Our readers talk back.
Over the Aquifer?Dear Editor,
In reference to the "Naked City Headlines" and Rachel Proctor May's p.29 article ["AMD Plans to Move Over Edwards Aquifer," News, April 15] on the proposed AMD facility near Oak Hill, I am compelled to clarify the claim that the site is "... over the Edwards Aquifer." According to the geologic map published by the Bureau of Economic Geology, UT Austin, the proposed site does not overlie the Edwards Formation. The site is located to the west of the Mount Bonnell fault and on the outcrop of the older Glen Rose Formation. Here, the Edwards was eroded away long ago (along with the intervening Comanche Peak and Walnut Formations), exposing the underlying Glen Rose, which is not recognized as a significant local aquifer. Additionally, the excellent satellite image of the Barton Creek area on the SOS Web site shows that the proposed site is fairly remote to Barton Creek. As shown on that image, the existing developments of Barton Creek golf course and the Lost Creek subdivision would seem to pose a more significant element of runoff contamination, since they are far larger and lie directly on the banks of Barton Creek. Examination of the topographic map (published by the United States Geologic Survey) of the proposed site indicates that the bulk of the drainage at the proposed site is southward into the Williamson Creek Watershed, not Barton Creek. In these regards, the proposed site would appear to be fairly sensibly located. I offer this information not in support of development nor in opposition to it, but as a scientist concerned at the lack of accuracy in your and others' reporting of the issue. I suggest that you and SOS review the maps and your stated position(s) in this light.
Douglas B. Watkins
Exploration geologist[Rachel Proctor May responds: Point taken on "over the aquifer"; the proper term for the proposed AMD site, which is in the contributing zone, would be "in the Barton Springs Watershed." However, even if runoff from the site doesn't drain directly into Barton Creek, water in Williamson Creek ends up in the aquifer when that creek crosses the recharge zone.]
Needs to Contribute PositivelyEditor,
I am writing in response to the News article regarding the protests over the development of the Waterstreet Lofts in East Austin ["Protesters' Message: 'Stop Gentrifying the Eastside'"]. Mr. Ortiz's statement "We are 100 percent compliant with the current neighborhood plan" is unfounded given that the plan was developed by his friends at the East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Planning Team in 1999. It is well known that the ECC Planning Team holds their monthly meetings at Nuevo Leon Restaurant, which is owned by Terry Ortiz.
The development is targeted to single, young adults that will be considered "transient" residents because they will not contribute long-term to the community. In addition, young families will not be attracted to the development given that 700-square-foot lofts do not appeal to three-to-five-person households.
Any development in East Austin, specifically the East Town Lake area, needs to contribute positively to the community and not destroy it due to the profits that can be made in the short-term by a few stakeholders who have ulterior motives.
Thank You Michael King!!Michael King,
All I can say is amen, brother, to your most articulate anti-smoking stance in this week's Chron ["Point Austin," News, April 15]. Thank you! Everywhere I go, people ask how I, the most rabid anti-secondary cigarette person in eight states, can live under the same roof with someone who can find any reason to oppose a smoking ban. The answer? I don't know. But having you articulate the only rational side in the debate did us all proud.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Anne S. Lewis
p.s. You did I.U. proud Bob Gross (oh, no, was he a smoker?), too.[Editor's note: Anne S. Lewis is married to Chronicle Editor Louis Black.]
Cat Pee?Dear Editor,
If Michael King's house smelled like cat pee, I wouldn't try to ban cats I'd stop going to his house ["Point Austin," News, April 15]. See how easy that is?
HIV RevisionismDear Chronicle,
I've been regularly annoyed, angered, and dismayed by some of the statements, falsehoods, and pharmaganda in your "About AIDS" column for some time ... this week did not disappoint me [April 8].
What is "HIV drug resistance" really? It means the poisons you take are performing their function to stop cells from multiplying, healthy normal cells, interfering with the body's assimilative, defense, and repair capabilities, until these "medicines" finally kill you.
"Virus mutation" is an ad hoc excuse for a lack of progress owing to: 1) the status quo is too profitable, and 2) changing direction could be very embarrassing. Worse than Oswald's magic bullet, the construction of "HIV" defies everything we know about every other virus and disease process. Instead of recognizing this will-o'-the-wisp, those invested in this paradigm march doggedly forward with fantastical excuses for their failures and repeat the same bromides like "mutation" as if it were fact and not the unproved hypothesis that it is. The "experts" can say just about anything about "HIV" publicly. These two articles by journalist Liam Scheff tell the story of the mainstream medical literature we don't read in the papers: www.gnn.tv/articles/article.php?id=1035 and www.gnn.tv/articles/1210/Sex_Crimes.
