Our readers talk back.
Is an Agenda Showing?
To the Chronicle,
While serving on the Water and Wastewater Commission from 1997 to 2000, I became personally aware of the illogical and specious theories Mr. Oppel likes to advance in his Sunday editorials. In all seriousness, he called me a KGB agent as part of a tirade implying citizen committees should be seen and not heard.
The latest tirade from Mr. Oppel encourages readers to believe that, under the sway of a radical and dangerous enviro-agenda, the city squandered its resources by protecting the salamander and ignoring a public health hazard ["Toxic agenda taints Barton report," The Austin Chronicle, Jan. 24]. In advancing this blatantly irresponsible theory, he doled out a cautionary word about political agendas and ended by reiterating his concern for the dangers of the city's crumbling sewer system. When he interviewed me four years ago, I directed his attention to the costly maintenance problems inherent in our centralized sewer system. Instead of informing his readers of a serious problem at that time, he used his column to concentrate on name-calling. So, please, off the soapbox, Mr. Oppel. Your agenda is showing.
On the other hand, city staff and City Council deserve their share of the responsibility for obfuscating the problem. This vacuum allowed Mr. Oppel to identify the problem on his own terms. The examination of this situation -- the degradation of the springs and general water quality -- requires interested citizens to be kept informed and given more, not less, access. Until it is explained why concerned and affected citizens were not given information on a timely basis by the city, I encourage council members to recuse themselves from any investigative panels on the subject.
I urge the Chronicle not to allow the two biggest megaphones in town -- the city of Austin and the Austin American-Statesman -- to define the problem and the solution.
Thanks for Quick Response
Thank you so very much for your quick response ["Toxic agenda taints Barton report," Jan. 24] to the Statesman's sensational political "effort."
Log Water-Quality Data
I have worked with the city professionals for years on water quality. They are honest, dedicated, competent, and thorough. Barton Springs and creek get more of their attention and examination than any other water resource in Central Texas. Their call on human use should be respected. The resident salamander, more sensitive to pollution than humans, survives despite all the new development upstream. The Statesman launched an unjustified, extremist chemical threat on our citizens and visitors and frivolously diverted declining taxpayer-funded resources ["Toxic agenda taints Barton report," The Austin Chronicle, Jan. 24]. Had the water-quality database and reporting process I proposed in several water-quality meetings dating back to 1996 been put in place, we might have avoided the current debacle. Now it's time for the city to build a common database of water-quality data for all creeks in Austin, analyze the data, present long-term trends in publicly understandable format on the Web, and set action limits and response programs for key measured parameters.
Bull Creek Foundation
So maybe the reason the City Council hasn't been overly friendly to Barton Creek is because they knew all along that it was a toxic waste dump. Gee, do ya think?
This sounds like more than tainted soils, it sounds like tainted souls.
Andrew Paul Wheeler
Fonda Good Neighbor
As the person named in your Jan. 10 issue ["Not So Fond of Fonda"] and last week's letter to the editor about parking on Woodview close to Fonda San Miguel ["Postmarks," Jan. 24], I would like to correct misrepresentations and falsehoods that have been put into print. We have lived in peace with our neighborhood for 28 years. I was shocked to read these accusations and perplexed that Beth Rumancik has chosen to trumpet her rancor in the press before she talked to me personally. She suggests that we haven't been willing to work with the neighborhood. The facts show just the opposite.
Nearly two years ago, an architect and I went to our neighborhood association's meeting. We described ideas for adding a special-events room onto the restaurant. There were objections to these plans. As good neighbors, we abandoned the project.
Ms. Rumancik says that it was suggested that we ask to use the parking available from other nearby businesses and that we have failed to do so. That is not true, since we have had parking from our commercial neighbors available for years.
Also, Ms. Rumancik says that one of the reasons that Fonda's diners park in front of her and others' houses is because some of our patrons don't wish to pay valet fees. Untrue. Valet parking is free to our diners, paid for by us.
The fact is, we live in a city that has grown tremendously. I moved to Austin 40 years ago. Every Austinite has experienced increased parking demands. Each day on my block in Rosedale, cars are parked in front of my home because of nearby businesses. Do I complain? No. And please consider that if there weren't neighborhood restaurants like ours, Austin's dining choices would be limited to franchise restaurants on I-35 and other major thoroughfares.
