Our readers talk back.
Access Road Alternatives
Of course the state's proposal to stop building frontage roads failed to gain public acceptance ["Naked City," June 7]. Most people -- especially those who choose to spend their discretionary time seeing the world through a windshield -- can't imagine an interstate or other limited-access highway without frontage roads. It was TxDOT's job to illustrate the alternative to linear slums, but they failed to produce a single map, diagram, or artist's rendering of the proposal.
If TxDOT really likes an idea, they will literally paint you a picture of it; if not, they'll make no effort to explain the proposal, then let naysayers and skeptics criticize it to death. Meanwhile, the agency gains asscover, so 20 years from now when people ask why the margins of our new highways are wall-to-wall Wal-Mart instead of tree-lined parkways with retail in neighborhood-friendly, transit-oriented clusters, they can say "we proposed that back in 2001 and y'all didn't want it, so shut the hell up."
Monorail Worth Testing Out
Mike Clark-Madison hit the nail squarely on the head last week when he stated that "light rail is about redevelopment and changing land use and making a greater city, not about clearing the traffic jams on MoPac right now" ["Austin @Large," June 7]. In a low-density city like Austin, light rail simply cannot justify itself (or even be a useful amenity) unless it is accompanied by dramatic changes in land use along the rail corridors. The D.A.R.T. system in Dallas has already been responsible for more than $2 billion in speculative real estate development. Using our current property tax rate, that translates into more than $50 million a year in additional property taxes. Fifty million Simoleons will pay for an awful lot of library books, pothole repairs, and AISD teacher's salaries, not to mention that the people using that real estate will be fattening the community coffers with sales tax revenues. This is precisely why Capital Metro's current plan of implementing a street rail system along corridors that don't allow for additional development (such as directly through the Crestview-Wooten neighborhood) is so disturbing and wrong.
Clark-Madison's article is subtitled "Is It Too Late to Forget Light Rail and Try Something Else?" The answer to this question is a resounding "no." There is a solution which can be implemented, which won't interfere with traffic, which will be cheaper to construct and operate than a street rail system, which will be much faster and safer, and most importantly, which can be implemented along corridors such as North Lamar, where higher density land use is both desirable and acceptable. That system is monorail. I, too, began my quest for information 14 months ago with a high level of skepticism, but, after considerable research, have become a believer. As far as I can tell, the only thing monorail has going against it is that it is a relatively untested technology in this country. Heaven forbid that we implement something that is better, faster, cheaper, and more likely to pass public scrutiny because it is "too new." Or perhaps not. For more information, see the Austin Monorail Project Web page: www.austinmonorail.org.
The Springs Need Our Help
In response to former City Hall staffer and Oregonian Ramona Perrault defending her former employer and attacking the Austin Sierra Club and the SOS Alliance ["Postmarks: How 'Bizarre'?" June 7], there's nothing local environmentalists would love more than to be irrelevant. We could all rest at ease with the city of Austin cleaning up our already polluted air and water and saving our endangered wildlife.
Unfortunately, the list of excuses for increasing pollution at Barton Springs grows longer. The city and other local governments crafted an air pollution abatement plan designed to avoid a legal determination of non-compliance with the Clean Air Act rather than a plan to actually clean up our air. The city's top water official recently wrote a letter to the Bush Administration arguing for lower safe drinking water standards. And I haven't noticed the city joining our legal efforts to protect the endangered Barton Springs salamander, though its help could be enormously beneficial.
The city has taken some important steps to protect our environment, but these are far too few and, for Barton Springs, soon to be too late.
On the proposed city deal with Stratus/Freeport set for City Council consideration June 27, detailed information, including responses to city staff information, is posted on the SOS Alliance Web site at www.sosalliance.org. We invite all those in favor of saving Barton Springs to plan to attend.
