Our readers talk back.
Enviros for Mitchell
In your "Council Contest Primer" section [April 12] you wrote the following about Daryl Slusher:
"Yet this former activist -- and Politics editor of this paper -- is also backed by most (though definitely not all) enviro/neighbor advocates who contend he has remained true to his green roots and support for basic services."
You wrote this just prior to Kirk Mitchell stealing endorsements from the Austin Sierra Club, the Austin Neighborhoods Together PAC, and the Travis County Green Party from Slusher. Now that the evidence is coming in, it would be great if you could correct the misconception you created about where the enviros and neighborhood advocates stand on this race.
I'm one of those readers who often carries the Chronicle's picks with me to the polls. I hope you will take a hard look at Kirk Mitchell. There is no reason to override term limits when we have a solid alternative. In fact, the increasing distance between Daryl and those who once fervently supported him seems to make the case for why we passed term limits in the first place. The Chronicle should, at a minimum, consider no endorsement in this race. If it wants to be true to the principles it routinely advocates, the endorsement should go to Mitchell.
Stick With Slusher
If you want to keep Austin Austin, then keep Daryl Slusher on the City Council. He has proven himself over two outstanding terms to be a consummate environmentalist, but he is much more. No other Anglo council member has ever had such good relations with the East Austin Community. He is always available. He is very well informed on transportation issues. He knows what is going on in the city, and he knows how to get things done. And he is not a single-issue candidate, but an intelligent, independent thinker. He works well with the other council members, and can keep Austin the Austin we know and still love. Be sure you vote on May 4, and vote for Daryl.
'Failing to Plan Is Planning to Fail'
City Council member Daryl Slusher says, "There's been all this talk about not having a 'plan' to save Barton Springs, but that's my plan to save the Springs ... I've been implementing it for six years" ["Governing Post-Boom Austin," April 12].
Where has Daryl's "non-plan plan" gotten us? As if the evidence of our own eyes is not enough -- week after week of turgid, algae-choked water at the Barton pool for much of the year -- numerous studies prove that the Springs are in trouble. A recent U.S. government summary of those studies shows levels of pesticides and hydrocarbons high enough to be toxic to aquatic life.
Most recently, bloated, dead, and deformed salamanders, tadpoles, and crawfish are turning up in the Upper Barton Springs, victim of an unknown contamination source. This seems like a clear sign that city policies to save the Springs are not working so far.
According to a city study, Slusher's council approved 5.5 million square feet of commercial development over the aquifer between 1997 and 2000. By comparison, downtown Austin has only 7 million square feet.
Failing to plan is, in reality, planning to fail. The city does not even know how much future development they've approved nor its impacts. They've published wildly disparate estimates of permitted development in studies released only a few months apart.
In December 1999, in what was supposed to be a definitive study, the city listed 12.7 million square feet of commercial space and 3,826 residential units that were approved but not yet built. By November 2000, in a different study, their estimates ballooned to more than 50 million square feet and 86,328 units!
Most of this pending development is exempted from the SOS ordinance -- "grandfathered" under old water quality rules. This is where Daryl's claims of "reinstating SOS" ring hollow. He has not lifted a finger to try to challenge these grandfathering claims nor offset their damage in any way. City government seems reluctant to even quantify what the "hit" to water quality will be.
While Daryl touts the purchase of 15,000 acres for water quality preservation -- 7% of the aquifer land area -- those bonds were passed four years ago. While this was a very good thing that he deserves full credit for, time has not stood still. What Daryl's "7% solution" ignores is the other 93% of the land, which is being destroyed by lax regulation and the indefensible lack of a plan.
Not a 'Single-Issue' Candidate
Austin Neighborhood Together PAC endorsed challenger Kirk Mitchell over incumbent City Council Member Daryl Slusher in City Council Place 1 precisely because Kirk Mitchell is more than a "single-issue" candidate. Yes, Kirk Mitchell has provided almost a decade of strong leadership to the Save Our Springs Alliance, serving five years as chair. But we were very pleased to find that he has given considerable attention to learning about neighborhood issues throughout the city, and that he understands clearly that 'one size fits all' solutions are not the answer. He is also an urban developer, but more significantly he specializes in historic restoration projects, of which his most recent work won a national design excellence award. Kirk Mitchell presents a combination of open-mindedness, effectiveness in advocacy, and urban redevelopment experience that were all significant in making our endorsement decision. If the Chronicle had bothered to interview Mr. Mitchell like the ANT PAC board did, they would have found that he is far from a "single-issue" candidate.
