Our readers talk back.
SOS Chooses Margot Clarke
Before Chronicle readers vote this Saturday (and we know you're going to vote, right?) we want them to know why our organizations, the Save Our Springs PAC and the Austin Sierra Club, chose candidate Margot Clarke over her opponent Brewster McCracken.
One, Margot's answers to our groups' respective questionnaires were direct and unequivocal. We didn't necessarily agree with every part of every answer, but we did agree with the vast majority, and Margot's positions and convictions were clear.
Two, Margot has a well-documented record of public advocacy on behalf of the environment through her work as director of the local office of the League of Conservation voters and as a citizen and community volunteer. Margot has walked the walk.
With our local efforts to protect our environment under attack from both our state Legislature and the Bush/Cheney administration, Margot's experience, clear positions, and proven record are exactly what we need on the City Council. We enthusiastically endorse Margot Clarke.
Please vote this Saturday.
Chair, Save Our Springs PAC
Karin Ascot Bongiorni,
Chair, Austin Sierra Club
Brewster Will Really Fit In
I've known Brewster McCracken for several years and I'm supporting him because he represents a rare combination in politics -- he's smart, right on the issues, well-grounded, good inside, and he plays well with others ... I couldn't ask for more in a person running for office. As a former council member, I know firsthand the importance of being able to get along with your fellow council members. It doesn't matter if you're right on the issues if you can't get at least three other people to vote with you.
Austin is facing the most serious budget shortfall in anyone's memory, and the costs will only increase as the Legislature shifts more burdens to local communities. Health care will be hardest hit and right-wingers will try to do away with funds for reproductive services. Brewster understands this and is committed to maintaining and fully funding these programs. He has stated publicly that he "will oppose any efforts to roll back, reduce, or diminish in any way the city of Austin's commitment to the Medical Assistance Program, including the city's commitment to protecting choice and reproductive freedom within the Medical Assistance Program." Brewster's clear commitment on choice issues is why so many pro-choice women are supporting him.
Given the budget battles facing the city, now more than ever we need Brewster's ability to bring people together.
Please be sure to vote this Saturday, June 7.
Former City Council Member
That's Right, It's Not Positions but Sex
To the Editor:
I see that the Chronicle has once again endorsed Margot Clarke over Brewster McCracken ["Endorsement," May 30] for the Place 5 race for City Council, citing that "[Brewster's] perspective is already well represented" by Will Wynn and that Austin "needs a more varied set of perspectives on the council." Is it possible that the Chronicle is simply biased against Brewster because he is, dare I say it, a white male?
Shame on the Chronicle. I have known Brewster for over 10 years and can tell you that he has always been a strong advocate for women's issues and the environment, among other issues. That he has the endorsement of the Texas Environmental Democrats and the Travis County Democratic Women says a lot.
And as for the need to have "informed discussion rather than too-polite consensus" on the council, is there something about being a white male that will hinder that? I don't think so. Brewster was my law-school classmate, and I can tell you that he was not only well informed, but also willing to advocate for a less-than-popular position if he thought it was the right thing to do.
Brewster's list of endorsements is long, and there's a reason for that. I hope the Chronicle will rethink what it takes to be a good "fit" for Place 5.
Screw the Poor, Cut My Taxes
When are people like Mr. King, and I also assume the majority of your staff, going to realize that the money that goes to Washington in the form of taxes is my money. If I want to use it to help with charity causes special to me, I will do so. Or don't you trust the American people to take care of their own. It is ludicrous to say there is a "cost" to having a tax cut. The only cost is that wasteful government programs might be cut. Too bad. The private sector will then step up and answer the call. Let service clubs, religious groups, etc., do their part ... all with much lower overhead than your precious government can do it. How else do you explain only 52 cents on a tax dollar going to help the people it's intended for ... the rest is merely about job protection. Ever heard of someone getting fired from a low-level federal job ... doesn't happen. So stop bellyaching and rejoice in tax cuts. They always stimulate the economy when combined with a responsible, balanced budget. At the same time, stop your campaign against the people that actually pay most of the taxes. Want socialism ... there are a number of countries in Europe who will embrace you I'm sure.
