Our readers talk back.
SOS Did Matter
"Did SOS Matter?" [Aug. 9]. As a longtime resident of Hays County, I say yes, I think SOS did matter and continues to matter. However, the larger problem has been and continues to be what happens here in Hays County. Why? Because a large portion of the contributing and recharge zones for Barton Springs is located outside of the city of Austin jurisdiction in Hays County. The water from the contributing and recharge zones in Hays County flows north toward Austin and eventually to Barton Springs.
It will not matter what the development rules are in Austin, if the land usage/development issues in Hays County are not addressed. Pollution of the water that enters the Aquifer can occur miles away in Hays County. No amount of city of Austin regulation will be able to prevent this from occurring because state law does not allow "SOS"-type ordinances in counties like Hays.
For the past 10 years I have watched the battle to save the springs being waged in Austin. While Austinites were busy defending the SOS ordinance, the front line of the battle moved into Hays County.
The residents of Northern Hays County are now where the citizens of Austin were 10 years ago -- trying to make their elected officials accountable for water quality. For a majority of the residents here the water quality issue really hits home as we depend upon the aquifer as our only supply of drinking water.
Three years ago the Hays County Water Planning Partnership was created by a grassroots citizens effort. It is a beginning, but we cannot do it alone. A coordinated regional effort by all the jurisdictions within the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer recharge and contributing zones is desperately needed.
Austin may have won many of the battles, but the overall goal of water quality will be lost if the water flowing into the aquifer is polluted in Hays County before it reaches Austin. If this pattern continues, then I think the SOS ordinance and the 10 years of valiant effort by the citizens of Austin to protect the springs will have been in vain.
Chair, Hays County Water Planning Partnership
Invalidus SOSorum Diatribus
May I apply for the position of reality checker for the Chronicle, before it becomes the in-house pleasure organ of the SOS Axis? Judging from the latest issue, the city "News" department is suffering from invalidus SOSorum diatribus. Apparently taking the 18-plus hours of SOS Axis invective against the City Council seriously and insisting that what was said is fact, when the bulk of that "testimony" isn't even good pulp fiction. The most overlooked examples are:
"Opportunists" -- now include Brigid Shea, Jackie and Jack Goodman, George Cofer, Jon Beall -- people who have spent most of their adult lives trying to protect the environment. Armchair psychology/conspiracy theory rationalizing is so much easier than thinking and consideration of the facts surrounding the issue.
Opposed to Stratus
I'm opposed to the Stratus Properties development plan on environmental and health grounds, but also on the principle that a community ought to be able to determine its own growth and development programs. I would agree that the state has the right, even obligation, to interfere in local matters where there is an interest in protecting the environment or civil rights. The state legislature has no business coming in and telling Austin that we have to let Stratus Properties rape the land we love. Stratus Properties must have known when they purchased the land around the Barton Creek Watershed that it was an environmentally sensitive area and that the people of Austin didn't want it to be developed. They bought it on the gamble that they could find a way to strong-arm the development through. If you read Noam Chomsky's Understanding Power you'll find out how this sort of project works. If you read Edward Abbey, you can find out how to take away the profit motive from Stratus Properties.
'Austin Is a Fading Beauty'
In light of the recent Stratus agreement, the demise of many local music venues, the sound ordinance, overcrowding, traffic, pollution, etc., I offer the following metaphor:
Austin is a fading beauty whose glory days at the sweethearts ball are far behind it, but still insists on obsessing over herself; still loves to hear "Texas is the bestus"; still thinks she's the center of all live music in the world. As her beauty fades, her attitude gets worse -- still demanding attention and flattery even more than ever. Maybe somehow she can accept herself as she is now, and try to make the best of things. You're a big girl now, you ain't so special as you used to be, you better grow up and get a real metro system ... or else get oxygen tanks installed on every corner for the few diehards that still love you enough to breathe your poison air.
I'm Not Paying for Your Library
In response to your question "Call me a pinko, but should we not set our tax rate to correspond to the needs of the community and its demand for services, regardless of how much money we all have or how expensive our homes are?" ["Austin@Large," Aug. 9]: I say definitely no.
People can "demand" quite a lot and I, as a homeowner, am not responsible for what other people need, without limit. People are responsible for themselves, for their choices, consequences, and for their own simple bad luck. I pay more in property tax each month than a lot of people pay for rent on a one-bedroom apartment. That is quite enough!
I don't use the libraries, parks, schools, and haven't called for emergency services. Yet I pay for these constantly. I also wholly pay for my own utilities, road taxes, health insurance, and so on. You seem to think that people have a right to what amounts to charity when, in fact, it's I who have the right to choose to be charitable. Community services need to be paid for, most definitely, by those who use them, and in proportion to their use. In any case, it's the responsibility of the user to pay for services rather than someone else.
CSC, Intel, & Smart Growth
In response to Mike Clark-Madison's piece last week ["Austin@Large," Aug. 16]: What the hell do you mean "nobody asked, or paid, CSC or Intel to move to Austin instead of some other city?" Did we miss the whole "Smart" Growth fiasco or something? That's exactly what happened. It was Kirk Watson's brilliant idea to offer millions in incentives for Intel to plonk itself on prime downtown real estate. Then oops, tech bust, and a very large piece of very ugly "corporate art."