Austin Neighborhood Together
Irresponsible Election Coverage
Whatever happened to the Chronicle as a responsible, reliable source for important information on our fair city? Your local election coverage of recent weeks has sunk to appalling new lows.
First, not a word on the voting records of the incumbents. Did they do what they said they were going to do? Do they have any new ideas? Are there good excuses for why the city finances are in shambles following one of the longest runs of prosperity in history? What are they doing about the pollution of Barton Springs? About our unhealthy air? About the scandals in the Parks Department? About our disappearing homegrown small businesses? And do the challengers have better ideas on these issues and others?
You won't find the answers in the Chronicle. The Chronicle printed exactly one article comparing the positions of council candidates on key issues. So much for taking the council races seriously. In that one article, Mike Clark-Madison "quoted" Kirk Mitchell but never spoke to him. Did he speak to the other candidates?
The Chronicle then endorsed the incumbents without candidate questionnaires or candidate interviews. Thus lacking information, the Chronicle resorted to name calling. Kirk Mitchell was labeled a "one issue" candidate when he won the endorsement of the Sierra Club and the Austin Neighborhoods Together PAC based on detailed questionnaires and a long list of good ideas on a wide range of issues.
Then on the extremely well-written and much-needed Prop. 1 Clean Campaigns initiative Editor Black argued against (while the editorial board made no endorsement) claiming that we don't have a problem with big money corrupting local politics so we don't need Prop 1. Is Austin somehow immune from the plague of corporate ownership of our public institutions? Perhaps he can explain why the Council did a $10-plus million deal with Intel but never had a contract. Or why $150 million in extra money for roads can appear out of the back room while Barton Springs is poisoned and we just can't seem to afford affordable housing.
To top it all, the editorial board writes that if only the right had not built all those sprawl roads while if only the left had let them build more sprawl roads, then Austin would be better off.
The only thing clear is that the Chronicle, like Barton Springs, now perfectly reflects the lack of vision, thoughtfulness, and leadership that currently plagues our city.
Just one voter's opinion,
Concerning the endorsement by the staff of the Chronicle of Slusher, Goodman, and Griffith, the Three Stooges who signed off on the Corporate Welfare for Intel without a signed contract, I have only one real question. Who is the bigger idiot? These three dolts who handed out millions of taxpayers money without even a contract, or the newspaper who endorses these clowns for another term? Everyone who had anything to do with handing millions to Intel without a freaking contract should be prosecuted, not endorsed. This amounts to theft of taxpayer money, this is not "something we have to be more careful about in the future." On the other hand, perhaps the Chronicle is correct in trying to keep these three in city government; I cannot imagine the damage these three morons could cause if they were working in the private sector.
Carl T. Swanson
Actually, ALGPC Endorsed --
Dear Mr. Black:
In the "Naked City" section of today's Chronicle [April 19], discussing council endorsements, it was reported that the Austin Lesbian/Gay Political Caucus "... decided to stick with the three incumbents." This is incorrect. As previously reported in the Chronicle (April 5), ALGPC endorsed Brewster McCracken over Betty Dunkerly and Beverly Griffith in Place 4. I hope no one in our community will be confused by your mistake, which may be somewhat alleviated by the ad ALGPC will run in next week's edition of the Chronicle with our actual endorsements for City Council. I hope you are able to provide a correction of today's error in that edition, as well.
Allan Baker, Co-Chair
Austin Lesbian/Gay Political Caucus
Feingold's Reform Message
Dear Austin Voters:
The essence of our democracy is captured in the principle of "one person, one vote." In recent years, big money in politics has threatened to turn that motto into an aspiration, rather than a description, of our political system. But by demanding and end to the grip of wealthy special interests in Washington, citizens spurred Congress to enact, and the president to sign, the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill earlier this year.
I believe campaign finance reform can and must reach far beyond Washington, D.C. In communities from coast to coast, citizens are working for reforms that limit the disproportionate influence of big campaign donations on elections and public policy. I am proud to support those efforts.
On Saturday, May 4th, Austin voters will vote on Proposition 1, which is designed to ensure that Austin has Clean Campaigns for Mayor and City Council in the future. This citizen-sponsored reform will prevent wealthy interests from determining who seeks -- and who wins -- political office in Austin.
Proposition 1 is genuine reform. It will give the citizens of Austin control of their hometown democracy once again. I encourage you to seize the opportunity to enact campaign reform in Austin by voting for Proposition 1 on May 4th.
United States Senator
Fundraising Makes the Candidate
While I often find the "Page Two" analysis and answers gravely mistaken, I have to give it to you for asking the right questions with regard to the Austin Fair Elections Act (Prop 1):
"Given the current high level of dissatisfaction with local government, why are there only a handful of legitimate candidates running against the incumbents?" (April 19).