Curiously, Beth has put herself on a "mission" and has stirred the pot without thinking this through. Parking on public streets is not for the exclusive use of the persons living in the houses on those streets. This isn't a gated neighborhood. Fonda has been an extraordinary neighbor. We don't have obnoxious neon signs soaring in the air. The restaurant has received beautification awards from the neighborhood association. We go to special pains to use local suppliers. We constantly host fundraisers for many local organizations and contribute to schools and other neighborhood groups, including Beth's son's elementary school.
I am not an unreasonable nor unreceptive man as I have been portrayed. Fonda San Miguel and Tom Gilliland insensitive to their neighborhood? Sorry, Beth, that unfair accusation won't stick.
Tom Gilliland, Co-Owner
Fonda San Miguel Restaurant
Is That You, 9918? It's Me, 9902
Like many people, I've been following the developing romance in your "Shot in the Dark" section of the personal ads.
Will 9918, who's looking for "wasted, clinging desperately to a tree outside of Stubb's" finally connect with 9902, who was "drunk redhead hanging on a tree on Red River"? Or are they doomed to be the Scully/Mulder of Austin nightlife, always a little too wasted, or too far up the tree to connect?
I can't wait for the next installment.
Never Mind the Pistols, Here's Seger
"Musically, I remember it sucked." (Louis Black)
"It wasn't music, but it was important." (Louis Black)
"It sucked musically." (Margaret Moser)
"There's a bold, throbbing line that runs more or less directly from that glorious night in January 1978 to the Live Music Capital of the World era we're living today." (Jesse Sublett)
"In a way, the Chronicle happened at that show." (Louis Black)
(From "Holiday in San Antonio: The Night the Sex Pistols Went Off at Randy's Rodeo"; Chronicle; Jan. 10, 2003.)
So 25 years ago, a bunch of people went to see the Sex Pistols in San Antonio, it changed their lives, and that's why the Chronicle and the Austin Music Scene are what they are today?
Of course, 25 years ago, some of us who were working at bars and concert halls all over Austin were dealing with pretentious scene-makers (singly or in groups of eight) on a nightly basis, little realizing how our lives were in the process of being changed down there in San Antonio. Many of the musicians who were around then, some of whom were treated condescendingly in the article, are still making music or being listened to today: Bob Seger, Willie Nelson, Alvin Crow, Ray Price. Anybody heard anything from the Sex Pistols lately?
"When the attitude transcends the music, the attitude can redeem the music." (Louis Black)
Attitude over substance. Maybe this does explain the current state of the Austin music scene ... and the Chronicle.
Badgley & the Bookslut
To the Editor:
Interesting that Badgley suggests Bookslut.com "inspired my ire" with a recent "article" ["Who's That Girl," Jan. 24]. In fact, the online transcript of their bald-faced-lie-filled conversation was hardly "inspiring." If anything, it provoked pity, conveyed (at least I'd hoped) in an e-mail I sent congratulating them on their "thorough research."
I am happy to allow Bookslut and the Chronicle to republish my piece to prove what a steaming pile of shit the Bookcunt's allegations are.
I'd like to offer the following quote to Miss Crispin and Mr. Badgley as they giggle their way through their twenties feigning intellectualism. It's from an author they might not have heard of, so I'll type real slow. (Note: I do substitute the word "books" for "sex"):
"Another thing you'll find is that the years of illusion aren't those of adolescence ... they're the ones immediately after it, say the middle twenties, the false maturity if you like, when you first get thoroughly embroiled in things and lose your head ... That's when you first realize that books are important to other people besides yourself. A discovery that can't help knocking you off balance for a while." -- Carol Goldsmith in Kingsley Amis' Lucky Jim (1953).
What Libertarians Think
I heard State Rep. Elliott Naishtat on the radio. He said that he was planning to file a bill to raise cigarette taxes by a dollar per pack and use the money to help low-income folks.
