Our readers talk back.
Sonleitner Defends Herself
I need to correct Bill Martin's letter from last week on the last CAMPO meeting. There was no 13-12 vote. CAMPO has 22 members, and one was absent that night. Mr. Martin says I'm a suspect Democrat for voting against an amendment that would have postponed the effective date of the three-county expansion. My motive had nothing to do with partisan politics on what is supposed to be a nonpartisan board.
For the record, CAMPO has been struggling on the issue of boundary expansion since last fall. The action item has rolled over from meeting to meeting to meeting, all for legitimate reasons. Everyone expected final votes to take place in February. All members were present save one, a miracle during the legislative session. I saw a procedural vote on a delay motion to be just that -- a delay motion. It was beyond time to give Mike Aulick and his staff clear and concise direction about whether they were to update a long-term transportation plan for one county, three counties, or five. I voted to get on with it and for us to proceed with a vote up or down on the main motion of the night. While the vote to delay was close, the decision on three vs. five counties was unanimous. Austin City Council members, Republican and Democratic members of CAMPO, all backed expanding to three counties.
Mr. Martin is in error saying Williamson Co. already has gained an extra seat on CAMPO. We will decide what, if any, extra seats are granted at our March meeting. I hope that Mr. Martin will be there, hopefully taking better notes than last time around.
Travis County Commissioner
Ventura's Message Heard Loud and Clear
Michael Ventura's "Toward an Accounting" ["Letters at 3AM," Feb. 21] is a rather moving and poignant portrait of possible things to come. He's researched his material and given fact rather than conjecture for his views. My blood isn't boiling yet, but the temperature is rising. Current events remind me of the war at home in the late 1960s/early Seventies when Nixon was blowing smoke up our collective ass about Vietnam. I remember participating at stand-ins and be-ins in the Bay Area that numbered in the tens of thousands. Our nation and voice was heard. Washington listened. Now we're dismissed as silly and irrelevant. What more can you really expect from a president that urges us to be vigilant but keep shopping in the few days after 9/11? I applaud Mr. Ventura's stand-up message. I hear him loud, clear, and united.
Russell E. Scott
Anti-War Protests are Anti-American
I realize the Chronicle is an "alternative" newspaper, and in so being it requires an occasional disconnect with reality. Unfortunately, the disconnect has gone from amusing to sad.
I have seen no mention of France's opposition to the war being about her oil deal with Saddam. The theme that the U.S. is acting unilaterally would come as a surprise to those Eastern European countries who support us.
The greatest disconnect that the Chronicle has presented over this war is billing the recent protests as "anti-war." A visit to the Web sites of these "anti-war" organizations reveals links to organizations such as the Democratic Socialists Party, and the Socialist Workers Party. None of these organizations are known for their love of America under its current constitution. The protests themselves have a lot of red banners, hammers and sickles, etc. Symbols not normally connected with American patriotism or peace.
Most telling is what the protesters do not protest. I may be telling my age here, but I do not recall these same organizations protesting for "peace" when Soviet tanks were rolling over civilians in Czechoslovakia (1968) or Afghanistan ('79). I do not recall a TV ad from Ms. Sarandon asking what the Serbs did to us in 1999? How many Democratic Congressmen do you see in Belgrade offering support to Slobo during the Kosovo campaign? Cuban troops in Angola, the "anti-war" crowd was silent. Castro shoots down two civilian planes -- still more silence. You do not see this effort put toward getting the Chinese out of Tibet, nor did you see this effort to try and free those being killed in Vietnamese "re-education camps" after 1975. These protests are not "anti-war." They are anti-America and anti-Bush in their motivation. Which is the freedom they have. But at least be honest about it.
Don't Fear Car Ban
Louis Black need have no fear that the folks who want to ban smoking in public places ["Page Two," Feb. 14] will also try to ban driving cars. Driving your car just as often and carelessly as you want is a sacred right in the USA, easily overriding anyone else's right to walk around, breathe freely, stay out of wars, drink or swim in clean water, etc.