A key reason is that almost nobody likes fundraising. Who in their right mind wants to dedicate the hundreds of hours it takes to raise the $100,000 plus it takes to win an election (even without $100 limits)? Is that how we want our politicians spending their time?
Similar laws in Maine, Arizona, and elsewhere have done a great job of getting qualified, legitimate candidates elected who otherwise would never have run.
With the current system we have in Austin and around the country, we're electing too many people because of their fundraising skills, not their qualifications.
That's what's broke, and that's what we're trying to fix.
Curtis & Uncommon Sense
To the Editor:
Linda Curtis proves that common sense isn't a prerequisite for involvement in politics.
'Vote No on Proposition 1'
What's worse than a political candidate who thinks he knows what's best for you and who can't wait to spend your tax money? One who gets to spend your tax money even before he gets elected! Please join the Travis County Libertarian Party and many other organizations in saying no to taxpayer-subsidized political campaigns. Vote No on Proposition 1 on Austin's May 4 election ballot.
Mold = Wet Dust
With significant interest I read your story "How Much Mold?" of April 19. I wept at the plight of Ms. Van Duesen, Little Nika, and teacher Mombanini. In addition to the $49.3 million in approved bond money, we must spend whatever it takes to rid our schools of mold. The health of our children, children's parents, and the beloved teachers is at risk.
However, it is my duty as a parent of AISD-attending school kids to call the clarion to an even more vicious, insidious menace. Do you know about dust? It is everywhere, and you know what happens when you breathe these little particles into your lungs? Run your fingers across any bookshelf in your kid's classroom. Dust! Open your kid's calculus book. Dust! For God's sake, man, don't even open your kid's locker. The horror of it all!
"Don't tell me that mold has been there for thousands of years. Dust has been there longer," propounded D.U. (Sty) Buster, the director of the Texas A&M Institute for a Disgusting Indoor Environment (IDIE). "What is mold anyway, wet dust!"
Of particular concern is the numinous, gray West Texas dust, the unviable Balmorheaust, known to creep under the snuggest windowsill. During a good blow from the west, my eldest child has been know to come home sick with indescribably horrific symptoms, having to miss her six weeks' calculus test. "It's the dust," she moaned.
Vince Torres, assistant director of UT's Texas Institute for the Indoor Environment (IIE!), in answer to your query, "Is there enough money?" replied, "I can sit here and tell you that." Well, let me tell you, Torres, the safety of our children is worth whatever it takes. Maybe a $500 million bond package will clean up the mold, hell, make it a cool billion and I bet you could clean up the dust as well. The teacher pay raises, new computers, copies of Dante's Inferno, will just have to wait. Thar's Mold in the Air, by Jehovah! Put that bond on the ballot. Let's vote for our children. Can I still vote early at HEB?
On the dusty trail,
The Great Mold Hoax
Mold has been around longer than the cockroach. I came from Baton Rouge, where the humidity is 90%, and mold grows on everything that doesn't get breaded and fried first. In fact, I still have some mold growing between my toes, and possibly elsewhere.
Opportunistic lawyers, consultants, and remodelers like myself created this mold hysteria. Together, we have found another wealthy industry to loot: builders and insurers, plus the homeowners. Politicians who have jumped onto this moldy bandwagon are either in on the loot, ignorant, or both. Yet, they sure sound like they care for the people.
Mold is real, and in rare cases rare species are dangerous to rare people. So are cedar trees and cedar fever. But, I don't hear lovely Council Woman Jackie Goodman calling for genocide of the cedar population next Arbor Day! Hey Jackie.
Recently, a government funded researcher and guest speaker at our Austin Remodelers' Association explained the reason for the recent growth in Texas' mold problems: buildings codes appropriate for northern climates imposed upon the South.
Lack of affordable housing is mostly a government created problem: mold, zoning, property taxes, Americans With Disabilities Act, regulations, OSHA, EPA, beetles, birds and salamanders, licensing, equal affordable housing opportunity, and the commissioner of insurance.
I'll keep rebuilding Austin's bathrooms and kitchens, and the profits will certainly help finance my campaign. But, I can't say I'm proud of my industry, or my government accomplices.
R.C. "Wes" Benedict, Jr.
President/CEO, Custom Quality Marble Inc.
Libertarian Candidate for County Commissioner, Pct. 4
15 'Great Streets' Plan Not So Great
The Great Streets plan for downtown will cost $68 million, and supposedly will make life downtown easier for pedestrians. It is also expected to increase, not decrease, the number of cars downtown and the pollution and heat they exude. This last feature will be bad for pedestrians' health.
