Our readers talk back.
Profiling? Not Quite.
In response to Scott Henson's letter in the January 11, 2002, "Postmarks" column, titled "Racial Profiling Runs Rampant":
I feel qualified to respond to his letter in particular, since I am the officer to whom Henson refers.
Henson's ignorance of both the law and the facts of this case are astonishing. What's even more incredible is that Will Harrell of the ACLU would stand by and say nothing to this type of dribble being written by Henson, who makes it a point at the end of his letter to let everyone know that he is a "Director" of the ACLU.
Let me point out with facts, not innuendo and rumors the ignorance of Henson's letter.
Henson is correct in saying that it is irrelevant that my current girlfriend is African-American. If Henson had tuned in several days after my indefinite suspension, he would have seen me make that very statement to the citizens of Austin on KEYE news. I have asserted all along that I know I did not racially profile, not based on whom I date, but because I know what type of human being I am, I know what type of cop I am, and I, better than anyone, know the facts in this particular case.
Henson quotes a paragraph, not from my actual internal affairs transcripts, but rather from Chief Knee's memorandum to Civil Service.
I would be curious to know if Henson could explain to the citizens of Austin what sentences were replaced with "..." in the middle of my statement. I'll tell you what. My reasons for the stop, that's what, and those sentences had nothing to do with race. Of course they were conveniently omitted by both Chief Knee and Henson.
Henson next accuses me of being terminated not for racial profiling but instead for lying to supervisors, etc. You're right Mr. Henson, I didn't get fired for racial profiling. The official act I was accused of violating was "Impartial Attitude," and no, it was not the media's sexy angle that made the headlines, it was the very statements made by Chief Knee that made those headlines what they were.
Henson next states that I lied about being involved in a foot chase. Again Henson has no clue of what the facts are. It was a car chase that was the issue, and it revolved around whether or not it was an official "Pursuit" by APD policy. Henson then states that I had been in trouble before in regards to my using my assigned SWAT car. Wrong again, Mr. Henson, I had not been in trouble before for any such issue. It is, however, Henson's last statement that truly shows the magnitude of his ignorance. Henson states: "any officer worth his salt knows a broken taillight isn't legal cause in Texas to stop a driver of any color."
I would like to point out to Mr. Henson Section 547.322, 547.323, 547.324 of the Texas Transportation Code. Also he may want to look at the Austin Police Department Citation Titles which read: "(NO/Defective) Tail Lights (Right/Left)" which is what would appear on Mr. Henson's traffic ticket should he decide to try and drive with a broken taillight. Be that as it may, it was a defective back-up light that was in question, Mr. Henson, not a taillight! Again Austin Police Citation Titles read: "Improper Use of Back-up light." It turns out I was wrong that night. I took the above citation title to mean that a defective back-up light was a violation. Turns out it's only a violation if the back-up lights are on when the vehicle is moving forward. If that makes me not worth my salt, then what about the supervisor who didn't realize it was not a violation that night, the prosecutor who didn't realize it, the Internal Affairs investigator who didn't realize it, and about two dozen other cops I spoke with who stated they too did not realize this.
But why confuse the truth with facts, right, Mr. Henson? Be that as it may, I want you to know there are no hard feeling here. Mr. Henson, I truly hope that neither you nor anyone you know is ever the victim of a violent crime. Should you, however, find yourself at the mercy of someone intent on killing, raping, or in some other way harming you or your loved ones, I rest comfortably with knowing that you will not have time to consider the ignorance of your statements in the letter you wrote. You will be too busy sinking to your knees and thanking whatever God you pray to, for sending me, or a cop just like me, to save you and the ones you love. As we always have, as we always will. "For those who have fought for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know."
This Is Not My Beautiful Council
On January 10, 2002, the self-styled environmental/neighborhood friendly Mayor Gus Garcia and Council Members Daryl Slusher, Jackie Goodman, and Danny Thomas voted for a Houston-based apartment developer's MFG rezoning of land directly north of the University of Texas. This precedent setting vote allows the first large apartment complex (150 units and six floors of structured parking) proposed since the North University Neighborhood Association (NUNA) stopped the flood of such project that destroyed 50% of it's historic homes and open space, between 1960 and 1980. NUNA sponsored the compatibility ordinance that stabilized development and directed it toward reinvestment in historic buildings.
These four votes went against the recommendation of the Planning Commission who voted seven to one against the project on two occasions.
They voted against more than 250 residents and 180 school children (Kirby Hall) opposed the project.
They voted against the preservation of an invaluable historic community. The last one adjoining the University of Texas. The historic residential neighborhood east, south, and west of UT have all been lost since the 1960s.
