Our readers talk back.
Delwood Assn. Responds
I'm puzzled that Charles Davidson of TxDOT asserts that residents of Wilshire Wood/Delwood 1 "really hate" him ["Born to Be Reviled," Sept. 20"].
The truth is, representatives of WW/D1 went out of their way to help Mr. Davidson and his team to improve their plan before they were ever faced with the criticism they're now dodging.
His comment is likely another example of TxDOT doublespeak. You know, like when they say "We want your ideas," but they really mean "Listen up, here's what we've decided." In this case, perhaps he really means that "TxDOT really hates WW/D1."
Why? Because we've requested meetings and actually encouraged public involvement. We've marked up maps and consulted independent highway engineers. We've exposed TxDOT's lack of coordination with Cap Metro regarding the railroad line. We've sought answers to questions such as "What alternatives did you consider and reject before making your choices?" We've submitted conceptual alternatives for some of the worst problems. We quizzed them on their traffic modeling.
Worst of all, we've had the audacity to look at the totality of the plan, not just the pavement immediately adjacent to our little neighborhood.
To be honest, if our concerns with TxDOT's I-35 expansion plans were strictly NIMBY-based, we'd have declared victory and gone home months ago. While we initially approached our study of TxDOT's proposed plan from the perspective of "How does this affect us?" our closest scrutiny revealed only this: It could've been much worse. Encroachment into WW/D1 is minimal, and the threat of cut-through traffic can probably be managed.
As we looked at the plan some more, we also thought: Pity those poor commuters.
Our concern is the big picture. Ahead lies the prospect of 10 years of construction detours and delays that will have commuters longing for the good old days of the Ben White/I-35 project. Our concern is that TxDOT is crippled by a lack of experience doing any project even remotely like this. Our concern is that more than $2 billion will be spent to apply a 1960s mindset to a 2010s traffic problem. Other states have successfully designed and built highway expansions through existing urban areas, but it appears that TxDOT isn't learning anything from them.
No, we don't hate Charles Davidson. But we hope he will seek out the professional help (experienced planners, designers, and engineers) that he so desperately needs.
President, Wilshire Wood/Delwood 1 Neighborhood Assn.
Traffic, Not I-35, Is the Problem
I-35 does not need to be widened. And until it is no longer possible for me to blast full throttle down it at 3am, I will uphold this argument. The biggest reason I-35 can become a nightmare is obviously because of rush hour, when one can witness cars streaming out of Brackenridge Hospital, and the Human Resource Center all the way on 5000 Lamar, directly onto the ramp. I propose a law that provides incentives for companies of over 200 employees to stagger shifts by at least 15 minutes, or to otherwise feature unorthodox shift ordering to stabilize traffic. Billions of dollars could be saved if rush hour(s) were eliminated -- in highway expenditures, wasted gas, wasted time, and even wasted people.
Barton Springs Road Project Will Be a Success
I read your story on Barton Springs Road ["Road Rage," Aug. 30] with a feeling of déjô vu. It's the familiar feeling I get when self-interested people buzz angrily against any deviation from the ruling paradigm.
Trying to explain to someone how an oasis of green is superior to a paved expanse is a surreal exercise, especially if the listener just doesn't want to understand.
I realize that your advertisers (as pictured in the article) think that the boulevard design for Barton Springs Road will not help their business. I think they're mistaken, but time will tell. But what your advertisers don't seem to grasp is that the road does not exist to make them money. It is a public facility.
I do appreciate being asked to comment on the road renovation, and I credit you for quoting me fairly. But then, my words were fair. Trying to be fair, I pointed out that some people in the neighborhood are still not convinced that the project will be successful. But the majority are convinced.
The words of the merchants and landholders were full of insinuation and half-truth, yet you quoted their most preposterous balderdash with approval.
Every road construction project causes disruption, and this one has been no exception. However, this is one that the council got right.
I'm excited about the prospect of this beautiful new addition to our neighborhood, this gateway between Zilker Park and South Austin. I think folks who love the park, folks who walk or bicycle, and folks who like to sit on a patio and drink beer will enjoy this road, too.
Balance the Textbook Debate
For decades, a handful of Religious Right activists have dominated Texas' textbook selection process ["Making Everyone Happy," Sept. 13]. Texans who believe in ideology-free textbooks still have an opportunity to balance the debate before the Nov. 14 vote on proposed social studies texts, and to get involved now to protect biology and health textbooks under review in the next two years.
