Postmarks

Our readers talk back.


Clark-Madison Crosses the Line

Editor:

I have just read the "Naked City" section of the June 6 edition. I accept that The Austin Chronicle is a liberal rag, and I am OK with that. I come from Massachusetts and have only been in the Austin area for almost four months now. I consider myself socially and fiscally conservative, but I am probably more liberal than the majority of Texas conservatives.

I enjoy reading the "Naked City" section of The Austin Chronicle because it gives me an insight into the Austin political landscape. As I said, I understand the political views that you and your writers have, and your desire to express them while attempting to inform the public, but when I read Mike Clark-Madison's description of Grover Norquist, whom I am not familiar with, as a "Leading Republican gasbag and anti-tax crank," I feel that you fail on both accounts. I tend to give less weight to your point of view, and thereby your paper in whole, than I would otherwise have done. It leads me to think that you cannot challenge ideas on an intellectual level and therefore have to resort to inflammatory descriptions to cover for your lack of skill.

I am sure that you have many valid points to make on a wide range of issues, but if you cannot articulate them in an intelligent, respectful manner, you are doomed to be ignored as a liberal hack that has to resort to personal attacks to discredit his ideological opponents.

Semper Fidelis,

Chris Pritchard

Round Rock


The Right to Choose!

Dear Editor,

Austinites Beware! Our fine city faces many challenges: a city budget with a $70 million deficit, a sales-tax revenue base that has declined 30% in the past few years, rising unemployment due to our current economy, rising insurance costs that affect the medical care of Austin citizens, extremely high property taxes, and AISD's performance rating that is less than stellar. With these important challenges, our current leaders find it most important to pass a smoking-ban ordinance.

While saying it is for "the betterment of public health," there are amendments to allow smoking in bingo halls, nonprofit organizations, and pool halls, which means once again, our government is appealing to the well-funded and better-lobbied special-interest groups while hiding under the mask of public health. Austinites: We deserve better ... we deserve the truth!

Don't let your City Council take away your right to choose.

David Tripoli

Director of Austin Warehouse District Association


Step Outside, 'Page Two'

Dear Louis Black,

I love "Page Two." I usually agree with your politics more than I do with the Chronicle's official endorsements. In the past I have always respected your opinions, but I think your rantings on the smoking ordinance are a bit over the top. Bars and nightclubs will open and close regardless of the economy and regardless of the smoking ordinance. Threatening to "run a box in the Chronicle" blaming any council member in favor of the smoking ordinance for the future closure of music venues [May 30] is ridiculous. You need to take your cigarettes outside and smoke one to calm down. You should be thankful for the council members willing to modify the ordinance to allow smoking near doorways and on patios.

Donald Dodson


Special Interests Represent the Other Guy, Not Me

Editor:

I'd like to comment on Louis Black's use of the term "special interests" ["Page Two," May 30].

"Special interests" has become a negative term meaning those who have a narrow focus that benefits few, but who have the money and power to preserve their position at the cost of many others.

He uses this term to describe the 15 advocacy and health organizations supporting the smoke-free ordinance and the thousands of people they represent, not to mention the bulk of Austin residents who are nonsmokers and support smoke-free public places. These are not special interests but the majority of the Austin population who wants to breathe clean air.

The real special interests are the 20% of the population whose habit is known to hurt others but are still being coddled and protected by certain council members and business owners when they can simply step outside for a cigarette like they do everywhere else.

The other special-interest group is the business owners themselves, who have a lot of influence over the council and who are being allowed to jeopardize the health of their workers and patrons when all other businesses are already complying with popular smoke-free laws.

And of course, there is the tobacco industry, the ultimate special-interest group, marketing addiction and death that manipulates public policy on every level to maintain their bottom line.

Chronicle readers, please reconsider who the real special-interest groups are and support the policy that protects everyone's right to breathe instead of the profit or addiction of others.

Vanessa Luna


Why Do People Go to Bars?

Dear Editor,

Regarding the proposed smoking ban: Has the council considered that people go out to bars to go drinking? That's not exactly the healthiest activity, so why should the government be able to pick and choose the elements of an acceptable lifestyle? Save the no-smoking signs for the hike-and-bike trail.

