Our readers talk back.
O'Connor Neutral on Project
In the April 9 Austin Chronicle article "Bee Cave Mall Back on Fast Track?" [News], I indicated that Tim O'Connor of Direct Events was "supportive of the [Shops at the Galleria] project." In fact, Mr. O'Connor is neutral regarding the project and our dispute with Save Our Springs Alliance.
Don't Trust Mike Krusee
I'm disappointed to see Mike Clark-Madison fall so easily for the bait and switch being pulled on Austin by Mike Krusee ["Austin @ Large," News, April 9]. Mr. Krusee is effective, but he has not suddenly been beset with a bout of regional responsibility.
Look at the facts:
1) Commuter rail is unlikely to serve many people within the city limits of Austin (due to the necessary wide spacing of stations and the in-expressway routing through most of Austin). You won't see a station south of 2222 coming from the north, for instance; and bet on only one between there and the city limits to the north.
2) Round Rock, which Mike Krusee represents (primarily), pays no taxes to Capital Metro.
3) The commuter rail plan is pushing Capital Metro toward providing so-called rapid-bus transit instead of light rail in the inner city (providing poor service to Austin residents, who, unlike the Round Rock residents mentioned above, pay the bills).
Connect the dots. By shady legislative maneuvering, Mike Krusee managed to stop Capital Metro from providing high-performance transit to Austin citizens in 2000 (striking a blow against the liberals) and will soon manage to successfully divert a ton of money from Austin to Round Rock citizens (either Capital Metro money or other sources), as if the overwhelming city-provided subsidy in highway spending isn't enough already. And what's better, the people from Round Rock who do ride the rails won't have to worry about the unwashed citizens of Austin sitting next to them this route will fail to serve the densest (and weirdest) parts of our city.
In short: Mike Krusee is a friggin' genius. He's providing transit to his constituents and getting us to pay the bill.
Budget Cuts Hurt Weakest
I read with interest your article ("Naked City," News, April 2) in The Austin Chronicle. I have seen the budget cuts the Republican-controlled Legislature did in the last session to our Texas elderly and children. I shuddered when I saw the effects of the Republican gutting of all coverage for dental and vision help for our Texas youngsters. It made me so mad.
But the budget cut that not only shocked but saddened me was the budget cut that Republicans unloaded on the weakest and most defenseless in our society. The Republican cut that shut off complete funding for hospice services to our poorer children hits these needy families of our state at a time when they are simply trying to keep their heads above water. At a time when you are there to witness the slow decline and ultimate death of your child, you, your child, and family are denied the services that hospice can bring to you in comfort, support, prayer, and understanding. You are denied this so the Republicans could delete some spending.
Regardless of political party, such a cut to the sickest and most defenseless of us is loathsome.
Shame on 'em.
SXSW Imposed Upon Young Austinites
Though my grandniece attends the university by working full time, she still somehow manages to paint, write poetry, and play music in a rock band. Despite what you say ["Page Two," March 26], SXSW is imposed upon youngsters who staff the all-important service sector, those underpaying locally owned restaurants, clubs, coffee shops, book stores, record merchants, etc. that have come to depend upon outside injections of capital for their survival. No worker is spared, no absence excused, extra hours are required of everyone. Little time and even less energy remain for taking in the festivities. For young artists like my grandniece, SXSW means pampering drunk and disorderly tourists, and one would hope that the cooks, cashiers, waiters, bartenders, and bouncers somehow feel affirmed knowing that their efforts contribute to saving "our" economy.
Yet I doubt it. How gratifying that you spent an evening with Jim Jarmusch recalling college days while kids like my Rachel couldn't get in to hear the director speak. You are an "arbiter of taste," Mr. Black. You hold an awesome position in this town, reminiscent of a Petronius in Nero's court. But we instinctively recognize bad faith when times are hard, and your condescension regarding real art vs. unrecognized art demands an explanation. Incidentally, being "liberal" has less to do with throwing off tradition than with applying a relentless critique of the status quo, so lets be frank you are enriched by this project. It's not a cultural event but a business venture, and, like the ill-fated Aqua Fest, SXSW is subject to the vagaries of economy.
I did not approach my 93rd year to sit by while some fat cat lectures the struggling artists in this town. You're out of your depth, sir, and would do better to report until you have grown enough to analyze the culture.
County (Not) at Work
Just in case anyone still wonders why Travis County gets into budgetary problems, here are two pictures I just took (April 8, at about 11:45am). My wife and I were out for our daily walk, down through the Pedernales River valley at Hammett's Crossing. From a distance, we were pleased to see a county work crew out to clean up the mud deposited by yesterday's receding flood waters. As we got closer though, it became apparent that there were three dumptrucks, two pickup trucks, and six or seven men just sitting around, waiting for some sort of other heavy machinery.