Save Our Springs Alliance
Hands off Barton Springs
You would never know from Ramona Perrault's letter last week supporting the Stratus deal and attacking SOS and the Austin Sierra Club ["Postmarks: How 'Bizarre'?" June 7] that Ms. Perrault moved to Portland, Ore., nearly two years ago and to my knowledge has no intention of returning in the near future. Maybe if she did live here she would know that the state of Barton Springs is precarious: Clumps of algae large enough to choke a human (I speak from experience) float to the surface every day and cover nearly the entire surface of the pool; endangered salamanders are dying from a new and mysterious gas bubble disease; and, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife summary of the latest scientific evidence, the water is often contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides, and petroleum hydrocarbons in levels known to be toxic to aquatic life. This makes me think of what Molly Ivins calls the Rule of the Holes: When you are in one, stop digging.
Clearly Barton Springs is in a hole, and we need to literally stop digging -- over the aquifer, that is -- until we can identify what is polluting Barton Springs and the sole source of drinking water for 50,000 Central Texas residents and effectively reverse it. Until then, any development deal with Stratus Properties should rightfully be off the table.
Thanks for the space,
From right here in Austin, TX
Beware of Greenpeace Solicitors
"Hi! Do you have a second for Greenpeace?" Maybe you've encountered those green- and yellow-shirted salespeople and their desperate cry around the area. I have a horrible confession to make: I was one of them, and feel there's much that should be known.
The individuals seeking donations to "their" organization don't even belong to Greenpeace. They don't even work for Greenpeace, but an organization hired to do Greenpeace's soliciting dirty work. They are paid shills -- fundraisers for hire. In only two weeks, I saw an astonishing turnover rate of individuals unwilling to beg for donations to meet unrealistic quotas.
Many of them know little of policy issues. I personally hold multiple relevant degrees, but they want only slick salespeople. They memorize a robotic "rap" that's a psychological spiel designed to dupe sympathizers into a "small monthly donation" that's really $180 yearly. They ask for personal information like credit card and checking account information on the street. Please protect this valuable information; never give it to a stranger!
Myself and a companion relocated from Northwest Pennsylvania after being lied to about the nature of the job, and the existence of quotas. These individuals supposedly concerned about the environment are merely trying to line their pockets off your contribution. I moved here for the summer after a Texan friend promised "Texan hospitality," but all I found was a shifty organization that left me trapped in a lease with no income to support myself.
So readers, please beware of these individuals and this organization, and I ask that you not support them or the groups like Greenpeace they represent until they're truthful in their hiring practices and public presentation.
Homophobes Still the Rule
I think it's time Chad Ballard ["Gay Prude Parade," June 7] put his wig back on the shelf, his pumps back in the closet, put on a tie, and join the Log Cabin Republicans, because that is who he sounds like. No matter how "normal" gay men and women may appear to their neighbors or in public, there are still homophobic people who will look at us as nothing more than cock-sucking, ass-fucking, pussy-eating abominations who are not fit to be their neighbors, co-workers, teachers, sons, daughters, uncles, or aunts. So we had a parade celebrating our "normalcy," Great! Glad I missed it.
While perusing the letter I received from the Tax Appraisal District notifying me that my property taxes had increased, I couldn't help but notice that the city is the only governmental authority that does not provide a homestead exemption. I find this unfair. A county resident who lives beyond the city limits not only pays no real property taxes to the city, he or she receives homestead exemptions from all other taxing authorities and has access to the public health care facilities subsidized by city tax dollars. In contrast, a city resident who pays real property taxes to support the indigent health care system -- which, incidentally, is the county's responsibility -- does not receive a homestead exemption from the city. As I understand it, a countywide hospital district would provide a homestead exemption to all taxpayers within the county, including city residents. Why doesn't Travis County have a hospital district?
An Unhappy Customer
Re: the Kerrville Folk Festival
What a place! The picturesque bumpy and hilly caliche roads, the wooden toilet stalls scattered about everywhere emitting their nightsoil fragrances, the performers grinding out their mediocre self-congratulatory groans and whines, the cliché-soaked lyrics, the derivative melodies, the hackneyed chord progressions, it was all so precious, so wondrous! The famous camps, the famous campfires, the universal backbiting, the Eighties pop-song sing-along that went on and on and on, 200 happy drunks woofing out five-note melodies, dude! So thought-provoking and heartwarming.