SoCo = Yuppies, SouCo = Funk
The "so" in SoCo is not pronounced the same as the "sou" in South Congress. I wish the Chronicle had not jumped on the bandwagon to promote this uncatchy name. Let's just call it what it is, South Congress.
Your SoCo coverage is much like the city of Austin's treatment toward South Congress; the avenue might as well end at Oltorf. Fortunately many of us know that the true funk of South Congress can still be found south of Oltorf. Beyond all the yuppified stuff in your SoCo Guide you can find interesting coffee shops, restaurants with great deals, St. Edward's University, Penn Field, and more hip than Starbucks could ever offer. And if you prefer the occasional hooker to "college kids barfing up their free beer," far South Congress is definitely the place to be.
A Story to Remember
Thank you to Wayne Alan Brenner for his well-written piece "Vaguely Purposed Zombies" [May 30]. Starting with his terrific lead, he captured the spirit of First Thursday and all its Austin quirkiness.
I suggest that Mr. Brenner give a framed copy of the article to his daughter who joined him on this particular First Thursday. Someday she will reminisce about Austin's unique First Thursday on South Congress (I refuse to submit to the let's-try-to-be-like-NY-sobriquet of SoCo) and how great it was before the City Council figured out a way to ruin it -- for they will.
Dumb and Dumber
We all pay for bad decision making. The MACC's plans to deliberately yet unintentionally remove fire emergency access to the Villas condos is actually a case of poor architectural design and the architecture firm is to blame ["Does MACC Put Town Lake Residents at Risk?" May 30]. The lack of attention to site conditions resulted in an outcome so completely socially irresponsible, I can't believe there is debate. That particular design should have gone in the trash. Then the city compounded the issue by permitting the plans! How such a site plan could even be passed indicates a myopic choice of priorities and a total lack of common sense. Now the MACC is stuck with an irresponsible design and they are down to the wire with financing. The MACC must go with the plans they have, ironically putting them, considering Mexican-American history, in the position of bully to the Villas residents. Rejecting options, project manager Medrano, who is in the unenviable position of defending someone else's poor work, said "... I had to look out for the interest of the MACC." Always looking out for our own best interests does not foster a spirit of understanding and community. Let's see ... parking ... versus people in a fire hazard ... that sure is a tough one! Incidentally, the lack of fire access to the Villas creates an increased fire risk to the MACC itself! Apparently, these are all nonissues, as Joe Q. Taxpayer can and will absorb the maxed-out fire insurance premiums, the retro-designing of the Villas, and the rebuilding, too, if it ever burns down. The buck gets passed again. To the Villas residents -- perhaps the next time you make a $150,000 purchase, involving large amounts of wood off ground level, you can ask the appropriate questions, because I have no interest in paying for your privately owned fire access and equally poor architectural planning with my tax money.
And don't even get me started on the Endeavor-Domain project ["The Domain of Wal-Mart," same issue]. Unless it is made from magical, self-generating materials, there is absolutely no such thing as an "environmentally responsible" project like a Wal-Mart-sized shopping center. Those are some more bad decisions we will all pay for in one way or another for a very long time, making us all culpable. To the City Council -- stop it already with the tax subsidies! I'd like to pave my front yard. Where's mine?
Does anyone have his head screwed on straight any more?
Give Nondrivers a Chance
These days we're so used to hearing complete nonsense from government bodies that probably no one will bat an eye on reading that CAMPO proposes to stop equipping roads for pedestrians and bicyclists in order to improve air quality. Similarly, we're told that bicycle lanes increase air pollution by slowing down the cars. Insufficient parking space (for cars) is also supposed to cause pollution, by making cars wander around looking for parking spaces.
The best way to reduce air pollution, then, is for everyone in Austin to drive a car. (Never mind the people who can't drive cars.) Roads will need to be widened, and more roads and parking lots built. The sealants which are poisoning Barton Creek will be used in all these projects. Several million more dollars will be spent to synchronize traffic lights and to study how to make cars go faster. This strategy has been hugely successful in reducing air pollution and traffic congestion in other large cities of the world.
I serve on a city board. When we need to go somewhere, one and only one criterion determines whether the car-driving members go in one van or each in a separate car. This criterion is availability of parking.
