Our readers talk back.
Children's Future at Stake
Dr. Patrick Connolly writes a heartfelt letter seeking public complicity in Seton's plan to move the children's hospital out of the heart of Austin ["Postmarks," Nov. 8]. He is clearly right when he says that the public hospital's children's unit is inadequate to meet the needs of Austin and Travis County.
Many of us agree with Dr. Connolly's assertion that there should only be one children's hospital. Seton's management evidently thinks otherwise, however, as it has announced its intention to build and run its own, separate children's hospital while contractually bound to manage the children's hospital unit of Brackenridge Hospital for the next 60 years.
The problems with Seton's plan to move Children's Hospital out of its central location are self-evident and devastating. First, the current location is readily accessible to all county children, rich and poor. The citizens or their representatives, and not some private entity, should determine whether moving an integral part of our health care network is appropriate after weighing all the costs and benefits. Second, and more ominous, Children's Hospital is the only profitable component of the public hospital complex. Dr. Connolly casually refers to Seton's new state-of-the-art children's hospital that will grow and prosper "albeit under different ownership." What that means is that all the prosperity of the new hospital will inure to Seton's benefit, not to the benefit of the citizens and taxpayers of Travis County. Thus, when the time comes to set tax rates to fund the rest of the public hospital complex, we will all pay more, while Seton presides over its "prosperous" children's hospital.
All of these deficiencies demand deliberate remedial action as soon as possible. But none must, or even can, be fixed overnight. Dr. Connolly implores that "we must make plans now for the future." He is correct. We -- the citizens of Travis County -- must prepare now for our future. We must not leap at Seton's attempt to lure us into a quick fix that will only exacerbate already dire conditions.
Travis County Probate Judge
The Real Cost of Traffic
As Naked City notes, the Downtown Austin Mobility Plan is to be discussed in upcoming City Council meetings, starting Nov. 21.
The D.A.M.P. plan is based on the assumption that the most serious problem with Austin's traffic is a delay of about 15 minutes per day per motorist. The Austin American-Statesman has run several articles that claim that a traffic delay of 15 minutes per day per motorist results in large financial losses. These articles estimate "the cost of traffic delays" by multiplying one-fourth hour per motorist per day by the population of Austin times the number of days of work per year times the mean hourly salary. This is not real money.
But real money is lost in Austin's traffic every day, not due to delays but due to injuries. How many people in Austin are incapacitated, temporarily or permanently, each day in traffic crashes? (Extrapolating from annual national figures, the average is probably about 10 people per day.) How much does this cost? There's the cost of medical treatment, an ambulance, and sometimes a helicopter. There are financial losses due to lost productivity when an incapacitated person misses time at work or loses the job due to injuries. There's the cost of dragging away and disposing of the crashed cars, and sometimes the cost of repairing a damaged road. There are funeral costs for the 75 or so people who are killed in these crashes in Austin each year. And there is considerable pain and suffering. These costs are real.
Why does the city pay for studies of traffic delays but not studies of traffic injuries? We're told that public safety is the city's No. 1 priority. Yet the imaginary "costs" of traffic delays count for more than the very real costs of traffic injuries. I urge the City Council to reject the D.A.M.P.
'Tuff Enuff' Not Good Enough
The Texperts made some great choices on the "Texas Top Forty" [Nov. 8], but you've got to eject "Tuff Enuff." This tune simply doesn't measure up to the other fine choices. I nominate any Buck Owens record to take its place.
Congratulations to the American people in the results of the recent election. In that election, you have accomplished at least the following: ensured a reversal in caring for the environment; assured drilling for oil in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge; assured big business, especially oil, of the assistance of the government over that of American citizens; assured the degradation of American citizens' constitutional civil rights; assured a "police force" (Homeland Security) with excessive powers; assured privatization of Social Security; and assured privatization of public schools. You are happy now. Will you be in five or so years when the effects of these drastic measures take effect?