The most important thing in my opinion is not what will kill us, but how we choose to live, and by extension, how we face the reality of our inherent mortality. Seek we redemption for sins? The answer will not be found in a pill nor in handfuls of them. "HIV" is a psychological WMD, it feeds from guilt, and breeds despair, and like Saddam's alleged hidden weapons, is ultimately missing in action. Do we value life? We can save more lives by letting "HIV" go fear itself has been our worst enemy all along.
Mike Rock[Sandy Bartlett replies: Young Mr. Rock belongs to a small but vociferous group of folks worldwide called "AIDS denialists," whose basic belief is that HIV and AIDS are nonexistent, artificial constructs, usually invented for drug manufacturers' profit. Maintaining that HIV/AIDS is artificial is a perverted intellectual exercise in using selective factoids put forth without context and linked by twisted "logic" that would make Karl Rove and the neocons proud. The April 22 "About AIDS" column explores some issues raised by denialists. Skepticism can be a healthy thing, but when "the facts" are selected to fit one's preconceived agenda well, you get the Bush administration.]
Disputes EndorsementsDear Editor,
You certainly have the right to endorse anyone you choose ["Endorsements," April 15]. That said, you left out the "left out" in this election the majority of Austin voters who are disgusted with the double tax toll roads. Perhaps you didn't mention toll roads because had you done so, you would have had to print the endorsements of the Austin Toll Party Casey Walker, Place 1; Margot Clarke, Place 3; (to whom you at least gave a dual endorsement); and Wes Benedict in Place 4.
Our organization was seriously considering endorsing Leffingwell until we found out he's taking support from developers pushing toll roads. Witness Tim Taylor, a former chair of the Real Estate Council of Austin. He's now the treasurer of Citizens for Responsible Leadership, which was put together to try to stop our recall effort. Their claim wasn't that they opposed the toll plan, but merely the recall. We did not believe that for a minute. We believed then and now that Taylor was fronting for RECA's support of the toll road plan, along with their friend, Rick "Double Tax" Perry.
In Place 4, you endorse Dunkerley while attacking Wes Benedict as an ideologue. Since when did Dunkerley, a government bureaucrat with lots of friends in RECA and the police union, ever do anything for progressive people in Austin? Benedict has a very thoughtful plan on how to address the dire need to keep Austin affordable, which, of course, includes keeping Austin toll free! What kind of ideologue is that?
Anyway, we hope the Chronicle will try to make up for your endorsements with some coverage to encourage a real horse race!
Let's Do the MathLetter to the editor,
The Chronicle endorsed Council Member Dunkerley for her "financial officer's instincts" and "hypercareful approach" ["Endorsements," April 15]. Yet, how do you explain her enthusiastic support of $60 million in tax subsidies to Endeavor Real Estate and Simon Property Group for the Domain shopping center near the Arboretum? Let's do the math.
Dunkerley and the Austin City Council voted to give these developers $25 million in net present value tied to May 2003 with a steep 7.5% annual discount rate. The value grows to $28.9 million next month, and they just broke ground. On construction completion in Spring 2007, the deal climbs to $33.4 million.
Over the subsequent 20 years, until mid-2027, the combination of high retail sales per square foot and deeply discounted sales tax and property tax rebates to Endeavor/Simon could easily top $60 million a sickening misuse of public funds approved by Mayor Wynn and council members Dunkerley, Alvarez, Thomas, and Goodman.
Direct quote from Dunkerley on May 8, 2003, during the council discussion on the Domain: "I'm a finance person, I've run city finances in two cities for 17 years, I'll do those projects every day of the week." Massive subsidies for median wages of $8.65/hour, no health insurance requirement all while kicking local retailers in the stomach until 2027? No thanks.
Here's a lucky break for Ms. Dunkerley my lawsuit, settled in June 2004, stripped away the subsidy guarantees for the Domain, and now the city can just walk away from this misrepresented project with no recourse. That's the question she should answer. Will she vote to walk?
Architecture and PlanningEditor,
Highest compliments to Mike Clark-Madison for his coverage of the downtown development saga ["Delay of Game," News, April 8]. As a relative newcomer to Austin (two years) who is most interested in how our town develops, I find Clark-Madison's work quite illuminating. He weaves together enough history, civic perspective, and political candor that I can feel how alive this set of issues/opportunities really is. It's a lot more than just architecture and planning. The "Delay of Game" piece and the earlier "Downtown Dominoes" [News, April 9, 2004] have helped me get a grip on how our city works in matters of civic vision.
What About Club Owners?Dear Editor,
Something that seems to be receiving little mention in the debate over the proposed smoking ban is the rights of the club and bar owners. These establishments are not public space, they are privately owned businesses. As such, their owners should be deciding whether or not smoking will be permitted on the premises. Nonsmokers are free to exercise their right to go elsewhere.