Now, under extreme mud conditions, this might not be too ridiculous, but the minuscule mud deposit there today could have been handled by two men with shovels, loading it into a pickup truck. When my wife suggested shovels to one of the four men in a pickup driving back and forth to set up flagger warnings, he said, "They didn't give us any." The crew has been out there for more than an hour now. At least a few of the vehicles' engines were running noisily and stinkily the whole time.
I guess this show of force is overcompensation for the almost two-week wait we had to suffer for the sand cleanup after the last major flood. Or maybe they got grief because the one before that, it took a neighbor with his front-end loader to clear the road, long before the county even made a move in this direction.
I firmly believe that even the county could be smarter, more efficient, and more environmentally sensitive than this.
Doesn't Like Taxes
Seems like the only sector of the workforce not "sweating" income is the government: city, county, state, and federal. Sure is a lot of government! In 1998 local taxes were $1,800 a year. This year $5,600. Of course we have to pay for services, but is that really what we're paying for? We all know that government agencies receive more money when they fail to do the job we're paying them to do. Example, the CIA fails to intercept the 9/11 plot; they get a $14 billion budget increase. AISD fails to reasonably educate students; they get more money, and sometimes they do this without turning over the "oh the children" card. So there is no impetus or reason to successfully execute a government job.
The bottom line is that it is perfectly legal for government to tax me out of my home, and I have no recourse. Current tax laws regulate how quickly and how much of my money government can take. It would be interesting to see what the tax rates would be if all the people who assigned rates and values made $25,000 a year.
I don't expect government to be honest, but I like to dream that one day it would be fair and equitable.
Too Crowded to Go in, Still Enjoyed It, Still Offended
What is up with Austin events these days? My husband and I went to the Swamp Romp but didn't end up going inside, as there was no place to go. Everything was crammed into this little fenced-in area, and I got claustrophobic just looking at the offensive sight. We sat outside the fence and had a real fine time. In addition, I am going to start boycotting these kinds of events, and I invite all you other real Americans to do the same. You might ask why? I will tell you why. All of the freakin' rules and regulations! I can't bring in water, food; even my umbrella now is too dang long! Hello! I thought I lived in America the home of the free! Maybe I don't want to buy the food and the water and all the other stuff they have for sale at these events. That's my right as an American, and nobody should tell me otherwise and bar my entry because I choose otherwise. I am fed up and boycotting these events until this changes. It is ridiculous. Please join me for change!
Leslie A. Breaux
Still Doesn't Want to Sell Mueller
It's hard to disagree with Louis Black that you can't really tell how the City Council members are going to vote ["Page Two," April 9]. Certainly the council, as a group, doesn't seem too excited about keeping the advantages of owning our former airport in arranging for its redevelopment not just the far greater yearly revenue stream from leasing than from selling it, but the surer control over the use of the land that goes with owning it. Members seem noncommittal even as the land-use headaches are already starting over the prospect of big-box retail like Wal-Mart on Mueller's northwest corner.
Nor is the council, as a group, up in arms demanding figures on the revenue potential of Mueller and getting them reasonably in advance of having to choose whether the staff will develop a lease or sale plan. In absurd fact, the council is scheduled to make its choice the same day it gets the staff's figures, April 22, and without estimates of the potential revenue at stake either. Jim Adams, whose company hired the talent figuring out Mueller finances for the city, told the RMMA (Mueller) Advisory Implementation Commission some time ago those estimates weren't necessary.
Looks like any council member determined to look after the city's interests with the same kind of diligence that serves stockholder interests is bucking the system, which routinely attempts to maneuver the council instead into approving what is put in front of it. No wonder Louis Black doesn't see "a group committed to leading the city." Austin really needs that group now.
Suppose Catellus buys and develops the choice sections of Mueller, then decides to sell the rest, maybe unloading that pesky affordable housing requirement. We get built-in headaches and selling is forever. Why now?
Mary L. Lehmann
Senior Citizens Pay for Bush
I feel very angry about being lied to. The Bush campaign has misled the American people by not telling the whole truth or mixing truth with lies. The senior citizens are directly paying for this war with their Medicare. I work in the health industry. I had to take a cut in pay because of this war. Not only myself but a lot of people did. The senior citizens that I care for have lost a lot of activities that they used to do on a regular basis but are now not allowed at all. One of these days you are going to get old. There might be a greedy Republican in the White House that will trade your rights for vain ambitions. Thank you and have a nice day.
Supports Early Treatment for AIDS Act
Dear Mr. Black,
I commend U.S. Reps. Lloyd Doggett, Martin Frost, Sheila Jackson-Lee, and Ciro Rodriguez for co-sponsoring the Early Treatment for HIV Act. ETHA was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in February with bipartisan support.
This bill would give states the option of providing Medicaid coverage to predisabled people living with HIV. It is very important to people living with HIV as studies show that ETHA could reduce the AIDS death rate in the United States by 60%!