When do people carpool? When there aren't enough parking spaces for each to drive a separate car. When do people bicycle for transportation? When they feel safe doing so and have a secure place to lock the bicycle. When do people walk for transportation? When people on foot are not treated as second-class citizens.
Our government planners want to improve air quality by discouraging walking and bicycling. Meanwhile, Austin will ban smoking in bars, even though our air fails EPA standards. Clear skies ahead; sailors take warning.
Health Before Business
Take a walk down Sixth Street, then leave Austin for a couple of months. When you return, walk down Sixth Street again and you will find that several bars and music clubs have changed owners or closed completely. This has been the norm for as long as any of us native Austinites can remember. Now Louis Black wants to conveniently blame all future closings on the smoking ordinance, and each time a business goes under he plans to print a closure announcement with names of the City Council members who voted for the ban.
Hey Louie, while you're at it, why don't you print the names of the jackbooted thugs from the fire marshall's office who dare to value the lives of music patrons over the almighty dollar. And let's not forget about those fascists from the health department who insist that the ice in my margarita be clean and the bartender wash his/her hands. These people must be stopped before every club in town goes under!
The fact is that clubs fail due to poor management, a poor business plan, or a bad economy. Rules designed to protect worker and customer health are merely a scapegoat. The Austin Chronicle has always been the great defender of Barton Creek from those in the business world who seek to plunder it. I find it ironic that you now take the pro-business stand against the health of citizens and workers. Clean air is every bit as important as clean water. Louis Black's hypocrisy would be laughable if it weren't so pathetic.
Celebrate Your Vices
Since the Amy Wilsons of Austin are speaking up ["Postmarks," May 30]: This one says: Give me skinny, cigarette-smoking, tight-shirt-wearing, guitar-playing guys and girls with sweaty, uncut hair in their eyes to look at and listen to, and it always makes me feel better inside. I'm a nonsmoking, running, outdoorsy fool that has to have a shower to get the smoke out of my hair when I get home so I don't throw up, but it's worth it to me. Let's keep their place in Austin bars. To steal a phrase from my Lovejoy's T-shirt: Celebrate Your Vices.
Free Speech for All!!!
We free-speech-loving folk have laughed over the past few months as the blindly faithful have called us unpatriotic for questioning our government's motives and actions in foreign policy. How ironic that a liberty-loving protester such as Donna Hoffman ["Postmarks," May 23] would now call for the abandonment of honest criticism when it comes to ... wait for it ... folk music!!! In response to Jim Caligiuri's article on Bill Passalacqua's new album, Hoffman asked the reviewer (and, presumably, music lovers everywhere) to not "slam a folk musician, none of them." Two things need to be said:
First: Oh, come on! While the importance of political protest in song, particularly folk songs, should never be underestimated, to claim that all folk music is beyond reproach is just plain silly. I can say with absolute certainty that I have written some very politically charged and truly horrible folk songs. I continue to try to get better, and perhaps I will, but that doesn't somehow make all the shit I've done up until now good and meaningful.
The second point is that the reviewer was correct, Bill Passalacqua's music is not very good. I've listened to it, I've read the lyrics on his Web site, and it's just not good. I applaud him for his social activism and for writing music about subjects of importance, but contrary to Hoffman's belief, political awareness doesn't make up for poor singing and insipid lyrics. (One or the other maybe, but not both!)
Free speech for all, including music critics!!!
Savlov Rouses Sourpusses
Hey, I love Marc Savlov's reviews! I imagine that reading Sib Barim's letter ["Postmarks," May 23] last issue must have felt like getting yelled at by one's teenaged son: "Can you believe my dad didn't even get that The Matrix is, like, a totally groundbreaking film showing, like, the infinite layers of a gigantic onion which is the infinite? He's so fascist!" (Roll eyes, slam door.) That letter made me laugh with almost as much glee as all the sourpusses griping about the Killer D's. God bless Texas!
I've sat back and observed the brainwashing by the "unbiased" media in this country and I've had enough. "Either you are part of the problem, or you are part of the solution." I consider apathy, as always, part of the problem. We are being stripped of our civil liberties and constitutional rights on a daily basis with extreme subtlety by the ruling powers who essentially control the media. Based on FCC meetings this week, a few corporations will be given more control over what they want us to hear and see. MSNBC, CNN, and Fox have been notorious for their arrogance, deceit, and lies.
