Our readers talk back.
Embarrassed for Us on Toll Roads
I think you have not been given the full picture of why people who live in South Austin are angry, and it is not about paying for our "lifestyles." I was embarrassed for you when I read that ["Austin@Large," News, Aug. 20]. We have been paying for and waiting for roads to be completed for years. The money is available to complete unfinished existing roads. This is not a lifestyle issue. The decision to turn existing, paid-for roads into toll roads was made against 93% of the people who responded. When have you seen 93% of respondents agree on anything? Will Wynn et al. decided not to represent the 93% and go their own way. We would like representation. Is it too much to ask of a journalist to look beyond one source, the Statesman, who by the way did not keep the public informed about what CAMPO was up to? This is about honesty in the government, representation for the voters, and fiscal responsibility by the government. And how about the whole story by the press! We did not like the plan as it was voted on and said so before the vote was taken. How does one exercise one's political power? I think it odd that as a journalist, your article did not address the details. Didn't even ask the questions. Made the people of South Austin seem like spoiled voters. "Just pay the damn money and shut up." Do you know how many roads are being turned into toll roads? Are you aware of the underhanded way this was done? Are you aware that the reason for the tolls is that the state doesn't have money for maintenance, so it's spending Austin's allotted money on statewide maintenance and leaving Austin to pay tolls to complete existing commuter roads? What is right about that? Do you think that it will not affect you? Go to www.austintollparty.com and read for yourself what we are about. Think for yourself. You are a journalist and that is important. If you don't report the truth, the public may not get the truth. I am really surprised you stopped so short of the whole story.
[Mike Clark-Madison replies: I never know what to say to people who simply cannot grasp that others might look at exactly the same "facts" as they see and come to different conclusions. As with most of our Austin Toll Party friends, this writer makes claims that are simply untrue: Nowhere in the CTRMA plan is there one foot of "existing" highway that is, lane miles that people drive on right now that is "paid for" that is being converted to a toll road. Not one foot. If 93% of the respondents are wrong about that basic fact, then they are wrong, period, no matter how loud and nasty they get. As for "lifestyle," all I know is that transportation choices heavily influenced my selection of a place to live and raise my family. I don't think it's too much to ask whether the folks in Southwest Austin who now think they're entitled to ever-larger tax-supported highways so they need not wait in traffic gave the same thought to the subject. I realize that there are people in Southwest Austin who don't want new roads built at all, and I exempt them from my broad brush here. But until we all start taking more responsibility for our own choices, we will all be unhappy with the compromises that must be made.]
Be Sure to Vote on Bond Package
I want to thank Rachel Proctor May for her in-depth coverage of the upcoming AISD school bond election ["Schools, Sprawl, and Citizenship," News, Aug. 27]. This is a very important proposal for our citizens and our schools, and I urge everyone to make the effort to get out and vote.
Early voting continues Sept. 2, 3, and 7 at every elementary and high school in AISD, as well as at community locations like Home Depot. Despite the convenience of early voting, I heard at a meeting last night that only one person had come into Harris Elementary on the previous day to vote! While we wait for the state Legislature to give Austin some relief from the more than $158 million in school funds that we send to poorer districts every year, the bond election gives our community the chance to take control of our local dollars and make important investments for our schools and children.
While the Chronicle coverage did highlight some ways in which the bond package and bond process could be improved, it is also important to note that this bond package is widely supported by diverse groups such as the Austin Council of PTAs and Austin Interfaith. It also reflects the hard work of two groups of very committed volunteers the Citizen's Bond Advisory Committee and the Community Safety Taskforce who have given hundreds of hours to gather public testimony and craft these proposals.
Please take a few minutes and stop at your neighborhood elementary or high school for early voting, or turn out on Sept. 11 at your regular polling place.
Austin Voices for Education and Youth
South Austin Is Festive
We don't need a festival in South Austin to be festive ["Saving South Congress For Whom?," News, Sept. 3]. Keeping it out of the neighborhoods is just plain courteous. After all, it's the people who live down here that make it special. Being courteous is the Austin way of life; you lose that, then you ain't from round here are you?
Why I Live in South Austin
I talk to myself, but like most humans I constantly desire communication with the world around me. Most of the time we think of this interaction as personal, often conversing with friends and strangers alike (and sometimes our pets). But at some level of consciousness, we connect with inanimate objects.
This relationship is incredibly new, although it's been part of our essence since the time of nomadic villages. Back then, some guy suddenly became attached to his spear; some lady her soup ladle. They either made these things themselves or recognized them as the work of their fellow tribesmen. This attachment has since grown to include buildings, modes of transportation, stuffed animals, power drills, fake boobs pretty much everything outside the organic realm.
With attachment, we also can experience a feeling of loss with detachment. It's often subtle, but still part of how most humans now function.
