Our readers talk back.
Aquifer Springs Eternal
Dear Mr. Black:
In your simplistic remarks about the proposed Stratus development settlement (in "Page Two" of the July 26 issue), you seem to suggest that we need to let go of the old and resign ourselves to the new. But that doesn't mean we should let a stupid short-sighted development by a bunch of unidentifiable New York real estate speculators trash an aquifer that began to form 100 million years ago. Water is the basis of life. We need to think like good neighbors and protect the resource that people will depend on well beyond the lifetime of our grandchildren. It is a fact that "once the water in the Edwards Aquifer becomes contaminated, it will be very difficult and perhaps impossible to clean" (see www.edwardsaquifer.net).
So let's get some Texas back in our fight for what is right and pure and the jewel of our hill country city. Stratus may have the title and deed to some property, but they have no right to foul and poison the most sensitive watershed in Texas!
Please, don't fall victim to the cynicism that would have you believe that degradation of the watershed and aquifer are inevitable. Apathy and towing the line will bring us only shame. Pull your young spunk out of the trunk. We've got work to do! Help rescue our watershed from the power brokers and land speculators that only see it as currency to be traded -- just a means to an end. It is ours to protect, now and forever.
By Whatever Means Necessary
Dear Mr. Black,
In last week's "Page Two" [July 26] editorial, you suggest what Save Our Springs Alliance should be doing to save Barton Springs. To recommend, as you do, that SOS spend its limited time compromising is to accept a dead Barton Springs. To suggest, as you do, that SOS should spend our meager resources promoting car-dependent sprawl over any watershed is to advocate for the bad land use and transportation planning that is killing cities and countryside across the globe.
Mr. Black, thousands of citizens are demanding that the council say no to the proposed sweetheart Stratus deal. What you're not hearing is the outcry saying yes to doing whatever it takes to save Barton Springs. If that means using a fraction of the $16 million proposed in corporate welfare for Stratus and paying for a legal battle, we say "Yes!" If that means admitting that we need a new lobbying effort so the state Legislature might actually help Austin, we say "Yes!" If that means using a fraction of the public money slated to pave the Barton Springs Watershed and redirecting it toward preservation, we say "Yes!"
However, you cannot say yes to the above and say yes to paying Stratus to pollute Barton Springs. Sometimes when the bully has been getting his way, you ask him to put on gloves. But sometimes you tell him to stop.
Right now, we need you, Mr. Black, and the council, to hear what the people are saying -- we have no choice but to say no to the proposed Stratus deal.
We will make every effort to expand on the positive momentum that has sprung from this community to oppose the Stratus deal and advance the positive agenda you wish we could escape to now.
Save Our Springs Alliance
Bunch's Blind Spot
Bill Bunch is right? ["Postmarks: Maturity or Accomodation?" July 26] He's right because a comprehensive plan proposed in 1979, and never successfully adopted, says so? Or he's right because Clark-Madison buys his argument that the city should try to wage legal war on 245/1704 law? Here's a point that he doesn't seem to understand: Assuming Bunch is right about 245, and the SOS ordinance was applied to every tract, it wouldn't stop the type of construction and residential lifestyle over the aquifer that is killing it. More importantly, the city has no method available to stop urban sprawl. Austin cannot prevent someone from developing any project they want that is outside its jurisdiction, that leaves the city with only administrative and economic incentives to offer.
The downfall of the Axis isn't because they're self-righteous; it's how they conduct their politics. Democratic politics is about winning friends and influencing people. Axis politics is to spit on your allies, and imply that those disagreeing with you are fools or corrupted. Who shopped/sponsored the lawsuits against Goodman/Slusher? Mitchell's entire campaign was based on deliberate misrepresentation of city incentives created to pull development off the aquifer, and into the DDZ. His stance on the Villas of Guadalupe, and light rail planning methods, were tailored to fit the hysterical and inaccurate claims of "neighborhood representatives" best illustrated by that wondrous friend of the people Kelly Smoot. The legislative ambush set off by the Axis against the Slusher/Wynn resolution of negotiating Mueller development for Stratus is a prime example of political manipulation, and the key reason why the council shouldn't listen to SOS "leadership" or its "citizens." SOS can't have it both ways, it can't be hostile to support for inner-city density and then claim that monomaniacal devotion to the SOS ordinance is proof of support for the inner city.