The staff who were so busy talking to each other on their hand-held radios they didn't have time to deal with the paying customers, the longtime attendees well prepared to endure privations reminiscent of P.O.W. camps, assuring me that in a few days "the city will wear off and you'll know you've come home," and everyone hugging me when we met and telling me, "Welcome home," so endearing at first. I imagine when you die and go to hell, the little demons hug you and say, "Welcome home."
There were a few friends who made me truly welcome in a good way, and provided some enjoyment during my visit to madness, and there was a performer, Billy Jonas, who was truly awesome, entertaining, inspiring, and great fun.
Everything else was about six feet below the cutout holes in the plywood, shimmering and stenching, attracting flies.
I heard that Rod Kennedy said long ago that he would never hire Shiva's Head Band to play because they were "Satan Incarnate." Spenser and the boys never tricked 3,000 gullible citizens into paying good money to buy sleep deprivation, unsanitary conditions, rude treatment, $5 beer, no respect, and second-rate entertainment.
Snoop's in the Doghouse
I realize I reside in a city not regarded as one of the more revolutionary locales on the hip-hop map, but last Friday night, witnessing Snoop's half-ass show at Stubb's, I felt cheated.
I have always admired the laid-back rapper's unforgettable drawl, but I now feel less inclined to add another one of his records to my collection.
The ticket read: Doors open at 7, music starts at 8. I experienced a shout-out to the late, great Tupac at 8:30, followed by some insanely gorgeous and thoroughly entertaining purple stage lighting until 10:20. At this point, one of Snoop's dogs informed us the main event was snoozing in the bus, which I believe to be the honest-to-God truth.
When he finally graced us, I heard not a complete song, but a montage of his hits. I was glad the old-school material made an appearance, but when he showed, I was so tired of waiting that Jesus taking the stage would've been less than thrilling.
I have never seen people sitting at a Stubb's show until Friday. After the 20-minute, oh yes, 2-to-the-double-0-minute set, and $31 poorer, I left. I was asked by a bouncer of a nearby bar if "we were kicked out?" "Nope, just stood up."
Look, fanz iz fanz. ATX may not be L.A. or NYC, but we have checkbooks, use credit cards, have the ability to operate a wide variety of ATM machines, and we definitely know how to buy records. Give us the show we deserve.
For the Love of the Open Mic
I enjoyed Margaret Moser's article about Rusty Wier ["I Before E," May 31]. He is a fine musician, and I would bet that he is an interesting and nice person to know. It is quite commendable that he has played all of those Thursday night shows at the Saxon Pub.
I am a singer, guitarist, and songwriter, and I played every Thursday night from 1988 through 1992 at Pato's Good Tacos on East 381é2 Street. I hosted an open mic there, and I met many good musicians there as I established a small niche in the Austin entertainment market. I would like to thank all of the people that came to the shows regularly. It is a real shame that Pato's recently fell victim to a fire, leaving us musicians with one less place where we can perform and socialize.
It is interesting to note that Gino's Italian Grill often advertises an open mic with Rusty Wier. I have been there several times, but I have not seen Rusty Wier there. I wonder why. I would like to have an opportunity to meet him and to perhaps get his opinion on my songwriting.
Thanks, Chronicle, for helping to keep us Austinites informed and entertained.
Gary L. Zimmer
Parental Guidance Suggested
Neville and Yvette Reynolds, in their letter from June 7 ["Postmarks: 'Spider-Man' Too Violent," June 7], blame the Chronicle's movie reviewer for the fact that their 6- and 8-year-old kids were exposed to violence in Spider-Man. They feel the Chronicle, in its review, was not "sensitive to the likelihood of families bringing their children to see this movie" and should have done more to warn families about its violence.
Okay, so the parents admit knowing Spider-Man is a PG-13 movie, yet took their 6- and 8-year-olds to see it. And alas, the violence in the movie disturbed them. But wasn't the PG-13 rating a big enough clue that it's not an appropriate movie for younger kids? PG stands for "Parental Guidance," not "Perfectly Good for all ages."