Fixing what is wrong with the Democratic Party, on all levels, is going to take more than just a name change from liberal to progressive. The key to this election was winning the independent voter. The Democrats failed to do this. There are several reasons why:
(1) The race card: The Chronicle's lukewarm endorsement of the "dream ticket" included that it represented a "historic payback" for minority voters -- hardly a reason to vote for it. Voting for somebody because of race is just as bad as voting against him or her because of his or her race.
(2) Anti-Americanism: You of course have a right to speak out against war or the president. But when you fail to disassociate yourself from those who blame America for terrorism or lend support to potential enemies, expect voter backlash. Mr. Wheeler ["Too Much Coffee Man," Nov. 8] spoke for a small minority with his apology to the rest of the world. Joe Voter feels that despite some shortcomings, the world is a better place because of America and it does not owe the rest of the world an apology.
(3) Votes on the issues tell another story. Universal health care in Oregon was rejected by around 80% of the voters. Joe Voter may want to help the poor get health care but he does not want to be forced into yet another government program the way he is with Social Security. He wants you to do a better job with the money you are already taking from him. Not the same old ideas of more money for more programs. And, unlike Louis Black, he does not consider IRS enforcement a "social service," considering the trampling of the Fourth Amendment involved.
(4) The assertion of many "progressives" that Joe Voter did not understand what he was voting for or against. You are not likely to sway voters by calling them stupid.
(5) I was glad to see that Mike Clark-Madison is familiar with The Federalist ["Austin @ Large," Nov. 8]. Perhaps when Mr. Clark-Madison and Mr. Black start worrying about federal social services they will look up The Federalist No. 25.
Carl A. Anderson
Homophobia Is a Drag
I wanted to take a moment to thank The Austin Chronicle and those involved with putting together their recent Drag Ball at Club Elysium. I certainly enjoyed the performances, which were stellar, and I was pleased to see local celebrities like Stephen MacMillan Moser of the Chronicle and Miss Kitty of radio station 93.3, as well as many friends.
I would be remiss however, if I did not relate an incident that happened while I was there that caused my friends and I to leave somewhat prematurely. It should be said that my date and I arrived in drag, as per the theme of the evening, and were treated very nicely by the staff of the club as well as most of the patrons. Of course, there is always an exception, which presented itself in the form of a man who turned to his date after sneering at me for several minutes and loudly exclaimed, "I could almost handle all the [expletive] dykes in this bar, but these [expletive] faggots make me wanna hit somebody. I wish I had a hammer right now." When his date pulled him away from me, he spit in my direction. We left shortly afterward. While I commend the Chronicle and the event coordinators and sponsors on putting together such an entertaining and festive affair, I have to bring this up if only to illustrate that even though we live in a supposedly permissive and liberal town like Austin, there are still people here capable of intense hatred of others based solely on outward appearances. I appeal to readers of this letter to adopt a more tolerant stance in dealing with their fellow human beings. To judge and dislike someone based solely on their outward appearance is both saddening and ignorant. Incidents such as these make people afraid to leave their homes. I can't pretend to change the world but if this letter changes at least the way one person thinks, then it has been worth writing.
David Lee Richardson III
More About Monorail
I read with great interest the story ["News," Oct. 4] "The Devil in the Details: Downtown Great Streets Plan Stalled by Commuter Roadblocks." The Austin Monorail Project supports the Great Streets idea and underlying guidelines. However, we would like to point out the advantages of monorail as a rapid transit solution that makes it a natural fit with the proposed Great Streets program.
We believe that Monorail and Great Streets are a "great fit" because:
I invite interested readers to read about monorail and Great Streets in more detail at our Web site, www.austinmonorail.org.
President and founder
Austin Monorail Project
The Consequences of Apathy
Dear Citizens that Did Not Vote:
To the 60% (national average) that chose not to vote in this last election, screw you. I really don't care what lame excuse you have for your lack of participation, you have now handed over the power of Congress to a dangerous president. The blood of every person that dies because of Bush's agenda is on your hands. You have now defiled the memories of Dr. Martin Luther King, Susan B. Anthony, our founding families, and the millions of people who have dedicated their lives to securing and protecting our right to vote. You have delegitimized the anti-war movement by standing silently. It was a historic vote indeed.
