Our readers talk back.
Seaholm: 'We Can Do This'
Thanks to Amy Smith for last week's excellent "You Call This a Plan?" [June 14] piece regarding the Seaholm District Master Plan and Pfluger Bridge completion permutations. The following thoughts clarify what may have been taken out of context: that there is a split in the bicycling community.
To my knowledge, there is no split in the bicycling community. I would like to point out that in fact the bicycling community has generally supported the original Pfluger Bridge northwest arm. The split seems to be between "enlightened planners" and those out there wishing to ride/walk/roll their chair over a completed bridge. Additionally, an emerging but unreported set of issues perhaps redefines this entire debate. Read on.
On April 9, bicyclists and Seaholm neighbors met, and heard from city of Austin Transportation Planning and Sustainability Department (TPSD) Urban Designer Greg Kiloh. Folks from 14 organizations, including four adjacent neighborhood associations, cast 13 votes for a northwest arm, three for northeast arm(s), with two abstentions.
At the May 9 Austin City Council Seaholm District Master Plan public hearing, the vast majority of those speaking favored the northwest arm including representatives from ADAPT. Preceding public hearings by the Urban Transportation Commission, Parks Board, and Planning Commission echoed this sentiment. The Urban Transportation Commission has also consistently supported the northwest arm during the length of this debate.
Yet to be considered by TPSD is the possibility of combining the northwest arm with a Bowie Street underpass. According to TPSD figures, this option appears competitive with northeast arm(s), but a northwest arm is designed, permitted, and ready to build.
This combination should warrant serious immediate attention, especially now with a soon to be "flagship" Whole Foods just a block away.
Connect the dots: Pfluger Bridge, northwest arm, Bowie Underpass, Bowie Street connecting to Henderson and the Shoal Creek Trail.
Bowie Street then becomes very interesting, central? Perhaps it is a bike boulevard: a six-block-long human-scale traffic-calmed street!
We can do this. We can start tomorrow.
Friends of Lance Armstrong Bikeway
P.S. Your food source will now be on Bowie (if you walk, ride a bike, or drive a chair).
Downtown Plans Fall Short
As Mike Clark-Madison reports ["Out Into the DAMP," June 14], the D.A.M.P. plan, the Great Streets plan, the Seaholm plan, and the Downtown Design guidelines are intended to make Austin's central business district less motor-car-dependent. These plans are intended to help pedestrians, bus riders, bicyclists, and motorists, in that order. Of course, they do nothing of the kind. They certainly don't favor bus riders or bicyclists over motorists.
If we really want to make the central business district less car-dependent, why not reserve one north-south road and one east-west road for the exclusive use of pedestrians, buses, and bicycles? This would give bus riders and bicyclists a chance to avoid sitting in traffic jams caused by overuse of motorcars. Why not reward people who make responsible transportation choices?
Business owners who are used to customers arriving by car may be leery of downtown streets without cars. To win the support of these business owners, give a business 300 Smart Growth points if it is located on a car-free streeet. Two car-free streets, one north-south and one east-west, would do wonders for downtown.
Instead, the D.A.M.P. and Great Streets plans call for an increase in traffic jams and air pollution, with no way out for pedestrians, bus riders, or bicyclists. These plans will not make the central business district less car-dependent.
The stated goals of Austin's downtown plans are excellent. Unfortunately, the plans don't even attempt to accomplish their stated goals.
Millions of Reasons for Plan
Thanks for the article last week regarding the city's proposed Seaholm District Master Plan ["You Call This a Plan?" June 14]. This plan is centered around the needs of the Lumbermen's Investment Corporation (LIC) for its 4.6 acres west of the historic Seaholm Power Plant (where the Cedar Door bar was), at the expense of Seaholm. In fact, this plan would make Seaholm more difficult and more expensive to develop. LIC's commercial development would be five times larger than Seaholm, overwhelming it and this part of Town Lake Park.