The anti-smoking lobby has proven their organizational abilities utilizing them to convince club owners to voluntarily become smoke-free or provide smoke-free events would certainly be preferable to punishing these clubs with a law voted on by people who have never set foot in a live music venue smaller than the Erwin Center.
What Happened?Dear Editor,
What happened to my Chronicle? For years it had funny, insightful, witty little things in it that never ceased to entertain me.
Has there been a push over the last few years by your management to make your publication more professional/journalistic? If so, I apologize to your staff as they are doing what they are instructed.
However, if you are the alternative newspaper you once were, you would start adding the little things you used to add that made this publication such a joy to behold every Thursday.
For example, years ago I read a movie review and I forget every single word of it except for a phrase which went something like, "Another fine performance by the Shakespearean Jean-Claude Van Damme." This is the kind of humor my friends and I miss so much.
Using cool wording like "natch" instead of naturally, etc., adds a lot to your hipness and entertainment value.
Lately I have been laughing more from how bad the Statesman is instead of at how witty you are. That, my friends, is indeed a tragedy of Oprah Winfrey proportions.
Supporter but Not FunderDear Editor,
Let's set the record straight. I have generally disregarded the disparaging remarks recently published by The Austin Chronicle about the Lance Armstrong Foundation's very public support of Onward Austin and the proposed smoking ban. I am proud of the LAF's support of movements and organizations that help reduce the cancer rates in our society.
However, Darcie Stevens' article "Smoke Signals" [Music, April 15] and Daniel Mottola's article "Where There's Smoke . . .," [News, April 15] that state "Onward Austin . . . financially backed by the American Cancer Society and the Lance Armstrong Foundation" is not correct. As readers of the Austin American-Statesman know, Onward Austin has released its financial statement, and their sole source of financial backing has been the American Cancer Society.
As a staff member at the LAF, I know the money that LAF constituents donate directly impacts our mission of providing practical information and tools that people need to battle cancer and live strong. LAF staff and volunteers are focused on helping people with cancer and their families.
I hope the community of Austin will join the movement of communities across America and say to smokers, "Please step outside to have your cigarette."
LAF staff member
Supports Smoking BanDear Editor,
Reading this week's Chronicle [April 15] I can see that there are a lot of concerns over the proposed ban and a lot of opinions. I don't believe that banning smoking will be as dire to business as some seem to think. Many people avoid clubs because of smoke and this will bring them back. I lived in Ireland for a few months before smoking was banned and have returned twice since. Despite a few grunts from some friends, they still go to the pubs, and I found that Ireland's pubs and clubs aren't hurting for business. If an entire country can survive a smoking ban, I am pretty sure that a city famed for live music can survive, too.
Smokers Just Get Used to ItDear Editor,
To the pro-smoking (surely minority) of Austinites and club owners fretting about a smoking ban: Relax. Delaware enacted the country's most stringent (at the time) anti-smoking laws, and bar owners and smokers here raised the same sort of fuss. Well, only the crappiest little dives took a true financial hit; restaurants and venues that focus on supporting live music are doing just fine.
Smokers crying about their rights need to remember a couple of things: 1) They're in a minority that loses numbers via smoking-related deaths and quitters ever day and the majority rules in a democracy; 2) your rights do infringe on and harm those around you. I don't want to smell your stinking smoke, and I sure as hell don't want to inhale it.
Far more so than around here, Austin welcomes families and multiple generations to live music venues. Responsible parents who won't take their kids to a honky-tonk choked with smoke will have no such qualms about a smoke-free environment.
Yes, things will be tough when the ordinance first goes into effect it was here, too, and Delaware is a stone's throw from three other states that aren't as tough on smoking. Some folks bail to the Pa. bars but mostly because last call there is 2am, not 1.
Face it, tougher smoking laws and outright bans are not going away. Think about how common smoking in the workplace was just 15 years ago, and you can see where this is going. Austin would be wise to make the inevitable work for it instead of uselessly fighting and wasting time and money. Club owners: Market yourselves to the majority of nonsmokers. Powers that be: Help them out and make all-ages shows common and profitable and lighten up about the so-called noise.
Wilmington, Del.[Editor's note: A point we make on some kind of sporadic basis, which is especially appropriate here, is that we live in a constitutional democratic republic where the majority rules but the rights of minorities are considered and protected.]
Amused That Others Are WorriedPut this in your pipe,
I find it amusing to see some local bar owners band together to fight the oncoming smoking ban as if the government is trying to squeeze their doors shut under the flimsy guise of public safety.
With 60 or more years of research and factual data proving the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoking, this is like fighting the seat belt law.