I suggest all you nonvoters slap some duct tape over your mouths, drop your pants, and bend over, because that is essentially what you agreed to. No, really, if you didn't vote, then shut up. You had your chance and you blew it.
Election Could Be a Scam
Do you feel like a pawn?
I question the results of this mid-term election -- I would like to see them verified, beyond a doubt. After all the lies, corruption, and theft of the past two years, who is to say these election results weren't gamed? I have not been satisfied with the "investigation" of the 2000 election, except for Vincent Bugliosi's "They used to call it treason" (TheNation.com) analysis of the Supreme Court's legal determination of the "harm to Mr. Bush" to finish counting the ballots. Did the "Gang of Five" come up with that one on the golf course with Daddy, ex-Director of the CIA?
After the devastation of the Twin Towers attack I am not satisfied with the actions taken to "protect" the people of this country or to produce an independent investigation. Why isn't the Saudi government under investigation? Our "government" continues propping up the oil industry and all its supporting interests! Without capturing the CIA operative Osama (surprise), why now attack the people of Iraq, bombed and economically sanctioned over 10 years, and the old ally Saddam? Could it be to distract the American public from the billions of dollars needed for bridges, roads, dams, water and wastewater systems, schools, and education that need replacement now because they were built after WWII? We have plenty of opportunities to stimulate the economy -- fight the war at home, a class war.
Our government in essence assists, by non-enforcement, CEOs and top-ranking execs to rob the public of their jobs, retirement money, health, and environment. They did it before with the Reagan Administration's Savings and Loan scam. Nothing happened. Crooks in three-piece suits brought to justice? A war with Iraq will be their next cash cow, benefiting this same minority while murdering millions of innocent children. Your children, not the powerful minority.
Are we the cost of doing business?
What was that tea party all about?
Too Much Libel Man
Dear the Rest of the World:
I want to extend my heartfelt apologies for the self-loathing, full-of-lies, hateful screed of Shannon Wheeler ["Too Much Coffee Man," Nov. 8]. If the United States were a person, it would be able to extract all the money Mr. Wheeler ever will acquire in a successful libel lawsuit against him. The United States has fought wars all over the world to free itself from a British monarchy, to secure the full rights of humanity for African-Americans in our own land, to make the high seas safe from marauding pirates, twice to secure the freedom of Europe from tyrants, and to defend our own nation against those who would kill our citizens -- and after all of that fighting, our "pushing the rest of the world around," and our motive for "power" it has brought us the conquered-against-their-will nations of ... well, in only one of Mr. Wheeler's lies, we have conquered and held no nation against its will.
While we may indeed consume a larger-than-per-capita share of the world's resources, it is done while we produce a larger-than-per-capita share of the world's goods and services -- Mr. Wheeler doesn't seem to understand that the two go hand-in-hand. Indeed, Mr. Wheeler doesn't seem to understand much of anything -- we have less of a problem with the human mistakes of racism, sexism, class division, etc., than the rest of the world. Guess that fact is lost on this lost soul. Mr. Wheeler seems to loathe a free world where people are free to be consumers if they want, instead longing for a world which he controls and in which he is alone able to command the world to do his bidding. I'm grateful I don't live in Mr. Wheeler's world!
I apologize for nothing my nation stands for -- I am proud to be an American and proud of our heritage on this Earth. What kind of cruel world would we live in if the United States never existed? The only thing I apologize for is the ignorant rantings of lowlifes like Mr. Wheeler -- except for the mullet haircut that is, for he is right about that.
R. Barry Crook
Prison Rodeo Benefits Only a Few
Is bringing the Prison Rodeo back in the best interest of the state? Or is the advocacy behind it merely a pretext to manipulate and selfishly use the incarcerated to raise revenues for the community of Huntsville?