It's ridiculous to blame the Chronicle for an inadequate warning, and the filmmakers for "departing from the Marvel Comics storyline," when really the parents should have exercised some Parental Guidance before taking 6- and 8-year olds to a PG-13 movie.
That's Why They Have Ratings
After reading Neville Reynolds' ridiculous letter about the Chronicle's review of the "Spider-Man" movie ("Postmarks: 'Spider-Man' Too Violent," June 7), I'd like to inform Reynolds about a few things:
Mr. Reynolds: PG-13 is a rating intended to inform parents that a film is appropriate for viewers who are 13 years old and older! If you consider the film to have been inappropriate for 6- and 8-year-olds, then maybe you should have paid attention to the rating!
You obviously have never read the original Amazing Spider-Man comics, given that you consider the movie to be such a violent departure. In reality, the movie is actually faithful to the content of the original comic book series.
It is not the Chronicle's job to protect your children from violent movies. It's your job, Reynolds!
Futrell's Salary an Insult
Hey, nice piece on Toby Futrell ["She's One of Us," June 7], nice to see the Chronicle consistently comes down on the side of expensive government. $188K a year? Are you serious? Last time I looked, the president of the United States was paid $275K a year. When are the Chronicle and the liberals running the city going to give the taxpayer a break and speak out against this outrageous salary of a city employee? She works for us, she should be paid the average wage in Austin and not a penny more. She may be qualified, she may look killer out at Hippie Hollow, she may do a good job, but $188K is an insult to the average working person in Austin. Come on, enough Big Government is enough. You and Wee Jimmy Hightower carp on and on ad nauseam about Big Corporations but you get all giggly over Big Government.
Carl T. Swanson
P.S. Austin is a Big Corporation, guess you want your cake and eat it too, all at taxpayers' expense. You have yet, not once, come down on the side of the working people, the taxpayers, and you should. You fawn over government bureaucrats and insult working people. Is that what being a liberal has boiled down to? Just a thought.
New Poll Idea
I have an idea. It would be a ballot asking one question: How many of you are tired of seeing the "Best of Austin" ballot?
No offense intended
'A True Underground Artist'
Dear Mr. Black,
I hadn't bought art since 1995, and I didn't know why. I walked into Quack's bakery in May, purely by accident, and noticed the paintings on the wall. Stevie Reed's paintings had an immediate aesthetic, with shiny, dense surfaces and interesting subject matter. There were vintage photos in abstract foregrounds and almost spooky women with cartoonish birds perched on their heads. As I moved closer, I noticed text that seemed almost personal and journal-esque. I bought two paintings and hung them in my office, where they've been a constant source of conversation ever since.
I got a chance to talk to Stevie at length (aka Jennifer) while she was taking down her art from the walls to make room for the next show. I was surprised to find out that she had traveled extensively performing in "old-school" style cabaret and that she had been apart of the Mitchell Bros. Theater scandal involving union rights for woman in the often-exploitative sex industry. I learned that she had been fetish/anthropological photographer Charles Gatewood's most widely publicized model since '93 when she was featured in the book True Blood, and then again in Bad Lands which also features the likes of William S. Burroughs. She is a good example of a true underground artist. She gets her hands dirty, literally and figuratively speaking. She writes, she performs, she paints, she petitions. This San Francisco native has a lot to offer Austin's local underground art scene. With her permission, I took a photo of her Nick Cave portrait (an homage to his recent Stubb's BBQ show) which was no longer for sale. (I can send it to you if you want to see it. I love it.) I now realize why I hadn't bought art in so long -- it's hard to find good, accessible (and affordable) art that appeals to everyone from my 16-year-old niece Candice to my thirtysomething-year-old peers. I look forward to hearing more about her in the future.
PS: I enjoy her work, and thought I would say something about it! I guess this makes me a fan.
PPS: I believe you can get her phone number from Quack's bakery. I think she has more shows this summer.