The problem with this plan is that it does not make it easy for people to change their transportation habits. It will not reduce car traffic downtown.
The planners have steadfastly refused to consider restricting car traffic in any way. They have said at the beginning of their meetings that they're not willing even to discuss a car-free downtown, or one car-free street, or bicycle boulevards, or anything else that limits car use. Ground rules like this preclude real solutions.
The planners say that two-way streets are better for pedestrians than one-way streets. Why? One-way streets can be easier to cross. New York, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis use one-way streets to accommodate bike lanes and buses on the same street, with the bike lane on the left. The Great Streets planners say there is no room for bike lanes on most downtown streets. Nor is there room for bike lanes on the sidewalks. But there's room for plenty of "playful" street furniture.
Barriers that restrict cars, but not pedestrians or cyclists, could work wonders at selected downtown intersections. UT has such a barrier on Speedway at 26th Street (south side). It's great! As a cyclist, I am slowed down by the barrier. Other cyclists are also slowed down, and obnoxious zooming on the part of the cyclists has decreased in this area. Why not try such barriers at some downtown intersections?
Widening downtown sidewalks is a good idea. But most of the Great Streets plan needs much more thought.
And Now, the 'Real Talent' --
To whom it may concern:
In last week's issue there was a write-up on Coco Candissi's record Bricks Have Eyes written by Greg Beets. Just wanted to let you know that the keyboards and female vocals are Lely's (Leslie Pettit), not Melissa Tucker's. Who the hell is Melissa Tucker? How can this happen? Do you guys not pay attention to these kind of things? And also, what about the rest of the band? What about the drummer, "Cristobal" (Chris Azios)? He has an incredible style of drumming, which in my opinion should have been mentioned. You should probably fix this, the "real talent" of this record deserves this credit.
Sodomites Replaced God
Liberal psychosis strikes again! Tax-and-spend outpatients like Michael King ["Looking for Leadership," April 19] are not only the epitome of what is wrong with AISD, he/they are also the cause. What is it about the truth that liberals just can't stand? The problems at AISD can not be fixed by throwing money at pie-in-the-sky liberalism. Low income schools have too many low income students because their low income parents decided to have more children than they (and the government) could afford. Liberal psychosis would call this "overcrowding." Liberals fresh out of "Hippie 60s 101" have taken charge of public education yet have the gall to blame someone else (the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy no doubt) for their own demise. Sodomites replaced God in public schools and now have the ignorant audacity to ask what went wrong?! Yes, Mr. King, the problems at AISD are a "moral issue" and it's left-wing morality (or the lack there of) that has birthed the bastard you now lament.
After eight years of the Bill and Hillary Show we dismiss your spin moves as global warming, i.e. hot air and wasted paper. If the next generation of liberals can't read, what will become of The Austin Chronicle? There are only so many bird cages.
Misheard, Misquoted, Mistaken
In Michael Chamy's review of Fugazi's performance on March 31 ["Phases and Stages," May 5], he quotes Ian MacKaye as saying "punk rockers are the stormtroopers of justification." This is incorrect. What MacKaye actually said was "punk rockers are the stormtroopers of gentrification," which makes perfect sense in the context of a rant about people being priced out of their homes. What Mr. Chamy quoted him as saying makes him look like an ass.
[Ed. note: What happened in this case was a misheard word, and then a misquote, certainly not an attempt to make Mr. MacKaye look like an ass. The Chronicle regrets the error.]
Shane, Not Wayne
Dear Mr. Black,
I am writing to you in regard to Jerry Renshaw's "review" of Tommy Shane Steiner's new release Then Came the Night ["Texas Platters," April 12]. Yes, I did say Shane, and not Wayne, as printed in the article. Is Jerry really trying to convince us that this publication is not proofread before going to press? Please, some readers of the chronic are intelligent, and able to recognize a low blow when we see it.
I was born and raised here in Austin, but ended up in Nashville for a few years. While in Nashville, I was involved in the country music "business." So, I can see the valid areas of Jerry's perception of the "business," but I disagree completely with his perception of the record. Pity he didn't make it to the last song, he could use some healthy release.
In my CD player right now, I have Ben Harper, Tommy Shane Steiner, and Snoop Dogg. Which one do I have on replay? Tommy Shane Steiner. Do I listen to country music on a regular basis? No, and I absolutely love this record! Yeah, so maybe I fell for the bait Jerry, but God's honest truth, I loved every bite of it!!
South Austin, USA