I was watching the MSNBC coverage of Bush's trip to France for the G8 talks. The visit was met by protests in an Evian resort near the Swiss/France border. Of course, the first video shown was a confrontation between police and about 25 to 40 angry protesters. Then the video switched to thousands of peaceful protesters. Within 30 minutes, on the same MSNBC newscast, the text messages that are constantly rolling at the bottom of the screen said, "Thousands of anti-globalization protesters clash with police during Bush's visit to France."
No more video was shown.
The MSNBC poll question of the day (I'm not making this up): "Should President Bush make nice with France?" Geez, maybe he'll do it on the teeter-totter during recess!
This is professional journalism? It's time to wake up, sheeple. The wool is being pulled over your eyes like never before. Go to any alternative form of news reporting. Get the whole story. Try www.whatreallyhappened.com. You may or may not agree with what you see, but a lot of the items deserve the attention of open-minded, thinking people, which are needed now more than ever.
Invest in Peace
America demonstrated with surgical precision how to annihilate an enemy through intelligence, special operations, and the most advanced war machine that has ever existed. The initial phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom displayed American genius. The current phase of the crisis displays American ignorance. If we were better at peace than we are at war, Iraq would be getting more and more peaceful each day ... and two weeks into June, our job at peace would be done because we were so good at it.
Anyone who says "the phase of peace is harder" is correct ... the world is less talented at it. There are ways to be equally effective at peace, but America has not invested in advancing the ways in which peace is created and maintained. Had America invested equal brainpower and resources to the advancement of peacemaking as it has to warmaking, it would have handled the crisis entirely differently by applying this advanced skill at peace.
American and world administrations have for decades failed to recognize this essential facet of foreign policy. There is no excuse for not investing heavily in the advancement of peace -- not doing so virtually assures its brevity.
The world is doing a worse job at making peace than it did before the advancement of skill in war. As leaders of the current world, America should be leading in ways at peace, but clearly America leads the ways in which countries make war. Unquestionably, a world being led in peace is better than being led at war. Knowing that fact, America is making inadequate efforts in the advancement of peace.
If a nation's talent at peace exceeds their talent at war and that nation's ability to make war is stronger than enemy ability to make war, then a case could be made stating the dominant country would never be forced to full-scale war, thus leading in peace.
Invest in peace. It's better.
Are We Feeling a Bit Defensive?
Hightower is in his usual, make that constant, anti-Bush mode. He is distressed that the commander in chief, trained as a military pilot, was wearing flying gear on a military aircraft ["The Hightower Report," May 23]. Well, whoopee! How many military unit jackets were worn by Slick Willie, who managed to be abroad during the time of his availability for service? And how does Hightower refer to Bush as "the most famous Vietnam draft dodger?" It's not like there weren't ANG units in Nam. What about that previously mentioned "Trouser Troller?" Has Clinton lost fame in Hightower's eyes?
Traffic Dept. Strikes Again
It took me a week after reading last week's story on the Shoal Creek bike corridor ["Bikes on a Road to Nowhere?," May 23] to realize I'm to blame. The story said that after the neighborhood associations came to a consensual plan with the city, another part of the city government announced plans to, apparently mindlessly, mess things up by installing a traffic signal at 45th and Shoal Creek. Well, a year or two ago, I wrote the Traffic Department informing them, since they apparently don't know, of how their activities seem to do more harm than good. I cited 45th Street and how, though traffic volumes are similar on Bull Creek and Shoal Creek, traffic congests more at the Bull Creek signal and less at the Shoal Creek stop sign. Apparently they're acting to remedy this.
'Chronicle' Hard to Read
I know I am getting older all the time, but reading the Chronicle lately has been a real eye chore. Did you change the size of the font or the brightness? I find your paper one of the harder ones to read and actually don't read it as much as peruse it and look at the ads or headlines. Just a thought.
No Property-Tax Reduction Now
It seems that we have 21 gutless lawmongers in Austin. Yesterday, they effectively killed property-tax-reduction legislation, by hiding behind the "Rose Bush." Well, once the names are released on public record, their "Daisies" will show from now until "Election Day."