The City Council, in 1996, dedicated Seaholm for cultural uses and directed city staff to find sufficient parking, specifically mentioning the option of purchasing the LIC land, and to identify users by 1997. With $100,000 in consultant fees spent, city staff has done neither.
Buying this land would save $20 million of this $34-$40 million plan. The plan says that Seaholm's developer should spend $11 million to build a two-story parking garage and an additional $5 million for the land to put it on. The LIC land can be purchased for less than $10 million.
An additional $3.2 million in this plan is for projects that largely benefit LIC but are unneeded by Seaholm.
Seaholm's success is not a certain thing. Without strong leadership from the public and the council, it will fail. In a parallel project, the LCRA Comal Power Plant in New Braunfels' Landis Park, originally proposed as a symphony hall by our citizen counterparts, sadly, is now slated to become condos.
We are reorganizing to again help guide this wonderful project. We need the help of all interested citizens to join us at our third Thursday meetings at 5:30 at Thundercloud Subs (201 E. Riverside) and regular briefings via e-mail.
Friends of Seaholm
Thanks for Futrell Story
Thanks for your support of and the favorable article on Toby Futrell ["She's One of Us," June 7]. As the son of Austin's fourth city manager (Bill Williams -- Adam Johnson, Guiton Morgan, and Walter Seaholm preceded him), I follow closely the happenings at City Hall. I'm very pleased that we have an efficient and courageous captain at the helm while our ship of state encounters turbulent waters. For the record I'd like to point out that my dad's tenure was three years longer than Dan's, whose mentor Steve Matthews admonished us in Stuart MacCorkle's Municipal Management seminar not to be "fanny" managers. Dan was Austin's sixth city manager with Bob Tintsman managing between Dan and my dad.
Darwin, Not Darden!
Thanks so much for the mention in last week's [June 14] "Dancing Around [sic] Architecture." I've waited years for see my name in that esteemed column! And knowing what accidents like this have done for Lyle Lovett's press, I'm not lifting a finger, or toe, to dampen the swelling rumors. Unfortunately, my foot is not broken. As well, I'm a huge fan of David Baerwald, and had put the word out long ago that if he needed a barely average acoustic guitar player and a middling singer, I was definitely interested in a gig. Alas, he never called, so I'm not in his band either. Other than these two minor errors, it was a lovely piece.
[Ed. note: Actually, it was Darwin Smith who had the broken foot, not Darden (see this week's "Dancing About Architecture" for further details). The Chronicle regrets the error.]
It's in the Cards
Thanks for covering the American Crusade trading cards in your most recent issue of the Chronicle ["Naked City," June 14]. I sent a scan of that to the guy who hosts that site, and he was stoked. Thanks for covering them and for turning me on to them, that made my day.
Stratus Deal a Stinker
Last week you reported that the city's Environmental Board had decided that the $15 million subsidy package included in the proposed city deal with Barton Springs watershed developer Stratus (Freeport) Properties was outside the Board's purview ["Naked City: Not Exactly a 'Green Light' for Stratus," June 14].
This only scratches the surface of the absurdity and pressure brought to bear on advisory boards to provide cover for this stinker. Our financial policy is inextricably linked to our environmental policy. Since our city's only Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 1979, we have recognized that we want to provide incentives for development in preferred growth areas and disincentives for development in the Barton Springs watershed.
By rewarding Stratus/Freeport and their bullying with $15 million worth of free roads, sewers, application fee waivers and tax relief, the deal only invites other developers to both invest in the Barton Springs watershed and demand similar extortion payments. Our money would be far better spent demanding full compliance with current local, state and federal environmental laws and taking other actions that would save the Springs.
Sadly, threats to not reappoint board members have caused otherwise intelligent citizen volunteers to invent a new rule that extortion payments don't relate to environmental protection policies.
In 1990, 1993, 1995, and 2000, when Stratus/Freeport sought similar development deals, it took hundreds of citizens standing up for Barton Springs to turn them back. The time is here again. Please bring friends, family, and picnics and plan to spend a lovely evening on the lawn and in the chambers of the LCRA Building at the end of Lake Austin Boulevard next Thursday, June 27. Pound the PUD!!!