One position states that liability waivers are a panacea for practicability for the revival of the Prison Rodeo. However, because contestants would be state inmates, prison officials cannot leave them untreated. The state must provide medical care to its incarcerated population, and the state's expenses for medical services to inmates are already astronomical. In fact, one month's worth of prescription costs alone is higher than most can fathom. Expenditures involved for a long-term debilitating injury, perhaps the result of a bull stepping on a participant's head, would be greater than advocates are claiming and certainly more than most are willing to spend. A Prison Rodeo could wind up costing taxpayers millions of dollars in additional, needless health care expenses.
However, proponents of the Texas Prison Rodeo claim the costs are worth the benefits. So what are the benefits? It would bring tourists to Huntsville, Texas. Visitors, especially those who decide to stay overnight, can then help the city raise money through its local hotel/motel tax. But residents in other parts of the state may not favor the idea of state revenues being drained to pay for inmate injuries just so one county (Walker) benefits. Texas has better ways to allocate state funds, such as on education and health care initiatives for those not behind bars.
Thus, it is encouraged that citizens write to your state officials and express your views. Do not allow the community of Huntsville to decide this matter for all of Texas when its ramifications would be felt statewide.
Once again, this city has lost something that made it special. The best tattoo studio in Austin, Alliance Body Art, closed its doors late last month, due in part to a lack of patronage. This studio had a unique character with its elaborate handmade signs and menagerie of original art and horror film artifacts, but, more significantly, it stood alone in its integrity and talent pool. Both artists Joe Kennett and Jonzig created body art that was unparalleled in this city. Their techniques and artistry stand up proudly the world over (I say this from personal experience, my arm sleeves have garnered admiration all the way to eastern Europe and South America) yet they still were unable to gain enough local support for their business. While Alliance is gone and nothing will resurrect it, I felt its passing was indicative of the larger problem in Austin and the U.S. in general. More and more we tend to respond to what is in front of us, and we are too willing to exchange quality for convenience. Alliance wasn't on Sixth Street or the Drag, and it wasn't the type of studio where one would go to get a flash tattoo of the Red Dog logo or the Tazmanian Devil. There are no rewards for quality and talent in America anymore; wanting to offer more than the lowest common denominator is effectively a recipe for financial ruin these days. All I can say is that it figures and it's one more reason to give up on this McSociety for good. In the meantime, if anyone is interested in getting some truly exquisite tattoos, Jonzig is taking appointments at Aces High in South Austin (sadly, I don't know where to direct people for Mr. Kennett's services at the time of this writing). Also, visit www.jonzig.com to find out more information. These guys still deserve support, studio or no studio, so I ask that readers actually make some effort and find out what they are missing.
Same Old Song
Oh my. We keep running into the same customers. Those fellas from Britain just keep rolling into the White House, taking over the English throne and plopping it down right here in America. I suppose it's been going on since well before the Civil War, when those Tories in waiting began plotting to use good ol' English skull and bones capital to industrialize the East Coast and prepare the factory floors for low wage workers from the South ... after the Civil War ... then marched into the western lands to convert the Mexicans and Indians and freed slaves and sodbusters into wage slaves, free to come and go, creating poverty at the rate of whatever buffalo could be killed off ... more bank financing for big Texas ranchers who eventually came around to crown George Sr. and his royal sons to pave the way for Rick Perry ... a man who can't even keep rhythm with the Austin Symphony Orchestra. And lets not forget the vast accumulation of mineral wealth in Texas and points south and west, getting off the gold standard, printing paper money backed by ... well ... military power ... South African diamonds ... marriages of convenience ... a parking garage.
Oh yeah, a minority of Americans are still in charge of law and politics. They would even have you believe that they are the choicest candidates for the job. Of course, they aren't very good plumbers, but they manufacture very ... er ... functional voting machines. Yeah, I'll save my curses for private meetings, fiction, etc. ... but don't cross me on the soapbox, Rick ... George ... Dick ... I have friends in high places.
Todd Alan Smith