Our readers talk back.
Fri., April 8, 2005
You've simply got to have a regular "Quote(s) of the Week" somewhere after seeing this one. (I think y'all may have had them before.) This one came out of your own AC mag.
"I know all about the price of freedom. My parents' gardener's son is in the Marines." Ashleigh Forrester in the AC supplement, on the struggles of Arab nationalists against French occupation ["AC Datebook," the Hookup, April 1].
Stanley Gilbert[Ed.'s note: Please check the issue date of the AC again.]
And the 'AC's Issue Date Was ...?Dear Editor,
I am so very confused, I went to lunch today seeking The Austin Chronicle as I have done for years and in its place I found something called the AC. I went to the bottom of the stack seeking my Chronicle fix as I was nearing and fearing the weekly oncoming withdrawal that usually occurs when all copies of the Chronicle have been taken by the other junkies. I settled for the AC read, only to get the impression that it has replaced The Austin Chronicle. No! This could not be. I am reading more into this (no pun intended) than it is. Next week I will once again get my fix. I left the restaurant sulking without ever reading "News of the Weird." So please, tell me that this was the biggest April Fools' Day joke ever played on us Austinites and that you really got us good, ha ha and so forth. Or you can inform me that I have been living under a rock and that "I blew this out of all proportion to the occasion" and that AC has not replaced the Chronicle and that the only place I will see it in the future is online. Sorry for wasting your time thinking that such a devastating thing could have occurred, and I apologize in advance for being so greatly mistaken.
HorrifiedTo the Chronicle staff,
I am a longtime reader and lover of the Chronicle, and as such cannot help but be horrified at your new "youth-oriented" publication, the AC. The articles are unengaging and geared toward the worst stereotype of the airhead college student. Bikini-clad women and "articles" concerning vaporized alcohol and text-message transcripts with pop stars are hardly in keeping with the spirit of substance-based journalism on which you have built your name. Perhaps your advertisers are pushing for a younger demographic, yet you are admired for your independence. For shame, Chronicle, and you have succeeded in disenchanting one of your new mag's target audience members a 22-year-old woman.
All Places Should Be NonsmokingDear Editor,
I wonder what percentage of Austinites smoke? Many music venues, clubs, and the like that argue they will go out of business if patrons are not allowed to smoke in their establishments while listening to cool Austin music, might be surprised to consider that they might actually increase their audiences with a smoking ban.
As it is, Austin is "the Live Music Capital of the World" for smokers; what a shame. If Austin is so cool, aren't the majority of Austinites nonsmokers? What a potential gold mine for new patrons if all places were nonsmoking.
Your recent "Page Two" column made very little sense to me [April 1]. [Here are] two direct quotes from that column:
"As far as statistics are concerned, I neither care about nor fully believe reports about the economic impact of smoking bans on small businesses, whether issued from either camp or even from 'neutral' agencies."
"Isn't it time that instead of adding to the worries and concerns of club owners like Wickham, we offered them our gratitude and support?"
Perhaps local politics cause you to be so ambiguous about that issue. I certainly don't know. In any case, it would be nice to know which of those statements represents your point of view.
Gary L. Zimmer
Say No to the Smoking BanDear Editor,
Thank you, Louis Black, for sorting through the smoking ban controversy and explaining its potentially tragic impact on the live music culture of Austin ("Page Two," April 1).
We believe that the majority of voters will come to the same conclusion if we can reach them and motivate them to vote May 7.
If you would like to help, please check out our Web site, KeepAustinFree.com, and see how you can help collect contact information for sympathetic voters and the money needed to inspire them to vote May 7.
Terrible, and irreversible, things can happen if reasonable people stand by and do nothing.
Owner of 219 West Lounge and Restaurant
Smoking Ban Won't HurtDear Editor,
It's clear that Louis Black cares deeply about Austin's live music scene the clubs, the musicians, and the culture that surrounds it. So, I'm puzzled by his recent column concerning Austin's upcoming smoking ban ordinance vote ("Page Two," April 1).
Black says that he doesn't "care about nor fully believe reports about the economic impact of smoking bans on small businesses," but then he takes one such report to heart (from Elysium owner Wickham) and concludes that "a ban will hurt some clubs, kill other clubs, and damage the live music scene."