Thank you,

Kelly Deanne Davis

P.S. If the council really wanted to save our lungs, why not come up with some decent public transportation? I would venture to guess that the emissions from cars are more harmful than that from a cigarette.


Rawk On, Rock n Roll Rentals!

Editor:

I enjoyed your great section on SoCo [May 30] but was a little disappointed at your description of Rock n Roll Rentals as dark and smelling strange. Maybe the money the store saves on décor goes back into the community. Owners Nancy and Jim Norman give great prices and helpful advice to many nonprofits, and I could not imagine doing a special event without Jim in attendance making sure that things are running smoothly. To many of us this counts for a lot more than a slick-looking store!

Beverly Scarborough


'Gringo' Demeans White People

Dear Sir:

I just read Lee Nichols' Oct. 11 article on Mingo Saldivar ["Texas Platters"]. In the article, he calls white people the pejorative term gringo. I for one hate that term, and I rank it along with those neighborly terms such as nigger, meskin, greaser, chink, slope, wop, dago, and kraut. Why do you let people demean white people? You would not let him use any of the words that I enumerated to describe other races. Why do you abet him in this offensive use of the language?

Joe Louis Coleman


Bring Back the Coach!

Editor:

I used to love the Chronicle. I couldn't wait until Thursday and read the news that doesn't get printed in the Statesman, and I enjoyed the columns like "Coach's Corner." Alas, the Coach is gone, and now we have columns like "After a Fashion," where we can read all about Stephen Macmillan Moser's haircut [June 6]. He's Margaret's brother, so he gets space to write about his new hairdo? I'm going to puke. Good thing I have this Chronicle to clean up the mess ...

James W. Rohlich


Bravo, 'Chronicle'

Just a quick note to say how much I enjoyed Bill Bentley's piece on Ernie Durawa ["Designated Drummer," May 23]. Guys like him are the backbone of any music scene, and, as you folks are no doubt aware, he's just one of a bunch of great musicians in Austin who've put in many years on their instruments. Bentley's piece covered a lot of ground and made it look easy, which is a trick, but then, there's been a lot of stories of this high quality in the Chronicle recently, including several by Margaret Moser.

No wonder a lot of the music fans I know here in Europe check in with the Chronicle's Web site every week! Where else would they find stuff like this?

Best,

Ed Ward

Berlin

[Ed. note: Ward is a former Music editor of the Chronicle.]


Another Take on 'Israel/Palestine'

Editor:

Michael King's recommendation of Tanya Reinhart's Israel/Palestine ["Call and Answer," June 6] exposes how biased and ignorant they both are. His dismissal of the current "road map" as "public relations ... grudgingly accepted by the Sharon government on the condition that only the Palestinians have to abide by it" is contemptible, as is Reinhart's assessment of Israel's peace agreement implementations.

If King read the "road map," he'd find Palestinian obligations to confiscate weapons from and dismantle terrorist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad and end anti-Israeli incitement stated right up front: www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2003/20062.htm .

So far, no terrorists have been arrested. No weapons have been confiscated. Abu Mazen himself urged more anti-Israeli violence three months ago (A-sharq Al Awsat, March 3).

Israel has released prisoners, given work visas to at least 25,000 Palestinians, and pledged settlement dismantling. Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have pledged to attack and kill more Israelis. Sharon "grudgingly accepted" a peace plan the Palestinians haven't even begun carrying out.

As for Israel/Palestine ... any book regarding the Middle East praised by the anti-Israeli, Holocaust-denying Noam Chomsky is immediately suspect. Chomsky advocates abolishing Israel, replacing it with a "secular, binational state" like the oh-so-utopian Lebanon.

Under Oslo, Palestinians were again obligated to dismantle terrorist organizations and confiscate weapons. Yassir Arafat freed terrorists from prisons, appointed terrorist leaders to office, and continued weapons smuggling and terrorist funding. Oslo called for an end to anti-Israeli incitement. That likewise never happened (www.edume.org/reports/index.htm).

Meanwhile, under Oslo and the Wye Agreement of 1998-2000, Israel recognized the PLO as the official representative of the Palestinians, released hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, and ceded nearly half of the West Bank.