Chronicle readers who want to make their voices heard can check out the Texas Freedom Network's "I Object!" campaign to fight textbook censorship at www.tfn.org.
Texas Freedom Network
Football Over History
I have to agree that many of the textbooks history teachers have to use are bland enough to put the reader into deep hibernation ["Making Everyone Happy," Sept. 13], but the problem in history classes in the state of Texas is not just textbooks. It's not surprising to hear that only 10% of high school students are proficient in history when probably 90% of the history teachers in the state are coaches. Given the fact that coaches are required to spend more time getting ready for their next opponent than preparing for history class, and that many of them just don't give a damn about what happens in the classroom, it's not surprising to see that history is such a weak subject for many students. The true test of how serious we are about improving the level of history knowledge in our schools will come after the majority of students fail the upcoming TAKS. What will be more powerful -- The state of Texas or the almighty Texas football?
Straight Talk About Texas History
Regarding the fine piece by Lucius Lomax, "Who's Texas?: The Story of Texas History Says a Lot -- About the Storytellers" [Sept. 6]: Ain't that the truth? Having written over 30 hours of historical programming for the History Channel and A&E, I'm familiar with the dilemmas faced by the filmmakers charged with producing an IMAX film about Texas. Some of the points raised about the difficulty of seeming inclusive and accurate regarding the role of nonwhites are valid, but here's something the filmmakers should consider: If they find it impossible to be accurate and intelligent in conveying the role of African-Americans and Hispanics in Texas with a budget of $6 million, maybe the whole project should be scrapped, or perhaps shelved until a sufficient amount of money is available. Do it right, or not at all.
I respect Al Reinert; his involvement (garbling quinceanera notwithstanding) bodes well -- potentially -- for the project. But we must remember Texans' overwhelming tendency to whitewash our history, and I'm thankful to Lomax for raising these issues. I've found myself in the distasteful position of taking my son to an elementary school named after Robert E. Lee, an otherwise fine school where the Confederate general is celebrated in a prominent hall display touting him as a man of "honor and integrity." As a member of the South's slave-dependent aristocracy, Lee's "integrity" facilitated the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Americans in support of the perpetuation of slavery and genocide. The name of this school, in the heart of supposedly yuppie liberal bastion Hyde Park (originally created as an exclusively all-white suburb), is an insult to all Austinites and Texans and Americans, not to mention the African-American community living a mere stone's throw across I-35. This name should be changed to celebrate the legacy of a more suitable individual.
'ACL,' the True Story
Dear Mr. Black,
Here is an Austin trivia question that only the true native knows. Who was the other creator of Austin City Limits, besides Bill Arhos? No, it wasn't Terry Lickona! The answer is Bruce Scafe. I know this because I am his daughter. With the upcoming festival, I thought that it was time to get the record straight. Year after year, I hear about how great the show is. It must be good to have lasted since 1975. Year after year, my father's name is omitted from every book, every article, hell, every mention of the show that my sister helped name when she was 6. (Originally, it was to be named The Travis County Line Show, but Paula liked Austin Space better; she was a fan of the popular show Lost in Space! Dad then began thinking of names with Austin in the front.) Here is the true story of how Austin City Limits came to be.
During college, my father, an RTF student, with a major in music at the University of Illinois, created a live music show called The Session. It was a very popular show; Billy Joel did his first television performance on it. It ran for a while on public television, but my dad graduated, and had to move on. He needed to make a living, and the show didn't pay. That was in 1965-1966. After college, my parents married and settled down in southern Illinois for a short time before my dad received a job offer at a TV station in Dallas. Within a year, Bruce got a job offer to move to Austin to create another music show on public television, except this time they'd pay him! His true love was music, he's an excellent trumpet player, so he jumped at the chance! Apparently, they loved his work on The Session. That was in early 1974 -- I was 4 years old. I have fond memories of sitting on his knee, in the editing room, slicing film into the night. There are glimpses of my sister and me throughout the years: staring, mesmerized at Charlie Daniels, and many other bands, over the years. I even smelled pot there for the first time in my life! It was the Seventies, after all. My father quit Austin City Limits in 1979; he says that he left for "personal reasons." I think that sometimes he still misses it.
Recently, Bruce Scarfe was taken off of the shows credits as the creator. I'm sure that it hurt him deeply. He put his heart and soul into that show, sometimes working 18-hour stretches for months at a time. Austin City Limits was nominated for an Emmy the second year, and ACL won an award at the Chicago International Film Festival its first year. Over the years, ACL has won several awards. Dad says that only a show that is well structured, from the beginning, could last as long as ACL has. I know that he was a huge part of that success. Bill Arhos doesn't dispute these facts, but he never mentions my father, either. It's about time others knew. He also directed Carascolendas, the Spanish/English children's show in the Seventies, for those of you true Austinites who were wondering.
