Our readers talk back.
City Protecting Our Interests?
As we go through the budget process, are we really protecting the taxpayers' interests? In the midst of a huge revenue shortfall, the city is:
1) Providing tax rebates for real estate developers (like the $37 million to Endeavor), while slashing budgets for our underfunded libraries and parks.
2) Suspending projects which taxpayers have already approved and paid for (the Mexican American Cultural Center, a new library in East Austin), while spending nearly $300,000 to do the planning for the new Saltillo development project.
3) Announcing a new program to streamline the approval of new development projects, while ignoring the mind-numbing inefficiencies that exist throughout the city.
The effect of these policies: We are building malls and closing libraries, all while raising taxes. Is this the best our mayor, city council, and city manager can do for us? If we want to stimulate economic development, let's focus on our quality of life instead of the developers'.
No Matter How You Add It Up -- Less Service
Laura [Huffman] falsely claims that the Fire Department ["Budget Battles, Round One," Aug. 15] is blaming its management for an economic crisis. What we are blaming our management for are ill-conceived, hardheaded, and service-reducing solutions. Our chief has many options to cut the budget that don't include replacing two units with one, or replacing one fully staffed unit with one-half of a unit and staff. The list of alternatives to these types of service cuts is long. When asked for help, we were told, "There are no 'sacred cows'" -- yet it turns out there are many. One example: While we are being asked to take 27 firefighters off the street, the proposed Recruiting Budget for 2003-2004 is $1,290,247. Why recruit? We were asked for a mere $1,000,000 in cuts. You do the math. Make no mistake, Austin, less fire apparatus plus less firefighters equals less service. To claim otherwise is a lie. Don't buy the spin. You're paying the bills. Would you rather see us recruit in other states (yes, we do that!), or would you rather see local folks who apply for the job actually staffing fire trucks in your neighborhood? For more examples of our "outcry," as Laura puts it, e-mail me at email@example.com.
Don't Blame Sen. Barrientos
Robin Matthews ["Postmarks," Aug. 8] confuses process and substance in his call to bring Sen. Barrientos back from "his 'escape' from democracy." Like an aging pugilist who has taken too many punches, Matthews falsely assumes there is nobility in taking a beating, if it is fighting the good fight. Make no mistake about it, there is no "good fight" to be had in this bout. The old fixeroo has been phoned in from the banks of the Potomac. That this is the case is easily deduced from the abrupt about-face of the lieutenant governor, who gave up his somewhat noble foray into education-funding reform in a heartbeat when he had his chain jerked with sufficient force. If Mr. Matthews would re-establish contact with his former government teaching experience, he might rather pine for the lost democracy planned for the disenfranchised rural and minority Texas voters who are the intended victims of this GOP foolishness. That the intelligent and principled Republican Sen. Bill Ratliff has no stomach for this mess and continues to oppose it should be reason enough to understand that the opposition and drastic action of the 11 Democrats is no "childish behavior."
County Government Lacks Accountability
I took interest in your story ["Money for Nothing," Aug. 15] because it talked at length about the competitive bid requirements when the county awards a construction project. While rather lax, there are at least some competitive bid requirements for awarding a construction contract for a county project. I'm not aware of any competitive bid requirements for awarding professional contracts. Architectural and engineering contracts are routinely awarded by the respective commissioner or the county judge without bids. One common thread is the lack of accountability by our county government to anyone.
Steve M. Joyner
Doctors Say Vote Yes On Proposition 12
Michael King is imagining the "financial army" behind the "poor beleaguered doctors" who are supporting Proposition 12 ["Capitol Chronicle," Aug. 22]. He certainly hasn't read the campaign finance reports that show the physicians of Texas are the single largest financial supporters of the "Yes on 12" campaign.
This is a straightforward issue. Vote "Yes" on Proposition 12 to ensure your doctors and hospitals will be there to take care of you when you're sick or injured.
Texas Medical Association
Music Camp Article Missed One
Since I am a career guitar teacher, I was naturally interested in the article on children's music camp ["The Kids Are All Right," Aug. 22]. However, there was one annoying error: Contrary to what was stated, there are more than two music camps in Austin for young people. One such camp is the "Childbloom Guitar Only" camp. Our program has been in existence in Austin for 23 years, and our students are some of the hottest pickers in town. I suspect your cub reporter did not know of our existence since the highest aspirations we have for our young students generally don't include performing in bars. However, the Childbloom kids have performed in nursing homes and hospitals on occasion -- perhaps your writer could catch us at rehab.
Kevin Taylor, Director
The Childbloom Guitar Program
[Ed. note: We can only hope that "cub reporter" crack was facetious -- Margaret Moser was covering music in Austin before your camp was founded.]
Texas Politics' Entertaining Viciousness
I like reading about Texas politics. California politics frequently look batty -- but Texas politics are better at all-out maliciousness. I'm confused by your Republicans' fuming about how the rebels are squashing their fun. I thought that's how quorums and democracy were supposed to work.
Missoula Mourns James Welch
What a wonderful thing to run across Paul Stekler's piece about the death of James Welch ["His Presence Was a Lovely Thing," Aug. 22]. Missoula has a hole in its heart. Thanks for hearing our cries of grief.
13th Annual Hot Sauce Festival Too Crowded
My first [Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival] was the 12th annual -- had a really good time. Hubby and I got there early, did a systematic taste test of about 20 or so sauces, bought eight bottles of good stuff, ate some tacos, drank some beers, and bought seven chile ristas. Loved that first band. By 2pm we were under the misters, but vowed to come back next year with our friends.