Gus Garcia, Daryl Slusher, Jackie Goodman, and Danny Thomas voted for: one attorney, two real estate developers, one lobbyist, and three landowners. They voted for: a project that will be more than 90 units per acre and 90% impervious cover in four floors of wood frame construction and six floors with 500 space parking structure and the removal of all historic structure and existing large trees. All this next to a park. A school and single family and duplex homes.
They have the power to do this, but not as environmental/neighborhood preservationists; they need to come out of the closet.
PS: Will Wynn also voted for the project, but he has always honorably stated his position.
MF-6 Zoning Bad for the 'Hood
Re: Villas at Guadalupe
On January 10, the Austin City Council voted on the request for a zoning change on the property including Blockbuster on Guadalupe with Hemphill Street on the east and 29th Street on the north. The request is for Multifamily-6 (MF-6), the densest multifamily zoning. The parking garage proposed will only house approximately half of the vehicles that will be associated with the property. The additional 300 vehicles will have to park on the street. Anyone who travels the area knows there aren't 300 spaces on the streets!
This very dense zoning category will have a disastrous effect on the neighborhoods just to the north of it, Hemphill Park, Eastwoods Park, Hyde Park, Heritage, and Shoal Crest (west of Guadalupe at 29th Street). If the Council allows MF-6 zoning, it will set a precedent for more very dense projects to be built in and around our neighborhoods. The long-term result will be to decimate our neighborhoods. There will be a major exodus from the area of residents who pay very high property taxes and who have cared for the area for many years. There will be a loss of a diverse population of families with young children, students, older people, and people who have various alternative lifestyles. Why replace such a healthy mix of residents who provide a good environment for students to enjoy and live in with a monoculture of residents living stuffed into buildings that resemble mazes for rats? What benefit does that have but to line developers' pockets? The quality of life of these neighborhoods is certain to suffer greatly if the council does not begin to include neighborhoods in planning for the area.
The north university neighborhoods are a major constituency that must be listened to. The NUNA proposal is reasonable and should be incorporated into the solution to the Villas issue.
Mary Gay Maxwell
Austin Neighborhoods Council Representative
North University Neighborhood Assn.
Residents Ignored by City Council
I am shocked at the City Council's 5-2 vote for the MF-6 zoning request for the Villas at Guadalupe development at the January 10 meeting. This vote meant that the City Council chose to ignore the recommendations of three past Planning/Zoning and Platting Commissions to reject the MF-6 request as incompatible with the neighborhood due to its high population density, increased traffic demands, and inadequate parking. And more importantly, the Council ignored the presence and registered opposition of about 100 North University Neighborhood Association (NUNA) residents, property owners, and supporters. Until the day before the meeting, NUNA had obtained a valid petition opposing the zoning request of property owners of over 24% of the land within 200 feet of the development; however city staff worked with the developer to reconfigure the boundaries of the project so that it fell just under the required 20% for a valid petition.
NUNA ranks second to West Campus in the number of students housed in its neighborhood, and while we love our students, we do not want to be No. 1. NUNA members have spent hundreds of hours meeting with city staff, commission members, and council members; and repeatedly tracking down property owners to sign petitions opposing the development. We have offered a compromise proposal that provides intense MF-4 student housing appropriate for the site and more compatible with the neighborhood.
We have followed the "rules." City staff members reject our requests for fast track neighborhood plan development -- we must "wait our turn." Meanwhile, our neighborhood is targeted for high-dollar student housing development and houses fall to developers, including the removal of a historic home for this development. "Mistakes" by city staff members, developers' delays, and finally this council's endorsement of gerrymandering indicate that neighborhood interests have been put aside for high-density, high-dollar, and high-impact student housing in neighborhoods. Clearly, the council's message on Jan. 10 is that central city neighborhoods are fair game for maximum-density developers. NUNA will not take this lying down: We will work with surrounding neighborhoods such as Hyde Park and Eastwoods that are mobilizing to elect Beverly Griffith and other council candidates who will follow through with their promises to support neighborhood integrity.
Pam Bell Morris
NUNA resident and member
'End the Occupation'
Lauri Apple's coverage of the Women in Black vigil (Dec. 28) in "Naked City" ["War and Peace," Jan. 4], missed the core reason for the protest. Our 6-foot banner was very clear: "End the Israeli Occupation ... Choose Peace." It was a global event and a historic one for Austin. For the first time ever Austin Arabs, Jews, and supporters united on the issue of the occupation. For the first time ever Austin Jews publicly proclaimed their disagreement with the Israeli occupation of Palestine and joined international peace activists in a global call for the Israeli government to end its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza strip. Under the theme of the "Occupation Is Killing Us All" the Women's Coalition (in Israel) and the Women in Black spearheaded this 113-city effort to send a clear message to the Israeli government that the Israeli occupation is the root cause of violence, oppression and dispossession of Palestinians and the subsequent violence against Israelis. That for peace to become a reality, justice must ensue; that it is not reasonable nor just nor moral to hold a whole population under siege, invade their cities, kill their children, demolish their homes and orchards, close their schools and expect them not to resist. Women in Black support peace with justice: a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital alongside the Israeli State.