My own suggested reading about the Israel/Palestinian conflict:

Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict, by Mitchell Bard

Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine, by Samuel Katz (Bantam)

Aaron Kapner

[Michael King responds: I welcome Mr. Kapner's opinions and his book recommendations, but not his vicious and gratuitous libel of Noam Chomsky as a "holocaust denier." He's made that charge twice in these pages, and it is a scurrilous and entirely false accusation that should not go unanswered.]


Alex Jones Defender Speaks Out

Editor:

I would like Michael King to know that this Austin reader is not the least "discomfited" by Greg Palast's "credulous fawning" over Alex Jones ["Call and Answer," June 6]. Mr. Jones is not the "conspiracy-frother" King ignorantly claims, but he is a courageous activist working hard to protect all of our freedoms and liberties (including Mr. King's). Perhaps Mr. Palast "fawns" because he's researched the same important issues and found Jones' facts to be credible and well documented, not the "conspiracy theories" that small-minded critics like King claim. I would recommend that Mr. King research the message before he attacks the messenger, but he's apparently too lazy and smug for that.

Sincerely,

Alan Random

P.S. I've read Palast's book and I recommend it to everyone. King should realize that when your enemies are as powerful as Palast's and have the full force of official propaganda at their disposal, maybe a little "self-promotion" and tooting of one's own horn is sometimes necessary.


Build Parks, Not Apartments

Editor:

Here's what's happening on the hipper-than-thou strip of South Congress south of Ben White, beyond (so far) First Thursday. Enough infill to choke a Boom. The Battle Bend Park area has a landowner applying for a zoning change at 4801 S. Congress which would allow maximum apartment density in the midst of what is already daily gridlock. We'd like to see the city buy it, annex it to our overextended park (it's adjacent to the park), and give infill some green space. How hip is basketball and soccer?

Darrold Smith


Good Job, Belinda

Editor:

It is wonderful when a columnist can relate her own experience to a story and then write about it with intelligence and sensitivity. Belinda Acosta's analysis of rural television programming and her description of the Headwaters series has depth and relevance.

The piece stands as an argument against CBS's proposed The Real Beverly Hillbillies. Apparently CBS finds rural Americans, especially of the Appalachian kind, acceptable to ridicule, quite funny, and totally irrelevant. "Up from CBS comes a bubbling crudity?" I do hope that Headwaters: Real Stories From Rural America on KLRU2 provides a very different look at the issues and culture of more than 52 million rural Americans.

My thanks and appreciation go to Belinda Acosta for being so perceptive.

Anne Lewis

Series Producer,

Headwaters: Real Stories From Rural America


Traffic Dept. Strikes Again

Dear Austin,

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.

Sorry,

Duane Keith


'Chronicle' Hard to Read

Editor:

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.

Don Jellison


Pedantic Nitpicking?

Editor:

In the May 30 issue Michael King misused the term "social contract" ["Capitol Chronicle"] in a way that is contrary to its original meaning in the political theory developed by John Locke, the author of Second Treatise on Government (www.constitution.org/jl/2ndtreat.htm), and others, which is the foundation theory of our constitutional system of government. The social contract creates the society out of a mass of individuals competing without restraint, by binding them by a mutual duty to defend one another's rights against being injured. But when redistributionists hijack it to mean a duty to provide a sufficiency of scarce resources to one another, or to redivide resources to achieve some vision of economic justice, that is a misuse of a term that has a specialized meaning that needs to be understood by everyone who cherishes liberty and the rule of law.

Consider what confusion would result if you used the term "due process" to mean something other than proper notice and a fair hearing. Or "probable cause" to mean mere suspicion. Or "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" to mean popular opinion. We may not hear the term "social contract" used often in courtrooms, but it is nevertheless critical to comprehension of fundamental principles. Journalists should avoid miseducating their readers by misusing terms in this way. There are many other terms that you could use instead which would avoid causing confusion.

Jon Roland


A Man Who Knows Everything

Editor:

Louis Black has it wrong when he says the proposed smoking ordinance is an "experiment with social engineering" ["Page Two," May 30].

First, this is no experiment. California has been entirely smoke-free for five years. It is popular with business owners, patrons, and employees. It has also been successful in literally thousands of communities across the country including El Paso, Boston, and the entire states of New York, Delaware, and Connecticut.