Council Doesn't Represent Austin
I am so angry at the City Council for voting nearly unanimously (save Raul Alvarez) to strike a deal with Freeport-McMoRan (aka Stratus; aka Evil Incarnate). This deal would give Stratus millions of dollars to help them to destroy our city and our Hill Country, polluting environmentally sensitive areas that affect our swimming and drinking water. How stupid is that?! It does not make sense to allow this development at all, much less subsidize it!
Ironically, Daryl Slusher claimed that the current residents of Circle C were part of the problem (right before he voted to subsidize the Stratus development). Maybe they are part of the problem, but they are not to blame -- there is a difference. Circle C never should have been developed in the first place. Whoever allowed the development of Circle C is ultimately responsible for chemicals being dumped on lawns in an environmentally sensitive area. Circle C was a bad deal, and now we're suffering the consequences -- that's a decision we'll have to live with forever.
Now we have been given an opportunity to make a better decision -- to stop further development over environmentally sensitive land and discourage unhealthy growth, congestion, and pollution. And these people -- people that I voted for -- are wasting that chance. Instead of fighting this stupid project, they are giving millions of dollars in incentives to encourage it! I'm ashamed of them, and I'm ashamed of myself for trusting them with my vote. But unlike all of the members of the current City Council (except for Alvarez), I learn from past mistakes, and I don't make them twice. The council is obviously wholly owned and controlled by big businesses like CSC and Freeport-McMoRan, and they no longer represent those of us who truly love this town.
Consult the Green Force
While the market for downtown housing may have been in place for longer than most developers realized, the developers of the Nokonah should be given appropriate recognition for taking risks to fill this important need.
However, Mr. Barnstone writes in his piece ["Postmarks: Nokonah Talks Back," July 19] that his development is "completely environmentally friendly." I hope he is correct, but I am uncertain because the Nokonah did not consult with the city of Austin's Green Building Commercial Program, a free service. This service guides the design and construction process to achieve greater energy and natural resource efficiency, lower operation/maintenance costs, waste reduction, and improved indoor air quality above what the building code requires. The resulting environmental, social, and economic benefits are numerous.
I contacted Mr. Barnstone before construction started to encourage him to consult with the Green Building Program and he did not. I hope he will consider consulting with them on his next project so that structure can truly be called "completely environmentally friendly."
Advisor, City of Austin Green Building Task Force
The Word About the Street
Word on the street is that the corner of Lamar and Sixth is in peril. While I support the current Whole Foods development, I am aghast at the possibility of a commercial book and music store rising out of the mid-city intersection. A business of this sort would reek havoc upon the livelihoods of beloved stores like BookPeople, Book Woman, Waterloo Records, and Spark's.
While corporate booksellers run nice businesses, they have no place in Austin's central core. Do you remember the drama that surrounded the arrival of Diesel on the Guadalupe strip? The angst was not a result of Diesel, but more the result of having inhabited the old grounds of Quack's. Can we lick the wounds after yet another local store closure?
Rather than court corporate selling machines, let us make our shopping centers community centers. Sixth and Lamar has all the makings of a Plaza Major. Put in what this city needs. Put in a movie theatre. Put in a fountain. Put in a cafe.
Think about what is best for the intersection of Sixth and Lamar. Can thousands of people be wooed to living in the urban core without an ample supermarket? Without a multiplex? If we truly want to see Austin stay weird, we should make a solemn pact to protect our unique businesses, and augment Austin's livability by bringing in the things that we don't yet have.
We have books and music covered.