I know a young couple who both, regrettably, smoke. She stays home to watch the baby while he earns about $20,000 per year. They barely scrape by, but they would be a lot better off if not for the nearly $1,500 of cigarette taxes they have to pay each year. (That's 7.5% of their meager income. With property taxes, sales taxes, phone taxes, etc., they pay close to 25% in tax.)
Representative Naishtat's new tax will cost them $730 more per year if it passes. That will certainly push them into poverty.
The problem with taxing poor people to cure poverty is that, when the taxes roll into Austin, the bureaucracy takes a hefty cut before the relief checks go out. Sometimes it's better to just leave people alone and not "help" them. That's what Libertarians think.
Vincent J. May
I participated in the anti-war rally on the Congress Avenue Bridge on Tuesday. Several of the protesters walked out onto the street in order to deliver a clearer message to the government. Many more people agreed to participate in this, however, when the time came only a handful took the step. As a result, a few people were arrested.
I hate to be abrasive. But, here it is ... our government knows that we do not want this "war for oil," and they do not care. Yes, they know we disagree, but now they also know that we are not willing to sacrifice anything but a few hours of time to stop them. This obedience has never effected change.
We are all supporting murder with our dollars. We are all guilty. Holding a sign does not overcome the support we have all given to a murderous government. We are all still guilty.
When one takes a step against war, it is only effective when others follow. Most of us know that this war is wrong ... stand up ... effect change ... how? ... Disrupt things that matter to those who stand to profit from this war.
The legal and obedient protest of Tuesday was great, however, I found its means and magnitude more appropriate for the protest of a tree being cut down ... not the potential murder of a half a million people.
Uphold First Amendment Rights
I'm one of the plaintiffs that sued the city of Austin recently for violation of First Amendment rights. Our small group of protesters was charged by a mounted police unit. Our goal was to force the city to change policies and training for the Austin Police Department. It is never acceptable to use horses against a peaceful crowd, no matter the size. APD policy currently states that mounted horse units should only be used for large crowds. Every officer who testified described our group as a small crowd. None described us as violent.
We learned during this trial, that of the 3,000 hours of training that officers get, not one single hour goes to First Amendment rights. I find it incredible that the city of Austin, the capital of the state of Texas, does not train its officers in the most important civil right we have. The sergeant in charge of the mounted police unit hadn't even looked at his Bill of Rights in 15 years.
Judge Margaret A. Cooper, who ruled that the city of Austin should be dropped from the lawsuit on the fourth day of the trail, has an interesting perspective on First Amendment issues. Judge Cooper has twice ruled against First Amendment rights in the recent past, once even putting a gag order on an AP reporter that was later overturned as unconstitutional.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." What part of that right doesn't the city of Austin/APD understand? If you don't fight to keep your rights, don't be surprised when you lose them.
Jam Bands Deserve More Attention
I look forward to the Chronicle Music Poll every year, but this year one category on the ballot seems kind of confusing. The category, "space rock/jam/experimental."
I am a lifetime Austinite, and Chronicle reader, as well as a "jam band" fan. I consider bands like Phish, Widespread Panic, String Cheese Incident, Moe, etc., as "jam" music. I'm not sure what "space rock" is, and I don't know if it belongs in the same category as "jam." Of course, I mean no disrespect to "space rock" fans. "Experimental" also seems like a pretty broad term.
The jam band scene is a credible genre of music, selling hundreds of thousands, if not millions of CDs and concert tickets. I think jam bands deserve their own category if you are to include them at all, and they should be included.
I would also like to see more coverage of jam bands in general, in the Chron. As headliners of the Austin City Limits Festival last year, String Cheese Incident, deserved more media attention than they got. They are a truly inspiring band of excellent musicians, and as anyone who's seen them will tell you, they put on incredible shows.
Last year we also saw great shows by Widespread Panic, Disco Biscuits, Dark Star Orchestra, Phil Lesh, and many other jam bands, without hardly a mention in the Chron. There are also several local jam bands that deserve more coverage, such as Larry, Flounders Without Eyes, Groovin' Ground, and Jabaruy.
People are going to these shows, buying CDs, and spending lots of money in our community. Shouldn't they get more medial coverage, especially from our local, liberal paper?
Otherwise, the Chron is a great paper, keep up the good work.
P.S. What's up with Southpark Meadows these days?