I'm not sure how Black can be so certain about the economic impact of a smoking ban, but let's consider what his conclusion says about those who care about Austin's live music scene as much as he does.
The possible economic damage of a smoking ban will occur if most smokers no longer go to the clubs. In other words, these smokers are going to the clubs to smoke. They have little or no commitment to the bands or venues. So, the "vitality" of Austin's live music scene is resting on the whim of smokers whose lifestyle choice has absolutely nothing to do with the music scene that Black cares so much about.
Yes, less business from smokers is a possible result of a smoking ban, but let's also consider some possible benefits for Austin's live music scene: More attendance from nonsmokers. Continued attendance from smokers who value the music scene more than their smoking. Improved air quality for Austin musicians, venue employees, and patrons.
Even if the smoking ban passes, people will still be free to smoke in the vast majority of Austin in places called "the outdoors." Voters should be aware that, unlike the Round Rock ordinance, Austin's ordinance does permit smoking on outdoor patios.
Six months ago, Massachusetts enacted a smoking ban that encompassed the entire commonwealth. Bar and restaurant owners were furious, claiming that it would put a huge dent in their profits and place undue harm on the entertainment business.
Today, Harvard University has reported that the sales and employment of all Massachusetts restaurants and bars have actually increased since the smoking ban.
Six months. More jobs. More sales. The quiet majority is not vocally praising this smoking ban, but they are publicly endorsing it. Austin could feel a similar, natural high.
Rad Tollett[Ed.'s note: The figures you cite above have to do with overall revenue rather than specific businesses. There are any number of questions that would need clarification. How many businesses that were open when the ban went into effect are still open? How have Mom and Pop businesses done? How have smaller live music clubs done? Are fast food chains earning a larger, a smaller, or the same percent of the total as before the ban? And that's just a few of the most obvious.]
Kudos to PoliceDear Editor,
Jordan Smith's article "Sixth Street Blues" from the March 18 Chronicle [News], regarding police behavior, is unbalanced, inappropriate, and just plain wrong. She has obviously not spent enough time on Sixth Street to write about it intelligently. She should stick to writing about what she knows. In the 22 years that I have been selling flowers on Sixth Street I have had lots of experience with the police, and I am telling you that they do an excellent job of keeping Sixth Street a fun and safe place to visit.
The vast majority of people on Sixth Street are pleasant and well-behaved. The people who get arrested there are the people who come looking for trouble. No one gets arrested just for being drunk; they have to be a danger to themselves or others, or doing something else totally inappropriate.
Kudos to the Austin Police Department for a difficult job well done. Sixth Street is a safe and fun place to visit, party at, and drink responsibly because of the great job that our excellent police department does there. Jordan Smith should do more research before she writes about it again.
Bellagio Review UnfairDear Editor,
What has happened to our Chronicle? I have depended on Virginia Wood for finding good food in Austin since I arrived here eight years ago. In light of two recent events, I can no longer do that. I work for Bellagio Italian Bistro, a small family-owned restaurant at Jester Boulevard and 2222. A scathing, untruthful review was published by you all a few weeks ago ["Off and On," Food, Feb. 18]. I personally took offense because I know how hard our very small staff works to make our restaurant a wonderful experience for everyone, including ourselves. I highly respect our owners and my co-workers. We are a family. I watch them all perform to the best of their abilities every day. We all care! I was told to dismiss the article, seeing as the reviewer was from Houston and we could have had an "off day," which I am reluctant to accept. I just opened my newest Chronicle to find a blurb in the "Restaurant Roulette" section which, for me, adds insult to injury. It intimates that we make our customers uncomfortable because we close our kitchen "right after the dinner rush," which is an outright lie. I personally have stayed one extra hour for one single table to dine at the very last moment, and given them the same caring service as if they were my first table of the evening. Have any of your reviewers ever had to manage the labor costs of a small, family-owned business? I watch three separate owners do their utmost to make their business solvent and profitable on a daily basis, and I am there, as are all of my constituents, to back them up. Now it seems like your opinions have become vindictive. Can I change your mind by caring for you myself? Our food is wonderful. If not, why has your reporting become so negative? We should get the same fair shake that some of the more mundane and less tasty venues garner from your publication. We support local businesses; shouldn't you?