Democracy is fun if you participate,
Save Our Springs Alliance
Just thought I'd point out: Gerald McLeod's article is way off on the stats for the black and turkey vulture's wingspans ["Day Trips," May 3]! Where did that come from?
Their wingspan isn't 2 feet and 21é2 feet respectively, it's more like 5 feet and 61é2 feet. I gotta figure this person has never actually seen one of these birds.
[Ed. note: Captain Day Trips replies that Merritt is absolutely right, and he isn't sure how he came up with the erroneous numbers. However, he has seen many a buzzard, er, vulture.]
'Chron' Pride Coverage Myopic
Congratulations to the Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. The June 1 Gay Pride Parade was a huge success! The celebration featured people making positive contributions to Austin's cultural, social and economic well being. The mayor, sheriff, families, and children attended.
Sadly, the Chronicle covered the scandalous -- a dildo-carrying, topless girl ["Gay Prude Parade," June 7]. You ignored the positive aspects of the parade. No coverage of numerous social groups in attendance such as Capital City Men's Chorus, Out Youth (supporting gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens), PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays), or Austin Men's Project (an alcohol/drug-free setting for support, socializing, and safe sex advice for men 21-29). No pictures or descriptions of the numerous other gay- and straight-owned business sponsors and participants. No mention of Sunday's LGRL Gay Pride Festival with 150 booths and thousands of participants!
The AGLCC is a business association, not a political group or lobby. The parade was a celebration and promotion, not a protest rally. This was not the time for politics, activism, or defiance, and definitely not the time for "proudly" displaying one's genitals, sex toys, or fetishes. I took aside the girl who violated the parade's guidelines to show her the written dress code. Her nudity, though legal, was inappropriate and disrespectful of the mayor, sheriff, and children present.
Though I support the AGLCC, I wasn't a parade organizer and don't represent the AGLCC. I attended as past president of the Classic Chassis Car Club. In 1991, however, I was logistics coordinator of the state's largest gay rights march, worked full time with dozens of other volunteers, and raised $12,000 selling advertising. Since coming out 24 years ago, I've met numerous people making positive contributions and serving as wonderful role models. Some devote their careers or lives toward gaining equality and acceptance for the GLBT community.
This selfish, misguided girl's "contribution" was providing graphic ammunition to the oxymoronic "Christian right" who label us sexual perverts, think we need saving from ourselves/Hell and work to prevent equal protection laws. Though my "normalcy" and "fitting in" comments were misquoted, as were parade organizer Chad Ballard's comments in the Statesman, most people agree that we'll obtain gay equal rights sooner by showing the straight world reasons to like, respect, and join us -- not reasons to fear or loathe us. This girl was part of the dignified "lesbian Vampire" contingent. Though there are all kinds of people in our community, she's a misfit. She isn't "normal" or representative of most of Austin's gay or straight community. It takes just one rotten apple. As for Ms. Hobbs' closing comments about drag queens, they spend a great deal of time and money perfecting their craft, entertaining others, and raising funds for worthy causes. As for the "boys in hot pants ... and bulging crotches," sounds like penis envy to me.
Your article did a disservice to participants, organizers, and those working towards acceptance, equality, and legal protection for our community. It reinforced stereotypes of homosexuals as freaks (and that newspapers are only interested in hype and controversy). You missed the point of the parade entirely. Ask the three young men who rode up Congress Avenue in my convertible. They had never before participated in an event publicly celebrating that it's OK to be gay. They went away feeling empowered, part of a community, and for that moment, not like social outcasts.
Next time cover the real story. Publish good news about those who work hard to make our community (and world) a better place!
Marc Leitman, owner
Classic Car Company
Self-Control and Maturity
Your coverage of the ALGCC parade shows how every group has its militants who think the louder they scream the better. Are these people trapped by an identity that equates sexual preference with extremism? Do they honestly believe that the more visibly different from the mainstream they are the more respect they will earn?