Imagine that, on some streets only (a city-spanning network of streets that includes routes to all public lakes), driving cars was banned on Sundays only, so that, just on Sundays, people could get a little break from the cars and use the car-free streets to go anywhere in the city on foot, by bike or trike, or on skates. Every Sunday would be a festive occasion in which all citizens, of all income levels and all ages, could participate. I'm sure that artists and performers would line the sides of these festive streets.
Such a custom would bring fun to the whole city. It would make people feel that the city is connected, beautiful, and available to everyone, with or without money. It would also lead people to explore using their own human power to propel themselves, a highly enjoyable skill that is dying out in the USA. It would cut fuel use and air pollution, promote health, and do wonders for Austin's mood, soul, and quality of life.
But fear not, Mr. Black! It won't happen here. Despite global warming, local warming, air and water pollution, deaths, injuries, and a dismal war-zone atmosphere, despite what lack of freedom and confinement in cars are doing to your children, your right to drive and park your car in Austin is sacrosanct. Enjoy!
A Vote for Not Voting
Early political season observation ...
In the category of: If we were meant to vote we'd have candidates -- this political season of 2003 in Austin looks poorer than most.
Firstly, we have Will Wynn -- after reading the article about him by Mike-Clark Madison in The Austin Chronicle ["Everybody Loves a Wynn-er," February 14], one can conclude that he is apparently so lame as to cause wonder -- if it weren't for his wife's money -- how does he get himself from point A to point B? (without mishap) Scary! Wife's money will probably cause him to win -- sad.
Then we have Misters Katz and Meltzer -- just have to tell ya that running for mayor may entice us into their food joints. (Oh yea, Mr. Meltzer wants to further divide Austin with promises of a bipartisan campaign -- but with no negative ads.) Either one of these two will probably force a runoff -- sadness.
Also-rans this time around ... (no tears, please):
"Oh, there's Max" (one more time, again) -- he's "experienced," as in not standing well either with or against his rhetoric. The good folks in South Austin know.
Leslie (one more time, he says his last) -- all in City Hall are afraid if he wins there'll be a dress-code change. And they wonder if they can afford it. (Interesting platforms!)
Jennifer (one too many times, most stealthily) -- can't decide which side of the street to walk on. (Doesn't have platforms.)
Dale Reed - ?, ? and ? (another time around. Seriously? Ho! Ho! Ho!)
In other places -- unopposed candidates -- we ought to be given a box to vote against them, and if they get more negative than positive votes, they're out.
"Keeping Austin Weird" -- unless someone (or ones) of distinction step up to the plate soon it may just get weirder than can be imagined, and voter turnout won't even make 5%.
The Political Gets Personal
My father, an Austinite for seven years, began his vacation yesterday in Paris, France. I was expecting to hear about the beautiful experiences he was having. Instead, I received a call with the information that he had been attacked by a group of young men and was injured.
He was attacked for being an "American." All he heard during the attack was, "Fuck you, American!" None of his property was taken. The attack was a hate crime acted out upon my innocent father because of anger over the actions of our government.
My father and my family are not only angry at the young Arab men who committed the violence, we are angry with our government (as they are). Our leaders are making decisions that perpetuate violence and breed hatred. It is easy for our leaders to do so, considering that they are protected by bodyguards. It is you and I, our mothers and fathers, and the innocents in other countries who are left to deal with the ill effects produced by our leaders' decisions. It is the common people who are left scrambling for duct tape and plastic while our leaders have bunkers to hide in. The leaders are safe while we are beaten and die for their profit-driven actions.
I ask Americans to direct their anger toward the guilty parties regarding world affairs. It is the governments and the wealthy, whose needs are represented, who must be held accountable. I ask all Americans to force the rich and powerful to fight their own battles, and stop entangling us, common people, with their selfish needs and conflicts.
Don't Hate Me Because I'm French
I am French. Hate me for it. Then get over it, and let's keep our eyes on the ball. I am sick and tired of hearing and reading about what did and didn't happen and why and with whom. What is this? High school?
Important things are happening, and people are wasting their time justifying things most of them don't even know about for a good reason, most of them weren't even born yet.
