Our readers talk back.
Benedict Campaign RespondsDear Editor,
We would like to offer some feedback to a few of your mentions of Place 4 council candidate Wes Benedict ["The Council We Deserve," News, April 22] as well as to the "Naked City" [News, April 22] item this past week regarding his ethics complaints filed against Betty Dunkerley: In 2002, her total reported contributions were $62,000 more than the total reported expenditures. Where did that $62,000 go? What is she not telling us, and why does she claim it's "not substantive"? She also failed to submit corrections this week, as promised.
Wes did indeed run for council in 2003 against Danny Thomas, garnering 35% of the vote, but not as a Libertarian. City of Austin rules don't allow partisan-defined campaigns. In response to your assessment of his seemingly pro-environment rhetoric, Wes is an independent thinker able to consider a myriad of solutions, regardless of who brings them to the table.
In addition to the single Austin Toll Party endorsement you mention, Benedict has also been endorsed by AustinVoter.com, the Travis County Libertarian Party, and yes, the Travis County Green Party. It should be noted too that Dunkerley did not pick up the significant Austin Neighborhoods Council endorsement a telling miss. Also, Dunkerley indeed has something to do with "the toll roads" issue she hasn't opposed shifting existing highways to toll roads, and she is very much indebted to the toll road lobbyists who are funding her campaign.
As for the nostrums Wes is speaking to, he is making connections entrenched incumbents refuse to address: corporate subsidies = gentrification/burdens on lower-income inner-city residents = traffic congestion, along with criticizing failed policies and the horrific quick fixes to Band-Aid them (i.e., nostrums!).
Doesn't Want to Pay for ACCDear Editor,
The Austin Chronicle has taken the erroneous position that just because people live within the Austin city limits but outside ACC's district that they should be compelled to pay taxes by the rest of Austin ["The Politics of Annexation," News, April 22]. In other words, those who may have chosen their residence in order to not have to pay ACC taxes should have someone else force taxes upon them. So much for personal choice.
The Austin Chronicle wrongly asserts that these people are receiving some benefit by living within the city limits and not having to pay the taxes. What makes the city limits so magical? The benefits of ACC stop at the city limits? If I live 100 feet outside of the city limits I'm not allowed these benefits?
The fact is this: ACC is a governmental institution that is poorly run and has lied to the taxpayers. Remember that taxes were never going to have to be raised? As a governmental institution, it will consume more and more tax dollars and therefore has to expand its tax base. It would rather do that than look at itself for the solutions to its money problems. And of course they don't want to raise tuition, aka user fees, because it may decrease demand and jeopardize their self-importance. It's easier to forcibly take money from someone else.
So what is the CTRCCTA? It is the Central Texas Regional Community College Taxing Authority that is looming on the horizon. They did it with the roads, and now they'll do it with education. It's coming. An educational taxing authority is coming.
Candidates' PanderingsDear Editor,
I learned something amazing over the weekend. "Toll roads and uncontrolled growth are ruining our environment." Really. Brigid Shea told me that in a recorded phone message on behalf of Margot Clarke. What a load of crap. Do these prospective Council members think they can throw a hot-button word like toll roads out there and we'll all go flocking to them? Not me. What's ruining the environment (well, besides the administration's policies and corporate greed) is uncontrolled consumption of nonrenewable energy like gas and oil and mobile-point pollution. But here's the rub, if we magically replaced every gasoline guzzling car and truck tomorrow with solar cars and hydrogen fuel cells, our road system would collapse because the major funding for highway construction and maintenance is the fuel oils tax. If we all went hydrogen, we couldn't pay for a left turn lane, much less major transportation facilities that deal with explosive and uncontrolled growth (OK, I'll give Brigid that one).