Personally, I do not care if people smoke. My grandmother smoked and I loved her right up until her final struggled breath; she died slow from emphysema. But when I am out, it is unsettling when someone lights up one of their 20 cent cigarettes that have all of the rich tobacco flavor and smell of a Canadian tire fire, and blow it into my lungs, clothes, and hair (my beautiful hair). I never quite understood a smoker's inherent right to influence all of the shared air in a room, but I usually just try not to breathe in.
In other cities the same laws and ordinances have been passed and bar owners pushed back with the same fears of being run out of business. Most bars closing during or after the smoking ban were plagued with poor business or poor business practices before that.
In many cases, after the smoke cleared, bars saw an upswing in their weekly business. In Austin, where one can step outside unmolested by the weather 300-plus days a year, I think most well-run establishments will fare well.
Smoking is a dirty habit that well suits many people as does drinking, but at least my Jim and Ginger will not end up in your liver.
Retrofitting Is EasyDear Editor,
Duane Keith writes that "retrofitting Austin to bicycle-based transportation ... is unrealistic" ["Postmarks," April 15]. This is a myth propagated by the car/road/pork crowd. Austin is already admirably suited to bicycle transportation. There are plenty of roads and plenty of space on the roads. The main reason more Austinites don't walk or cycle for transportation is that they are afraid of the cars. With a little restriction on the use of cars (e.g., roads for slow travelers, wide bike lanes where cars may not park, lights on timers instead of sensors, and an end to expensive meddling by traffic engineers to make cars go faster), Austin could be an ideal city for biking.
The cheapest possible "retrofitting" is for cyclists and pedestrians. What is really expensive is "retrofitting" Austin for twice as many cars, without slowing them down. This last task is actually impossible, but any amount of money can be spent attempting it.
Transportation departments and car ads have convinced motorists that, no matter how many cars there are, there should be room to drive them as in a movie chase or car commercial. Motorists have also been convinced that their self-interest lies in devoting all transportation funding to cars, designing roads for cars only, keeping speed limits high, and scaring pedestrians and cyclists off the roads. Some policies actually produce massive congestion, which increases demand for more road-building, light-synchronization, and so on.
Retrofitting a city for cyclists and pedestrians can be done with road-striping and orange cones. Retrofitting a city for an ever-increasing number of cars is a hopeless task. We can expect it to absorb most of our public resources, to the detriment of everything we love, for as long as it takes us to wise up.
Why the F--- Should We Care?Dear Editor,
When Congress or the EPA decides to enact some piece of environmental regulation, the auto manufacturers and oil companies always protest by pointing out how expensive it will be. My usual reaction, one I believe I share with many in this blue city, is "Why the fuck should I care? Keeping your business profitable is not a problem that should concern our government."
But when local clubs make essentially the same argument with regard to the upcoming referendum on a tougher citywide smoking ban, many suggest that I should have a different reaction. Why? Because these bars are small? Local? Purveyors of music? None of those arguments offer more than unsupported emotional appeals.
Like most Austinites, I am a big fan of local live music, and I want to see the city retain its vibrant culture. If the live music industry cannot sustain itself profitably, then perhaps some city subsidy or tax-break would be appropriate. But I don't know that the appropriate municipal bounty which is, after all, what any exemption from a citywide law would constitute should be one that comes at the price of the health of bar patrons and employees. With the widespread consensus about the health risks of even secondhand smoke, Darcie Stevens' comment that "If there's any doubt about this smoking ban, maybe the risk is just too high" is mind-boggling in its myopia.
Has Never Seen a Live MusicianDear Editor,
Austin, "The Live Music Capital of the World." I live in Austin, but have never seen a live musician onstage here. Why? Having grown up in a smoking household, I now have chronic bronchitis and get sick every time I go to a club.
My hope is to see Austin 100% smoke-free in all its public places this year. We all know that secondhand smoke causes cancer, heart disease, and respiratory illness. Yet knowing this, I don't believe that most people could truly know what smoking has taken away from us all.
I wish I could regularly see Austin's live musicians and go dancing along Sixth Street. I am merely one person who cannot go to these places, but I'm in the company of masses of nonsmokers who will not go. Until Austin has a strong ordinance, I will continue to take my patronage to smoke-free places.
What About the Occasional Smoker?Dear Louis,
For the sake of the smoking-ban argument, which like most "controversies" in Austin tends to be dominated by polarized self-interested parties, I am amazed by the following omission and lack of consideration (argumentwise) thereof. A good number of patrons of the 211 businesses in question are what we might call nonsmokers who enjoy an occasional puff when they drink. I would venture to say that there are more people who smoke only when they drink alcohol in these establishments than smokers per se, though I haven't been privy to any such polling data. I wonder why these voices have been absent in the debate?