As for CSC (they were already here, by the way, located in Northwest Austin), they were just looking for a new location. They were about to move into an already constructed facility on South MoPac near Barton Skyway. But again, enter Watson the Wonder Dummy. He begged, pleaded, offered incentives and built the damn buildings for them. Of course they accepted. Then the pesky bust forced CSC to fire a nice chunk of their local work force and it turns out they don't need that third building. Which happens to have been the one set to go up on the only block that had an actual operating business, Liberty Lunch. Asking and then essentially paying large corporations (with public money) to come and shove the little/local guys out is exactly what Smart Growth was. That's what it always was.
The ripple effect of Smart Growth coupled with the tech boom raised rents for residents and local businesses alike as well. The result is a Starbucks where Les Amis used to be, whatever the hell is violating the space formerly occupied by Quack's, and the loss of Hole in the Wall. And that's just the Drag. Now we have the Borders vs. Waterloo/BookPeople duel and only now do we seem to realize that the local businesses have been subsidizing their own potential or direct demise all along? It's about time.
Mike Clark-Madison responds: As I wrote, and Mr. Worth confirms, neither CSC nor Intel were asked or paid to move to Austin instead of some other city. The incentives he described were to encourage their location Downtown and not over the aquifer. He is also accurate that CSC already had a sizable location in Austin before building the downtown complex.
No Funds for the War on Drugs
Dear Ms. Apple,
Aside from thanks for your always-informative "Naked City" column, I also have some comments regarding the recent budget crunch here in our fine city.
I was born in this town and have lived here just over 21 years. If we're hurting so badly for money that we can't keep pools and libraries open, something has to give. Considering we have been decreasing services, including public transportation, health care, and education for many years, maybe something unprecedented needs to give a little.
I say it's APD's turn. Perhaps in this city, well known for its reasonable nature, we can face a grim fact: The war on drugs is a failure. I'm not advocating drug use, I just want everyone to stop for a moment to take in the fact that we have been fighting drugs for over 60 years now, and we are further from eliminating drug use than ever.
We spend a vast amount of money to pay for what the federal government thinks is the "right way" to handle drug policy. Well Uncle Sam, we don't have the cash for that today. Not to mention there are more than a few of us down here who are tired of seeing people with a bona fide medical condition (drug addiction) go to jail.
If we really want to stop the drug problem here in Austin -- and yes, it is a problem -- let's quit trying harder and try smarter. Take that huge chunk of cash away from enforcement and turn it into not only increased drug treatment services but also public transportation, environmental, and educational services.
From where I'm standing, this all seems inevitable if you look at the national debate that is starting. Let's live up to our proud, progressive Austin heritage and be first in line.
Fuel for the Fire,
The Collective Clarifies
Thanks for the article on the bookstore ["The MonkeyWrench Manifesto," Aug. 16]. We appreciate the support. I wanted to point out a couple of things, though, just for clarity's sake. Shawn Badgley refers to me as a sort of de facto "captain," but I'm just the guy who Shawn Badgley talked to the most. If you asked any of the publishers or distributors we deal with, none of them would even know my name. It's a minor point, but since the purpose of running the place collectively is that everybody's equal, and since my fellow MonkeyWrenchers are already making fun of me, I thought I'd mention it.
Also, while we would've made Shawn dance if we'd thought of it, the reason it took three weeks to schedule the interview was not entirely our flakiness. I've still got a message from him on my machine, apologizing for not calling me back for days because he was moving and his mom was in town. We're not making excuses; it's just that we don't want everybody thinking we're so bogged down in consensus process that we can't get things done.
Anyway, thanks again for the interest and the great article.
I just wanted to send a note of thanks for the elegy you wrote for Eagle Pennell in "Page Two" [July 26]. I had just found out about Eagle's death and was wrestling with the reality of it, so your words resonated deeply with me.
How about a retrospective at SXSW? Maybe Whole Shootin' Match and Last Night at the Alamo? If I can do anything to facilitate a screening of his work, please let me know. I'm contacting S.W.A.M.P. in Houston about a screening of ... Alamo.
Editor's note: The Austin Film Society and The Austin Chronicle will present a tribute to Eagle Pennell with screenings of The Whole Shootin' Match and Last Night at the Alamo on Tuesday, Sept. 3, at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown. Check next week's Chronicle for more details.
The Exxon stations are advertising "Free Britney Posters!" I didn't know she was locked up.
Protesting Too Much PE
The Eanes Independent School District has changed the program in art and music for all elementary campuses this fall, with the exception of Bridgepoint Elementary. Students at Eanes, Cedar Creek, Forest Trail, Valley View, and Barton Creek will have art and music classes cut to one day per week to accommodate the new PE guidelines mandated by the Texas Legislature. PE classes will be increased to every other day.
I don't believe it was ever the intention of the Texas Legislature to have school districts increase PE instruction at the expense of the fine arts, and I also believe that many parents in the district don't even know this new program has been implemented. The issue was never formally brought to the attention of parents, who should be apprised of cuts in the "core curriculum" of their children.