Billie M. Dixon III[Virginia B. Wood responds: As I explained to the owner of the restaurant, neither the reviewer nor this newspaper has anything to gain from reviewers fabricating stories. Our reviewer is not from Houston and gave what I considered to be a fair, balanced, and honest account of his personal experience at Bellagio. That is what all our reviewers are expected to do, regardless of whether the restaurant is locally owned or not.]
A Dumber and More Ignorant 'Chronicle'Dear Editor,
I honestly thought, and am still hoping, that the launch of AC [April 1] was an April Fools' Day joke. Let me preface this by saying I am a 20-year-old student at UT who grew up in Austin and looks forward to my weekly dose of the Chronicle. It is not that I have a problem with a "more edgy" version of the Chronicle, but by "edgier" did you mean dumb and ignorant? I was angered by your article on "local chow." Since when does Louis Black support ditching Magnolia Cafe or any of the other truly local flavors for IHOP ["Hot Eats," Chow, April 1]? Were you serious? There was even a section on sex-related issues that encouraged a girl to go out with her friends and not worry about an infection she thought she got from "staying too long in a hot tub with a cute guy ... if you know what I mean" ["Doin' It," the Hookup, April 1].
As the target audience for this new edition I was sorely disappointed. Where was the news? Or do we really only care about The OC and binge drinking? I really enjoy the Chronicle so hopefully y'all will work out the kinks and the AC will work out for you. I, for one, will continue to read the old Chronicle b/c edgy to me is stimulating articles and support for eccentric Austin.
Leah Hughes[Ed.'s note: Trust your instincts.]
Blizzard Clarifies His PositionDear Editor,
Readers of Rachel Proctor May's feature on the proposed commercial design standards may have gotten the impression that I oppose "vertical mixed-use" projects (typically first-floor retail with residential and/or office above) ["Weird by Design," News, April 1]. To the contrary, I am a consultant on two projects that include exactly that type of development.
My point to the author was that not every project in the entire city needs to be vertical mixed-use and that even Robert Gibbs, the national guru behind these proposed standards, argues that requirements of first-floor retail on every building do not always work as intended. In cities that have instituted such regulations the first floor is often left unoccupied as a cost of doing business, which hardly leads to the pedestrian-friendly, walkable projects the standards are intended to create. More alarming from an environmental perspective was the portion of the proposed design standards that grandfathered vertical mixed-use redevelopments from the impervious cover limits of the SOS Ordinance, thereby actually encouraging residential density over the aquifer and all the pollution that entails.
As for the Beast from Bentonville, encouraging limestone facades on Wal-Marts or even moving them up to the street edge will not pay the workers inside a livable wage with benefits or bring back the thousands of American jobs that Wal-Mart suppliers have outsourced to China and Saipan. Planning issues cannot be divorced from more bread-and-butter issues like wages, affordability, and economics if we really want to reverse traditional growth patterns and provide a quality of life that everyone can enjoy.
Mike Blizzardp.s. I have been asked by several clients and local business owners to help assess the impact of the proposed design standards on local businesses and grocery stores. The opinions expressed in this letter and last week's article, however, are solely my own.
Okkervil River Has Enormous TalentDear Editor,
My wife and I were so glad to see these guys (Okkervil River) recognized ["Black Sheep Boys," Music, April 1]. We no longer have time or the lifestyle to get out and hear a bunch of music live unless it's at the Cactus, but somehow or another we stumbled across one of Okkervil River's albums, and it was one of those that remained in our home CD player for weeks getting better and better every time we listened to it. Enormous talent with both the music and the lyrics ... there aren't really many "albums" anymore where the whole package matters. Your recognition of this talent makes us feel smart, so thanks!
Misspelled Title CorrectedDear Editor,
Although SXSW is over, and this may seem outdated ... my film "Mott Music" was spelled "Morr Music" in an article relating to the Music Shorts program ["Out There," Screens, March 18].
Defending Virtual SchoolsDear Editor,
In reference to Amy Smith and Rachel Proctor May's recent articles on pending legislation, connecting virtual schools with "vouchers" is misleading ["Lege Notes," News, April 1; "A Voucher Is a Voucher, Even if It's Virtual," News, April 1; "Vampire Vouchers Rise Again," News, March 25]. The presumption that virtual schools are unsupervised learning reveals a lack of understanding of what virtual education is.
eLearning is growing in the public school sector as well as in the corporate training sector. The University of Phoenix now is the largest university in the country, but it is only part of a spectrum of higher education institutions that are moving toward eLearning. New York University, for example, recently expanded its virtual college to offer an undergraduate program as well as a grad program. The University of Texas Distance Education Center is considered one of the leading eLearning institutions in the world.
