Our readers talk back.
'AC' Stands by Endorsement
Dear Mr. Black,
While we respect your right to endorse whomever you choose, we wanted to point out some inaccuracies in your depiction of Justice Bob Pemberton that appeared in your last edition ["Endorsements," Oct. 15].
You indicate that Justice Pemberton was appointed off of Gov. Perry's staff. That is simply not true. At the time he was appointed, Bob was senior counsel with our firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. He was our Texas appellate specialist. He successfully spearheaded appeals in the Texas Supreme Court and several courts of appeals, as well as advising trial teams in complex litigation in the event of an appeal in many high profile cases.
In addition, Bob was named to the prestigious Texas Supreme Court's Rules Advisory Committee, comprised of 50 of the best lawyers, judges, and legal experts in the state.
Although there was no discussion of community service in your article, you should also know that Justice Pemberton was elected by his peers in Austin as the president of the Austin Young Lawyers' Association, during which time he focused his efforts on helping the youth in our community through such award-winning programs as "Aspiring Youth," "College for a Day," and many others. These programs were very well received by the schools and the children alike.
Edward F. Fernandes
[News Editor Michael King replies: Edward Fernandes is correct; we should have described Gov. Perry as Pemberton's "former boss" rather than his "then boss." After serving as the governor's deputy general counsel, he was briefly senior counsel at Akin Gump, until Perry appointed him to a vacant seat on the 3rd Court of Appeals. The Chronicle regrets the error, but otherwise we stand by our endorsement of Diane Henson.]
Focus on Central Texas
The Austin Chronicle endorsements are always very complete ["Endorsements," Oct. 15], but I did not notice an endorsement of Richard Morrison, the Sugarland Democrat running against Tom DeLay in District 22. Those of us wishing to thank Tom for the special treatment he gave Austin in the recent redistricting can visit www.richardmorrisonfordistrict22.com to send Tom our regards in the most meaningful way possible. After the recent ethics rebukes and his refusal to debate Mr. Morrison, Tom could conceivably tank his own re-election. By the way, The Houston Chronicle has endorsed Morrison.
[News Editor Michael King responds: While we definitely wish Richard Morrison the best, the Chronicle endorsements are generally confined to contested races in the Central Texas area that will appear on Central Texas ballots. If we ranged much beyond that, we'd run out of ink, paper and expertise.]
Kerry Needs Every Vote
As election day approaches, it is hard to imagine why anyone would vote for Bush or Nader. Or worse yet, not vote at all since Bush will win Texas regardless.
The main reason to vote for Kerry is that if Bush is re-elected he is sure to turn the Supreme Court and other courts into ultra-right groups. Forget any gay rights won, and say goodbye to women's right to choose.
Of course Bush will win in Texas, but don't make the mistake of voting for Nader as a protest. We must insure that Kerry wins the popular vote so a vote for Kerry will matter.
Isn't it time for an "intellect" and, yes, an intelligent person in the White House? We need someone who reads about and studies the issues, not relying on advisers, and yes, God, to tell him everything and guide his decisions.
Also, we need someone who will protect the environment, not someone who doesn't even believe in global warming, for instance.
And, of course, we need someone we can trust, not someone who has intentionally or unintentionally misstated the facts whether they be about the reasons for going to war, "mission accomplished," or how his tax cuts for the rich are helping everyone.
Claude M. Gruener
Mr. King does the state a great service by bringing to bear the number of problems with CPS ["Capitol Chronicle," News, Oct. 22]. Although I don't know what he meant by headlines made by troublemaker liberal media. Frankly I don't see the purpose of hitting on Ms. Strayhorn. She would make a better governor than Pushover Perry. Also, the federal guidelines for social workers is 100.
Clyde L. Harris
[News Editor Michael King replies: The reference to "troublemakers in the liberal media" was a small attempt at irony, clearly not entirely successful. I don't know which "federal guidelines" Clyde Harris refers to, but most official sources and child protection advocates recommend a monthly caseload of no more than 12-23 cases per caseworker, and Texas is ineffectively attempting to hold the line at 60.]
Supports Commuter Rail Plan
I support the commuter rail plan even though I voted against light rail in 2000. Here's why:
Commuter rail isn't light rail. This means roads won't be ripped up for years as track is being laid. Commuter rail will use existing track that already runs freight; this plan simply adds passengers to the mix. This translates into less disruption to existing traffic and lower costs than light rail.
Commuter rail isn't expensive. While light rail would cost about $1 billion, the commuter rail plan costs $60 million to $90 million (roughly the cost of 1 to 2 miles of light rail). Capital Metro won't have to raise taxes since it has already collected enough money from the one-cent sales tax and federal matching funds.
Commuter rail gives people transportation choices. This is achieved not only with hybrid-diesel trains equipped with wi-fi, but by the 32 miles of pedestrian and bicycle pathways that will be built alongside the rail corridor. This will be achieved by the park-n-ride lots that downtown revelers can use instead of endlessly circling for parking. This will be achieved by providing rail service that is grade-separated, meaning the train won't take up any lanes currently used for cars.
Finally, commuter rail will affect our region's growth. While some believe the issue is getting people to trade their car for rail, I believe the issue is preserving what we have while preparing for the 1.5 million people coming in the next 20 years. Commuter rail will change the highest-and-best use of tracts along the railway, spurring the sexy kind of mixed-use development and density our city needs to avoid making sprawl our legacy.
Take it from someone who voted against light rail in 2000: Commuter rail is worth supporting. To see for yourself, check out www.newwaystoconnect.com.
