Our readers talk back.
Don't Overlook Heckler
The Chronicle gave its endorsement in the Precinct 2 county commissioner's race to the wrong Democrat! Since Travis County government has no business manager similar to the city manager position that the city of Austin has, then the members of the Commissioner's Court should be especially sharp and experienced to deal with complex business concerns. In my opinion, Karen Sonleitner does not fit this job description. Travis County doesn't have time or money to afford big contract messes like the Criminal Justice Center. Also, a fair number of folks in Precinct 2 don't think Karen keeps her word. Jeff Heckler has the business experience and credibility we need on the Commissioner's Court. Think about your endorsement next time, please.
Greenish-Yellow Dog Democrat
The Chronicle endorsement of Karen Sonleitner is bizarre. You start out praising Jeff Heckler, but then endorse Sonleitner because she "has a much broader understanding of how county government functions." Well of course she does; she's been there seven years!
A look at Chronicle endorsements in previous county bond issues would actually suggest a strong philosophical divide between the Chronicle and Sonleitner. In 1997 the Chronicle opposed county bonds that Sonleitner supported for SH 45 South over the aquifer, saying "No roads over the aquifer ... let's invest in traffic-calming measures, not spend $3.5 million in bonds to subsidize sprawl in the environmentally sensitive southwest."
Last year the Chronicle opposed nearly the entire county bond package, saying that the $185 million package that Sonleitner supported was "an exorbitant price to pay for the overall road-heavy bond package." Sonleitner actually voted with Todd Baxter for an even more road-heavy package that included over $14 million for extending Frate Barker Road through environmental preserves. Thankfully, the other Democrats on the court voted to pull Frate Barker off the ballot.
It's not as if taxes haven't ballooned, and the ill-fated jail project wasn't badly botched. Yet you endorse all the incumbents in the county races. Puzzling.
Considering the facts, it's no surprise to me that the "core readers of the Chronicle will back Jeff Heckler."
Waylon Coverage 'Terrible'
As a South Austinite who has been in Austin since 1971, your coverage of legendary Waylon Jennings' passing was terrible ["Dancing About Architecture," Feb. 22]. To give one long paragraph and a "Cliffs Notes"-type review of his activities is totally inadequate. He started playing at the Armadillo in 1973 until its sad closing in 1980 (go talk to Eddie Wilson). He played many times for the Silver Spurs and Texas Cowboys at the old Austin Coliseum (soon to be torn down and where Joni Mitchell played in the Seventies and many good wrestling matches were held). His treatment of Luckenbach, Texas, represents what Austin used to be and many still yearn for. His experience with Nashville music executives, the CMA, and the Grand Ole Opry is legendary. He attended the Grammys and sat with John Lennon and they joked together with Waylon saying "you're a pretty funny fellow, I didn't know that," and Lennon replying "people in England think you shoot people." (Go listen to the Atlanta NPR interview with him at www.E!.com under information about his death. Also interviewed were Willie and B.J. Shaver.) Having seen Stevie Ray many times at the late Rome Inn and the One Knite (where Stubb's is now), [Jennings] deserves a statue and recognition as much or more than the great Stevie. He changed country and pop music, unified hippies and rednecks, and loved Austin.
From Diana Kennedy
I was delighted to see such an in-depth and well-merited article on Fonda San Miguel in your February 8 edition ["Miguel and the Miracles"]. However there was one very serious mistake: I have never, in the past, nor to date, had a field researcher (I think Clay Smith should read My Mexico). To the contrary, although it sounds boastful, it is readily acknowledged in Mexico that my books have inspired many young chefs, including Ricardo Muñoz and Roberto Santibañez, to examine more closely their regional cuisines. Clay Smith should also familiarize himself with my first book, The Cuisines of Mexico, published in 1972 (now contained in The Essential Cuisines of Mexico) which was considered ground-breaking at the time and was an important factor in my receiving the Aztec Eagle, which is the highest decoration given to foreigners by the Mexican government.
I look forward to seeing the publication of this letter to correct a rather shocking (to me) error.