During a gay pride parade most of us feel the rush of being onstage in a society that often grants us only second-class status. But rather than respond with adolescent cultural revenge by stripping down and acting foolish, most of us maintain our decorum. It may not be fair that sexual minorities like us are held to a higher standard of behavior for the same degree of respect, but since when is life fair? Minorities who show they are more similar to the majority than different make the most progress. It is called self-control and maturity.
Militants claim that asssimilation and normalcy kills the spirit of diversity. Yet diversity is about intrinsic human differences. Nothing distorts the meaning and undermines the value of diversity more than using it to justify public nudity and lewdness. These are matters not of diversity but of individual judgment (or lack thereof). Such public behaviors that are so counterproductive politically only serve to keep the majority of gay Americans away from pride events anyway. But seeing this larger picture is not easy when one's identity is heavily invested in being an "oppressed minority" with very specific subcultural norms different from the dominant culture.
These people would be helping our community more by practicing self-control, with the hope that eventually equal rights will make that self-control unnecessary. If such self-control is not possible then event organizers have every right to police them.
Despite my unabashed prostration at the altar of Michael Ventura's essays, one point in "Street of Dreams" ["Letters at 3AM," June 14] has been gnawing at me. In 1960, there existed a well-enforced code of censorship in Hollywood that forbade the criminal element successful consummation of their enterprising. It was in fact rare for such stories to allow "perps" to make the tail credits unpilloried. As such, I might demur on the point that the 1960 Ocean's Eleven was avant-garde enough to allow them "Rats" to lose with dignity, however, such a scenario as was wrought in the 2001 remake would not even have been possible to finance, thus, I entertain some small dissatisfaction in Michael's differential analysis, since both films would appear to be the product of their respective times.
Paul van de Hart,
Kent Maysel ["Postmarks: Access Road Alternatives," June 14] has it mostly, but not quite, right with regard to TxDOT and their passive-aggressive sabotage of efforts to reform the design of Texas' limited access roadways.
It is not true that most people can't imagine a limited-access road without frontage roads. It's only true for most Texans, who encounter such roads only when they drive out-of-state. Anyone else knows exactly what such roads look like. They also know that well-designed, limited access highways with property designed cloverleaf interchanges (precluded by the frontage roads) don't just look better. They are also more efficient in moving high volumes of traffic, reducing driver frustration and driver error. Because cars spend less waiting to get on or off these roads, they reduce air pollution. Because they're only half as wide, they also cost less, and they encounter less neighborhood resistance when they are built through residential areas.
Would none of those design advantages have application here?
It is not true, either, that TxDOT sabotaged the plan to eliminate frontage roads "to cover their asses 20 years down the road." They did it to cover their asses for the mistakes they started making 40-plus years ago and continue to make today.
Finally, Mr. Maysel's words suggest that an entity called TxDOT is in charge of protecting its interests. TxDOT is not an entity with interests. It is an organization of people, not much different from any other organization or large business. It is made up of individuals who are like the rest of us, with personal interests, preferences, and agendas.
It's the people, not the institution, that determine the policies and make the decisions. My question is, who is the individual (or individuals) within TxDOT whose personal agendas burden us with overpriced, inherently inefficient roads?
'Liberal Hot Air'
For all his boo-hooing, Michael King should be careful not to dehydrate. "God Votes Right" [June 14, 2002] was music to my ears. The brain-dead left will do and say anything to denounce Bush and Christianity, facts notwithstanding.
Too bad building straw men doesn't pay better, huh King? Rest assured, the Vast Right Conspiracy doesn't give a flying fuck about what you and your left-wing ilk think. The G.O.P. wants to be as far away from "left-wing psychosis" as the law will allow, and I for one hope you gag on it.
Weren't you and Alec Baldwin going to leave the country anyway? Your liberal hot air is only making global warming worse. If you got a good running start maybe you could leap off the edge of the Earth and put us all out of your misery. You'd be famous, just like that person who writes "After a Fashion" for the Chronicle.