Member of Women in Black -- Austin
The FCC Strikes Again
On Saturday I went to see Jello Biafra at La Zona Rosa. He talked about media consolidation, of course, specifically about the fact that the Federal Communications Commission has repealed still more of its own rules, rules which were designed to protect the public interest from commercialism, monopoly, and disenfranchisement by an influential (translation: wealthy) minority. As an antidote, or at least a holdout against this cooperative effort of corporate industry and "free trade" government, Jello mentioned the microradio movement and a local station called Rabble Radio.
Ironically, Rabble Radio has since gone off the air after getting a letter from the FCC threatening them with fines (up to $100,000) and possible jail time (up to two years).
This is not the first time the FCC has struck in Austin, enforcing corporate control of what is a public resource. In times like these, when a tiny collection of millionaires owns the media and regulates the industry and runs the nation (FCC Chairman Michael Powell is the son of Secretary of State Colin Powell, and personally approved the AOL-Time Warner merger, which netted his father huge profits in AOL stock), can anyone doubt that our most important war is for information? And that, when independent stations like Rabble Radio are shut down, all our weapons are being taken away from us?
Becoming a Bit Less Eclectic
Of all the recent changes at KUT, the one that has bothered the most is the on-the-hour news breaks during Eklektikos, which interrupt the wonderful stream-of-consciousness flow as well as frequently live music, interviews, and storytellers. I contacted program director Hawk Mendenhall (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let him know that I could remember the canned news blip of the day for more than one hour and would like to see Eklektikos return to the unimpeded artistry of John Aielli. Mendenhall's response to me is that the mail he's received has been overwhelmingly positive. I'm curious as to whether that's from long-term residents or new transplants. Anyone else who is bothered may wish to let him know, as well as how long you've been listening to KUT.
a 20-year KUT supporter
'Locally Owned'? Please.
RE: ABCDs selling out to a "locally owned" franchise.
franchise n. 1: an authorization to sell a company's goods or services in a particular place.
Being a "locally owned" franchise doesn't mean anything to me, it's still a chain store. Although I appreciate ABCDs' sticking it out for 15 years, to me, the new store is equivalent to any McDonald's, Starbucks, or Chili's. Dollars leave Austin via franchise fees, and cultural homogeneity creeps in. Most chains are locally owned franchises. Maybe I Luv Video can sell out to a "locally owned" franchise of Blockbuster? I'm sure that the former owners of ABCDs need to pay their mortgage and feed their kids, but please, you insult us with this "locally owned" rationale.
And don't forget -- Shop Mom-n-Pop!
Derek R. Peacock
Where the Sidewalks End
Here's a novel idea for improving transportation in Austin. Let's start respecting the pedestrian space and treating the sidewalk as a real part of the transportation system.
If the city adopted this policy, city employees and contractors would stop parking trucks and storing equipment on sidewalks. When construction blocked a sidewalk, a temporary detour route would be provided for pedestrians, even if this slowed motor traffic. The city would maintain and repair the sidewalk, just as it does the street.
Private citizens can do a lot to improve Austin for pedestrians. Notice where sidewalks and curb cuts are, and don't block them with your car. The 10 feet beginning at the curb and extending toward your house or business is the pedestrian space. This is where the sidewalk is, if there is a sidewalk. Even if there's no sidewalk, you can have a walkway for pedestrians.
In general, the pedestrian space is disrespected and abused in Austin. People just don't notice it. Nice people landscape their yards all the way to the street, forcing pedestrians out among cars. Nice people spend large sums of money renovating their homes but won't build a sidewalk (or even leave a walkway) while they're at it. Nice people let their bushes block the sidewalk and put their trash cans there. This is a shame.
The tradition of ignoring and abusing Austin's pedestrian space is well-established. A letter to Will Porter's (O' Henry's) paper, The Rolling Stone, in the 1890s, states: "Austin is the only city I have ever seen where they hitch horses to fences and drive wagons on sidewalks to unload them, and compel citizens to walk out into the street to get by." (Source: Joseph Jones, Life On Waller Creek)
Isn't it time for a change?
'Second Helpings' Staff Beware
Perusing your "Second Helpings" of December 28 forces one to question the moral integrity, the social relevance, and the sexual viability of the scabrous hack responsible for the villainous lies therein.
