Our readers talk back.
'Rumbo' Part of a TraditionDear Editor,
Thanks for the recent and informative article "Let's 'Rumbo'! Right Now!" [News, Feb. 25]. As a fifth-generation Austinite of Mexican descent, I'm glad to see attention paid to what in some respect has always been a neglected and undervalued part of the community; Spanish-language newspapers.
The current publications follow a long tradition in Austin. Ley Reforma Libertad y Justicia was published as early as 1908. Edited by Tomas Sarabia, it was the official journal of the local branch of the Revolutionary Junta active in Mexico at that time. In 1920, local physician Alberto Garcia self-published El Vanguardia. This was issued weekly and contained community news and information.
The 1940s saw the printing of two publications. El Organo was put out by the Lopez family. It featured numerous photos of returning service men, weddings, graduations, and even a funeral with open coffin. Del, while primarily in Spanish, had an English section. It carried Spanish language advertisements from major businesses such as Sears.
Information on and examples of these historic publications can be found at the Austin History Center, 810 Guadalupe.
Danny Camacho (no relation to Antonion Ruiz Camacho)
Who in Their Right Mind ...Dear Editor,
What kind of people are these conservative media watchdog groups patrolling the public airwaves listening for naughty words and looking for nipples ["Are You Decent?," News, Feb. 18]? And who in their right mind cares about the pathetic fate of television and corporate radio stations at this point? Let the religious right have it. Maybe then grownups will stop watching. Appealing to the lowest common denominator has worked out well for Dudley and Bob; if their bosses want to keep them around they should stop taking money from advertisers who foam at the mouth over a dick joke.
Important as MonumentDear Editor,
The Wednesday, March 2, morning talk-radio shows exhibited the two faces of the local theocrats. First, they weighed in against the local attorney fighting to have the Ten Commandments monument removed from the state Capitol grounds, purportedly because the commandments represent the source of American law and the monument is present for a historical purpose, rather than a religious one ["Naked City," News, March 4]. But then they decried the Supreme Court's decision prohibiting the execution of juvenile killers. Maybe they've forgotten that one of those commandments they're defending states, "Thou Shalt Not Kill." Or maybe they're just hypocrites.
Michael M. Simpson
Ventura, Broaden Your HorizonDear Editor,
Michael Ventura certainly paints a dire picture of the state of our union ["Letters at 3AM," Jan. 21]. On the other hand he quotes The New York Times, CNN, The European Dream, the Associated Press, USA Today, and that renowned bastion of intellectual research The West Wing. Perhaps if he broadened his horizon beyond hand-wringing news media he could find some good news about America.
Austin Needs Tennis CourtsDear Editor,
I am responding to "Neighbors Call Foul on Tennis Center Expansion" [News, Feb. 11]. I am an avid Austin tennis player. I can tell you firsthand these extra courts are definitely needed. The article stated that the South Austin Tennis Center courts are only used 50% of the time. What wasn't mentioned was the fact that SATC is required by the city to keep several courts open daily for walk-on players. These courts are not to be used by the pros for lessons or for league matches. Sheryl Behne, the director of tennis at SATC, said she could easily fill every one of her courts if she were not held to this requirement by the city. Empty courts during the morning and afternoon hours Monday through Friday are no different then empty soccer fields or rec centers during the same time periods.
The Galindo Elementary Neighborhood Association suggests adding more courts at the public schools as an alternative, but they can't even fit enough portable buildings to accommodate the number of students, let alone adding tennis courts. Regarding the flooding, according to the parks department engineers, the new landscaping would actually alleviate some of the flooding problems. And there is no comparing a few extra courts with the magnitude of the Waco Regional Tennis Center.
Tennis is a family-oriented sport for a lifetime. Adults and children of all ages and skill levels can enjoy the game, and there are many great community programs, too. I can't imagine a better possible neighbor than the SATC. In fact, the Chronicle named the SATC the best public tennis facility several times.
I completely appreciate the concerns expressed by GENA; we also want it to retain its integrity, but this is our neighborhood too, where we work, live, and play. Would you prefer a Wal-Mart instead?
Smokers Are People, TooDear Editor,
I write this in hope of giving a face to smokers in the revived debate about a smoking ordinance in Austin ["Smoking Ordinance Headed for the Ballot," News, March 4]. Though I am only one of those faces, I suspect many nonsmokers lump all smokers together in a category of inconsiderate idiots who are ruining their own health and impinging on the health and general enjoyment of others (nonsmokers).
I am a 33-year-old, college-educated female. I am a vegetarian. I exercise daily. I wear a Lance Armstrong bracelet. And I smoke.
My family is riddled with all types of cancer, including my father who died of bile duct cancer in 1996. I give my financial support to the Lance Armstrong Foundation, right alongside the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Sierra Club, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Clean Water Action, and NARAL.
I have had long stretches of not smoking, and I recognize how unpleasant the habit can be to a nonsmoker. I try to be as considerate a smoker as possible: I don't toss my butts on the ground; if people are in close proximity, even in a smoking establishment, I ask if they mind if I light up; I only blow smoke directly in someone's face if he or she truly deserves it.
