Our readers talk back.
It's a Music Festival!!
I am an old man who loves peace and quiet, law and order, and I live in the downtown neighborhood, and I helped save East Sixth from clearance for condos in 1979. I much prefer classical romantic 19th-century music to the new sounds of today, and I was fast asleep at 2:30am when the cops made the arrests for street noise at the Exodus, but please, for human and heaven sake, it was a music festival in music city (?) and not a quiet prayer vigil! Ever been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans or to Carnival in Rio? And besides, New Year's Eve and the millennium masses in downtown Austin were far more threatening.
Although I was not at the Exodus and I realize there are several viewpoints on the matter, the handling of the incident by the city and police is a civic embarrassment. Even the noisy Berlioz, Beethoven, or Stravinsky would wake up and then roll over and groan at how this legendary "outlaw country" put a "full (Willie?) nelson" on the Ozomatli musicians for daring to take their musical message in a conga line into the carless street, which should be turned over permanently to pedestrians anyway.
Public order and public servants are indeed important, but so is spontaneity in public life, which suffers these days from increasing social and architectural suffocation and audiences programmed as passive recipients. Hopefully, outsiders will not say "No 'Exodus' for Us" in Austin and will return to enliven the city once again at the next SXSW Festival.
This Must Be a Joke, Right?
The statement, "Land has been donated by Stratus Properties Inc. near Circle C Ranch" appears in "AISD Board to Consider $420 Million Bond Package" [News, March 19]. Oh, ha ha ha. Donated? This is a joke, isn't it? How about, "In exchange for $16 million-plus in tax subsidies donated by the city of Austin, Stratus Properties has agreed to allow the AISD permanent use of a few acres for school facilities necessitated by rampant suburban sprawl in Stratus' Circle C Ranch area." How much money is Stratus making off this deal?
Please spare Stratus from your altruistic fantasies,
Green Party Responds
In last week's "Postmarks" [March 12], after laying into Democrats for not running in districts 21 and 10, Krissy Morrow goes on to hope that they'll at least be Green Party candidates in those races, "But given their record lately, they'll probably run in 25 instead and try to mess up the Democrats' chances."
So it's the job of the Green Party to offer you a choice against a Republican, but only when there's no Democrat (however bad they might be) running? Uh, thanks for the support. We in fact are not running in District 25, never have run against Doggett.
Despite Ms. Morrow's sarcasm, the Green Party doesn't run to "mess up Democrats' chances." If you're concerned about that spoiling, you should support Instant Run-Off Voting for Texas. Democrats Rep. Eddie Rodriguez and Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos introduced bills allowing for it last year, but they went nowhere, opposed by the Republican Party, unsupported by the Democratic Party. This idea is gaining traction having passed in San Francisco and Berkeley, and supported by Dean, Kucinich, and the Utah Republican Party. Find out more about IRV at www.fairvote.org.
If Ms. Morrow, or anyone else, wants to know what Greens are running for, just call.
John St. Denis
Co-Chair, Travis County Green Party
Pointing Out Flaws in Anti-Property Tax Letters
The letters in your last issue decrying Austin property-tax levels have several logical and factual flaws ["Postmarks," March 19]. Rates for typical Austinites (AISD, city of Austin, Travis County, and ACC) are $2.68 per $100 of assessed property value this year. They were 5% lower ($2.55/$100) last year, but average property values declined about 4% between those years, leaving the average tax bill only 1% higher. (Most homeowners have exemptions and rate-of-increase limits that cause their rates to be somewhat lower.)
For last year's tax-rate increases to cause a storage rental to go up by $35 per month ($420/year), as claimed in one letter, the assessed value per unit would have to be about $323,000. Your landlord is lying to you, pal.
Although Texas property taxes have several flaws (such as failure to increase homestead exemption levels with inflation, no provision for renters to share in homestead exemptions, and being applied totally on a local level even to fund needs with statewide impact), the amount of property used by a person corresponds much more closely to ability to pay than sales-taxable purchases do.
The letter from Oregon (where property taxes are about two-thirds of the Texas level) is a bit more reasonable, but the main reason that Oregon (whose overall taxes are higher) is a better tax environment for fixed-income people than Texas is that it uses a state income tax (70% of filers are in the 9% bracket) rather than either a sales tax or excess reliance on property taxes.
A final point: Watch out for the GOP plan to remove the progressive features now in the Texas sales tax (such as exemption of groceries and rent) in order to grant property-tax relief that would go mainly to better-off people and businesses. They do not have your interests at heart.