Then I get this door hanger from Wes Benedict, no tolls. He says the "toll roads are a hasty reaction to failed policies that made Austin the most congested midsize city in America." Another load of crap. I am not pro-toll roads, but I am anti-anti-toll roads. Any candidate who refuses to listen to real solutions, and won't consider viable alternatives to the continued gas-tax funded system is not the person I want representing me and my modern city. Somebody very wise once said, "The times they are a-changin'." We can embrace change and come up with bold new ways to deal with major issues like transportation, or we can sit around and talk about the good old days. We'll have plenty of time because we won't be able to afford to go anywhere. Vote for visionaries.
Roger Allen Polson
Dispelling ConcernsDear Editor,
When making your endorsements for the race for Austin City Council Place 3, you state in reference to candidate[s] Jennifer Kim [and Gregg Knaupe] that "we are concerned that the usual big-money suspects see their candidacies as the most likely to yield additional influence on an already malleable council" ["Endorsements," April 15].
Please let me dispel your concerns; there is no "big-money" in this campaign when every candidate, including Ms. Kim, must comply with the campaign contribution limits of $100 per person. Jennifer Kim has run a grassroots campaign from the start getting votes and support one voter at a time. Jennifer has a broad base of support male and female, young and old, and from diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds all over the city but all from individuals. What you fail to recognize is that there are thousands of supporters backing Jennifer Kim because they believe that she has the right mix of knowledge and experience working in public service at the local, state, and national level and is the best choice to make a well-rounded Austin City Council member.
People Are Idiots Except for MeDear Editor,
Boy, talk about madness. People are idiots, aren't they? On both sides of the ban! But hey, let's think about these Top 5 things I've come up with on why people go out, and then reflect a bit.
1) The possibility they might get laid.
2) To drink.
3) To see live music.
4) To dance.
5) To smoke.
And I'm not even sure people go out to smoke, they usually just smoke while doing these other four things. My point is, there are plenty of reasons people will still frequent bars. Since the beginning of time people could drink at home for 10 times cheaper than at the bars, yet, for some crazy reason they still went out. Was it so they could smoke? No, they could do that at home, too! And since people rarely find a hook-up while sitting around their coffee table enjoying a puff, they'll have no choice but to go out, or join HookUp.com. Which would you do? So until we pass a ban on the exchanging of phone numbers while in a bar (which is a violation of somebody's rights, somewhere, I'm sure), people are still going to go out. So ban or no ban, people will continue going out. Quit your sweating and give up the bitching, cause this is a democracy, and if the people want it one way and it ain't your way or my way ... tough shit.
Sanctimonious DemagogueDear Editor,
Does Louis Black even read "Page Two" before he posts it? He complains that "Among too many, the current method of political debate is to first frame the issues in the manner most appropriate for your view. You can then go on to explain how, given this frame, you are not only right and obviously so but, in addition, anyone who disagrees with you is either corrupt or a moron. Finally, trivialize the main concerns of those with the opposing point of view, while ignoring any valid issues, and you are home," then immediately spends the rest of the column doing just that [April 22]. How exactly are phrases like "The argument that this is about nonsmokers' rights isn't valid" and "There is no issue of nonsmokers' rights as regards this ban" anything other than trivializing? Facetious statements like "You Are Spiro Agnew!," "... confidently speak for the silent!!," and "They aren't speculating; they know!" certainly sound like treating the opposition as "either corrupt or a moron."
I'm not at all surprised by Black's snide double standard; this is exactly the same method he's used all along against Nader/the Green Party/anyone who opposes Republicans but isn't a Democrat. If Black wants to reduce himself to a sanctimonious demagogue, that's fine, but he should leave the Limbaugh-esque self-righteous hypocrisy to the Republican experts.
Smokers' RightsDear Editor,
The misguided souls who self-righteously support a draconian anti-smoking ordinance fail to realize that the encroachment on personal freedom they endorse won't stop there. Smoking is legal, and smokers have already been corralled into tiny private venues where they gather by mutual consent. To those who would take that from them, too: Remember that many areas of your own lives are ripe for overregulation your diet, your alcohol intake, your consumption of vitamins and/or pharmaceuticals, your driving habits, your landscaping choices, to name a few. Send smokers' rights down the tubes today, and yours will follow tomorrow.