Michael King and Doug Potter ["Capitol Chronicle," June 14] are two fine examples of the hypocrisy and intolerance of the Lunatic Fringe Left Liberals. If you don't like a party's platform or representatives, then don't vote for them. Only real assholes find it necessary to personally attack people they don't agree with, and here are two fine examples of real assholes. "Christmongers"? Why do you freaking care, Michael? You wouldn't vote for a Republican if your life depended on it. Doug draws Phil Gramm as a KKK member because Senator Gramm, correctly, believes it paramount that everyone in this country at least be able to communicate with other Americans? Piss off. Better yet Doug, maybe you and your daddy Michael can name the successful American who doesn't speak English? Name one. You cannot. I guess, like most liberals, you two want to keep Hispanics trapped in linguistic ghettos so you can have a steady supply of dishwashers and lawn care workers. Heaven forbid Hispanics learn English, they might want your job, they might want to move into your neighborhood, they might want to, heaven forbid, date your children. How terrible it would be for your much-loved Hispanics if they should become self sufficient, why, who would you "care about" then?
Michael, care to talk about the "Abortion Mongers" or the "Environmentalist Mongers," the intolerant extremists in your own party? Doug, care to take up the issue of the Democrats creating racially gerrymandered congressional districts because all you "good white liberals" would not vote for qualified minority candidates from your own party? Every freaking Democrat representative from those gerrymandered districts was a liberal, how come white liberals won't vote for them? What we have here with these two is an asshole telling someone they have bad breath, they have no room to talk about any of the issues they excoriated Republicans for in their little rant.
Carl T. Swanson
The Estate Tax
I am shocked at Sen. Gramm's push to repeal the Estate Tax. The Estate Tax applies to fewer than 2% of the richest Americans. Repeal would sink the U.S. Treasury deeper into red ink and would cripple our economy by soaking up massive amounts of capital. The shortage of available capital, in turn, will force home buyers and businesses to pay exorbitant interest rates when they need to borrow money and thus have a negative impact on our economy for generations to come.
Texas has a huge mountain to climb to educate all of our children. Pell Grants for middle-income college students were abolished by Phil Gramm when he first went to Congress. How ironic that Phil Gramm -- who had every bit of his own education paid for by taxpayers -- should now create the conditions which will require drastic cuts to student loans.
Thanks to Phil Gramm, the Pell Grants are abolished, except for the poorest of the poor. The grants are no longer available for middle-income students. Students now graduate from college owing $20,000 and $30,000 on their student loans. I know a UT Law School graduate who owes $50,000 on her student loan and a medical school graduate who owes $120,000.
This has a drastic effect on the rest of the economy, as well. These folks are so burdened down with debt that they often can't afford to buy a home until they are in their 30s or 40s. Those graduates who would like to use their talents to help others can't afford to be altruistic. Their huge debts require them to take jobs that promise to pay big bucks.
Gramm leaves Congress as he began 18 years ago: cutting programs for middle-income Americans while letting multimillionaires and billionaires off the hook.
Anne C. McAfee
Grandmother of three college students and nine more who will eventually become college students
Deport Illegal Aliens
Jeff Greenfield said it this morning on Imus, and he's right. We don't need Washington to be spending their energy for the next three months talking about this reorganization of bureaucracies. We may not have three months. He also said that better PR on Al Jazeera isn't going to solve our current problem.
We have terrorists running around this country. There are tens of thousands of Arabs with expired visas who have slipped in between the cracks. Whether or not those people are terrorists, they are here illegally and we aren't going to find the bad guys until we start rounding up and deporting all of the illegals. Waiting for a would-be bomber to make a tactical mistake before we do something is, in itself, a big mistake. Some of these people are very smart (and getting smarter). We may not have three months. July 4 is just around the corner. Get our cops out from behind billboards, out of doughnut shops and radar traps and start protecting us. Any "dirty" explosion, no matter how ineffective, will decimate a local economy, real estate values, and possibly the national economy and will cost billions.
So quit politicking, quit covering your butts, and get rid of the illegals. Kick the INS in the pants and start over.