Thanks for letting me clear the air,
Sara Scafe Quadlander
In response to Dwight Brown's letter in the Sept. 20 issue:
Not sure if you're unclear on the concept, here, Dwight, so I thought I'd help you out.
The Chronicle is an alternative publication. That means that concerned and informed citizens such as myself can read the Chronicle to get stories and insights that are routinely ignored by the lapdog mainstream press.
So please stick your head back in the sand and go back to watching the Fox News Channel. Meanwhile, people who refuse to be spoon-fed their opinions by the corporatized media conglomerates can stay informed via the Chronicle and the Internet.
Just the Facts, Please
Please ask your writers to stop editorializing in the midst of allegedly delivering the news. As an example of what I'm referring to, on p.15 of the Sept. 13 issue, Lauri Apple writes in "Austin Stories" "One of the lamest Sept. 11 commemorations ..." and proceeds to editorialize all over the place. Apple is entitled to her opinions, but given that the forum of "Austin Stories" seems to be straight news, her comments are out of place. Thank you.
Remembering Sarah Ing
Robert Faires' fine memorial piece on Sarah Ing gave tribute to her contributions to Austin theatre. I'd like to add a bit about Sarah as a stand-up comic.
In 1996 or 1997, Sarah started showing up at the Comedy Gym workshops on Sunday nights. You couldn't help but notice her, with her hair color-of-the-week, big spiral tattoo on her back, and -- three years before it was popular -- her hip-hugger jeans with shorty shirts.
Over a couple of months, she developed some good bits. One was, "I just graduated from UT and have my degree, so now I'm a sacker at Whole Foods ..."
Some were startlingly funny. In one she described her mother as a "Baptist/Pagan" and would break into song about their women's gatherings: "We all come from the Goddess, and to her we shall return ... " Then the local Sheriff would show up, asking "What are you gals up to?"
"Oh, nothing," they'd say, "We're just sitting around drinking each other's menstrual blood ..."
The laughs, and the gigantic "Eeewww!" from the crowd was always fun to watch.
And some bits didn't work. And on the nights, like we all had, when the good bits didn't get laughs, and the sucky jokes still didn't work, she took it pretty hard. Ultimately, I think Sarah tried stand-up for fun, and when it wasn't fun enough, she refocused on her true creative love, which was acting.
Some people who do stand-up should have given up a long time ago. Others, like Sarah -- you wish they would have stayed. She was funny and beautiful and smart and vibrant. Although I only knew her comic to comic, I was glad to know her, and glad to get to see her perform.
So goodnight, Sarah, and thanks for coming out to the show.
Too Much Security Man
Intended or not, your juxtaposition of Too Much Coffee Man's rant about our fear being just what our government needs to pass yet more laws against terrorism and the letter from the anonymous (aren't they always?) fear monger who cleverly deduced a security leak at ABIA was priceless ["Postmarks," Sept. 20].
One wonders if our super-sleuth dashed off his public announcement to the paper before or after he reported his detective work to the SS, er, ah, Homeland Security. Are airlines failing because passengers actually fear a reoccurrence of 9/11 or because they refuse to incur the very likely, intrusive harassment by government-authorized public servants? And our boy volunteers to tighten the noose his two cents worth if he can just get to see his words in newsprint. Like The Jerk, now he's "somebody," albeit anonymous.
In his rebuttal to the (Sept. 13) letter from Carl Anderson, Michael King disabused me of an impression I have had for more than 50 years. I thought we used the atomic bomb on the Japanese for the same reason we had been dropping tons of conventional bombs, i.e., to get them to stop fighting. I also wasn't aware that the Truman administration was so prescient as to know that spies from "other nations" were riddling the U.S. atomic project that would lead to the test of Russian versions of the bomb four years later. My memory of that time is that the Russians were more intimidating than intimidated. They pretty much dominated the postwar geography of the Axis countries (which was settled before the use of atomic bombs).
Why We Should Attack Iraq
Your article "War Drums" [Sept. 20], among many other temerities, says that Congressional leaders continue to "fall in line" in support of an Iraqi war. Hyperbole is the lifeblood of politics, but still, if you want to be taken seriously, you should not refer to Congressional war decisions as "falling in line."
