Our readers talk back
Cold Water on TOD
I hate to throw cold water on the frenzy over TOD (transit-oriented development) ["Here Comes the Train," News, Jan. 28], but it's worth remembering that no commuter rail start in the U.S. in recent memory has generated any transit-oriented development worth noting. In fact, all of the TOD that has occurred in the U.S. in most of our lifetimes has been around light rail starts which had to first demonstrate a high level of ridership from new transit customers (i.e., not just those who used to take the bus, but new customers to transit).
This is how Dallas, Denver, Portland, Salt Lake, and Minneapolis have gotten and are continuing to get great new urban buildings around their light-rail lines.
The key here is that thanks to Mike Krusee and naive pro-transit people in Austin, we're not getting a rail line like those cities got (which goes where people actually want to go from day one); we're getting one like South Florida got (which requires shuttle buses to get anywhere worth going). South Florida's commuter line has yet (after 15 years) to generate one lousy square-foot of TOD.
Urban Transportation Commission
Opposed to Roads
Louis Black recently pondered why toll road opposition is so strong ["Page Two," Jan. 21].
One sound reason is that we are probably only a few years from a peak in world oil production, yet there is no fuel substitute available on this time scale to make a plausible transition (see www.peakoil.net). The reason oil prices are now near their historic high is because world oil demand is growing faster than production, even before the peak.
The "official statement" accompanying the SH 130 bonds cautioned these bonds might not be prudent investments if the fuel cost exceeded $2.50 a gallon, in current dollars, over the 30-plus-year bond payback period. This makes it seem nearly certain that the bonds will eventually default, leaving behind billions in bad investments, together with lots of angry lawyers.
The second problem, little publicized, is a costly long-range policy agreement linked to the toll roads. Austin's portion of the Texas Metropolitan Mobility Plan, approved by CAMPO in July and then TxDOT last August, included much more than just the toll roads.
Of the TMMP's $18.2 billion total cost, most is unfunded by any known revenue source. As the TMMP plan states; "[T]he CAMPO TMMP has identified the need of $8.5 billion to address the rehabilitation of the transportation system. This important aspect will require additional study."
Another projected deficit of "$1.65 billion in arterial street enhancements" should then be added to this $8.5 billion. This means the approved plan would have to widen many arterial roads, crisscrossing Austin and funded by Austin, to serve future toll-related traffic.
In other words, along with the toll roads, CAMPO approved a long-range plan in which about $10 billion, or more than half, constitutes an unfunded road-widening and repair mandate!
Which Country Is No. 1?
I'd like to ask the author of the article that says that we're not No. 1: So which country actually is No. 1? ["Letters @ 3AM," Jan. 21] If his point was to say that America is not perfect, well, duh. The list could have been called a list of things America needs to work on fixing. Instead he's comparing us to some utopia he imagines in his head. He makes a lot of statements that do not even compare us to any other countries and some that compare us to the whole continent of Europe. These do little to prove his point. Instead, they show his real agenda: Trash the U.S. If the U.S. is such a terrible place to live, then why does the author live here? And why don't all 300 million of us move elsewhere? Perhaps the author was having a bad day and drinking too much and shouldn't be writing "Letters @ 3AM"?
Edward Matthew Szumski
The 'Chronicle' Fails ... Again
I love Trail of Dead; it was awesome seeing them on the cover of the latest Chronicle ["The Mob House Rules," Music, Jan. 28]. I've known them since 1996, and I know they have been working hard this whole time to get where they are today.
But I was very surprised at the Chronicle's lack of attention to 1,500 people demonstrating on anti-Inauguration Day. A core group from AustinSpokes.org also worked very hard to make this event happen. Why weren't there any beautiful pictures of 1,500 people dancing on the Congress Avenue Bridge in the Chronicle at all, if not on the cover?
We feel that the politics of your paper are somewhat aligned with our radical agenda.
But if you want real change, you will not have it from the realm of electoral politics. We all know that electronic voting is a scam anyway. But the very system which allows for outright fraud and deception to take place is what we must tear down.
It requires people-power to physically rise up and take back our streets. Fifteen hundred potential Chronicle readers were woefully disappointed at your lack of interest and solidarity. We invite your future participation and coverage of the Revolution.
Power to the people.
[The News editors respond: We greatly appreciate the invitation to join your revolution, although we confess some misgivings about participating in a movement that so cavalierly dismisses the role of electoral politics. Silly us, we thought that was a central component of democracy. The Chronicle has covered many, many protests in past issues, but if the Revolution failed to kick-start on Jan. 20 because we weren't there, we humbly apologize.]
Against Toll Roads
This is in response to Manijeh Badiee's toll road letter in the Chronicle ["Postmarks," Jan. 28]. With respect, comparing the toll road tax to a flat tax where Karl Rove and Austinite John Doe pay the same amount: wrong! With the toll road plan, John Doe continues to pay federal taxes, and in addition now pays toll tax as well!