Don't Like It, Don't Read It
A reader/letter writer's lack of common sense is adequate reason to ignore his call to axe Coach's column: You no like, you no read. That's common sense, and it's buttressed by the availability, not to say superfluity, of the kind of sportswriting Michael Bolduc seems to prefer ["Postmarks: Coach Hits a New Low," Feb. 15]. Go get it, boy.
Since 1941, when a pal read the sports pages, I must have tried it a time or two, but figured it was a hell of a waste of time. Even today, the sports section of any newspaper I glance at goes unopened to the recycling pile.
There's a guy on NPR I listen to if I happen to be tuned to KUT, but otherwise ...
Coach is the only sportswriter I bother reading, when I do see his column in the Chronicle. His difference from all the others is what makes him worthwhile. I likee, I readee.
We Need Real 'Alternatives'
None of the letters defending the environmental records of City Council incumbents explains why the City Council has consistently voted to build more highways. With a tight budget, they allocated $27 million to extend MoPac, while cutting essential city services. Brigid Shea and Robin Rather write that this council has worked to offer "real transportation alternatives." This is a big exaggeration.
Supposedly, the City Council has a goal of increasing the percentage of citizens who walk or bicycle for transportation. The fastest way to do this is to set aside a citywide network of streets for pedestrians and cyclists. In Bogotá, Colombia, the percentage of people who walk or cycle for transportation just increased ninefold in four years. Does anyone on the City Council want to know how this was accomplished? I hope so. But I don't know.
The defenders of our city government are right about one thing: We could easily have a worse City Council than the present one. We have had worse City Councils. But it doesn't help anyone to pretend that the present council has a plan that will reverse the ongoing degradation of Barton Springs, keep our air from getting worse, and make transportation cleaner and safer. (Public safety is the city's No. 1 priority, but this doesn't include reducing deaths and injuries inflicted by motor vehicles.)
If we congratulate our leaders on solving problems that actually remain unsolved, we are asking for dirtier air, dirtier water, more highways, more tree cutting, and more deaths by motorcar.
Victrola Fans v. Hernandez
Did Raoul Hernandez actually listen to Victrola's self-titled CD before writing his review ["Texas Platters," Feb. 22]?! He needs his ears checked, or at least his music judgment. Not only is Victrola one of Austin's best jazz bands, it's also one of today's top bands in general.
Hordes of fans (including me) show up every Monday at talented Victrola's free Empanada Parlour gigs -- heartily disputing Hernandez's assertion that Victrola is not a worthwhile band because "... Austin already has ... Asylum Street Spankers for bawdy laughs and a raunchy good time." Hernandez claims vocalist Alice Spencer's rendition of "I'm Confessing" has "... the conviction of an afternoon sound check." Unplug those ears, Hernandez! Spencer sings on the CD -- and live -- with tenderness and luminous power.
Also, the Spankers and Victrola play different music styles; they're not even comparable. Victrola does everything from torch songs to swingin' originals. Hernandez: The CD "... is asleep somewhere down among the sawdust." On the contrary, it's a call to awaken, beckoning listeners to feel alive and passionate. It's a CD that my friends and I are buying for all our out-of-town friends and family. One featured performer Hernandez doesn't mention is Justin Sherburn, a pinnacle of piano talent who plays exquisitely.
Hernandez advises Spencer to "... belt it out like the bar was made for your high heels or stay at home in your slippers." Spencer doesn't need the trappings of high heels. She's wonderfully down-to-earth and simultaneously in a plane of talent that's so sky-high Hernandez couldn't see it with a telescope.
Lastly, since Hernandez mentions the "warring times" for "local saloons," I encourage Chronicle readers to frequently support the Empanada Parlour, as it continues struggling against the behemoth Sheraton's ridiculous lawsuit!
In support of great local music,
Bush Air Plan 'Disheartening'
Re: Lee Nichols' article "Bush's Dirty Plan for Clean Skies," Feb. 22
Dust off your boots; it's square dance time! Last week's global warming announcement confirmed that the Bush administration's toxic two-step is invading the White House. Apparently, what failed in Texas suffices for America.