What we need to focus on is what is happening today with today's players and the aftermath. Presidents are presidents for a reason. That's their job. Like any job: You get hired, you get fired. We French have a personal way of firing our leaders. It is usually proportional to the disappointment in front of the results (1789-1969). So, is the president doing his job? And if you are too concerned or scared to answer don't you think there is something wrong here?
P.S. Thank you Chronicle for an objective and depressing "Page Two."
Mega Church in My Back Yard
Thanks for your latest coverage on the ongoing devouring of our neighborhood by suburban Baptists ["Baptists Win a Round in Hyde Park," Feb. 21].
I first moved to Hyde Park in the mid-Eighties and have seen most of the destruction firsthand. I can still bring to mind the structures bulldozed where parking lots and offices now sit. At first I was amazed by the arrogant attitude of the church in regards to the wishes of the people in the surrounding neighborhood. That has now been replaced by amazement at the amount of money being spent. Is this really what parishioners had in mind when the collection plate went by -- alienation and court battles?
It would be understandable if they were expanding to serve the neighborhood, but these people drive in from the 'burbs so they can preen and be seen at a high status "Mega Church" without leaving big, ugly scars in their own area.
So, I have a question for the pastor of HPB: Instead of creating all this turmoil and expense, why don't you speak from the pulpit every Sunday on how the church has outgrown the neighborhood, and ask that people attend the church closest to their home?
We could have our neighborhood back. The churches that are driven past now would gain new blood and the money to grow. Members could become acquainted with their own neighbors and neighborhood needs. And HBC could spend their money on other things (seen any homeless people in the area, hint, hint?).
I don't really expect an answer. I'm afraid we already know. I'm not a religious person myself, but I've heard through the grapevine that pride and greed rank pretty high on the list of sins.
Thanx for your time,
Large Cars Don't Go to Heaven
Is it true? Or was it Austin American-Statesman-style reporting, that those Hyde Park "Christians" are trying to cast an evil shadow over a lovely neighborhood simply because they, in a sinfully greedy, lust-filled, and selfish moment, bought a vehicle that is ... too tall to enter the parking garage next door to the pearly gates?
More 'Round the Clock Eateries
Please make your list of 24-hour food joints bigger. Nobody wants to go to IHOP, at least I don't. Can't we petition Taco Shack to be open all night? Amy's, Ruby's, Chinese food, Milto's, The Pit. These should be the names printed on our take-out bags.
Reformed Gay Praises Church
Re: Focus on the Family's Love Won Out Conference at Promiseland Church
I just wanted to let people in Austin know that I went to Love Won Out, and I'm really glad I made the trip to Austin for the conference. I do not work for Focus on the Family, Love Won Out, or Promiseland Church, but I felt they did a very good job of presenting material about homosexuality to the public. I have been part of the gay pride movement in Las Cruces, N.M., as a president of New Mexico State University's GLSA/LGBF group and as a writer to the Normal Heart newsletter. I am no longer a practicing homosexual or bisexual, but am now sexually abstinent and praying to marry a straight man. I was never happy in same-sex relationships, and I was never convinced that gay churches were interpreting or translating the Bible properly. I consider myself a Christian woman, ex-gay, ex-bi, and I am very hetero. I believe Focus on the Family and Love Won Out showed the love of God for people affected by homosexuality and gays. I did not find any hate in the place, but lots of love for lots of hurting people, without deception. If I go to Austin again I would go to Promiseland Church, and if Love Won Out comes around again, I would go. They were supercaring, kind, candid, helpful, approachable, professional, positive, organized, well-educated, well-informed, excellent speakers and a group of very giving, very down-to-earth people. If you are affected at all by homosexuality or gayness please consider listening to what they have to say for yourself, before you make any judgments about them. I did.
Terri Love Alter
Not in Jesus' Name
The Morale Majority
There is no just war. Not in the name of Jesus. Yet we continue to use the Lord's name in vain and mock his truth. While we march down the path of death and destruction, we want to believe that we can pray through him for victory. Jesus has a sojourn, and it is a just and divine merciful quest to comfort and witness.