Nonsmokers Can't Wait to Go Out
Louis Black's editorial ["Page Two," May 30] makes some well-reasoned points about the proposed smoking ban ordinance. There is no question that cigarette smoking causes many serious health problems, and the vast majority of studies show that secondhand smoke is also quite toxic.
But the issue most loudly trumpeted by Black and fellow opponents has been economics, not health.
"This is not the time to experiment with social engineering," writes Black, clearly suggesting that, in a better economic climate, a smoking ban would be more acceptable.
Various anti-ordinance material also repeatedly states that the current smoking ban ordinance, enacted in 1994, is a "good" smoking-ban ordinance.
The sense one gets from reading opponent arguments is that smoking ordinances are good, in principle; this is just not the right time to enact a stricter one. But I seriously doubt those opposed would ever support a stronger ordinance, even if it had been proposed in, say, 1999 when Austin was having better economic times. The argument about timing is just a stalling tactic. Even as opponents see the logic behind clean indoor air for some, they will cling to the status quo until forced to protect the health of all workers and patrons.
That's why we entrust the City Council with these decisions. As we saw after the 1994 smoking-ban ordinance, local businesses did not suffer. (Is there a lack of locally owned restaurants? Has Austin been overrun with corporate eating establishments? No, but the same opposition arguments were used then.) I hope the City Council passes this ordinance now. The majority of Austinites cannot wait to enjoy the local music and bar scene without endangering their health.
I Support a Smoke-Free City
I am writing to support the 100%-smoke-free law in Austin. Secondhand smoke contains toxic chemicals that are known to cause cancer, heart disease, and respiratory illness. These deadly chemicals are regulated in other outlets to preserve public health, why are we subjected to them in restaurants, bowling alleys, and bars in Austin? I used to work in a bar, but after five months I had to quit because the secondhand smoke caused me to suffer from chest pains, shortness of breath, bronchitis, and sinusitis. Because of secondhand smoke I cannot go out and enjoy nightlife at all.
This heath risk is completely unnecessary and preventable. Let's pass a strong ordinance to make all public places smoke-free including restaurants, clubs, and bars.
Anna M. Goluszko
Support a Smoke-Free Austin
Austinites care deeply about protecting our land, air, and water from pollution. But we've had a terrible blind spot in one area, allowing burning chemicals to sicken and kill our people -- secondhand tobacco smoke. Many of our most vulnerable people have no real choice in where they must work, sometimes in air so polluted by smoke that, in industrial settings, would require protective respirators. Musicians, servers, and bartenders can wash the smoke out of their clothes, but detergent is no solution for the poisonous chemicals they (and their customers) inhale.
The tobacco lobby spreads fear with bogus studies about business failures from smoke-free regulations. But Big Tobacco tells Big Lies: In the 1940s, they said smoking was good for you; in the Sixties they said at least it didn't hurt you; in the Eighties they said it didn't hurt the people around you; in the Nineties they said modern ventilation can protect you from secondhand smoke (which is absolutely untrue); and now they say that making a city smoke-free will hurt business. The truth is that, across the country, wherever there's been reasonable time to see the effect of strong smoking laws, they're found to have no adverse impact on business. And in Austin, a recent study found that vastly more people said they'd go more often to bars & clubs if they were smoke-free.
It's hard to believe Austin has to catch-up with hundreds of cities like El Paso and Tempe and even New York and L.A. But it's past time to do the right thing. We should let Mayor Garcia and council members Dunkerley, Slusher, and Thomas know we appreciate their leadership on this ordinance. Passing it would be the single most important vote the council could ever take to fulfill their fundamental duty to protect the safety and welfare of the people of Austin.
Lewis Leibovich, MD
An Allergy Parallel
I support a Smoke-Free Austin because I value my health. I don't see why someone at a concert, for example, should be allowed to pollute free air with a known cancer-causing substance. Consider this perspective: What if I showed up to a crowded bar or music venue in the middle of allergy season with a big bag of cedar spores or ragweed and just casually blew it around the room? In less than five minutes, I'd be hanging from the nearest tree thanks to an angry mob of sniffling, sneezing, puffy-eyed Austinites. And to further my point, I don't think "Allergy to Cedar Spores" has ever been declared a cause of death. Can you say the same for secondhand cigarette smoke? I don't think so.
