fairly close to my personal feelings of its artistic merit, I take offense to Ms. Baumgarten's portrayal of Tony Robbins. I believe she referred to him as a "human joke."
Being in the business world, I've often encouraged my staff to get familiar with his books and tapes. Those who've done so have shown dramatic results in both their business and personal lives. Yes, I think his infomercials are overkill, but his worth is quite valuable to anyone who has cared to take a second to listen to his message.
Let me put it another way for Ms. Baumgarten. If you'd go out and read his books, maybe you'd be employed creating art, rather than sitting back and criticizing those who have the drive to create it themselves. Check into it.
More Critical Mass Mail
Yeah, so Mike Henderson lost his temper with a group of Critical Mass riders ["Road Raging: The Video," Nov. 9]. Am I supposed to be upset? CM protests operate by blocking the streets and congesting traffic in order to significantly disrupt traffic and inconvenience citizens. The demonstrations are intended to invoke frustration and anger among the drivers affected by the delay. Apparently they think these tactics will prompt the public to have some sort of revelation in which the affected individuals recognize CM's political agenda and direct their frustration at the city to bring about change. It must be equally frustrating for CM members to realize this tactic has done their cause more harm than good.
In the early days of CM, I supported the organization's ideals and went to a few rides. I quickly saw that they weren't so much about promoting bikers' rights as they were about infringing on the others' rights. I lost interest in the group and decided my best method of supporting bikers' rights was to ride courteously yet assertively on the road. I obey the traffic laws, am conscious of the drivers around me, and don't give up my share of the road easily if a driver unintentionally begins to run me off the road.
Mr. Henderson didn't appear to get frustrated by a slowdown due to bike commuters or joy riders. He was delayed deliberately in order to provoke a response. And he did respond. Now CM is upset because rather than Mr. Henderson taking his concerns to City Hall to promote CM's cause, he reciprocated CM's methods of intimidation and reacted to those riders who were harassing him. I am not condoning Mr. Henderson's reckless and hostile actions, but I think CM should not complain nor be surprised when the public pushes back at the group's aggressive tactics.
Sure, Austin can do a bit more for bikers (not to say it doesn't already do a lot), but when we take our complaints to the streets and harass others in order to get those things done, please don't cry when a victim of the protests turns on your mob. CM fully intended to create disruption and intimidation that day. They just didn't realize they would be on the receiving end.
SUVs: Tanks of Terror
In the two months since September 16, about 7,000 people have died violent deaths in this country, and 50 times that many have been injured. In the next two months, about 7,000 more will die violently, and about 350,000 more will be wounded. In fact, this happens every two months. These violent deaths receive very little attention from the press and are seldom investigated carefully. These violent deaths are considered neither noteworthy nor preventable.
There is terror every day on the roads right here in Austin. Fear keeps parents from letting their children walk or bicycle to school. Fear leads each citizen to ride in a separate two-ton tank, for protection against the tanks of other citizens.
It's hard to take seriously the public safety and anti-terror talk, when people cheerfully put up with daily terror and enormous casualties, and don't even notice it.
A rude letter published on November 16 says that it is reasonable to deny bicyclists and pedestrians safe passage on roads because "the automobile is here to stay and ... bicycles will never have a significant impact on traffic."
I don't see how this justifies giving all available roadspace to cars and allowing whoever is not in a car to be bullied, frightened, and sometimes killed. If the existence of cars means that people are no longer free to walk or ride bicycles, then cars are being used as instruments of terror. I find it noteworthy and disturbing that people in cars find it so easy to deny other Americans basic rights.
Eyes on Parking Solutions
I am tired of people criticizing Amy Babich over the "portable parking garage" idea ["Postmarks: Babich Offers Comic Relief," Nov. 16]. It was I, Mike Librik, recumbent bicycle mechanic and part-time State Library paperclip jockey, who is responsible for this much-maligned idea.
So we all know what's being sneered at, this was the whole idea: Given the desire for a car-free central city, we know that successful examples of car-free areas have ample parking at their perimeters. This makes expanding the car-free area an expensive project, as garages must be torn down and larger ones built. But the design of parking garages suggests modularity, so why not design prefabricated parts that can be disassembled, moved, and built as large as necessary? It wouldn't be cheap, but it would be cheaper than demolition and new construction.
I hope that sets the record straight. None of us should tolerate the current level of fear encountered in traffic. Fear, injury, and death on the roads signals a dysfunctional system. Kudos to everyone with their eyes on solutions.
Of Religion and Terror
Mr. Howard Thompson ["Postmarks: Irreligious Fervor," Nov. 16] makes a common logical error. To the statement "All humans are animals," the equivalent negative reads: If not an animal, then cannot possibly be human. Thus, if terrorist sympathizers have no religion, then the equivalent negative is: If you are religious, then you could possibly not celebrate terrorist acts. It does not follow that those without religion are necessarily pro-terrorism.
I do not watch TV and have no interest in following the speeches of national leaders, but in this case, one might allow that Bush meant religiosity in a broad sense (of course we all know that terrorists and the folk who condone their actions are avowed religious extremists!), as in respect for life and property. But if this generous interpretation is allowed, then it is doubtful if any religion or nation of the world, past or present, has ever displayed the sort of religiosity that lets others thrive in peace. As a result, while the president's statement does not implicate atheists, it does raise the moot point as to who can be regarded as truly religious in a setup where only the fittest survive.
Violence Begets Violence
Ms. Hamzeh writes: "Suddenly I feel defensive about being an Arab-American. ["From Bethlehem to Austin," Oct. 19]. ... The possibility that our civil liberties can be jeopardized because of our religious beliefs or ethnic background is so distressing ... For days now, I have been feeling as if I were back in the Palestinian Territories."