SXSW Drinking Game
Just wanted to let you know that by the end of the week, my friends and I had turned listening to bands at SXSW into its own drinking game. Goes like this: Band says "somebody make some noise" drink. Lead singer looks like Jesus (closed eyes, praying hands, open hands spread to air) drink. Band thanks crowd drink twice (this gets you particularly pissed).
Loved it all, and thanks for your great coverage of another year's fun and frolic!
Austin by way of Waco!
Bards Proud to Be No. 2
What a pleasant surprise! On St. Patrick's Day we played for a few hundred cheering Celtic music lovers at the Irish Dragoon Pub in Killeen. The next day we learned we were voted the second best folk band in the Live Music Capital of the World via The Austin Chronicle Music Poll.
Second best might mean nothing to some, but for us, it's the culmination of five years introducing Austinites to fun Celtic folk music. It began with a daily performance on the South Mall of UT a tradition that lasted two years. Since then, we've played at festivals and conventions from coast to coast, including a showcase at SXSW, and most recently, a wild performance at a Lord of the Rings Oscar party in Hollywood after LOTR swept the Oscars.
While we may be an unsigned band, we've successfully released six studio albums, sold more than 5,000 CDs, and had more than five million MP3s downloaded. I guess it just goes to show that it doesn't take a big budget, a label, or even having "radio-ready" music to make a difference to people. All it takes is a sincere desire to entertain and make music that your fans will enjoy.
So to our many fans in Austin and around the world who voted for us in the Music Poll, Andrew and I would like to say, "Thank you!"
So Little Richard thinks that rap is an art form ["Wop-Bop-a-Loo-Bop," Music, March 19]. Ronald Reagan thought that ketchup was a vegetable, but somehow he failed to convince me.
Rap is obnoxious noise that I am not stupid enough to listen to. Thank you for your time.
Don't Trust 'Esquire'
In the last issue ["Postmarks," March 19] Ron Deutsch wrote in to alert us that Austin had failed to make Esquire magazine's Top 10 "cities that rock," then went on to say that the "obvious answer" to this is that the city of Austin just doesn't care. And he's right, I don't care.
I could absolutely care less what some national fashion 'n' lifestyle mag thinks of the rock scene here in Austin. They may also find our Tex-Mex bland and our women ugly. Fresno, Denver, and Gainesville made the list? I think omission from a list like that is truly a blessing.
I agree that the state and local governments have done little to foster the music scene and in some cases have done just the opposite. But to paraphrase Frank Zappa, politicians and Esquire magazine wouldn't know good rock & roll if it bit them on the ass.
What makes the music scene in Austin alive isn't slogans from the City Council or studies by the Legislature. It's kept alive by going to locally owned clubs and seeing local acts. And when you hear someone you like, then going to a local record shop and putting your money where your heart is. We are the scene, and it's our responsibility to keep it alive and unique.
So make your own list, Ron. And maybe update your magazine subscriptions, I mean Esquire, sheesh.
The arrest of two Ozomatli band members and their manager late Wednesday night following a SXSW performance at Exodus on Sixth Street is another shining example of the sheer stupidity of street-level officers in the Austin Police Department.
The honorable and smart thing for APD to do is to offer a sincere apology and drop the charges.
But honor and intelligence isn't a requirement for "public service" these days, is it?
Look what we've got for a president.
Aren't we a great country? Pre-emptive strikes against weaker states. Violent assaults on unarmed musicians by the men in blue.
Both knee-jerk unthinking reactionary reptilian behavior.
If there is a God, I doubt she blesses America anymore.
I simply could not be more disgusted by the news that band members in violation of the noise level ordinance were arrested in full view of their audience and that their fans were then pepper-sprayed for standing in defiance of the APD's draconian tactics.
"Live Music Capital of the World" indeed.
I believe this has sent a loud and clear message to SXSW attendees from around the globe; Austin does not support its local musicians and, in fact, seems to take perverse pleasure in treating them as poorly as possible.
I dearly love Austin, its vibe and its attitude, but gentrification has destroyed this city and reduced it to little more than a haven for corporate prostitution, yuppiefication, and goose-stepping rednecks with badges and guns.
Goodbye, Austin ... I'll always remember and love the way that you once were.
Alert From SOS
Clean water and live music make living in Austin wonderful, and swimming at Barton Springs and reveling at the Backyard amphitheatre are among the best of both. Imagine living here without either one.
Out-of-town real estate speculators are pushing for a "big box" shopping center that threatens the Backyard and Barton Springs. Dallas-based Lincoln Property Company is pushing a project, called the Shops at the Galleria, that would entirely surround the Backyard with 43 football fields' worth of pavement and retail boxes, including a 165,000-square-foot Lowe's.
