Our readers talk back.
Austin With a Conscience
I was one of the people who researched history on the three West Lynn Street rail houses in old West Austin. Our efforts took us through the process that earned these houses a historic recommendation from the HLC and majority support from the Planning Commission. During the April 1 council meeting, the developer's representatives clamored on about not being able to build whatever they wanted, however they wanted, mischaracterizing our efforts as a ruse against development. Pervading council chambers, Mr. Clark-Madison's (April 2) article ["New Rules for Old Buildings," News] came out earlier the same day with inaccuracies regarding these houses and dismissing our grassroots battle to preserve what we value as a community: historic structures contributing to the neighborhood's character. Ignoring the essence of our argument, the council denied historic designation.
The following Monday, to everyone's shock (including the city's preservation officer), the three small houses were destroyed. The developer was so fixated on exercising his "power," he even failed to meet permit requirements before demolition commenced. The ravaged site was red-tagged by the city the next day (a pathetic $50 fine).
But citizens should be made aware that this demolition followed the developer's verbal assurances on that previous Friday to the city's preservation officer that he would allow these houses to be moved within two weeks. That same Friday, according to the demolition supervisor, the developer also initiated demolition for the next business day (i.e., Monday)! Take note, City Council (and Mr. Clark-Madison): This is the level of integrity you wish to align yourselves with? Is this your concept of "keep(ing) Austin weird"?
Because no site plans were submitted, there was no "hurry" to take down these houses. There is an old saying suggesting the real measure of true power lies in having the wisdom (i.e., conscience) of restraint. No one forced the developer to buy property in our neighborhood (in a known historic residential area of the city), make zero effort at working with the neighborhood, or generally behave like a 3-year-old. And they whine because we want to preserve the history of our neighborhood? Perhaps these houses were not "landmarks" like the Pease Mansion, but clear historic examples of rare working-class railway workers' homes now forever gone due to a petty vendetta. Just makes you want to embrace those developers with a bigger outpouring of love, respect, and appreciation. Keep your "weird" Austin; give me one with a conscience.
p.s. For further information on what we all lost, check out www.geocities.com/westlynnhouses.
On Target With Piece on Fabelo?
I think you are absolutely right on target with this one ["Who Fired Tony Fabelo?," News, April 30]. As with many things in public and private industry, if the power brokers don't like the figures, they traditionally change the messenger. That's one lesson the next messenger learns. Come up with the figures that your boss wants, or we will find another messenger. One of these days, we will have decision-makers for the criminal justice system who will understand that you get what you pay for. A truly effective criminal justice system cannot be run on minimum wage dollars and still hope to keep a revolving door system from occurring. People have to learn how to stay out of prison before they can actually do it.
Hello! I just wanted you to know that I came across your site in a rather unusual way a Google search gone wrong. However, it was a good thing. I stumbled upon a couple of stories written by Dan Hardick. It would appear that they were a couple of years old. Does that mean he's no longer with the Chronicle? Say it isn't so! His stories made me laugh out loud, sometimes snorting in a most unladylike fashion. (You can't imagine the stares.) This guy is one of the funniest, wittiest, most colorful writers I've ever come across.
I'm not a resident of Austin in fact I live in Dallas. All the same, I assure you that I'll be visiting your site often I enjoyed it immensely. Hopefully I'll see more Dan Hardick!
I just wanted to extend my praise for this Dan guy with the oh-so-interesting last name. (Love to go through high school with that one.) Thanks for your time.
Against Nanny Government
It is no "presumption" that the federal government has no role in providing social welfare programs ["Page Two," April 30]. It was the intent that the individual states would set up the social welfare programs they saw fit to provide. Read Federalist 45 and the 10th Amendment.
You can whine about the PATRIOT Act, but individual liberties are just as threatened by social programs we are forced into for "our own good." Would Ashcroft need a warrant for abortion records with a nationalized health care system? Would not those records be government property? You do not trust the government with access to library-reading lists but trust them with access to your blood test or control of your retirement? With government money comes government control. Be thankful "we are not getting all the government we are paying for."