She seems not to understand that any threat she feels here is not prompted by her ethnicity or faith, but by the terrorist murders of some 6,000 Americans in their own country. Perhaps the fear she may have felt in Palestine was also prompted by the terrorist murders of thousands of Israelis.
Palestinian polls recently have shown fully 82% of Palestinians are in favor of terrorism against civilian Israelis, and some 70% are in favor of terrorism against Americans as well.
She seems not to understand that before the latest bombings and shootings perpetrated by her Palestinian "martyrs," she and all Palestinians were allowed to freely travel throughout the West Bank and Gaza. In addition, thousands traveled freely to Israel to work. She says she "lives confined" to Bethlehem but neglects to mention Bethlehem and 98% of all Palestinian Arabs live under full Palestinian control. She blames Israel for the condition of Palestinian refugee camps -- which are all under full Arab or PA control! Poignant though her story is, she and too many Arab Muslims appear unable to connect terrorism with a self-defensive reaction from its targets, in the Mideast or in America.
Delray Beach, Florida
Blame Where Blame Is Due
In a letter headed "No Vote, No Patriot" ["Postmarks," Nov. 16], the writer decries the low turnout in the Nov. 6 election.
Perhaps the writer needs to direct criticism to the elected and appointed officials who cause voters to conclude that their votes don't count. Many of those who opposed light rail a year ago now say their votes didn't count because it will probably be on the ballot next year, this time as "rapid transit."
John Birch on Air Terror
In the wake of the outrageous terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, I feel compelled to ask a very simple question, the meaning and portent of which, in retrospect, is outrageous in itself. How many guns did the flight crew members on the hijacked airliners have on their persons to uphold their awesome responsibility to protect the lives of their passengers? The answer: none. I'm told that this no-gun policy dates back many years, creating a condition whereby our airliners have been deliberately reduced to sitting ducks for terrorists to destroy, at will, using only pocket knives and razor blades, etc., which have been promptly outlawed on airliners, of course, by our asinine government authorities who disarmed the pilots and crew members long ago. The only time skyjacking subsided was when they put the sky marshals on the airliners years ago and then took them off when the skyjacking ceased. How dumb can the authorities get? Obviously the skyjacking ceased because terrorists don't want to deal with people with guns. The solution to terrorism, or violent crime in general, is obviously to arm the potential victims, instead of depending on criminally negligent or subversive government agents or agencies who deliberately disarm our airline crews and deliver us up to be sacrificed by agents from dead-end rat-hole cultures who would love to sucker us into a no-win world war controlled by the communists, cutthroats, and cannibals running the United Nations. Let's contact the John Birch Society at 800/JBS-USA-1(or visit www.jbs.org) for information, and then our congressmen to get us out of the United Nations, and also to support the HR 2896 bill by congressman Ron Paul, allowing pilots, copilots, and navigators to carry guns. We must act now!
'I Feel You Are an Asshole, Sir'
I recently sent you an e-mail regarding sending clips of my writing to you and got no reply. I sent clips last year to Raoul Hernandez. I did not expect a response from him because his writing is so unreadable and rambling, why would he want to have someone write for the Chron that can actually follow a thought all the way through. I wrote better when I was in junior high than he writes now. Your publication sucks, SXSW is a fucking overrated, overpriced, incestual joke. You have so many writers that are examples of how not to write properly. Self-centered bullshit as opposed to insightful prose is the typical fare for the shit-rag AusChron. Why my honesty now? I'll tell you. Saturday night I was jumped in front of Antone's and beaten for no apparent reason. My friend, brother, cousin, and myself beat the guy badly but I'm still all fucked up. He insisted that he had hit the wrong guy and that he was sorry. This is not the first time I've been attacked in downtown Austin, just the first time someone was successful in doing so. I filed a police report but those bastards could not care any less, and they all but told me this. So I'm done with downtown and all the wannabe rock stars in this town, the whole fucking half-ass, loser music scene here has little value anyhow, except to opportunistic assholes like you at the Chron that successfully water down the entire music community for your own gain. Maybe you guys over there could collectively pull your heads out of each other's asses and open your minds, but I doubt this. I just wanted to convey to you that I feel you are an asshole, sir, and that your music coverage is far too motivated by personal grudges and friendships, and does not even closely approach true journalism. Please express to your staff that I feel they are all half-ass losers, drunks, and hacks. I bet you will reply to this one though, won't you, dickhead?
Why Can't We All Get Along?
I have to say that I was somewhat moved this time by Hamzeh's impassioned, poetic writing, "This Is Palestine Calling" [Oct. 19]. When I was reading it, I could feel myself being placed in her shoes, and how angry I would also feel. But I still feel that she would convey more conviction to her story if she explained the whole story. I've been keeping up with the other letters to you, and all of those on the side of the Palestinians seem to say that even if the Israelis occupied that area in a peaceful way, they would still deserve to be bombed or killed, simply for the crime of occupation. I think if Palestinian supporters are going to sway more support to their side, they are going to have to come up with a more peaceful resolve. Isn't it obvious America isn't too keen on terrorism? America, a whole county based on a bunch of Europeans, who pretty much swindled and diseased the land from its native occupants. Look around you, seems to me things worked out pretty good, for the most part, we've all learned to get along. I still believe that there are crimes being perpetuated on both sides, and I don't profess to fully understand the conflict. All I know is based on American news media and the occasional Web site: That Palestinians are using terrorist tactics on Israel, and Israel is using brute force to pay them back for it. What happens when Palestinians quit terrorizing Israel? Will Israel keep attacking Palestinians? And what would happen if Israel just sat around and let Palestinians terrorize them? Would the Palestinians eventually get bored with it and make friends with Israelis? Why can't Israelis and Palestinians peacefully occupy the same space in Israel, like everyone does in America?