Worse Problems Than Smoking
The long tirade on the smoking ordinance and its impact on local business sounded eloquent ["Page Two," May 30], but you didn't mention that those businesses are not really local. Middle East, Europe, and New York owners are tops in cigarette, coffee, and alcohol sales here. The best Mexican restaurants lack Mexican owners; even the best taco joints are in Caucasian hands now. You don't scare anybody by linking smoking with budget problems. Why don't you consider these, for you to report better: The Austin Police hovering a helicopter searching for a guy who crashed his own car and fled? EMS and firefighters' monster trucks taking care of one heart attack victim? Or a crew of six fixing a hydrant, but only one or two working? What about getting rid of all outside bill collectors, contractors, officers, school superintendents, and principals, bosses that plague agencies like Capital Metro, and replace them with cheaper Austinites? I'd suggest to turn off the AC of every office that turns up the most complaints: Internal affairs, police monitor, detectives, civil rights, municipal court, community affairs, economic development and minority support offices ... or maybe you should take a look at the world now.
Swanson Knows Where WMD Are!!
Well, wee Jimmy Hightower is back to his old lying game. Claimed the president lied about the threats of WMD in Iraq ["The Hightower Report," May 30]. Bullshit Jimmy, you're a liar and you know it. It was the UN weapons inspectors that pointed out that although Iraq had declared tons of chemical and biological weapons in a 1998 UN inventory of Iraqi weapons, they were missing from the inventory Iraq supplied to the UN last year. We did in fact find mobile labs whose sole purpose was the manufacture of biological weapons. Jimmy knew that but left it out because to admit the truth would shine the light of truth on his pathetic, pathological lies. It's a wonder that any reputable newspaper would carry his crap, maybe in fact none do, that's why he finds most of his audience with fringe left publications who specialize in giving voice to people whose sole motivation in life is their hatred of people who dare not agree with their narrow, absolutist views. Fuck Jim Hightower, he's the fringe left's answer to Pat Robertson. Hightower is a lying punk who wouldn't dare debate anyone because his constant lies are too easy to prove so he simply sits down and writes 500 words a week, mostly lies. Ah well, maybe being short made him so mad at the world.
Carl T. Swanson
Hey, It's Not My Job
I wish to join the voices against recent regulations passed by those in power. I am completely against banning child labor. Sure, there have been studies that show that child labor may, may be harmful to children, but there are also studies that show it may not be harmful. The people in power often stress how they care about local business, but they pass this legislation that will prove the ruin to countless small and independent businesses that rely on child labor. In these rough economic times to pass this type of "social engineering" will lead to even more businesses closing. Each time another small business closes due to the lack of cheap child labor, I hope that your distinguished paper, as ever concerned about the welfare of the community's well being (economic anyway), will dutifully print a statement such as: "Legislator X voted to close Bucket of Coal, an Austin small business that survived on child labor." Be sure to list the names of those who would ban child labor. And if they try to run for re-election, please run their names again. This community cannot stand by and let foolish regulation ruin our economy.
P.S. Thank you for not standing with those liberal, knee-jerk, whiners who are more concerned about the public health instead of the economy.
Mixed Signals From the 'Chron'
I was curious as to why your run-off endorsement is going to Margot Clarke as vehemently anti-nonsmoking ordinance as you seem to be ["Endorsement," May 30]. This last Election Day, I called both campaign offices since I had seen nothing of the candidates' positions on this proposed ordinance (I am a nonsmoker strongly against the ordinance). The person at Margot's office read a statement as to her position which was that she supported a stronger smoking ordinance. She seems to have since come out and said that she still supports a stronger ordinance, but does not feel this is the best time for this issue. Brewster on the other hand has maintained his position against a stronger ordinance. I know this is certainly far from the only issue facing Austin at this time, but it is a definite "here and now" issue which could have devastating consequences for our economy if this ordinance passes. As to your feeling that Brewster would use the council position as a stepping stone to bigger and better things, what's the harm there as long as he serves his constituency while he's here?