Many state agencies provide statewide virtual schools. Florida leads the nation, but Illinois and Kentucky also have excellent virtual high schools.
In Texas the Virtual School Pilot helped the Houston ISD, Plano ISD, Birdville ISD, Spring Branch ISD, the Texas Virtual School at Region IV Education Service Center and the University of Texas High School to establish strong programs.
As moderator of a listserv of virtual school administrators (www.texasvsp.org) I support the concept. I am concerned, however, about giving the State Board of Education control of the network. I think the public schools are doing a great job already and that Carolyn Boyle does not represent the aforementioned Texas public schools but rather a narrow constituency dominated by educators fearful of much-needed educational reform.
Clarifying MandatesDear Editor,
It is with dismay that I read two letters to the editor accusing those members of the Senate who desire to change the filibuster rule in the Senate of trying to upset the Constitution's built-in systems of checks and balances or ending judicial responsibility ["Postmarks," April 1].
The filibuster is not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution. It is a rule the Senate imposed on itself under its authority to make those rules and it is free to change it as it wishes. In fact it has changed the filibuster rule a few times, once at the suggestion of President Wilson who was no neoconservative. Those who now support the filibuster should remember it is a blade that cuts both ways. It has been used in the past to block civil rights legislation.
A constitutional amendment defining the powers of the judiciary the way the powers for the other branches of government are enumerated can better address judicial responsibility than a filibuster. The framers of the Constitution thought this would be addressed later after ratification. One reason for anti-federalist misgivings about the Constitution was because of its failure to address judicial powers. Unfortunately Congress never got around to an amendment addressing this problem. An unrestrained judiciary is another blade that can cut for or against you.
"[T]he Federal Judiciary; an irresponsible body (for impeachment is scarcely a scare-crow), working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped from the States, and the government of all be consolidated into one. ... [I]t will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated." Thomas Jefferson.
Carl Anderson[Editor's note: The above is in response to statements the letter writer wishes had been made, so he could rebuke them, rather than statements actually made. There are constitutional mandated checks and blanaces in the federal governmant. There are also checks and balances that have evolved by legislation. Neither of the letters mentions the Constitution. They do address the issue that traditional checks and balances created by legislation and maintained by consent are being attacked.]
Hush MoneyDear Editor,
I certainly hope much attention is being paid to the blatant political chess game going on with Midtown ["Midtown Saga Burns On," News, April 1]. It is obvious that Baylor is showing the city how generous, how helpful, how supportive, and how much damage control they have done for the city surrounding this incident. Oh and then, we want money. Oh no, we don't want $400,000. We want $750,000.
This is hush money! City pays, club owners claim to keep a lid on their disbelief and emotional trauma that came from stupid messages sent by a few police officers. (Stupid, not criminal.) Baylor cited one, one incident (of which I am not familiar with) where police apparently failed to respond appropriately to a 911 call. She failed to even mention the number of calls to police since then (most likely hovering around 500 or greater) to which there have been no complaints.
I hope the media zeros in on the statements put out by Futrell and McDonald that "this was the city's idea and we would have given it to the club had the incident not happened." Lie lie lie. All to appease a family that is connected with Washington.
And finally (trying to keep this short), I hope the media roll over to Mr. Linder and hold his feet to the fire who stated on television news that the e-mail and statements in the e-mail were taken out of context and someone has it out for the city manager. I hope people see the irony and hypocrisy of that mindset. Hang and fire police officers for their e-mails that stink of racism (although race was never mentioned), but take a step back and take a look at the big picture when it comes to "his" people sending messages.
Hutchison Co-Sponsoring 'Nuclear Option'Dear Editor,
In case anyone is interested, our esteemed Sen. Hutchison is co-sponsoring Bill "I'll Diagnose What Ails Ya'" Frist's threat to eliminate the filibuster in the U.S. Senate, and with it any hope for federal judicial responsibility. Just in case anyone might want to drop her a line and tell her how they feel: 202/224-5922, www.hutchison.senate.gov/e-mail.htm.