Standiford's Creative Reactions
RE: "Who Is Kurt Standiford?" ["Postmarks," Jan. 24]
Dear Sam, if you've been reading the Chronicle for 15 years you must have figured out by now that Kurt is a shill. Everyone knows that there simply aren't any reactionaries in the world who can write that creatively.
Looking Back at 1978
I was also at the Sex Pistols' concert in San Antonio ["Holiday in San Antonio; The Night the Sex Pistols Went Off at Randy's Rodeo," Jan. 10]. I was in the middle of the crowd near the stage trying to get pictures of Johnny Rotten, and I recall the commotion that took place off to my left just in front of Sid Vicious. At the time I didn't know exactly what had happened. I've read about the incident in other magazines, but reading your article was a little like watching the show over again through multiple video cameras shooting at various angles. Thanks for filling me in.
After the Clash show at the Armadillo, I was in the lobby of the Sheraton Crest Hotel with a few friends hoping to see the band. We spotted Mick Jones walking with his arm around a woman (Terri) who I recognized as the drummer from a local band. (I thought it was Aces 88 at the time, not the Jitters; my mistake?) We casually strolled along next to them as they moved toward the elevator. One of the friends with me got on the elevator and rode up with Terri and Mick. She thought we'd all gotten on the elevator together. When she turned around to face the closing doors, she realized we were still in the lobby and she was all alone with Mick and Terri. Her eyes bugged out with a silly grin on her face while the doors closed to start the ride upstairs.
Again, thanks for filling me in.
Both articles took me back to other shows I saw at Randy's: Elvis Costello, Patti Smith, the Ramones. And at the Armadillo: the Clash (twice), more Ramones, XTC, and others. Wazmo Nariz opened for XTC. I hope I spelled Wazmo's name right, for some reason his act stuck with me.
I don't consider myself old enough to be "looking back at the old days," much less read in the papers that one by one, the band members are dying. Frank Sinatra let my dad get much older than I am now.
From a stranger who was probably standing next to you at a lot of the same shows, six degrees of sweaty separation: Hi Terri and the rest of the Chronicle gang. Hope you're doing well, Wazmo, wherever you are.
Nothing to Hide
Bought-and-paid-for politicians must answer to their constituents. Even if they have very little in common. Clinton took a very appealing position when he declared McDonald's to be his burger of choice. Now come along these seasoned deep thinkers who have ripped off Sam's Arc. A slow steady campaign of rollback policies with a smiley face. What is it about Arkansas anyway that has catapulted it to the forefront of socio-economics, something in the water, maybe? The pork? A chicken in every pot? It must be the Brooks Brothers suits. In Arkansas! Yeah I see what you mean, that doesn't make any sense. Hey what about the fresh air? Hey how 'bout them Cowboys!
When you look around the globe you find vast separations of ideology and opinion, yet when you look at the U.S. you can justifiably make the case that we are pretty much equally divid[ed]. A freakish coincidence? A mathematical quandary? A sinister ploy? Perhaps it is what keeps us from becoming a part of that "axis of evil." Take the Libertarians, please! I'm kidding, you guys humor me so much words can only express my sentiments. The Greens ... well it makes my heart pitter-patter and flip cartwheels when I see you express you're genuine concern for this planet and it's inhabitants, now get the hell out of my way. The Independents ... tray a Sash! It might just work. The Communists ... whatever you do just don't waste the money on a statue. The Reform Party ... hey everybody loves any reason for a party. How much is the cover? Only $15. Who's playing? Who's on first? What?
Well they have finally thrown their hat into the ring. The NTP! The Naked Truth Party. You get the picture. They are going to expose everything including themselves, they are not only espousing less government, but also less clothing. They are poised to roll out a very impressive campaign, starting with a very catchy slogan. Nowhere to hide it -- because there's nothing to hide. They selected that one over a more controversial one. You're either clothed -- or you're naked.
Susannah Alabama Oltorf
Cattelus Will Listen to Us
To the editor,
The recent news that Catellus wants to hear from all citizens, and not just from organized groups, on all aspects of the development of the city's 700-acre Mueller tract wasn't just idle talk at the last Citizens' Advisory Commission meeting. Catellus' Greg Weaver said please e-mail him (firstname.lastname@example.org) and "even call" (473-0400).