To Marjorie, it sucks when you make a racial faux pas and inadvertently offend people [Film Listings, Family Fundamentals, July 19], but the fact that it feels unpleasant when you realize your mistake doesn't change the fact that people actually were offended. You can't rejoin the information that something you wrote was offensive by saying "No, it wasn't!" It doesn't work that way, especially in matters of race. Likewise, it doesn't work to say "We don't endorse racist expression, therefore nothing we publish could ever be offensive on the basis of race." Presumably the Chronicle does not endorse sexist expression either, but we know just from the "Postmarks" column over the years that advertisements or other content from time to time shows up in these pages that offends someone on the basis of sex or gender. The actual fact of whether or not an expression offends the person who absorbs it cannot be editorially determined ahead of time. Similarly, while it may not be possible (or desirable, for that matter) to determine ahead of time what expressions may possibly offend, the situation has changed after the fact when your readers communicate their response to what you've expressed or how you've expressed it. Perhaps what bothers some of your readers in this instance is not any perceived intent to slur, but the assumption that a perfectly normal name in a diverse cultural context is here abnormal, that the assumption that it signifies something other than simply itself is valid, and that the name therefore requires explanation or authentication. That's what feels like insensitivity to the reader. A simple acknowledgement and apology is due and would've been easier and nicer.
More Than 'More A Legend'
Thanx for a nice cover story article on the Flatlanders ["Right Where They Belong," July 26], whose individual members' careers I've followed for quite some time. Not that I love everything these guys produce, but you gotta at least pay attention to them. I've noticed a slight misconception repeated three or four times recently in the Chronicle, as well as other publications, in all the recent hubbub regarding the Flatlanders new release Now Again: That their initial 1970s recording was a limited release on eight-track tape only until the 1990s Rounder CD release called More a Legend Than a Band. This recording has been available on vinyl since 1980 from Charley Records. The record is called One Road More and contains additional tracks that were inexplicably deleted on the Rounder CD release. This is their best album, in my humble opinion.
Keep Our Pets Alive!
Many thanks for drawing attention to the continued efforts to make Austin a no-kill city for homeless animals ("Not Quite No-Kill -- Yet," July 19). I am amazed at the number of Austinites who believe we have already reached that goal. Because of focused efforts by the Town Lake Animal Center, along with nonprofit organizations such as Austin Pets Alive!, Animal Trustees of Austin, EmanciPet, and numerous area rescue groups, the euthanasia rate has dropped. However, to understand why about half of all incoming animals dumped at the Town Lake Animal Center are still euthanized, go down there on any given weekend and see the number of good citizens lined up to "drop off" animals. Reasons for these drop-offs vary from "found litter" to "divorce" to "dog didn't match carpet"!
Austin will not reach its no-kill goal until more of the public begins taking pet guardianship and neutering seriously.
Austin Pets Alive! Rescue Teamleader
When I was in Austin some time ago I remember looking at a paper, to the best of my knowledge, called The Greensheet. Do you know the address and phone number of this paper?
Thank you for any information you can give me.
Wake Up, Austin
I spent the first 30 years of my life in Austin before taking a job in Dallas. While the adjustment to life in Dallas was tough, it was made easier by my frequent trips back and my realization that Austin was changing -- and not for the better.
Over the past few years, Austin has become many of the things I used to think of as characteristic of Dallas: overgrown, gridlocked, and uptight. The unique and offbeat places are quickly disappearing, the traffic is terrible, and the price of a house is stratospheric. Just about the only things that seem to be the same are the low salaries.
Simultaneously, Dallas has been evolving and mellowing, and isn't nearly the starchy, pretentious place it once was. While we still must contend with the resident attitudes of the Park Cities and Plano, neighborhoods like Lakewood, Kessler Park, and Gastonwood have developed some of the same funky charm as I used to see in Austin's Tarrytown, Brykerwoods, and Travis Heights.
Where I live in Northeast Dallas, there are restaurants, theatres, shops, and parkland within walking distance. Central Market just opened a new store a few miles away on Lover's Lane at Greenville. And to travel the nine miles to where I work, I may choose between a 15-minute drive in my car or a 10-minute ride on our light rail system, DART.
Wake up, Austin. When the quality of life in Dallas is passing up your own, you need to seriously think about where you are headed.