Taxation as a means to redistribute wealth is a faulty idea. It presumes that there is a finite amount of wealth and government's role is to spread it around. In fact there is an infinite amount of potential wealth in the world. It was not the redistribution of the wealth of the J.P. Morgans that created the Bill Gates and Michael Dells. It was the creation of new wealth.
"The utopian ideas of leveling and a community of goods are as visionary and impracticable as those which vest all property in the Crown. [These ideas] are arbitrary, despotic, and, in our government, unconstitutional." Samuel Adams
Western Europe's high taxation has not kept its social programs solvent nor truly redistributed wealth. There are few European equivalents to Dell or Intel. Instead there are the same old names, such as Siemens.
I prefer the uncertain but unlimited individual opportunities for success to the guarantee of a collective, forced, mediocre existence by a nanny government.
'Chronicle' Coverage Sucks
I agree with Jason Christian ["Postmarks," April 30]. You guys ignored Wade [Longenberger] and Squat Thrust. While I was packing our things I found a letter Wade had intended to send to Raoul Hernandez about five years ago. He complained about how your rag never wrote about Squat Thrust.
Why is it you guys never pay attention to anyone living? You only write about them after they've died. You give coverage to the same five crappy bands playing the same tired, mediocre, and unimaginative garbage.
Wade and Squat Thrust were innovative. They had a show to match their music. Wade was charismatic and charming and genius, but he wasn't the son of someone famous. He didn't date a movie star. But he was it, and you guys couldn't see it.
I wouldn't use the Chronicle to line my cat box. The only magazine worth reading in this town is Rank and Revue. They know genius when they see it.
[Ed. note: Jennifer Coffey was the longtime girlfriend of Wade Longenberger.]
'Soccer Watch' Coverage
I was reading the issue that was released April 30 and was initially pleased to see a section titled "Soccer Watch." However, imagine my surprise when it contained only the most superficial and generic world/national soccer news and no information about local teams, players, or fans. This is especially surprising considering Austin has a new professional team, the Austin Posse (www.austinposse.com), on which several former MLS and U.S. national team players play, and which has had several thousand fans at their games at House Park, and one semipro team, the Austin Lightning (www.austinlightningsoccer.com), which plays nationally in the USL (United Soccer Leagues).
As an Austin paper, I think you owe it to your readership to support their teams and help Austin fans keep abreast of the goings-on at their clubs.
[Nick Barbaro responds: We did indeed cover the Posse, from its early player signings, through their three games and subsequent personnel shake-ups. At the time your letter was written, the Posse was "in process of reorganization" according to their Web site, and it's unclear if anyone is currently on their roster. We'll let you know if and when they come back. The Lightning, a Premier Development League (amateur) team, starts its season this weekend in Round Rock; see "Soccer Watch" for details.]
You Can't Fire Our Writers
The man who gave Fivehead's Guests of the Nation an insulting review and a paltry 2.5 stars ["Texas Platters," Music, April 23] decides to recommend readers go see Seal ["Recommended," Music, April 30]?
You listened to Guests for five minutes and took them to task for having influences?
And you recommend Seal.
Thankfully your general readership is smarter than you are.
Already a Marriage Tax in Texas
Dear Mr. Black,
There is in fact already a marriage tax in Texas ["Page Two," April 23], which can kick in when both spouses have income but one is much lower than the other: Because in this community-property state most forms of income must be pooled between the spouses, the lower-earning spouse cannot benefit from income-tax relief to which he or she would in certain places be entitled if he or she were single. Unfortunately this extra taxation benefits the federal government, not Texas.
Mr. Black's "Page Two" [April 30] addresses an interesting issue government subsidy to the "masses" vs. government subsidy for corporations.
While conservative America wails and moans about "their" hard-earned tax dollars being paid to Cadillac-driving welfare moms, liberal America, equally aghast, complains about billion-dollar subsidies to pharmaceutical manufacturers.
The point needs to be made about welfare dollars. It is not necessarily government benevolence being paid out here. Rather a form of national insurance. If you cut off an individual's means of survival, they'll find other means to do so. Crime rates would skyrocket. Social order would deteriorate significantly simply because people will do whatever is necessary for them and their families to survive.
Welfare? Nope. Anarchy insurance.