Lately my feelings toward inanimate objects have been in a major mood swing. My problem is that every day, at some level, I interact with the part of South Congress Avenue ironically labeled "the strip."
Part of me feels little or no connection to the businesses that come and go. The ones I'm most attached to are those distinctive businesses that present South Congress Avenue as a mirror of Austin culture. These businesses help us realize the value of a rusted lawn chair. They visually stimulate us with murals, music, and a ceramic chick holding a hamburger. You can smell life on this street.
These businesses are my connection to Austin's matchless, bent vibe; it's part of why I live here. I would hate to see them move north like our toy store, children's clothing boutique, and (now) our storefront selling Mork & Mindy egg chairs. The whole thought of it makes me temperamental.
Brass Captures News 8 Challenges
Kevin Brass' article on News 8 Austin was the most comprehensive reporting on the dire situation of 24-hour news that I've read ["News 8 at 5," News, Sept. 3].
As an executive producer who left News 14 Carolina-Charlotte before the bloodshed for family reasons, I've been shocked how few journalists actually failed to double-check the press release that vastly understated how many people were actually let go. It's often very difficult to explain how 24-hour news works, but Brass' article did an excellent job of capturing the challenges and successes of what these stations offer communities. They could do even more, if they were given a real chance.
I wish the management and staff at News 8 much luck. Good for them for diversifying their product!
Hopefully they can survive the vast corporate greed that has taken another viable option away from viewers.
Vote YES on All Propositions
To the editors,
I note that you need to be convinced that there is a need for a middle school in the southwest part of the AISD ["Endorsements," Sept. 3]. Perhaps if you relied upon the actual data the decision would not be too difficult. The middle school site being suggested is in the contributing zone and not the recharge zone. In addition, the land being purchased is large enough to build an adequate middle school and build that facility within the actual letter and spirit of the SOS ordinance as the construction will be less than 15% impervious cover. Moreover, this will be built as a green building.
The core issue was not about the elected officials throwing up their respected hands, rather this is about the kids that are already there. This is not build it and they will come; this is the kids are already here and how do we, as a community, serve our children? Right now we have the largest kindergarten class in the history of AISD. What are they going to need in five years but a middle school to go to? The current middle schools are already past capacity. This program relieves overcrowding.
To oppose this proposition in the name of SOS is wholly disingenuous. Look at the supporters, headed by Mary Arnold. What more of an environmental endorsement would you need?
Sprawl is not inevitable, the desirousness of Austin is well documented, and people have responded by moving here. Downtown is not affordable, nor does it have the capacity to house the thousands who have and are moving to Southwest Austin. The middle school is a necessity and not a luxury. I would ask that you alter your endorsement and would urge all who read this to vote YES on all of the propositions.
Donald A. Abrams
Southwest Association of Neighborhoods
Revenge, Christianity, and the Death Penalty
A wonderful article by Jordan Smith ["No Mercy," News, Aug. 20]. It is clear that the Texas Christians, who are so happy with revenge, as is Mr. Kahan, need to consider, "What would Jesus have recommended?"
To the editor,
I can't believe you fell for that, Michael [Ventura, "Letters @ 3AM," Sept. 3]. The whole day was orchestrated to get you (my italics) to back off Bush. By not staging the "grand response," they knew you'd immediately beg off on the conspiracy theory. The one thing they couldn't control was whether or not you'd actually use (my italics) the "hundred exclamation points" to persuade on the "intel from CNN" ruse. You didn't, and so you couldn't even close the deal on the question of ineptitude and cowardly paralysis. Cheney? Rove? No way. This has the Bush twins written all over it. They're the new "twin towers" (my quotes) among the cognoscenti in the dark recesses of the Bush White House (they call it the "temple of reason" you know, kind of a tip of the hat to Robespierre's reign of terror. Bush and Ashcroft hate this 'cause they're all religious and stuff). That's right the "twin towers." I hear they joke like that.
Dear friends and supporters,
We are totally in awe at the love and support we have received from the people of Austin and the Austin music community. It is at the same time humbling and inspirational that so many would recognize us in our time of need.
We would like to thank Kevin Wommack, Rusty Smith, Cleve Hattersley, Joe and Judy Able, David Cotton, Clifford Antone, Susan Antone, and all the staff at the Saxon Pub and Antone's for their generosity and hard work. We will forever be grateful.
We would especially like to thank all of the wonderful musicians that dedicated their time and tremendous talents to helping us. It is an honor to know each and every one of you!
We would also like to say thanks to all the great sponsors that helped make these benefits a reality. We are truly grateful.
With love and respect,
Omar, Lyn, and Jake Dykes
Doing a Report on Texas
Dear Residents of Texas,
My name is Levi Overholtzer, and I am in sixth grade. I attend Brethren Heritage School in Modesto, Calif.