So conquest and conquer in the name of great conquerors long dead and covered by the sands of time, but you sons of bastards who dare to sell us that which is not for sale, build your armor stronger, and your weapons more deadly, but find yourselves another mascot.
Susannah Alabama Ohltorf
c/o Edward A. Castellano
Why has the man who brought down the towers been forgotten? The man President Bush solemnly promised to find and bring to justice is still loose. Why has Mr. Bush shifted our attention away to Iraq, a country that did not attack us? Even more puzzling, why did President Bush break the national ban on flying a few days after 9/11, in order to fly 11 members of bin Laden's immediate family out of the United States? Despite the bin Laden oil family's ties to the Bush oil family, all the bin Ladens should have been made to stay within the United States. Instead, they were whisked back to Saudi Arabia ... away from us, and the 3,000 families of the 9/11 victims, before the bodies were even cold. Why was this done? I wonder what the Republicans would say if President Gore had been the one to break the nationally imposed flight ban to fly out of the country the family of the world's most wanted man? Cries of "impeach Gore" and "cover up" would have deafened our ears, and filled that liberal media of ours to this day. Kenneth Star would have had no end of things to do. It would have made peanuts of his Lewinsky case, with all of Al Gore's oil connections to follow hither and yon. Yet, we have no special investigators, no truth-seeking task forces, no Osama and family, and no questions about it all from the major "news" networks. Alice, pass me the looking glass.
War With Iraq an Awful Idea
Saddam Hussein is an awful human being, most likely one of the worst humans alive today. He is a brutal dictator who kills the Kurds, attacks his neighbors and eliminates any "enemy combatants" who dare to disagree with him. He exploits his country to make himself rich and continually lies to the world. Iraq would most likely be a better place without him around, and the world at large would certainly be a safer, nicer place if Hussein were deceased. That being said, should the U.S. be the country to get rid of Hussein? Would the elimination of Hussein solve many of the problems associated with him or would it create bigger and worse problems? Does the U.S. even have the right to make this decision? Going to war with Iraq is an awful idea that could face serious and deadly consequences. Bush argues that we must stop Iraq from possessing nuclear weapons because if they control them, they are certain to use them. Just like Russia, France, India, Israel, Great Britain, China, Pakistan, and South Africa used theirs, right? Or like the U.S. Wait, the U.S. is the only country to have actually used their nuclear weapons. And we think that we are the most honorable and humanitarian government of this group, which is obviously ridiculous. And we are far from the most unstable of the governments to have these weapons so far. Most of these countries are closer to Iraq in mentality than they are to the U.S., yet none of them has ever used nuclear weapons.
Air Quality Issues in Central Texas
Air pollution undeniably affects our health, and we all contribute in some way to this serious health issue. Ground-level ozone, the main constituent of smog, is a lung irritant that can decrease the lungs' working ability and can cause suffering at levels recorded in Central Texas. With continued regional population growth and road building, the health threat from air pollution to children, those with existing lung disease, and the elderly has increased.
The most effective strategies in our region to improve air quality involve participation in programs to reduce the number of commuters driving alone to work. However, without widespread participation, strategies such as commute-reduction programs do not reach their full potential. Commute Solutions strategies such as carpooling, vanpooling, teleworking, and riding the bus offer the public the opportunity to participate in reducing pollution levels that will help us maintain compliance of federal air-quality standards. However, since many midsize and larger employers have not focused the necessary resources toward offering commute options, air quality and traffic congestion remain huge challenges. I am certain the time is now for companies to be proactive, since Central Texas has violated the federal ozone standard for six consecutive years.
Central Texan firms that choose to participate in the Commute Solutions program or the Clean Air Partners program can potentially save money on taxes, office space, and parking while increasing worker morale and reducing sick-day usage all while receiving recognition for improving air quality. Information on these programs can be found by calling 974-6051 or online at www.commutesolutions.com or www.cleanairpartnerstx.org.
Company leaders and their employees who say they want to help improve air quality should let their actions speak for themselves by reducing emissions from their vehicles by not driving alone to work. Please be part of the solution to improve the community's health.