Nonsmokers should have places to go where the air is clear and any stains are from substances other than tobacco. But, smokers should also have places to go and enjoy themselves and their habit. Limiting or eliminating the range of smoke-friendly establishments will not make people smoke less. It will only make them stay at home more, or go outside of the club or restaurant for frequent smoke breaks. It will make them unhappy. It may make them mean.
I want us all to be happy. And I say this out of complete self-interest, as I have been a nonsmoker before, and I may be again someday. But I will always have the soul of a smoker.
Property Taxes Too ExpensiveDear Editor,
In 1986 I moved into my home at 309 W. 37th. That winter, I put up holiday lights to help celebrate the season. Over the past 19 years about a million people have passed in front of my home and smiled at the spinning dreydl, or laughed at the volcanic eruption. To those people I just want to say a heartfelt "thank you." Today, our house tearfully went on the market, as we can no longer afford the outrageous tax increases that the city of Austin has decided to impose upon us. The next holiday season will undoubtedly be a very difficult one for my family and me. I hope that the city can find a way to correct their shortsighted policies that are causing so many of us to flee.
Robert T. Whyburn
Most Disturbing to Me Was ...Dear editors,
I noticed the article by Michael Ventura (austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2005-01-21/cols_ventura.html) making the rounds on various left-wing Web sites ["Letters at 3AM," Jan. 21]. I tried to look up his source articles, and I was unable to find The New York Times article from Dec. 12, 2004, that has us ranked 49th in literacy. (There was another Dec. 12, 2004, article in the Times that contained the 28th out of 40 in mathematics statistic.)
But most disturbing to me in my searches was this article I found from December 2001 (www.conway.com/ssinsider/snapshot/sf011210.htm). It clearly contains the central theme and some of the statistics from Michael Ventura's article written three years later.
If the article that I have linked was verifiably written in 2001 and contains original material itself, I think Michael Ventura owes that author (Jack Lyne) an apology at the very least.
Strasburg, Va.[Michael Ventura replies: I have no knowledge of the article Mr. Peterson is referring to, and never heard of Jack Lyne until reading Mr. Peterson's letter. But it isn't surprising that writers with similar concerns, working from similar statistics, would write similar pieces. In addition, I rarely take my facts from Web sites (and when I do I say so); though no source is perfectly trustworthy, I prefer traditional news outlets, like The New York Times, that have long histories of factual accuracy.]
Gay SegregationDear Editor,
It is clearly apparent that Kate Getty has not spent enough time in the gay bars of Austin to know that there has always been some form of segregation enforced (at one time) and just understood ["Gay Place," Community Listings, March 4]. For years there were bars that stopped trannys from entering because the sex on the driver's license did not match what the doorman could see. One bar asked that women pay $25 to enter. Although it isn't like that anymore, there are still some places where not everyone in the gay community can go to and feel comfortable in a gay bar. Yes, it would be great if we could all hold hands together and sing "Coming out of Hiding" together as a tribute to Pamela Stanley, but that's not going to happen. Sidekicks/Xtreme is following the tradition of telling people that there are two bars in one. The slash tells only that. Kate seems to be seeing some form of prejudice that the men only go to the Xtreme side while the women are on the sports side watching television and playing pool (which sounds a bit stereotypical). So what if they are; they are in a bar and doing what they feel comfortable doing. I have spent many evenings there with men watching sports and on the dance side drinking and mingling with both sexes. The ratio of men to women in that building is better than any other gay bar in Austin. I do understand that we as gay people need to pull together to become a more powerful force, but to put down our own people in the process is only going to hurt the gay community. I personally feel that the owners of Sidekicks/Xtreme, who are a mixture of men and women, are helping in bringing both sexes together under one roof. Kate should spend some time in the other gay bars and see how diverse or lack thereof and how they compare to each other. I think she will find that these two bars in one cater to all kinds and welcome everyone. And considering Sidekicks/Xtreme won as the best gay bar in Austin, that has to prove they are doing something that the gay community wants and needs.
Anne Geneva Sanchez
Get an EditorDear Editor,
One might think that Ana Marie Cox's belief in the primacy of the text (as she says, "I think writing is a one-way medium") would lead her to edit her posts on her blog (www.wonkette.com) for accuracy and correct English ["Nellie Blog," Screens, March 4]. Or get an editor, as she suggests others do. Alas, the blog's awareness seems only to extend as far as the author's nose.
Transportation ProblemsDear Editor,
Once again, we in Central Texas are offered the chance to rid our region of traffic jams by building more highways. Of course, this is a joke.
Do you think politicians, road builders, and transportation departments really want to rid the region of traffic jams? Suppose that we finally had a marvelous system of roads with no traffic jams. Then transportation departments would have their budgets cut, and highway builders would be out of work.
It is not in these people's self-interest to get rid of traffic jams. Traffic jams are a godsend to road builders, transportation engineers, and politicians. As long as there are plenty of traffic jams, there will be plenty of demand for roads. And demand for roads is what brings these folks money and power.