Other Mexican Food Choices
If your restaurant reviewer ["The Puffy Taco Explosion," Food] (April 30) who relocated to Central East Austin had been more concerned with the cuisine and less with the glitz she would not have suffered from the lack of Mexican food options she complained of. Just a couple of blocks east of the restaurant she reviewed, Mi Madre's has been serving excellent Mexican food for 14 years, including what in my estimation are the best chicken enchiladas in Austin.
Sometimes You Need Help
My mother married a questionable man who got worse, and my father beat her, gambled, drank, and drugged. Sure, she deserves some blame, too, and admitted years later that she was young and stupid. My brother, sister, and I were not to blame though. After we left one Friday poker night, we needed welfare and food stamps to get by. We got some help from family, but it was not enough. Then as the first one in my family to go to college, it would have been impossible without student loans. Still, I worked for seven years to finally graduate. Then came four soul-crushing layoffs in six years that were no fault of my own. What control do I have over laws, interest rates, technological change, business conditions, or corporate mergers? Unemployment insurance was there to help me back on my feet. In my 30s when it all became too much, I turned to cocaine. After striving to be better than my father, there was just no use trying anymore. Luckily, I got busted for possession, and because I was a first-time offender, there was a program to get me on the 12 steps to recovery. Now I have a good, steady job (thank God), and I'm dealing with my issues and paying taxes. Where would I be without government assistance? Maybe dead, maybe homeless, who knows? I do know my story is the story of too many people who are tough and self-reliant but who sometimes need help through rough spots not of their own making. The "no new taxes" crowd is unbelievable. Sorry, but I've never been rich enough to be a Republican.
Sarcasm Alert!! Clever Letter Ahead
Why, why did I leave Los Angeles to come to Austin to help get Ralph Nader on the Texas ballot? I make my living playing bagpipes at funerals and since Bush was elected, business at Southern California military bases is booming!
Man, if Ralph becomes president, he'll pull our troops out of Iraq, and funeral business will plummet! He's already ruined a lot of my business with all those bills he helped get passed in Congress auto safety, clean air and water, safe meat and poultry ... just think how many more millions of lives will be saved, with his plans for universal health care. When is the dude gonna retire?
How big a dope am I, risking my livelihood by taking an unpopular political stance? If the funeral homes find out I'm helping a third party candidate ...
He who pays the piper picks the tune ... but can he also make the piper vote for Kerry?
Jurgen "Rommel" Vsvch
Questions About Bonds
We need to ask some important questions about the Austin school bonds proposal. The AISD board will meet May 10 to decide which projects will be included in the final proposal. AISD is asking for $420 million, yet critical educational needs may be left unaddressed, especially for older, existing schools. We need to make sure what's proposed fits our priorities.
The 1997 AISD Functional Equity report identified $127 million that needed to be spent on our existing schools to bring them up to the level of new schools. Functional equity is the measure of how older schools compare to new ones in facilities (or lack thereof). For example, you cannot teach science or art in a designated way if you don't have the labs or art space to do so, though the state mandates it. Educational requirements have changed greatly, leaving older schools wanting. Don't students there deserve the same facilities to provide the same educational opportunities that students at newer schools have?
Of the functional equity needs identified in 1997, $106 million has yet to be addressed. The current proposal has $40 million in improvements to existing schools from the 1997 report. That leaves $66 million not addressed in this bond package.
If $174 million is proposed to alleviate overcrowding at suburban schools, but only $40 million is intended to remedy functional equity needs, where's the equity? This is especially concerning given that the current proposal includes over $45 million for district wide spending like soccer, baseball, and football fields and tennis courts. Not to diminish the value of athletics, but should it take priority over basic educational needs?
The AISD board should not miss this opportunity to remedy the fundamental problems faced by students and teachers at older schools. Students at older schools deserve the same first-class educational opportunities provided to students at new schools.
Tired of being a guinea pig? Tired of eating weird, genetically produced food that hasn't been safely tested? Or seeing small farmers sued when the wind blows genetically tweaked pollen onto their soybean field?
Now there's something we can do about it. We can follow the lead of Mendocino County, Calif., and vote to ban genetically engineered crops. A bunch of counties in California and elsewhere are planning on doing the same. We have the right to keep these dangerous, experimental plants out of Travis County.