Bush's goal is to reduce "emissions intensity" (carbon dioxide pollution relative to economic output) by 18% over the next 10 years. The catch is, economic growth already tends to outpace carbon dioxide increases, and has for several decades. This plan allows unsafe emissions growth to proceed unabated. Bush's fuzzy "reduction" target obviously needs some focus.
The United States leads the world in global-warming gas emissions. Bush's proposal will continue to aggravate the international community already committed to reducing actual emissions. Setting real targets would promote the "cool" technologies that solve global warming, and lessen our dependence on foreign oil.
This plan should evoke serious déja vu from Texans. Not only does Bush's goal assure no actual reductions, it relies on voluntary measures. A national registry for voluntary reductions is as effective as letting students grade their own midterms. Under Bush's plan, companies reporting miniscule energy-saving projects will receive praise regardless of whether emissions increase.
Dismal environmental policies in Texas are disheartening, but inadequate national policies endanger the entire world. Oil conflicts escalate, ecological destruction mounts, and it's time for serious targets. Its time President Bush lived up to his campaign promises by setting a real goal on global warming and taking serious action to achieve it.
Putting a Leash On Dog Owners
There have been several articles in Austin papers lately about the heavy-handed police tactics used on the poor defenseless dog owners who just want to let their friends run free in local public parks ["PARD in Heat Over Dog Park," Feb. 22]. Though I can sympathize with these feelings, and have no wish to see our police use unnecessary force in any situation, I have come to develop a different perspective.
For nearly 20 years, I have lived in South Austin. The trees, birds, and flowing water of Stacy Park in Travis Heights are a source of tremendous healing for me, and I walk there often. The only problem is that there are almost always dogs without leashes -- and sometimes without their owners -- running through the park, which has "pets on leashes" signs posted all over the place. This wouldn't be so bad if the dogs always behaved themselves, but guess what -- they don't! In fact, most of these dogs are so used to running freely through the park that they have come to see this as just their owner's big back yard, which is their territory to protect. Pedestrians such as myself are viewed as trespassers, and must be attacked or at least intimidated. And since I actually have been attacked on a walk, guess what -- I'm scared of dogs on the loose. So now I carry pepper spray and a big stick with me whenever I go for a relaxing walk in the park. I can't tell you how much I resent having to do this, just because dog owners are too inconsiderate to obey the law. I think I'll start carrying my cell phone, too, so that I can call the police when I see a dog without a leash.
A 'Health'y Alternative
[The "To Your Health" column] is great! Info is very helpful -- authoritative without being too technical. Wish we could get it into the Current here in San Antonio. Keep it coming, please.
I Love 'Buffy'
Kudos to Belinda Acosta for the television fandom story ["Fandemonium!" Feb. 15], and showing that you don't have to be mentally deficient to love a television show. I thought her story missed out on a few key points as to why some shows develop such a following, and so I wanted to add my two cents.
I have a good job and a degree from a top university. I have interviewed rock stars. I have traveled the world. I have a social life. Yet every Tuesday night I set my VCR for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As a newspaper journalist I love the wordplay. As an aspiring fiction writer I find the plotting and pace of the show something I can only hope to achieve. And as a student of myth, philosophy, and religion, Buffy is the closest thing our modern culture has, aside from Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, to what mythologist extraordinaire Joseph Campbell described as the human need to retell the common myths of quest, love, and responsibility anew for each generation. The Greeks did it their way, with poetic verse about their gods told around the fire. We do it ours, with a super-stylish blonde battling demons on the boob tube, a medium considered the trailer trash of modern entertainment. If creator Joss Whedon had written a bestseller, or created a movie trilogy -- or even one movie -- as good as the television show, Buffy fans would have been proud to be quoted in the Chronicle about their appreciation of the show. Instead, they, like me, probably get funny looks at work when they gush about that week's episode. Too many people can't get past the cultural stumbling block of the words "television show."
It's like being able to afford a McMansion in suburban north San Antonio but instead opting for a quiet cottage near downtown. Many won't understand, but it's their loss.