ETHA would address a cruel irony in the current Medicaid system. Currently most individuals with HIV must become disabled by AIDS before they can receive access to Medicaid's care and treatment programs that could have prevented them from becoming so ill in the first place. ETHA is modeled after the highly successful Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention Act of 2000, which has been adopted by 49 states.
Studies have found that providing early intervention care significantly delays the progression of HIV disease, increases life expectancy, and is highly cost-effective. I encourage the remainder of our delegation to join as co-sponsors.
The arresting of musicians, no matter their popularity, is not important ["Not Quite 'Ya Se Fue!,'" News, March 26]. The targeting, brutalizing, and killing of less "hip" people is. The only real potential benefit of this publicity is the greater scrutiny of APD, a consequence that City Council seems determined to prevent. In a sickeningly sycophantic gesture, Brewster McCracken invites Ozomatli to play a gig for City Council, while offering to make things right by letting Sixth Street be loud late. Is this an act of starstruck chagrin, legislative enlightenment, or perhaps a deft diversion? The focus on the noise ordinance exemption, while a tiny step in a rational direction, distracts from the real issue: blatant and repeated police misconduct. Noise regulation and excessive force are two different subjects that must be dealt with according to their importance. Those who struggle for police accountability are not anti-police, they are anti-abuse of power. There is a power imbalance that is dangerous and must be accounted for, not ignored. Hopefully some celebrity agrees.
You Do 'The Alamo' Math
Letter to the editor and all Americans everywhere,
John Wayne brought us his version of The Alamo at a time when another Texan was in the White House. The Alamo, LBJ, and Vietnam were from then on wound into one sticky ball.
Disney now gives a more accurate Texas history while Bush is getting us stuck in the oil fields of Iraq. You do the math.
Gene Elder San Antonio
Play Was Incredible
The game was fast and furious. The play was incredible from both sides (I only saw the first half, though). One other ex-MLS player had been signed right before the game, Roy Lassiter. Ted Eck seemed unfamiliar with the Mexican style of play, but Ezra and Roy were outstanding. My only real question was, where did this club get the money to put up this high-quality collection of talent? Your views and opinions are anxiously awaited.
Dave and Linda Oliveira (from the front row)
Turning on Bush
American people have been met with more misinformation regarding activities of the current administration, security issues, and the character of the opposing candidates than ever before. I voted for Bush the elder both times for president and W. both times for governor, so I am not a longtime sour grapes, "I hate the Bushes" voter. Never before have I met with comments such as, "Get out of America," and, "If you are against Bush you are against America," etc. Supporting Bush and supporting our troops and America are not synonymous.
Only with great effort and insistence has the 9/11 Commission, hence the American people, been able to gain access to information available prior to the terrorist attack on the twin towers. The facts, when finally presented, have been found to bear out Clarke's revelations. Miss Rice is unable to judge the importance of information she receives much less act on it.
We do not deserve the lies and manufactured and/or withheld information from officials who place the good of America beneath personal goals.
The greatest danger to the liberty of Americans today lies in the USA PATRIOT Act, which is directly opposed to those freedoms guaranteed to us by our Constitution. This is more dangerous than terrorists, because while terrorist attacks may potentially take the lives of thousands, the liberty of every single citizen in the United States, more than 293 million, is at risk under this act. This, the dishonesty of George Bush, and his abhorrent attitude against victims of, and for perpetrators of, environmental abuses, place him at the top as the person who has the least regard for the well-being of those whom he says he represents.
Comprehensive Sex Education Is Needed
More than half of all television shows contain sexual content. It is inevitable that children are exposed to sexuality and virtually impossible to control their exposure to it. Whether parents approve or not, children are confronted with choices about sex, and they need to be prepared.
According to an article by the health editor for MSNBC, 66% of high school seniors have already had sex. We cannot let them do this ill-prepared and uneducated. Texas needs to do more to help children cope with and understand sexuality by offering a comprehensive sex education program in Texas schools.
A recent study by the Kaiser Foundation found that the vast majority of American parents support comprehensive and medically accurate sex education. Some say this only encourages children to become promiscuous, but a study conducted by the World Health Organization on 35 sex education programs around the world found no evidence supporting this. In fact, sex education helps delay sexual activity, encourages use of contraception, influences teens to have fewer partners, and teaches them about the option of abstinence.
Currently, Texas teachers and administrators can provide only limited information on safe sex. For example, they can only mention contraception in a negative way: Condoms are not 100% effective in preventing pregnancy (instead of they are at least 95% effective).
Attitudes and policies such as these are simply not preparing our children to face life's dilemmas. It is obvious that many teens choose to have sex, risking STDs and unwanted pregnancy. It is our responsibility to help them fully understand the risks and teach them how to protect themselves.
Our children already have too many choices to make to let them face this one on their own. Let's mainstream the discussion and ensure our children make healthy, informed choices.