But we have to work fast. Monsanto and their friends are spending gobs of money to buy legislators in California and elsewhere, to undo the laws of the people. Monsanto's continuing assault on the environment makes me think of that Lily Tomlin quote, "No matter how cynical I get, I can't keep up."
This is the crucial moment in the fight against genetically engineered foods. Let's do our part to stop this insanely dangerous and destructive industry in its tracks.
Trust Veterans, Not Draft Dodgers
How pathetic it is to see the depths of political ambition displayed when two draft dodgers denigrate the military service of an opponent. I can only imagine the contempt the draft dodgers must feel for all who serve now as well as those that have previously served.
We should always look at the actions of our leaders instead of relying on their words. Our men and women in service deserve more than lip service from our government. They deserve the honor and support given to them in words by our government to be fulfilled by actions. They should be provided with adequate equipment now and all promises fulfilled when they return after serving our country.
Is Now Not the Time for Everyone to Stand Up for What I Believe In?
Someone please tell me:
Why some candidates or parties have to toil for ballot access but not others, and where in the Constitution it mentions parties and ballot access restrictions? Why some states only ask for 1,000 signatures for an independent presidential candidate (in six months) to get on the ballot, but ours asks for 64,076 (in 60 days)? Why Democrats think it's OK to be autocratic and refuse to sign petitions for Nader/third parties specifically so others won't have the chance to support the candidate of their choice? Why public institutions claim their property is private domain with designated "free speech zones" only accessible to some?
Why Ralph Nader is blamed for the Supreme Court unconstitutionally "selecting" a president who still remains in office despite numerous constitutional, legal, and UN charter violations, and why no Democrat speaks of Gore's inability to win his own state and his/the party's unwillingness to call for a recount to claim his rightful place as president?
Why Sen. Kerry is now pro-war and why anti-war activists continue to support him? Why being a hypocrite is the right thing to do because we want Bush out of office so badly? Why we haven't impeached Bush vs. concentrating all efforts toward "Bush-Lite" to make sure W.'s not "re"-elected?
Why is now more than ever not the right time to stand for what we believe in? Please, I'm really curious.
Confused in Austin,
Texans for Nader
Good poetry is often surprising as was the fine piece by Abe Louise Young on the Austin International Poetry Festival in your April 16 issue ["Gathering Up the Wanderers," Books]. It was a gratifying surprise to see this publicity. It seems to me the AIPF has become enough of an Austin institution to merit such notice on an annual basis. It will be back next April. Our budget is minuscule. Without such media attention, attendance by the community at large is dependent on word of mouth. But the community is always a welcome audience! Most of the poetry at the festival is very accessible, and the participants are overwhelmingly friendly.
Ms. Young has challenged future festivals to go beyond providing venues for each of many genres of poetry and experiment instead with interleaving these varied genres in a venue. An intriguing suggestion. Stay tuned. And let it be known that her poem in this year's anthology, "After They Put You in the Dirt," won the Christina Sergeyevna (First Prize) Award. No surprise.
Nancy Kenney Connolly
Wondering About Intel
I was sorta wondering when the editorial board of the Chronicle was going to demand that Ronnie Earle do something to recover the $1.25 million that the City Council illegally gave Intel? I mean, it's not legal for a city in Texas to simply hand over $1.25 million of taxpayer money without even a signed contract or promissory note, is it? Maybe Earle is unaware of the law, like when he failed to prosecute Kroger for using state helicopters to commute to work. Anyway. The former mayor and most of the current members of the City Council, endorsed enthusiastically by this paper, handed Intel more than a million bucks without any guarantee, and all we got for it was an eyesore and a promise by, I believe, Jackie Goodman "to try to make sure something like this doesn't happen again," or words to that effect. The city is $60 million-plus in debt, and we allow them to simply give $1.24 million away for some sweetheart deal that turned more into date rape? No laws broken, nobody held accountable, not even one person fired? Where's the outrage, the calls for justice? Where's our money? I bet you dollars to duck shit that right now the city is buying new computers with Intel chips and not AMD. Any takers?
Carl T. Swanson