Austin isn't used to developers like this.
Especially interested will be citizens who have despaired of seeing Austin lease the ground (homes would be privately owned as usual), producing revenue that could lower our taxes or restore services facing cuts. Though this would benefit all citizens and theoretically inspire a large reply to Catellus' surprising invitation, the much smaller number of people who hope to buy a piece of Mueller and eventually cash in on its appreciating location value will work hard to get the city to sell, not lease to homeowners. It's the same old land marketing that made many an Austin fortune and continues to drive land prices up and people away to cheaper locations, our sprawl engine. Unremarkably, skimming off most of the community-created appreciation for community, rather than private, use would make Mueller the exception.
No one is asking or expecting private land to be transferred to public ownership, but why should public land benefiting the citizenry ever be transferred to private ownership? Yet Catellus must make a reasonable profit for its shareholders from this venture. Fortunately, there are always advantages that help to balance drawbacks. Not having to buy the land does reduce the developer's costs and risk. In fact, there could be a number of land disposition possibilities that the City Council, Catellus, and the citizens of Austin would like. And now Catellus is ready to hear views and ideas from all of Austin's citizens. What luck!
Common Sense, Not Traffic Cameras
A friend of mind was ticketed ($100) recently because she, a passenger in a Jeep Cherokee, had put her shoulder strap underneath her arm in order to get her purse out of the back seat. She was spotted by a patrolman who later told her that her husband should have pulled off the freeway in order for this. If you think this was a good example of bureaucrats demonstrating a lack of good sense, just wait until the city installs ticket cameras at major intersections around Austin.
Cameras at intersections are merely a revenue tool which will create a small army of bureaucrats to administer and maintain. They will clog our courts and cost our citizens time and money. For every accident they supposedly prevent, another will be caused by drivers slamming on their brakes to avoid another ticket. Who wants them? City politicians. Who's pushing them? The representatives of the company (or companies) that manufacture these systems and who wine and dine city officials regularly.
One of Texas' most enduring qualities has been the common sense of its people. I'm sorry to say it is in short supply in the halls of government.
Nick E. Nixon
Toxic Agenda Taints 'Chronicle'
The piece on Barton Springs ["Toxic agenda taints Barton report," The Austin Chronicle, Jan. 24] really sucks. Even your cover looks cheap. The words especially depict a malicious writer, pouring all on the Statesman, and picking up the nickels after them. And what a stupid observation separating the water from the contaminated soil. Don't let him write anything on East Austin. I think you've lost your "environmental credibility" after Slusher left. Matching worse to worse, Jordan Smith tries a poor hand at a case in which officer Friar decided to try his hand against a burglar suspect ["Every Officer Does His Duty?" Jan. 24]. I wish everyone of those cowards at APD -- the ones who prey on the poor and the immigrants in this barrio, and the judges that support them -- had a little bit of his initiative and courage.
Why Read the 'Chron'?
What has happened to Mayor Garcia during these sordid days of Waterloo Gate ["Toxic agenda taints Barton report," Jan. 24]? Did City Manager Toby Futrell have hiz honor bound and gagged till the dust settled? Do Lee and Louis have the mayor locked in their squalid debriefing closet with the water dripping and the sodium pentathol flowing, demanding answers from behind the blinding spotlights? Please be careful with the old boy, he may know something about this if it happened around 1870 to 1920 as the Statesman implies. Wasn't he on the City Council around then? All joking aside, you must admit the silence is deafening except from the Chronicle and Statesman. Either they're crying wolf or you at the Chronicle got scooped big time. Beat at your own game, for good or ill. My gut feeling is to hope that y'all are right on Waterloo Gate but frankly I wouldn't trust either one of the Austin fish-wrap rags as far as I could throw them. One of my adoring fans, a Chronicle reader, even asked last week why I would bother reading the Chronicle ["Postmarks," Jan. 24]. Well Mr. Van, as a child I was always fascinated by the freak show at the state fair, and I guess I just never outgrew it. Besides, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire can be put into modern-day perspective by reading the Chronicle.