Amazingly, your boorish clown maligns the character of those who "experiment with new-fangled ... flavor enhancing agents of undetermined origin" in their corporate potato products, all the while hailing the "simplicity" of tater twigs injected with McBeef-Byproduct (or "deep-fried Russets with lots of salt," in the words of your malodorous buffoon).
Clearly, this heinous disregard for the truth can only be the work of a charlatan, or of a witless poseur. In any case, you are no doubt shamed that such a contemptible jackass disgraces the pages of your cheeky little rag, here's hoping that sacking the malingering twit won't be too disruptive to the rest of your crackerjack staff.
'Postmarks' at 3am
Three-hundred words. How does one deal with that limitation? No problem. Michael Ventura is awesome. If one can conceptualize a work of art as a sum of aesthetically and emotionally charged structures that can be mathematically described in terms of size, shape, motion, repetition, heat, etc. ... and subject to the same gravitational forces as say ... an account ledger ... then we can see a statistical relevance to a much smaller number of words.
Imagine. Is that air you're breathing?
Now a leap into some concrete symbolism. There are significant labor issues. Economics. Language in any form might be the passive and active equivalent of smashing atoms. The war on medicinal marijuana. The S&L scandal. Enron. Dysfunctional voting machines. Corporate support of militant regimes. Cartels. A drive to the veggie market. The buying and selling of human reproductive tissues. Arms merchants. Congress. Selective breeding. Judicial powers. Holy wars. A war of words. Structural failure. Taxation. The Boston Tea Party. Patriots fighting the British Army. Thatcherism. Star Wars. Bush. The Ten Commandments. The sixth amendment. I take the fifth. Lights rise red, white, and slow blue. Prison beds. Valium. Lawyer weed. A three-car garage. Corporate Salaries. Private practice. Histler? Old wives' tales. The sons of war ... terra firma ... corporate farm subsidies. The bank. Blue-collar labor. Insurance sales. Rental equipment. Hospitals. The comedy club. Divorce. Punk rock. Land rush. Gold. The streets of Heaven. William Burroughs.
See! It doesn't take 300 words at all. Those who don't know the future are doomed to repeat it, Mr. Einstein. Try not to pee on the toilet seat.
Todd Alan Smith
South Austin, Texas
Why are millions of Americans fed up with liberals like Jim Hightower? Maybe it's because of the unapologetic bashing of the rich. In his January 11 column, in the last few paragraphs, Jim argues that since Charles Schwab is wealthy he shouldn't be eligible for a federal crop subsidy that we all pay for. Hey Jim, maybe we should create a new federal office called "The Office for Handpicking Tax Beneficiaries." Then people like Charles Schwab wouldn't fall through the cracks.
Why do I get the sinking feeling that Jim is trying to segregate the population based on income? Near the beginning of his column he writes, "Instead of being a real Democrat and standing tall for working families, poor people, small farmers, the environment, minorities, or others who need a champion..." [and] "... in the last presidential race, 100 million people didn't vote -- nearly all of them Democrats who feel they have no home." Well, I'm still not sure how he defines working families -- do both parents need to be working, or just one? At what point does a farmer go from being small to medium, or big? Maybe I was blinded by my brash naiveté, but I though that the Democratic Party was against segregation and wanted to help everyone? I still cannot figure out how Jim blames Clinton for 100 million Democrats not voting in the last election. The only people to blame for not voting are the people themselves! I guess Jim would like to see the "Office to Get Out the Vote" created which would get more people to vote.
U.S.: Control Freak
To the Editor,
The media say that only a tiny minority of Americans are critical of U.S. knee-jerk policy of war to solve the problem of terrorism in Afghanistan and other countries. If that is true, it is because the majority of Americans consume the propaganda that is fed to them. Sooner or later the tiny minority could very well become the vast majority as it did during Vietnam 35 years ago.
President Bush could have become a statesman and candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize if he had simply done the right thing in the beginning: accept Afghanistan's offer to turn bin Laden over to a neutral country for trial. There are many countries which would welcome such an eventuality.
How many Afghan, Iraqi, and other nations' men, women, and children have to die before the U.S. satiates its craving for control of the world's resources?
Jewel R. Johnson
'Postmarks' Regulars Are OK!
I'd like to congratulate Amy Babich on her rebuttal ["Postmarks: Babich vs. the World," Jan. 4] to that funny but moronic letter that made fun of her population predictions. Her answer was eloquent and made a scary but great point. While comedy definitely has its place in our world, we should think twice before so foolishly laughing at someone whose one true goal is to help mankind. This thought brings me to congratulate Mr. Swanson for not being a cynical, repressed, know-it-all jerk in his letter ["Postmarks: Ourselves & Austin in 2002," Jan. 4]. This time it was actually a pleasure to read. It's good to see that he is not just a stay-at-home, cold-hearted bookworm like his other letters would have us believe.