Our readers talk back.

Villas Are Not 'Bad' Infill

Dear Editor,

I was thrilled to read Mike Clark-Madison's relatively good take on the absolute necessity for many neighborhoods to take a more responsible stand on density in and near their own homes ["Austin@Large," News, Dec. 19]. However, I found it odd that he would put the Villas in with superduplexes as examples of "bad" infill.

While spending the last seven years living (and owning homes) in two central Austin neighborhoods, one fairly responsible [Old West Austin Neighborhood Association] and one not, I've also been serving on the Urban Transportation Commission, a role which requires that one view issues such as development outside the prism of what is best for an individual neighborhood in the extremely short-term.

Oddly enough, every single person I've spoken with outside the NUNA [North University Neighborhood Association] neighborhood (where I now live) views the Villas as an unquestionably good thing -- since it is providing student housing within walking distance of UT with a fairly good streetscape (it's not Post on Third, but it's still among the better complexes). In fact, many wonder why the project is so small, not why it's so large, which is presumably Clark-Madison's problem with it.

I would argue that at this point in history, anyone who opposes the Villas has a great deal of suspect credibility to overcome outside the echo-chamber of a few neighborhood associations who apparently think their mandate is to replicate Circle C closer to downtown.


Mike Dahmus

[Mike Clark-Madison responds: Actually, Mike Dahmus presumes wrong; I do think the Villas project is too small, or at least the part of it where people actually live. Even smaller -- indeed, nonexistent -- is the street-level office and retail space (other than the existing Blockbuster) that could be created along (and even within) the Villas' massive street frontages. What's too large is the space devoted to cars -- both the enormous parking garage and the surface parking of the Blockbuster. I can't see any way around the fact that, despite some aesthetic trappings, the Villas is a big suburban apartment complex -- and, worse yet, one designed to be both overpriced and homogenous -- dropped into what might be the very most viable location in the entire city for a truly urban -- mixed-use, pedestrian- and transit-dependent -- project. If we can't push the urban envelope on the Drag, we can't push it anywhere, and we should just give up. To say -- as four council members did -- that this is the best we can do, or that density alone makes a project "urban," is a failure of vision and leadership. My point was that, as Dahmus suggests, knee-jerk opposition to density per se makes it easy for the city to view such failures as acts of bravery.]

Abortion Produces Death

Louis Black,

Everything in this world produces more of its own kind. Abortion produces death. Approximately 11é2 years ago I asked my ethics professor if women who had abortions committed more suicides than women who did not.

The teacher got offended and said I would have to look that up myself. I did and found out that suicide rates for women who had abortions were not recorded in the mainstream except for in Finland.

In Finland, the suicide rates corresponded with higher abortion rates. Apparently Finland was the only country to record this information. Well, the rates were higher (for suicides coupled with abortion). Whatever we produce reproduces. Death produces death. Abortion produces suicide and guilt-death of confidence. That's the truth no matter what philosophy or perspective.

Alanda Ledbetter

Being Pro-Life Means Nurturing Children as Well

Dear Editor,

Thank you Chronicle for your coverage of the assault on women's rights ["Women Dig In," Dec. 5]. I notice as usual it's primarily men-initiated (including the critical letters last issue) ["Postmarks," Dec. 19]. As a mother of two wanted children I have little time to be an activist. I daresay if women historically weren't swamped with the privilege of bearing and nurturing children we would have equal voice, equal rights, and equal visibility in history books. I appreciate the notice of the march on Washington, D.C., in April. I will be there. As far as I am concerned anyone who dares to dick tate to me the destiny of my womb and my future had better already have an adopted child. Where are these pro-lifers when children are starved and tortured, or killed? Killings by mothers (always wives of fundamentalists who gave them no reproductive choice, I notice) are the most tragic of all. It's the 20th-century, fascists, wake up and drop the oppression already.


Kathleen Abbott

Conservation Always Important

Dear Editor,

A lot of excitement has been generated recently over the possibility of new sustainable energy programs that will release us from dependence on oil, nukes, coal, etc. A gentle note here to be mindful of. One must remember that energy, no matter the form, is never wasted and often out of control. Just as our ancestors invested a great deal of effort at hunting and gathering before domesticating the horse, in turn providing the power for petroleum, which led to the use of nuclear systems, all of our energy resources are now geared to providing us with the possibility of eco-friendly alternatives. Photocells are not constructed of hemp fiber. The manufacturing of many of these new product designs -- geothermal, solar, tidal, etc. -- are costly in terms of energy usage. Monetary issues are moot as the stuff is printed like junk mail. Conservation is still and always will be of primary concern.