I consider myself luckier than those whose worlds revolve around, say, Star Wars. Movies are a one- -- or, if you're lucky, three- or four- -- time shot. A television show, if done well, promises more chances to watch and appreciate.
'I Like the Coach'
After reading the Chronicle for 15 years, I must have gotten a little complacent. I just assumed that the Coach would always be there, even as I was playing the confusing "how can I find his column now?" game.
And then here comes Michael Bolduc ["Postmarks: Coach Hits a New Low," Feb. 15] to wake me up to the potential of a mass uprising against that which I hold dear by hordes of "bitter, close-minded" Cowboy fans like him.
So here goes -- I like the Coach. I read the Coach every single week. His column is the first thing I read when I pick up the Chronicle, and it's often the reason I go out of my way to pick it up at all. The guy can write, and if he doesn't always have a magical insight on the football-by-God-Longhorns, at least he's able to give us something unique that's worth reading, instead of a Kirk Bohls space-filler.
As far as "five times as many people" reading the column if Bolduc wrote it, I sure didn't see any reason for that in the letter he wrote.
Without Goodman, City Suffers
If term limits force Jackie Goodman off City Council, we will lose one of the best advocates for people and animals this city has. Neighborhoods, human services, arts, the environment, women, and poor people will lose out also. I hope all voters sign the petition to get her on the ballot.
I am on the Animal Advisory Commission and have observed Jackie Goodman's work on issues that affect animals and people who care about them. I have found her to be intelligent, hard-working, ethical, compassionate, and a very good listener.
When I informed her that poor people could not afford to reclaim their impounded pets because of high fees, she immediately grasped the solution and convinced her colleagues to address the problem. Not only did she do right by low-income people, she did right by animals as well.
I consistently watch City Council meetings on Channel 6. I am always impressed by questions she asks. The recent discussion about women's reproductive rights had me cheering out loud for her.
In last week's letters, Bill Bunch alleged that City Council put "non-developers in the role of second-class citizens." Animal advocates are often treated as "second-class citizens" by those who view animal issues as unimportant. But Jackie Goodman has always understood that animal issues are people issues because many of us care deeply about our companion animals.
I have never seen Jackie Goodman treat anyone, anyone as a second-class citizen. On the contrary, I have seen her be totally attentive to someone testifying about people with disabilities, another issue often relegated second-class status.
If Jackie Goodman is term-limited out of office, we will be deprived of her dedication and advocacy for people who need it most. It will be a sorry day for Austin. I hope your readers sign her petition.
Embracing Mexicano History
Sharing a bit of history!
My (our) grandparents and other relatives crossed the border, Mexico into United States (Laredo) -- very early 1900s, legally. Other Mexicanos, not so patient, entered the U.S. illegally, either by smuggling themselves across the border(s) or having someone help them. No harsh penalties for illegal entry existed until 1929. A Mexicano caught crossing the border illegally was told that if he wished to enter the U.S., he had to do so at a regular station and pay the fees. The Immigration Act of 19l7 established a literacy test and head tax, but these theoretical restrictions on entry did not apply to Mexican immigration. Upon demand from representatives of growers' associations and industrial companies, the Department of Labor granted exemptions from these regulations to recruits for beet fields, railroad gangs, and other contracted labor. These exemptions, which were granted each year from 1917 to 1920, allowed over 50,000 Mexicanos to enter the United States. Now these Mexicanos -- have left their footprints on this Land! They made America greater and more beautiful.
Moses P. Saldana Sr.
Bunch's Opinion Still Stands
Last week several folks wrote in to dispute my contrasting the records of Council Member Griffith with that of Council Members Slusher and Goodman on environment and neighborhood issues. Interestingly, none of the letter writers disputed or even addressed the facts I presented.
Instead, Brigid Shea and Robin Rather ignored the merits and described my factual letter as "character assassination." Jon Beall et al. adopted a similar "how dare you" approach, claiming that it was "ludicrous" to suggest that Jackie and Daryl "are not fully supportive on environmental issues." These responses seek to divert attention from the record and shut down public debate at precisely the time when citizens need to be asking questions and getting informed.