The above disrespect is especially curious because the article makes no discussion of, or even reference to, related issues such as Iraq's continued meetings between nuclear scientists and Saddam, its obstruction and trickery of previous weapons inspections teams, its attempt to assassinate the elder George Bush, its active and material support of Palestinian terror, its continual attempts to shoot down American planes, its eco-terrorism after the Gulf War, its grave human-rights record, etc.
It is even more curious since 13.4% of the article is a reference to a boxing match, with virtually no relevance to the immense amount of human suffering at stake.
On a related note, Tom Tomorrow's attempt [Sept. 20] to use the death of thousands of Iraqi Kurds in his humor formula is offensive. Like many talented satirists, he seems to be becoming a parody of himself.
I am running for president because I believe to attack a country unprovoked is immoral, lacking in the basic qualities of leadership, justice and wisdom, and an insult to the reputation and integrity of America.
I am running for president because George Bush is in power illegally and illegitimately through election fraud.
I am running for president because I am not a Mason, I don't have a powdered wig, and I believe that we, as a society, are ready for a new system of government.
I am running for president because I don't owe countless favors, I am not a career politician and I don't have a dollar to my name.
I am running for president because I believe I can make a difference.
And Mr. Bush, I am going to win.
Caring Approach to Keep Kids in School
Paul Cruz (Education Administrator) had the idea to add the incentive for college credit, a great idea. However, is it enough?
New tests and truancy laws have been used in the past. Dropout rates stay the same. A new ethics law has been imposed to punish the teachers. In this cycle of punishment, where is the caring?
Often problems such as posttraumatic stress disorder, attention deficit disorder, and dyslexia impair the performance of students leading to feelings of hopelessness and anger. An option is school, more counselors, and team leadership. Death of family, premarital sex, harassment, divorce and poverty contribute to posttraumatic stress disorder. Even the strongest person[s] feel weak, angry, and out of control.
A way to enforce counseling is through truancy laws. Modify the laws so after five unexcused absences they need to talk to a counselor. After 10, they can maintain a C average, but only with mandatory counseling sessions. If they have trouble showing up to class, failing them will make the mountain higher.
Professionals can catch problems in advance, create a blanket, plus give an excuse for why they go to counseling. There are those who would stop going to school over saying they need help. Other methods would have to take place in these cases.
This would not demand more taxes either. Higher tax burden for education in the works. Moving education administrators into a child psychology program would keep cost consistent. With the requirements of psychology and teaching degree, it is a matter of who is more qualified.
Offer a helping hand to promote change, than punish those in hard times. No one wants to be a loser. We can still build brighter futures.
Thank you for being the best source of news in Austin.
Stop Iraq Idiocy
George Bush is using Iraq to distract from his incompetent and unethical administration. There is no evidence of an imminent threat from Iraq against the United States; even the administration is not claiming that Iraq is involved with global terrorism. The current warmongering is an excuse to distract from the scandals of Bush's corporate friends, not to mention Dick Cheney's shenanigans with Halliburton. War talk conveniently displaces discussion of all other issues, including our vanishing civil liberties and our increasingly toxic environment. The economy is collapsing, and Americans want leadership on the domestic front, not aggression toward an external target, actions that alienate our allies and will soon sap taxpayer funds even further. Stop this idiocy now.
There are a couple of facts that Americans have to face up to. One: Saddam is harboring known terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. Two: He is trying to obtain or already has obtained nuclear capability. To deny this is to laugh in the face of conventional wisdom. Nukes + terrorists = eventual disaster. There are too many lives at stake to say that this equation has never been proven. Which American city or cities are you willing to bet that I am wrong?
Terrorists are now using difficult-to-trace prepaid cell phones and GPS tracking devices, a sign of sophistication we haven't previously seen. To underestimate them any further could mean catastrophe. Rumors abound that Saddam, and hence al Qaeda, have already obtained a few fission devices from Soviet break-off countries. In my opinion the U.S. government would never make this information public.
We must assume the worst and act fast. We should isolate their cities, control movement in and out, and destroy all of their military targets. To do less would be risking global catastrophe. A nuclear or dirty bomb could be leaving an Iraqi port as you read this. Maybe it will change containers in Spain. But ask yourself "What is its final destination?"
As Americans, we always want to give others the benefit of the doubt. But Saddam Hussein deserves no benefit. His behavior is flatly unacceptable. He is a mass murderer. It is unfortunate that innocent people will die, but history shows us that more will die if evil goes unchecked. I think our armed forces are up to the task of ousting this madman with minimal loss of life, possibly resulting in democracy in the Middle East. They have been planning such for a year now. The only mistake we can make is waiting too long.