Second, this is not social engineering. It is an example of the accepted practice in our society of protecting the public from significant health threats. Secondhand smoke contains high levels of carcinogens that present significant health risks to employees and patrons in indoor environments. Social engineering is what the tobacco industry does when it tries through marketing and lobbying to create a culture in which smoking seems to be essential to having a good time.

Finally, this is not an attack on local small business, but rather an initiative that will most likely improve business for Austin's music clubs. Eighty percent of our population is nonsmokers. I can't tell you how many people I have talked to who, like me, used to go out to see live music several nights a week but have cut back because we just can't take the smoke. And don't think the smokers will stop going out if the entire city goes smoke-free. Smokers go to bars to drink, listen to music, and have social interactions, just like the rest of us. They won't stop doing that just because they have to go outside to smoke. However, creating a smoke-free environment does open the doors to a huge untapped market of nonsmokers.

Thank you Mayor Garcia, council members Slusher, Thomas, and Dunkerley for your leadership on this issue.

Greg Carter


Fewer Cops, More Law and Order

Editor:

My stars and garters, we spend 66% of the municipal budget on Emergency Responder Expenses and we can't touch that. Folks, this town has the most gold-plated police/fire/EMS departments there ever were! Perhaps we need a short lecture on risk ... real short ... as one tries to extinguish risk, every level of risk decreased comes at a substantially higher cost. I grew up in Houston in the Sixties, a town, I came to find out, that had four (count 'em) speed cops. We can back lots of money out of these budgets before the town is burning down or crime is rampant. Here are some suggestions:

  • Every fender-bender in this town needs a cop (or two or three), a fire truck, and an EMS. On first response. Not. Set a policy that the dispatcher sends one cop unless the person calling in the wreck or the cop specifically says there are injuries or gas/oil on the street. And this is just an issue we can all see.

  • Bigger: The phrase is "law and order," not just law. This business of every infraction requires a full legal response (read arrest) has to stop. The kid smells of pot on a traffic stop, perhaps he needs a ride home to papa and mama for a serious chat with the nice policeman. Next time the cop may not be so nice. Same for petty theft, loitering, public intoxication, lots more. Also, why does it always have to be the police? Other groups could take more responsibility. (Perhaps volunteer, aren't more of us unemployed?) This would be a good time to shift some priorities. We've been doing it around our home.

    Untouchable ... who sez?

    Larkin Skinner


    Don't Stop Library Construction

    Editor:

    I am writing in response to Mike Clark-Madison's recent article, "The Red Ink Hits the Fan" [May 30]. In the article, he mentioned that the possible deferral of capital improvement projects, such as library branch expansions/relocations, could mean that they would be shelved indefinitely.

    The Austin Library Commission recently passed a resolution requesting that the city not defer any current library expansion/relocation projects. Construction is well under way on the expansion of the Carver branch, as well as the new Ruiz branch library. At the same time, the Terrazas branch library expansion project is ready for council approval of the construction contract award, while the Spicewood Springs branch library expansion project is currently being advertised for construction bids. Additionally, land acquisition is nearly complete for the replacement of the Twin Oaks branch, and design has begun on replacement for the North Village branch library.

    Delaying completion of these projects will only lead to increased construction costs, while the city continues to pay rent at several branches. For example, rent for the Twin Oaks branch is currently about $60,000 a year, and it is more than $95,000 a year rent for North Village.

    The city will face many tough decisions during the upcoming budget deliberations, and it is almost a certainty that library services will have to be cut. However, in doing so, the city should explore creative alternatives to ensure that library users throughout the city are well served.

    In the long run, it makes sense from both a financial perspective and to respect the compact that has been made with Austin voters, for these projects to be completed in a timely manner.

    David Mintz

    President,

    Austin Library Commission


    Unsatisfied Customers

    Editor:

    Thank you for the June 6 article on the Richardsons' uninhabitable new home built by David Weekley Homes ["Is Texas High Court Contaminated by Toxic Campaign Cash?"]. This case illustrates how difficult, if not impossible, it is to get resolution in a construction-defect case.

    The homebuilders associations contribute millions annually to political campaigns and lobbying and would have the public believe that "everyone" is suing builders over frivolous items, and winning huge awards. This is not even allowable under most states' laws. A plaintiff homeowner who can even afford to sue is lucky to win enough to break even, and luckier still to ever collect from a builder. Most only lose, even when they win, and that's assuming they even could sue, due to the arbitration clause. Besides, if "everyone" is suing builders, then how are builders able to continue advertising they have something like 99% customer satisfaction?