Alarmed Over Voting Machine Dear Editor,
Thank you for the attention on the voting machine issues ["County Responds to Voting Machine Problems," News online, Oct. 22]. I find the theory from Gail Fisher, manager of the county elections division, to be alarming. This is an example of poorly written code. Paper ballots didn't allow for a default candidate, it required placing a vote if you wanted it counted. If a voter selects a straight, party vote, they should be asked to confirm the choice, and then move to a new screen automatically, were they can review (read only) the selected votes. It should take a conscious selection to allow for any additional changes, such as writing in a candidate or changing an individual vote for a specific candidate. This is another example of how a small issue can indirectly benefit one candidate over another. With the advent of electronic voting we have the opportunity to create systems that minimize potential voter error. The fact that the county system in any way "defaults" ("Since the Bush/Cheney ticket is the first thing on the page, it is highlighted when the page comes up and thus, pressing 'enter' at that moment causes the Kerry/Edwards vote to be changed to Bush/Cheney.") is an indirect, albeit unintentional, benefit to Bush. That has to change. The system should be as free of any endorsement as possible. The fact that Bush is in the box by default is insulting to those who have no intention of voting for him in the first place. Having defaults might be OK while filling forms on the Internet, but when it comes to voting, no preselected choices should be the norm.
Upset With Williamson County
Thank you for shining some light on the unethical practices of the all-Republican government in Williamson County, and for endorsing Janet Engvall McTigue for county attorney and Sharon Sanders Webster for commissioner in Precinct 3. They are both very well qualified and can help change the situation.
The county has let out large construction contracts with no competitive bidding to their campaign contributors, created new, higher-paying jobs for themselves, displayed partisan political signs in public buildings, violated open government rules, and then, of course, there was the whole sheriff fiasco.
There are lawsuits about unlawful firings, harassment, and a death in a noncompliant jail. And the list goes on and on.
They felt so good about what they have done that they gave themselves big raises.
People have the opportunity now to stop the good ol' boy network and bring an end to the sorry state of affairs in Williamson County. Vote Democrat!
As a former high school counselor, now serving the community in a middle school, I read this well-written article with a high level of personal and professional interest ["AISD High Schools Flunk Real-World Test," News, Oct. 22].
If you have the time, would you please consider presenting comprehensive articles on the two high school institutes, Culinary Arts and Hospitality at Travis High and the Health Science Career Institute at Lanier High?
Both were inspired by John Blazier, who founded the Travis Community Education Foundation. Its history and its influence on Austin's public schools are extraordinary examples of commitment on the part of citizens with a mission to improve the quality of life, through education, for those who have not had some of the advantages many of us take for granted.
[News Editor Michael King replies: Thanks for the suggestion. May I also direct readers' attention to a profile of the Culinary Arts program by MM Pack, a couple of years ago: (
The Government We Deserve
The grand dreams of our forefathers are being reshaped by current voters in a manner that will eventually make the American dream unrecognizable to the original, if left unchecked. The first group is the nonvoters; a democracy needs all points of view to allow for an end product that makes a country livable by all citizens. The second group is the "party" people; no matter if their party has long left the basic tenants behind, these folks think their political party is equivalent to their favorite ball team and they are dead set on helping that team win. The third group is the "one issue" voters who look no further than gun issues or abortion or their religion (there is a bit of history on how well that doesn't work).
Thomas Jefferson said, "You get the government you deserve." Democracy is messy and difficult to maintain; it needs mature and thoughtful voters who carry Jefferson; Franklin, and the rest of the boys of the Constitution into the voting booth with them to vote for a more holistic vision of an American future. When people sell their country out for their own, very narrow agenda they give politicians a great tool for manipulation that they will not be able to ignore. If voters are only watching a few issues, beware of what is happening under the radar as our democracy is always under attack, and it's often from within. Caring for your country is akin to caring for your children; you have to look at the big picture to grow a functional and complete entity.
Nader Attacks Are Lame
Dear Mr. Black,
I am writing to thank you and Michael Ventura for helping me decide who to vote for in this year's presidential election. For years I have been an ardent supporter of Ralph Nader. I knew in 2000 that if "W" became president it would be worse than if Gore had, especially in areas like environmental protection. But the corruption of our political process by major corporations, and the increased participation in that corruption by the Democrats, along with their middle-of-the-road platitudes on many so-called progressive issues, led me to support the candidate who has spent his entire career fighting for consumers, the environment, and the right to a transparent government. That man was Ralph Nader.
Mr. Ventura wrote in one of his columns that a vote for Nader was a vote for the extreme right ["Letters @ 3am," Oct. 1]. This week you, Mr. Black, write that Nader supporters do so at the expense of Iraqis, American troops, the environment, and poor children, among a long list of things ["Page Two," Oct. 22]. I supported Nader exactly for these things. To try to turn that around is to employ the same type of lame scare tactics that Cheney uses. Kerry has admitted he would basically do the same thing in Iraq that our current president is doing, except "better." He voted for the PATRIOT Act. In three debates, his only mention of the environment was in response to a question about abortion.
I have read your paper since its first year. For someone who started out more than 20 years ago as a guy who always wrote in favor of doing the right thing, you sure seem to have become comfortable with adequacy. Whatever happened to voting for the best person for the job, not the lesser of two evils? If that's all we ever vote for, it's all we'll ever get.
If you and Ventura can make comments like the above, you are obviously either socially clueless or emotionally manipulative, and should not be trusted. I'll be sticking with the man who opposes the Iraq war and the PATRIOT Act, the man with a record of real consumer and environmental protection, the man who has spent his career fighting for what is best for the common man: Ralph Nader.