Thanks for including the We Agnostics AA meeting in your Classifieds listing. We helped several folks find us, including some Al-Anon and "Mainstream AA."
We still meet (Tues., 8pm) and can continue to help folks find a spiritual serenity without alcohol. Please continue to list us any time you need to fill some space.
A Grateful Bunch of Drunks
To the Editor:
Heading home from a dog walk Saturday necessitated crossing Guadalupe. Roughly 80 million runners were heading south on Guad. When my herding dogs spot running mammals, instinct dictates that they round up the bunch. Being a good alpha, I determined it best to guide my pack from this crowd quickly, so no heels got nipped.
I continued north to the crosswalk at Guad and 41st. I spotted a cop and politely asked, "Could you help me cross?" He turned to face me, his mouth full of whistle (which he was not blowing), his eyes covered by standard-issue cop shades. Saying nothing, he began gesticulating wildly as if auditioning for a small, community dinner-theatre revival of the Shields and Yarnell Show. Thinking he wanted me to press the crosswalk button I asked, "Do you really suppose they'd stop for a red light?" (I know runners in Germany would stop for a red light, but I find that in Austin, most bikes, cars, and pedestrians consider stop signs, red lights, walk signs, speed limits, and the like mere suggestions and not, you know, mandatory.)
Again, he poked his finger in the air as if his forearm were having a curious, isolated seizure. I turned to follow his index finger and saw a small sign indicating traffic delays.
How sad this bitter clown is out there destroying the rep of decent Austin cops and respectable mimes alike.
Well, at least he didn't shoot my dogs.
Library Book Sale a Success
On behalf of the Austin Public Library I would like to thank the community for supporting this year's Friends of the Austin Public Library annual book sale, September 14-15. This year the Friends of the Austin Public Library sold a record-breaking number of books and materials. The Friends raised over $68,000, which goes to the library to fund special programs and equipment. I would also like to publicly thank the countless number of volunteers and the Friends of APL Board who work tirelessly throughout the year to make the book sale the success that it is.
Director of Libraries
Amber Alert System Asking for Trouble
The Amber Alert system is a promising idea, but what will it become in the hands of a hate radio station like KLBJ-AM? It is too easy to imagine "Sergeant" Sam Cox with his face pressed against a camera, warning motorists to be on the lookout for a fugitive book reader believed to be in possession of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Standiford and the Economy
There's a grain of truth in Jason Meador's comment ... "if it pisses off Kurt Standiford it's probably good for the economy" ["Postmarks," Sept. 20].
AIDS pisses me off, Mr. Meador. Pharmaceutical giants are laughing all the way to the bank while pandering to homophiles and others who pervade the pandemic. All that consumer spending must be "good for the economy."
Hey Meador, is it true that around your place in Luling, "safe-sex" includes tagging the sheep and goats that have been known to kick?
P.S. Good luck, Coach! You will never get a good job until you lose the one you've got ...
Donations Do Help
Hello, my name is Bob Muhn. My girlfriend and I have just moved to Austin and within two weeks have found ourselves at a poverty level neither one of us was familiar with.
Living in an extended-stay motel our limited funds were diminishing rapidly and we were soon to be living on the streets.
So we took our last few dollars and set out to find an apartment. Well, we were successful in spending all the money we had -- $85 in application fees and deposits. We moved into a very small one-bedroom apartment, and in order to eat we had to find some sort of assistance. After many calls we finally obtained a list of churches that would provide food, obtained from private donations.
What a blessing, being able to eat after being very hungry. Going into day three we were given a small bag of groceries; as far as we're concerned it came straight from heaven! But what really burned me up was this lady (we'll call her Amy?) who made this comment, "I would almost rather have a job! This church circuit is almost as bad as having a job." The audacity of this lady. Although we haven't been able to secure full-time jobs yet we are no longer dependent on the churches and this wonderful community to support us. And as for Amy, hopefully one day she'll understand the purpose of these ministries is to provide short-term help for people like myself and my girlfriend (Theresa) so we are able to become contributing citizens of this or any community.
And God as my witness when we are able we will give back to what we now call our community (tenfold).
A quick note to your readers: Remember, local donations help local people. So if you can clean out your pantries or spend an extra five or 10 dollars at the grocery store and drop it off at the church of your choice or food bank, do it today. You'll feel better about yourself, and remember, your donations really do help!
Bob Muhn and Theresa Perry