    Cindy Schnackel


    Thanks for Your Opinion

    Editor:

    I know the final vote occurred June 5, and I hope the ban for the no-smoking ordinance will be enforced. I am worried that any bar or restaurant will be able to put a few pool tables up and call it a pool hall. I hope that does not happen.

    Thank you,

    Robert Barker


    I Can't Believe I Voted for Slusher

    Editor:

    If there is a dump Daryl Slusher movement, please sign me up. I can't believe I voted for a self-righteous prick. In Houston, the Continental Club has Monday bingo nights. I'm not sure if I am Moose Club material.

    Skipper Ragsdale


    Amen!

    Editor:

    Keep in mind two dollars and 13 cents an hour:

    Every time you walk into a restaurant, please for the love of the working man and woman, keep in mind $2.13.

    It occurred to me tonight, as I was sweeping up, that to talk about tips is taboo, for one reason or another. If someone leaves a bad tip, the server can't walk up and ask: Why? It's forbidden, as a matter of fact, if a server were to do that, he/she would probably lose their job. Servers are expected to take their tips as-is, say nothing, don't react, don't ask. Well, I must say, tips are how we: pay our rent, buy our homes, feed our children, pay for food, pay for our own school, buy shoes, make-up, booze, vacations. Tips are not a bonus, they are not a perk; they are our pay.

    So what to do if you cannot afford to eat out and tip? You go somewhere that pays its employees a living wage. Eating out is not a right, it's a privilege, I haven't eaten out in months, if you can't afford it, you don't go out.

    It sucks because I know I have limited space here, if this even gets published, there are so many things that need to be explained about working in a restaurant, but I don't have room. Just always keep in mind that you server is making two dollars and 13 cents an hour!!!!!!

    Thanks,

    Please withhold my name as I could lose my job just for writing this.


    Third World Texas

    Editor:

    If you have driven east on U.S. Highway 290 East recently and glanced to your left as you came over the Ed Bluestein Highway 183 overpass, you may have noticed a gigantic blue rectangle incongruously set in a wooded hillside. If so, you have witnessed Austin's latest curiosity: an expanding urban garbage dump. This 12-acre cell is the first of five such cells being constructed by Waste Management on a tributary of Big Walnut Creek. The bottom of this cell is 60 feet below grade, and when it is full of garbage, the elevation will rival Mount Bonnell. The four successive cells will be constructed even closer to Walnut Creek. In addition, Waste Management has 21,000 barrels of industrial waste that were buried in the 1970s to manage.

    On the other side of Waste Management is BFI, seeking to expand vertically by altering the Decker Creek floodplain.

    Added together, the two dumps already cover almost 1,000 acres -- and both want expansions. The Austin city limits surround these two trash giants. In spite of more than 700 odor complaints and numerous violations cited by TCEQ, neither the city of Austin nor Travis County commissioners have offered any substantive help to the residents or the environment. In fact, Travis County commissioners are considering weakening their existing floodplain ordinance in order to allow even more garbage to be dumped even closer to the floodplain.

    Imagine the spectacle soon to become a part of U.S. 290 East: hundreds of garbage trucks coming and going, mountains of garbage from more than 22 counties, flocks of vultures, sea gulls, and grackles encircling the landscape, and the familiar garbage stench permeating the air. (For a preview, travel Blue Goose Road right now.)

    Welcome to northeast Austin -- the Third World country of Texas!

    Joyce Thoresen


    Stop Smoking -- Cars

    Editor:

    It is a matter of grave concern that nonsmokers can't partake in the basic human necessity of spending a night out on the town without having their health threatened. Additionally, I've noticed that lots of pedestrians, cyclists, and mass-transit riders, engaged in the admittedly self-indulgent practice of commuting to work are forced to suck the roadside exhaust of cars driven by smokers and nonsmokers alike. While we have the City Council's support for cleaning up the air, let's push forward and really do a complete job ... ban the cars that foul the breathing air of our fair city! Just trying to be reasonable here ...