Paul von Wupperfeld
15 Years Later, Drunken Driving Still Wrong
I am the one who wrote the letter printed in the Chronicle 15 years ago referring to "Corky" as a drunken asshole. Maybe that was what you were reading the night you "drove on the sidewalk" ["Page Two," July 12]. I still think anyone who drinks and drives is an asshole and is being so selfish as to take other peoples' families and kids lives in their hands.
It would have been more informative to make a statement at the end of your remembrance of the Hole in the Wall to say, "do not drink and drive." It was wrong 15 years ago, and it is still wrong.
Live Music Capital, Not Hippie Blues Mecca
What is the deal with Austin City Limits anyway? I have lived in Austin for 22 years. In that time ACL has hosted some awesome concerts. I just have a question for Terry Lickona, et al: When was the last time you people visited and experienced the Austin music scene? In the 1970s and 80s the program showcased acts that, more or less, captured the essence of the Austin experience. In those days it featured Commander Cody, B.B. King, Roy Orbison, Little Feat, and other lesser-known acts that appeared regularly at the Armadillo WHQ and the like.
What happened? Well, the program never grew out of the hippy-dippy mentality that defined Austin in those days. Wake up Terry, it's now 2002! Austin City Limits' choice of featured acts still portray Austin as some one-track cosmic cowboy-rootsy-bluesy-Dead-Phish-Stevie Ray-wannabe town, and that characterization does an injustice to the vibrant rock music scene here. I understand that Fastball was once featured -- I have never seen this show, so maybe it only ran once. But you get the idea that those old ACL farts haven't heard anything new since Chris Isaak's debut. The upcoming outdoor festival only perpetuates the myth of Austin the Hippie Blues Mecca that shivers in the shadows of SRV. Too bad. It's clear that the program is not about Austin, but I would suggest to the geriatric ACL staffers that they visit some other Austin venues besides the Cactus, Saxon Pub, or Antone's and see what's happening out here. Either that or change the name of their little show to "Anywhere, USA City Limits," because they've done little to boost the Austin that I, and many others, love.
Immature, Insensitive Comment
To think we consider the Chronicle our alternative voice in Central Texas!!
What kind of inclusive voice is represented by your parenthetical reference to Arthur Dong's last name in your recent film review [Film Listings, Family Fundamentals, July 19]? Particular shame on you. Such a childish, immature journalistic gesture on your part says far more about your poor judgement than it possibly has meaning or relevance to what you were trying to tell the public about a film's content. It was certainly a waste of precious column space -- surely a poor reflection on your expertise. PFLAG members will be with Mr. Dong on July 24 -- we'll apologize to him the best we can.
Sue Raye, President
Parents, Families, Friends of Lesbians and Gays
I Pledge Allegiance to the Pledge
Dear Austin Chronicle:
Hello, I am a 37-year-old mother of two daughters and two stepdaughters. Their ages are 10, 11, and two 13-year-olds. My children have been extremely upset with the recent ruling on the Pledge of Allegiance. This is not just something that they learn to repeat, it is part of their core beliefs.
To put into words the stream of emotions and fear that this ruling has evoked in my family would be hard. Please, please take time to pass on to the powers that be that Americans need to be proud to be Americans and our pledge is a key part in that pride. Please don't allow my children, myself, or future generations to lose the wonderful feeling of saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
God Bless America,
Roxy Farrell -- 11
Austin Sanders -- 13
Dani Mendeke -- 13
Shelby Mendeke -- 10
Baumgarten: 'Childish, Objectionable'
Marjorie Baumgarten's reference to Arthur Dong's surname in her review of Family Fundamentals [Film Listings, July 19] was, at the very least, childish in its sexual overtones. That others found it racist is understandable as well. It is clear from her response that she fails to see what some of us find clearly objectionable. If Ms. Baumgarten can't grasp the problem as previous letter-writers presented it, perhaps she might appreciate that such schoolyard humor only cheapens her review (as well as the paper in which it appears) and makes it very difficult to take seriously anything else she might have to say. Any writer would do well to weigh that effect against any perceived "usefulness" of such "information."