Unfortunately, the council members' record of siding with developers against neighborhood and environmental organization positions is much longer than I had room to address. And Griffith's record is far from perfect. My hope is that the Chronicle will provide voters with the information they need to evaluate all three incumbents, just as it did when "green" Council Members Sally Shipman, Smoot Carl-Mitchell, and George Humphrey sought re-election.
Most important is the sad fact that the Barton Springs ecosystem is on the brink of extinction. Having been elected with the specific mandate to save the Springs, the council and their staff have spent far more money and effort on promoting growth and pleasing developers. Council Member Griffith tried hard to correct this imbalance but Slusher and Goodman blocked her efforts.
We desperately need real leadership and bold action or Austin will very soon be just another polluted McMetroplex. We won't get either one -- from the incumbents or any challengers -- if we ignore the historic record or fail to ask "where's your plan?"
My personal opinion,
Stop the Whining, South Austin
Jesus ... give it a rest. Old hippies are getting to be a really pissy lot, [and] their latest lament about the "tragic loss of Old South Austin" is a prime example of how out of touch with reality some codgers are getting. "Old South Austin" was never a place, it was the people who went to "those special places." If your connection to the past and your community centers around buildings, I really feel sorry for you. I moved to Austin two years ago, and I spend most of my leisure time in "Old South Austin." Not the places, but with the people. The Continental Club, the Barn Dances ... the people who attend events and patronize certain bars and coffeehouses are the character of Austin, not the physical structures they frequent. It's sad to see the shining promise of the Sixties turn into the fixation on material things we are subjected to today. Lighten up, light up, and give the whine a rest campers. Do try to be smart enough to enjoy the special place we inhabit, please? "It's the people, stupid."
Carl T. Swanson
'Depraved Psychotic Moral Rot'
In an attempt to distance themselves from the shame and disgrace of the Clinton Administration, some liberals have taken to calling themselves "progressives," as if calling a pig something other than a pig is a new tactic. In 1912, the Progressive Party rallied around Roosevelt. Robert M. LaFollette led the National Progressive Party in 1924, which was reformed in 1948 by Henry A. Wallace. In short, the tired old flowery euphemism "progressive" just isn't progressive. The medical definition of progressive is very fitting for new age liberalism, to wit: "... becoming more severe or spreading to other parts: said of disease."
Surely liberals have better things to do than dream up new words to describe their depraved psychotic moral rot. No matter how much make-up you put on a pig, you've still got a pig.
P.S. "I can't think of anything more fulfilling than judging people based on their appearance." ["After a Fashion," Feb. 1] ... The homosexual agenda needs Moser like a rabid dog needs a skunk. You go girl!
A Safe and Sober Spring Break
Spring Break is a high risk time for youth who choose to get involved with alcohol. Adolescents under the influence of alcohol are apt to act impulsively. With their inhibitions loosened, they take risks they ordinarily wouldn't consider, often with tragic results. If they cause drunk driving crashes, others may also be killed. One in four seniors said they had driven a car after having a good bit to drink at least once during the past year (Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Statewide School Survey, 2000). Texas leads the nation in the number of youth fatalities in alcohol related crashes (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [NHTSA]).
It takes cooperation to combat underage drinking. Each member of our community must do his/her part to send the message that it is not okay for Travis County youth to drink alcohol. Whether it is a lawmaker prioritizing an underage alcohol bill, a law enforcement officer who doesn't let a minor off with just a warning, a prosecutor who aggressively pursues a case, a judge who holds a young offender accountable according to the law, or a parent who takes the time to communicate a clear message of no use of alcohol; they all send the message that underage drinking is illegal, unhealthy, and unacceptable.
The Travis County Underage Drinking Prevention Program (UDPP) is funded by the NHTSA through a grant administered by the Texas Department of Transportation. The UDPP expects to make a significant contribution in saving the lives of teenagers by discouraging underage alcohol consumption.
Travis County Comprehensive Underage Drinking Prevention Program