One day per week of art and music is almost a waste of time, for the teachers and the children -- whose best interest is supposed to be at heart here.
I have drafted a short petition in protest of these changes. Interested parents who wish to lend their signatures (via e-mail) should e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Voter Apathy Due to Fiscally Inspired Bigotry
Austinites respect the Chronicle for its efforts to communicate both sides of any issue. So why are so few people voting in Austin?
In the Seventies politicians told us that so few people were voting, "because people were so satisfied with government." In the Eighties this explanation was renamed "voter apathy."
Come the Nineties there began a concentrated round robin campaign of vote, vote, and vote again until "we get it right." Explanation was redefined as "voter burnout." In Austin the "we get it right" crowd turns out to be those with money and power, and those who purposefully support them.
A local media campaign is now underway. Politely accept city hall's campaign of accelerated gentrification, a program of eviction for Austin's lower income groups. Or those who oppose and strongly resist the "we get it right" crowd (who describe themselves as people of a higher moral standard and good taste) are labeled "rude."
And the local daily has gone past name-calling to support the notion that city hall should restrict if not end public input at city council meetings.
City staff/council members say the current astronomical costs of housing in the central city neighborhoods is "market driven" and not city hall's fault.
City hall is lying, just by telling half the truth. They orchestrated a greater tax debt load by over-annexing outlying lands and in so doing increased the need for more tax funding for supplying infrastructure for those areas. City Hall then decided to gamble with this city's funding by throwing tax dollars at corporate businesses in the form of tax breaks and construction/utility fee waivers. Council members started the Smart Growth re-zoning densification ordinances. City hall then directed city-planning staff to force these rapid and accelerated gentrification-re-zoning changes on core city neighborhoods and called it "neighborhood planning."
No true American would willingly vote for or serve a governing entity which considers itself morally superior based on the notion that money and power are the keystones of superior ethics and good taste.
No true Austinites would accept media censorship directed at those who oppose this fiscally inspired bigotry. Fiscal bigotry in Austin is actually camouflaged ethnic discrimination.
Being poor is no moral failing, just the luck of the draw. Why would anybody vote or serve in an unethical system, which by design, purposefully thrusts misfortune upon its fiscally weaker members?
What I've Learned Since Getting a Lobotomy
Sorry Louis Black, you're not off the hook yet. Same Old Shit Alliance too, this time. First off, Mr. Black laments that development is inevitable, and property owners have the right to sell their land, which is absolutely correct ["Page Two," Aug. 9]. So, since we agree on this point, the next question seems to be who to sell it to? If the people of Austin care so much about the water quality at Barton Springs, how come the city of Austin didn't buy the land and turn it into parkland? Perhaps because the city of Austin's managers would rather spend money on what is going to end up costing a hell of a lot more than the stated $41 million on monuments to government like the new City Hall. They want to spend millions on some dumb-ass idea about changing the direction of traffic downtown to make it "more pedestrian friendly." Screw that. How come the "Concerned Citizens" of Austin didn't make their elected representatives purchase the land Stratus did? Considering how it spends money, apparently the city had the finances. Just a guess, but I don't think you can collect tax revenues on city parks, probably why Stratus and not the citizens of Austin own the land now.
And clearly, it is time we closed Barton Springs to swimming. Since my lobotomy, SOS has convinced me that the springs must remain absolutely as it is right now forever and ever, period. People swimming in Barton Springs bring dozens of potentially dangerous chemical pollutants with them every time they enter the water, from deodorants, athlete's foot medication, hair spray, sun block, hair color, bleach and soap from their clothes, soap from their showers, and let's not forget urine. I know it's cold in there, but I've hit a couple of warm spots while swimming and I don't think it was salamander piss. We need to cover the springs with plastic to protect it from Ultra Violent Radiation, basically seal it off completely. That's been SOS's position, hasn't it?
Carl T. Swanson
It's Cool to Be Cool at School
Dear Mr. Black:
Thanks to Kate X Messer for her work with Griffin School students to create the back-to-school fashion spread ["Back 2 Cool," Aug. 2]. One of the included articles is titled "How to Survive This School Year in 10 Simple (Yet Fashionable!) Steps." The truth is that many young people are traumatized in their schools for doing just what this article promotes: being unique, being honest, and having fun with fashion. There is great pressure on young people to conform to the narrow social standards that exist in schools.
At the Griffin School, we are blessed with students who are creative and not afraid to assert their independence from the societal structures that seek to restrict them. As is evidenced in the pictures, many students chose to express their identity through their nontraditional appearance. In spite of the disapproving looks they get for their purple hair, dreadlocks, or dog-collar necklaces, they are confident in their values and their identity. They relate to each other and the world with intelligence and compassion. Those who are able to see beyond their tough façade are enriched by their creativity and passion. Congratulations to Iana and Brynn for being brave enough to be themselves and express their unique identities with flair (and to their parents for their support and understanding). I particularly appreciate Kate Messer for celebrating the beauty of young people's expression of themselves.
Director, The Griffin School