In addition to destroying the Hill Country setting at the Backyard, the proposed development is on the banks of Little Barton Creek, where contaminated runoff from parking lots would flow into Barton Creek and emerge at Barton Springs.
You can view "before and after" images of this property at www.sosalliance.org/beecave.htm. See for yourself the ugliness that is proposed. Then join us in saying "no, thank you" to Lincoln and Lowe's.
We have stopped this development for now with a court-ordered temporary injunction, but the Village of Bee Cave Board of Alderman is trying to correct their violations of local and state law by reconsidering the project at their April 13 meeting. Plan on attending this important public meeting. Write the board at www.beecavetexas.com/ask.psp.
The Backyard doesn't have to suffer the same fate as the Armadillo World Headquarters and Liberty Lunch. Barton Springs doesn't have to become a repository for urban runoff.
The developers can build in the area but off the Barton Springs watershed and without ruining the Backyard. The public has a right to act at the ballot box, in the court of public opinion, and in the marketplace. Get involved. We need your help. Call us at 477-2320 or visit our Web site: www.sosalliance.org.
Save Our Springs Alliance
Democracy Won in Spain
To those who suggest that the elections in Spain are a victory for the terrorists, I say that the terrorists won when the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq and gave al Qaeda the ultimate recruiting tool.
The people of Spain have thrown out a leadership that defied the public will by joining the coalition, failed to protect the public from the danger that defiance brought on, then "misled" the public about who was attacking them. It sounds to me like democracy has won in Spain.
Not Buying All of Argument
You make it sound as if John Allen Muhammad was a frontline infantryman who was "in the shit," so to speak, for too long ["Postmarks" online, March 11]. He was a mechanic, not exactly a grunt. Granted, he earned an expert marksmanship badge, but so do thousands of soldiers. I knew medics and clerks who consistently did the same. However, these medics and many other veterans such as myself do not go around picking off people for no reason. Many have excelled in the civilian world because of their military experience, not despite of it.
Your stand for abolishing the death penalty is compelling. Yet, trying to blame maladjustment from service as a combat support soldier is not very convincing and only detracts from what would otherwise be sound reasoning.
Happy About Dramarama
I'm close friends with the lead guitarist, and I'm very happy you put out an article about Dramarama ["Showcase Spotlights," Music, March 20].
Have a good day, Paul Flanders
South Paris, Maine
Reading the Chronicle today I experienced an "aha." One letter to the editor decried the fact that the Austin district, which was in the past effectively represented by Lloyd Doggett, was carved up and stretched to three ends of the state ["Postmarks," March 19]. It amounts to taxation without representation. The same paper contained an article about the actions of Tom DeLay, who engineered the political turkey-carving of Austin ["Welcome to Tomstown," News, March 19]. And then came the epiphany.
Mr. DeLay has to run for Congress in District 22 in November. He runs against an opponent, Richard Morrison of Sugarland, who has energy, ethics, and a sense of purpose. Now is the right time to get out and do something. I can convert the sense of defeat into a sense of purpose and spend my energy defeating Tom DeLay. When a representative from a small district can wield so much power in Congress there is still a chance for nonmillionaires to make a difference in politics. One vote at a time, one check at a time, Mr. DeLay can be defeated. I am sending a contribution to Mr. Morrison.
This administration has brought about a perfect political storm not seen since the Vietnam era. Our current political representatives are destroying our environment, engaging in war under false pretenses, lying about the costs of that war, destroying good will among nations, bankrupting the future of our grandchildren, tying church to state, stealing our privacy and freedoms, and further impoverishing the poor. Although Mr. Bush may win Texas' electoral votes, we stand a reasonable chance of removing his key Texas lieutenant. I hope that on a national level, if people vote and contribute energy, creativity, and money, another Bush will serve only one term. Join with me: "Delete DeLay, Delete DeLay, Delete DeLay."
Texans Are the Smartest People
I am so proud to have such a smart and considerate man in charge of this country. He does so much to help us. Just look at the oil he is now stockpiling in the federal oil reserves. Clinton would dump the oil on the market when prices went up and buy for the reserves when oil prices were low. What a dummy. No wonder Texas didn't carry Clinton. The oil producers need the subsidy to take to Africa and find more oil for us. Bush is keeping us from running out of oil. Harkin would have stayed solvent had we had someone who knew how to keep the oil prices propped up. I could go on about our commander in chief's great policies, but I don't have to. We Texans are the smartest people of all 50 states. We already know what our fellow transplanted Texan brings to the table.