We already paid for the roads, and 93% of Travis County voters voted no on the plan. The officials are supposed to be representing the voters. What gives?
[Editor's note: There has been no public "vote" on CAMPO's toll road plan. Emilie Reimer apparently refers to initial public comments solicited by CAMPO reportedly, 93% of the comments received were in opposition to the plan.]
Michael Ventura laments the areas where the U.S. is not ranked No. 1. I'd like to suggest a couple of reasons ["Letters @ 3AM," Jan. 21].
Educational deficiencies are not created overnight; it takes prolonged neglect and systematic refusal to adhere to strong standards. During the Sixties, teachers unions in general, and the NEA in particular, began "relaxing" standards for their members and forcing school boards to march to their drummer. I graduated in 1970. In 1973, my school lost its state accreditation and did not reacquire it until many years had passed. When I'd meet some of my former teachers and talk about this, most said it was because teachers were no longer held accountable for their students' success, and this was traceable to the NEA and other teachers unions. They were, by and large, appalled at the changes within their profession and said it would be detrimental. Seems their fears were well founded!
On the economic front, we can lay much of the United States' decline at the feet of the EPA. When established, the EPA had merit. There were issues, and some regulations were needed. EPA set standards that were said to be based on human-health requirements. A few years on, when the standards were met, EPA got nervous. Not wanting to be eliminated or relegated to an advisory board, EPA began the cycle we see today, with a new round of "needed" standards imposed every few years. Since humans change little, and their health needs were to be well protected by the standards imposed in 1971-72, you'll pardon me if I smell a rat! I think U.S. emission and pollution standards have cost us our competitive advantage. Regulations, both environmental and otherwise, were the downfall of our manufacturing base, and the solid payrolls and health care coverage that accrued from that sector.
Minimize or eliminate regulations, and watch the U.S. economy prosper!
The 'Anti' Community
I am against toll roads on pre-existing roads. I am for tolling new roads until they are paid for. I am for allowing the people to vote on how new road construction will be funded, whether through regional gas tax, or bonds, or tolling. Looking at "Postmarks" from the last issue [Jan. 28], I noticed there was a pro-toller assaulting the character of anti-toll activist Sal Costello by saying he was a bully, mean-spirited, an 800-pound gorilla. Obviously the writer has never met Sal, because a bully does not sacrifice his work and family to defend the public against something that is not right.
Another letter said toll roads are comparable to a flat tax. Not true. The toll charge per mile will vary from road to road, area to area. Those that use 290 East to go to work may pay more per mile than those on 71 West, or vice versa.
There are some who don't understand what is meant by a free road. We are not referring to the cost of the road but talking about free access to the road. People that are economically challenged will be forced off the main roads because the costs are prohibitive. This is an unfair hardship caused by tolls that would not exist otherwise. I urge everyone to think about their loved ones going through tough times when they support the anti-toll, anti-double-tax community. Sal's Web site is www.austintollparty.com.
Keep in mind the difference between Sal and his enemies: Sal is fighting for the people; the enemy is fighting for money and development rights. Which one do you think best resembles the Dragon?
Free (Not Necessarily Smart) Speech
How come Stan Knee's storm troopers only get your attention when someone dies or an incident with a band such as Ozomatli happens? I see you have completely overlooked APD's actions on Jan. 20 in which a 16-year-old unarmed protester was Tasered by an APD officer while posing no threat to anyone. If your publication really stands for free speech, maybe you better ask why our law enforcement fears it so much.
[News Editor Michael King responds: It's true that we don't cover every demonstration or every police incident each is a judgment call of our small News staff, and on each occasion some might disagree. If Seth Osmun's point is that media coverage somehow validates his activism, then the repetitive TV coverage of the Taser incident should amply serve his purposes. On the other hand, describing the entire Austin Police Department as "storm troopers" is neither remotely accurate nor particularly helpful to progressive or anti-war causes, although I guess it qualifies as "free" speech.]
Derserves to Be in Hall
I'm not certain how the nomination process for the Music Hall of Fame works, but I continue to be astounded that Gerry Van King, aka the King of Sixth Street, remains unrecognized and unappreciated by voters and the nominating committee.
King has been a mainstay of the Austin music scene for more than 30 years and has appeared in countless articles and advertisements in magazines and media, from National Geographic to the opening credits of Austin City Limits all promoting the city, its music, and nightlife, and all for absolutely no financial compensation.
While his act may not have apparently evolved much in the past 10 years, any longtime Austin musician worth his salt will attest to his impact and the pure genius and originality in his approach to the bass guitar. A documentary about him won a Special Jury Prize at the Independent Boston Film Festival. In many ways, his image is a symbol of the Austin music scene, and he deserves the recognition and appreciation that future nomination and induction to the Hall of Fame would represent.
Some links regarding Gerry: news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/05/0501_Austin6thstreet.html and www.ifsboston.org/2003fest_winners.html.
[Editor responds: The nominations are agreed upon by the Music editorial staff, but these are just suggestions, and write-ins are welcomed.]