A serious attempt to solve traffic problems would include modern techniques such as reducing speed limits and closing roads. (Even Mr. Smarty Pants has heard that reducing traffic speeds has sometimes been shown to reduce congestion.) It would include a serious effort to improve the streets for pedestrians and cyclists, in part by restricting motor traffic. But since road builders, politicians, and transportation engineers make their biggest money building highways, highways are what they propose to build. And by the time they are built, these highways will be full of jams, thus perpetuating the demand for more highways.
The self-interest of road builders, transportation departments, and politicians lies not in solving transportation problems, but in appearing to try to solve problems that appear to be unsolvable.
Free Citizens?Dear Editor,
I completely agree with Chip Tait in his quote of the week, "It is not up to the American Cancer Society or Lance ... Armstrong to tell me how to run my business" ["Naked City," News, March 4].
It amazes me how "free citizens" want to have control over how others run their businesses, support their families, live their lives, and continually call in the government to pass laws to force these businesses to comply with their personal preferences with regulation after regulation. It is not really even about smoking. It is about civil liberties and the ability to have and run a business that is not doing anything illegal. There are plenty of nonsmoking establishments in Austin and also as "free citizens" nonsmokers have the right to create nonsmoking establishments. That is a free society. It is a very slippery slope when we continually hand our freedom over to government officials (which is happening all the time). Is there not a way to handle this in the "free market" or is the "free market" going to be a thing of the past? How much do we want government controlling our everyday lives? Why can't "free citizens" figure out solutions without calling in big brother to issue more control over free enterprise and our daily lives?
Oh yeah, I do not smoke. I do, however, like the idea of freedom and personal choice.
Also, in reference to the blurb about Michele Deitch and curbing human rights abuses in prisons. I heard on the news how much better Martha Stewart's fellow inmates were treated because she was there. It was a frightening thought to think what would happen after she was gone the party will definitely be over.
What strikes me is that we have cameras filming "free citizens" everywhere, stop lights, while we shop, etc., and yet there are no cameras filming prisoners and guards to insure human rights are not being violated not just by guards but by other inmates as well. Go figure.
Fight to Save AquiferDear Editor,
I want to thank the Austinites and those from the northern Edwards Aquifer region who made the effort to join with those from as far southwest as Del Rio alongside representatives from across the sweeping Hill Country at the regional water summit last weekend held in San Antonio; all of whom are concerned about the state of our most valuable resource, the Edwards Aquifer. I was excited to see such dedication to formulating solutions collectively, and even more pleased to hear the general consensus on our plan from a wide array of business representatives, government officials, and those fighting to save our very Hill Country heritage.
As quickly as our water is being legislated as a public commodity to be sold off to profit a mere few in the private sector, so too our coalitions must grow! See www.aquiferalliance.org for more information on how you can get involved.
Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance
Thanks Nanci GriffithDear Editor,
Bless Nanci Griffith ["There's a Light Beyond These Woods," Music, Feb. 25]! I love her 'cause she headlined the very first benefit concert for the nascent Austin Peace and Justice Coalition, back in '83, funding its birth. Thanks, Nanci!
A Government Big Enough ...Dear Editor,
In the 1960s, opponents of the patriarchal welfare state used to say, "A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have." Given the way boy George and the other neocons are going, maybe we should update that to "A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to put you in an internment camp"!
Graphic ComplaintDear Editor,
Who is the graphical genius behind the Betty Dunkerley signs now sprouting around town? They make it look like the council member is priced to move at a yard sale.
Budget Cuts Bad for TexasTo the editor,
I wonder if the voters who put GWB in office are at all concerned about his budget proposals. I wonder if any actually care. Are they paying attention? Here are some facts which concern me.
Bush plans devastating cuts to America's top priorities, from homeland security to health care to education to benefits for veterans and much more. And this budget is a huge disaster for Texas. The Bush 2006 budget cuts $420 million in state and local funding for homeland security, including a $55.7 million cut for Texas. These cuts will take police and firefighters off your streets. The Bush budget cuts the COPS program, which has put 6,124 officers on Texas streets, by 96%. The Bush budget cuts $45 billion from Medicaid, enough to provide health care to 1.8 million children. Texas' share of these cuts is $2.7 billion. Bush's budget cuts the very same community and rural health care programs he touted during the campaign, even though more than 626,000 Texas residents have lost their health care coverage since Bush took office, due to his failures. Bush underfunds his own No Child Left Behind Act by $13.1 billion in his budget. In Texas, that means a shortfall of $1.1 billion, leaving behind 272,271 Texas children. Bush promised to fund Pell Grants in his State of the Union address, but his budget is $6.6 billion short. That's $516.7 million less than what's needed in Texas, a real burden for the 355,653 students in Texas who receive the grants. The Bush budget would require many veterans to pay a new $250 annual "user fee" to use the Veterans Administration health care system, and would double the prescription drug co-payment for the 1,754,809 Texas veterans. Bush cuts Texas clean water programs by $17.7 million. Bush's 2006 budget also cuts the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program which helps low-income families afford heating fuel in the winter by $234.4 million, including a $5.2 million cut for Texas residents. And Bush's irresponsible budget is a record $427 billion in the red, increasing each Texas family's share of the federal debt by $36,536.
Do you care about any of this?