    David Ansel


    Health More Important Than Rights

    Editor:

    I wish to commend Gus Garcia, Betty Dunkerley, Daryl Slusher, and Danny Thomas for voting for not only a Smoke-Free Austin, but for the increased quality of "human life" for the children, families, and the youth of Austin. The position that they have taken is not only necessary, it is the only position!

    It is certainly a "grave" disappointment that Jackie Goodman, Raul Alvarez, and of "all people" Will Wynn to vote against a Smoke-Free Austin. In a very short period of time they will be witness to the mistake they made.

    I have lived in and out of Austin and San Diego, Calif., since 1979, and when the Smoke-Free San Diego was proposed the same cry went up, bad business. Today I encourage Jackie Goodman, Raul Alvarez, and Will Wynn to visit San Diego to see the hustle and bustle of "mega-business" in the restaurants, bars, and business in general.

    Please continue the good work and keep the dissenters focused on what is important to the "quality of life" in Austin, Texas.

    Regards,

    Ron Kolenic


    A Vote for Bush Is a Vote for War

    Editor:

    A Google search for "death toll Iraq war" returns several results titled "U.S. Death Toll in Iraq War Rises to 79."

    So to sum up, we have zero WMD, 79 dead U.S. soldiers, billions of dollars wasted on bombs, etc., thousands of dead Iraqi soldiers and civilians, the enmity of the world (priceless), plus the heightened risk of terrorism from angry Muslims around the world. Given the high costs of this bogus war, where are the calls for impeachment of President Bush for inciting a war under false pretenses?

    But hey, the war was great for the national ego, and that's what really matters. Four more for Bush in '04. Yay.

    Joel Irby


    Let's Compromise

    Whenever you hear anybody on one side of an issue such as the smoking ban talking about "freedoms," you know they're only thinking of their own.

    Arlo McCalla ["Postmarks," May 30] in his letter says to all of us who don't like cigarette smoke, "As a consumer, why go into bars or clubs knowing that smoking will be going on? If the smoke bothers you, don't work or go there."

    Umm ... this is America we're in isn't it, not Cuba? Who made you El Presidente Arlo? Who gave you the power to tell me where to go and where not to? Are you banning me and all who share the same dislike of cigarette smoke from all bars and clubs? I don't think that's allowed here.

    I don't go to bars and clubs because of the smoke, but I want to, and I would if it wasn't there. I used to work in a London pub, and I enjoyed the job, but I didn't much care for constantly smelling like an old ashtray. Nor did my girlfriend.

    I don't support a complete ban on smoking. I understand that today, the majority of Americans are nonsmokers, therefore I believe that all bars, clubs, public spaces should be nonsmoking, with a separate, enclosed area for smokers to go and indulge their habit when they need to.

    There's always room for compromise.

    James Madison


    No Property-Tax Reduction Now

    Editor:

    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."

    Eldon Stegman


    Nonsmokers Can't Wait to Go Out

    Editor:

    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.

    Jason Levitt


    Hypocrisy Boxes for Everyone!

    Editor:

    When I read Mr. Black's embarrassingly weird threat to expose the "hypocrisy" of the City Council members who vote for the smoking ordinance by putting their names in a box in the pages of the Chronicle in order to accuse them of voting to close music venues, ["Page Two," May 30], it compelled me to make a suggestion.

    Here's an idea for another box. This box could appear every time a local bar employee or musician dies of lung cancer or heart disease, and its purpose would be to expose those council members who sided with the business community over the health of workers. You can make this box just like the first one, only it will have the names of all the council members who voted to kill the worker or musician.

    It's also important to note that this box would be more closely aligned with the truth since, as you know, there is no evidence that smoking bans hurt business. But the EPA designated secondhand smoke as a Group A carcinogen -- a designation that has been given to only 15 of the nastiest pollutants including asbestos and benzene. Since then, it's been estimated to cause 35,000 to 40,000 deaths a year from heart disease and lung cancer in healthy nonsmokers, so you understand how it might be easier to make such an accusatory leap.

    Here's another suggestion: Maybe you could just run a few more full-page color cigarette ads and forget running "boxes" intended to threaten and intimidate council members who are trying to protect workers, musicians, and Austin citizens on issues of public health.

    Johnny Minton

  • A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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