This year, we didn't get there until about 2pm, had to wait 15 minutes for a beer, only sampled the sauces where there was some shade, only saw one vendor selling food and there was no chile rista vendor. I was looking to buy another six or seven!
I know this festival is a really fun thing, and I applaud the organizers for the no-fee aspect, but it seems to me the festival has outgrown Waterloo Park and could benefit from some people-friendly reorganizing.
For what it's worth, here's some recommendations: Relocate to a larger venue with lots more shade; provide way more beer tents to prevent the long lines, sell more, and make more money; and bring in lots of arts/crafts vendors for people willing to spend money on chile-oriented stuff.
When it's too hot to stand in a long line to sample hot sauces, cruising arts/crafts tents or dancing/listening to music is next, but waiting 15-20 minutes in line for a beer is a real party-spirit deflater. Hence, hubby and our friends left the 13th annual around 4pm, walked down the street to Serranos and left a hefty chuck of change for a couple of rounds along with their chips and salsa on the outdoor patio. Hmmm ... is there a message here?
[Editor's Note: More beer servers than ever were added and other expansions made for this year's festival but the turnout was more than anyone anticipated (over 100 more sauces entered than last year). We apologize for any delays and inconvenience and are already planning next year's, concentrating on how to make things run smoother.]
Forcing Religion Down Our Throats
Someone with the last name of Beckwith had a letter to the editor posted on Aug. 22 ["Postmarks,"]. He claimed to be a member of a "persecuted" group (i.e., Christians) and compared efforts to oppose his theocratic agenda, which opposes providing good science education, with such things as the Nazi persecution of the Jews. Actually those who oppose Mr. Beckwith may well be preventing him and others like him from forcing his Christian religion down their throats. So, in this context, Beckwith's religion is relevant because he is using it to advance an authoritarian agenda by replacing the teaching of science with mythology.
Mr. Black, I enjoyed your editorial on "Postscripts" and the dilemma of titling all the letters that will be printed in the Chron's online edition ["Page Two," Aug. 15]. (Shame on you, by the way, for that callous and uncalled-for title ["Have You Ever Read Our Paper?"]. Really! What were you thinking?!) I would offer the suggestion that letters could be sorted by subject matter, with very straightforward titles for the categories, and a miscellaneous section. You'd only have to rack your brain for titles for the published edition.
Kenney C. Kennedy
Cottonwoods Removed Because They Were Dying
I am incredulous that Robin Sherwin ["Postmarks," Aug. 15] believes the city's decision to remove the cottonwoods was because they blocked the summer movie screen. Does he really believe that any member of the Friends of Deep Eddy, or any of the pool's patrons, was not heartbroken to hear the trees had to be removed? I loved the cottonwoods, but they were not only dying: They'd become a serious health hazard. Limbs weighing as much as 1,000 pounds were falling into the pool and the park. I watched the coverage of the removal; one of the limbs that had been cut down was nearly hollow. Another limb, about 2 feet in diameter, came crashing to the ground after being barely grazed by a chainsaw. It's unrealistic to think that patrons would be willing to sign a waiver of liability just to swim in a pool where they'd be crushed or killed. Would Mr. Sherwin have let his children swim in the shallow end while the trees remained standing?
It was a sad day for all swim fans when the cottonwoods came down. Mr. Sherwin hasn't helped anything by making groundless accusations about the city or the Friends of Deep Eddy's motives.
Road Construction Threatens Water Quality
I am a little disturbed to see deep asphalt roadbeds being laid for Bee Caves Road and in other nearby road projects such as West Bank and the ninth-grade school entryway off of Camp Craft Road. All of these roads are in areas that receive a lot of water that feeds quickly into our drinking water. How was it that these roads came to be constructed in this way rather than with a concrete bed? This just doesn't seem to be the best idea.
U.S. Has Changed
I hadn't realized how old I was getting till I read Michael Ventura ["Letters @ 3AM," Aug. 22] on the way it used to be in the 1950s. He and I are about the same age and so have many of the same kinds of memories, though he was a city kid and my father was a farmer. It wasn't until I read his explanation to others of how it once was in this country that I fully realized, by triangulation, how alien that must seem to people my children's age.
Ventura is right. It was a freer, riskier, more exciting and inviting country.
'Intelligent Design' Not Scientific
If Shawn Pendley ["Postmarks," Aug. 8] really believes that "Intelligent Design" qualifies as scientific theory, then I.D. has done its job: to masquerade old-fashioned anti-scientific mumbo jumbo in a costume of postmodern jargon that makes it attractive to people with no scientific training and an axe to grind.
Like "Scientific Creationism" before it, "Intelligent Design" makes no scientific predictions and is not falsifiable. It is yet another expression of the "God of the Gaps" deceit, only this time wrapped up in mathematical fallacies that grossly misrepresent the science of probability and continue to put God into a smaller and smaller box.
It saddens me that otherwise intelligent people fall for the garbage that Behe and company continue to spew. Creationists used to claim that the Second Law of Thermodynamics made evolution impossible, even though it does nothing of the kind; this current spew about "mathematically irreducible complexity" is the same sort of lies in a new coat of paint.
I want to know if all those Mexican road-crew laborers employed by the city of Austin are legal immigrants. I cannot tell you all those that I pass (I'm a runner) that cannot speak English! How is this possible?
I would like a city job (even digging a ditch), but unless you "know" someone Mexican, English need not apply!
Hypocrisy at work again,
"Jobless in Austin"