We are doing state reports this year in our history class. I have chosen to do my report on your state of Texas.
If you should happen to read this in your local newspaper, I would greatly appreciate receiving any information or items regarding your state. You could send pictures, tourist attraction information, trivia about your state, or anything that would cause me to be more familiar with your state.
Please send to:
C/O Brethren Heritage School
3549 Dakota Avenue
Modesto, CA 95358
Thank you very much for helping me with my state report. I will appreciate any help you can give me.
Texans Pro-Everything Texas
I confirmed that Dexter Freebish, a band performing at the RNC, will play their most popular and recognized song, "Leaving Town." I find the message an appropriate one for [soon to be ex-] President Bush.
Not everyone in Texas blindly follows Bush, though most do it for the simple fact that Texans are pro-everything Texas. Maybe someone should let them know that even the best things can produce something of poor value, and at some point we must not only acknowledge this fact about President Bush, but we must also embrace the opportunity for change and growth that John Kerry offers our nation.
Bush Says One Thing but Does Another
Bush and his party are the kings of saying one thing on policy and doing another. This convention they have done one thing and yet in speech after speech claim another actually happened. Playing us all for fools. Oh, and mocking Purple Heart veterans with Band-Aids. Cynical and ugly.
Health care, the economy, the tax cuts, etc. Bush claims to be of the people, but if his speech was for anyone, it was for those who actually made out under his term, the rich elite. Smearing John Kerry, distorting the record, hiding from investigations. Nasty and negative.
And I will be happy if I never have to see Bush on top of a mass grave with a bullhorn showing his leadership, when his leadership on 9/11 was to continue reading to kids and then to fly about the country leaving Cheney at the helm.
Touted as a real Texas man, which he is not, let's finally get a brave man of character in the White House instead of a media-created pretender.
Ask Republicans Tougher Questions
Why aren't people asking tougher questions of the Republicans? They had a Republican Congress and a Republican president; any grand plans they had for the country should have been very easy to implement. They put forth ideas at the convention that recycled old ideas from four years ago. Why aren't they answering the obvious question? What have they done with the last four years?
I found the entire fiasco insulting. Do they really think we have no memory? They have had four years to impress us; if they had anything to impress us with they would be more focused on their own record and achievements and would not have to result to lies that attacked their opponents.
Against Tort Reform
Why is tort reform on the national agenda at a time when insurance-industry profits rose 997% in 2003, tort filings declined, only 2% of injured people sued for compensation, punitive damages were rarely awarded, liability-insurance costs for businesses were minuscule, medical-malpractice insurance and claims were less than 1% of all health care costs and premium-gouging underwriting practices were widely exposed?
According to a review of Medicare records by HealthGrades, a health care ranking group, there were 195,000 deaths annually from avoidable medical errors, twice the number estimated by the Institute of Medicine study.
Insurers have refused to lower malpractice insurance premiums after caps and other tort reforms have been enacted. States that have enacted legal restrictions have seen their insurance rates shoot up.
Legislation to place limits on medical malpractice liability hurts patients by restricting their rights to hold physicians, hospitals, insurance companies, HMOs, and drug and medical-device manufacturers accountable for injuries or death resulting from negligent care.
As for the claim of ever-climbing jury awards, studies of verdicts are skewed by what study sponsors leave in or leave out. The medical associations looked only at reported jury verdicts. The trial lawyers tracked all verdicts, including nonjury verdicts, through appeals, settlements, and court-ordered reductions.
Limits on the rights of people hurt by medical malpractice will victimize them and their families further while helping neither patients nor doctors. The real beneficiaries will be insurance companies, including the doctor-owned malpractice insurers.
Gregory D. Pawelski
Convention Displayed GOP Cynicism
Bush and the Republicans put on quite a show the past week, and that's exactly what it was: a "show." It belied the reality of the last four years and the stated intentions of the Republican Party.
While moderates spoke of inclusion, away from the cameras the Republican Party adopted a divisive and extremist platform that seeks to write discrimination into the Constitution and make permanent the tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Americans. While they talked about safety, and a prosperous strong America, independent experts agree that Bush's pre-emptive doctrine and go-it-alone approach to foreign policy has made us less safe. And while Arnold Schwarzenegger talks about "economic girlie-men," the truth is that an increasing number of Americans are living below the poverty line, with over 40 million uninsured.
The negativity displayed by the Republicans was astonishing. Because they can't speak to their strengths, they sought to further smear Kerry, deploying Dick Cheney and Zell Miller. It was a cynical move, especially given their earlier rhetoric about wanting to run a positive campaign and their urging of the Kerry campaign to do the same.
This is the reality of America under Bush and the Republican Party's leadership.