Peace out,

Todd Alan Smith

Supposedly 'Rebounding' Economy Doesn't Really Help Workers


The news media are full of stories lately about how our economy is supposedly "rebounding." Unfortunately, this is only occurring in the service sector where adequate health insurance and other benefits have long been a sick joke. Since our so-called leaders are intent on placating multinational corporations at the expense of American workers, and since geedubya feels the need to liberate, at our expense, people who have never yet had the determination to liberate themselves, it is time for a major change. Throw the bums out of office! If the insanity that is the new U.S. economy is allowed to continue much longer, all formerly middle-class Americans will soon be selling cheap, bad food to each other to merely subsist.

Max Minor

Heart Music Believes in Their Libby Kirkpatrick Release

Hi Raoul,

I wanted to comment on the review from Matt Dentler on Libby Kirkpatrick ["Texas Platters," Music, Nov. 14]. I can agree with some of the comments about the subject matter in her songs. However, to suggest that there are not any good songs on this record is absurd. I admit that this record is a little abstract and may take a little time to fully understand. Maybe Matt did not really listen carefully to Goodnight Venus with his heart.

We have had about 26 good to very good reviews, with two poor reviews that focused on the lyrics. A great record takes a few listens and usually grows in time.

Thanks for your help. Happy holidays.

Tab Bartling

Heart Music

Life Begins at Conception and Must Be Protected

Dear Editor,

Louis Black's recent editorial about the boycott ["Page Two," Dec. 5] mellowed into a thoughtful piece. However, I disagree with a theme he continues to develop this week ["Page Two," Dec. 12], that it is possible to justify philosophical, but not economic, opposition to abortion. If abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent human being, then it is terribly unjust. Terrible injustice should be opposed, even if there are unfortunate economic consequences. If one of the prerequisites for a social movement to be moral is not "threatening people's jobs," it seems that anti-slavery, anti-segregation, and anti-apartheid efforts would be disqualified (as an aside, I wonder if Mr. Black believes the "outrageously self-righteous" abolitionists were wrong to "judge their fellow humans in the name of deeply held religious beliefs" when they condemned the slaveholders' "right to choose"). Assuming we can agree that these peaceful but financially disruptive efforts were justified in that they prevented a greater evil, would this not apply even more to abortion, if it in fact causes not enslavement or segregation but death? Clearly, the starting point for discussing abortion and the boycott must be whether what is being aborted is a human being. So, when two human beings reproduce, is the result a human being? To ask that question is to answer it. From the moment of conception, an individual with his or her own unique DNA begins to reproduce cells and mature. That is life. Therefore, although mothers having choices and contractors having work are normally desirable, these privileges must yield to the right of innocent human beings not to be killed. We must treat these adults with compassion, but should we not also show a little compassion for the children whose lives would be ended by this practice? When conflicts arise between the interests of different parties, laws are supposed to restrain people in positions of power from using their freedom to oppress others who, despite their weakness and vulnerability, are still human beings with rights. In the case of abortion, however, our laws excuse oppression instead of restraining it. Awakening people to the immorality of our failure to protect innocent human beings appears to be "moral bullying" in your eyes, but history shows that at times of great injustice it is compassionate and right.

Matt Ridings

[Editor responds: Obviously on an issue such as abortion, the more thoughtful the discussion, the more complicated it is as well. Just a few thoughts: The leadership of the Planned Parenthood boycott has talked a lot more about controlling people's behavior than anything else. I may disagree over abortion with pro-lifers, but if they are equally committed to social welfare and health care for mother and child, as well as education and other quality of life issues -- in other words if they really value life and don't just want to punish or control other people -- they are on consistent moral ground, and we are in respectful disagreement. Toward those ends, however, I would think they would support Planned Parenthood, where so much of the mission is toward family planning, health, and education, and so very little toward abortion. Finally, almost any current social movement will cast itself and want to be identified with past history-changing social movements. Saying that your cause is morally the same as a previous cause does not make it so.]

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