Ban Is Selective FascismDear Editor,
First of all, thanks to all at the Chronicle who have written informatively, sometimes passionately, and always wisely, about the proposed smoking ban. I'd like to make two points: first, I fear the ban will pass, but largely with the votes of people who never venture out of their living rooms at night to visit a club and will not even if the ban passes. Secondly, the ban is an act of selective fascism: The city will expect bar owners to treat a client who smokes within 15 feet of the bar as a criminal, yet owners are expected to endure and tolerate vagrants who panhandle, sleep, urinate, etc., at the very threshold of the establishment. I can't wait to see the next SXSW, where musicians and patrons alike will be rounded up en masse!
Nonsmokers Voting NoDear Editor,
I am a nonsmoker. My husband, a local musician, is a nonsmoker. We're not children. We're not victims. We're patrons of clubs that decided, after weighing the economic costs and benefits, to allow smoking. We choose to support these bars with our hard-earned money. The employees choose to work there and take our hard-earned money. It's a foolproof system.
As far as I know, the laws of economics still function in this city. If it's true that smokeless clubs will bring legions of nonsmoking music lovers back to the scene, then someone should exploit this vast market. Maybe Onward Austin or Lance Armstrong can open a music venue. It should be a goldmine, right?
Smoking is bad and ugly. Everyone should quit. But don't claim that the ban won't adversely impact the clubs that currently support local music. A wise man once said, "Cigarettes and rock & roll just go together." And I know it's only rock & roll, but I like it the way it is.
Against Smoking BanDear Editor,
I am writing in opposition to the smoking ban initiative on the May 7 ballot. Austin already has a smoking ban that protects children and nonsmokers alike while giving informed adults the freedom to choose.
Right now, our current smoking ordinance mandates:
1) Of 46,000 businesses in Austin, more than 99% are smoke free.
2) No smoking is allo wed anywhere children under 18 are present.
3) More than 2,000 restaurants are smoke-free. Only six allow smoking.
4) More than 400 bars are smoke-free. Only 200 allow smoking.
5) More than 150 live music venues are smoke-free. Only 63 allow smoking.
6) Only 211 businesses and their employees have chosen to allow smoking in Austin.
If this ordinance is enacted, live music venues in Austin will suffer and some will close down. The current ordinance has already caused the Filling Station to close down and caused Katz's to file bankruptcy. These will not be the deep pockets places owned by out of town corporations. They will be the locally owned businesses run by your friends and neighbors.
Please help save local venues and local jobs. On May 7, please vote no on the smoking ban and help keep Austin the live music capital of the world.
Talking Gas TaxEditor,
Under "Lege Notes," April 22 [News], Kimberly Reeves reports that a regional gas tax increase "would amount to $25 million a year, up against a $2 billion price tag on toll road construction."
First, toll roads are built with primarily gas tax monies, not toll bonds. The shortfall covered by toll bonds is well under $1 billion.
Second, experts at CAMPO have estimated that a 2.5-cent local gas tax increase would return $1.1 billion over 20 years (p.179, draft CAMPO Mobility 2030 Plan). Over 40 years, the life of CTRMA's bonds, the return would be more than $2.2 billion.
Third, a gas tax could produce revenue as soon as six months from now. It will be years before tolls produce positive cash returns.
Of course, this is all academic. Gov. Perry and state Rep. Krusee plan to loot our existing gas taxes for their grand Trans-Texas Corridor toll empire. And, as your reporter observes, Krusee and Sen. Barrientos will loot any local gas tax increases for their pet passenger rail schemes.
Vincent J May
Smoking Monkey BannedTo the editors,
I couldn't help noticing this item in the Pets section of the Classifieds ads in last week's Chronicle [April 8]: "MONKEY free very lazy but friendly smokes cigarettes need to give away moving to Chile call Chris."
This antismoking thing has gone just a little too far when they won't let a monkey into Chile just because he smokes cigarettes.
Cycling LimitsDear Ms. Babich,
I like to cycle, and am always trying to get myself on the road more. In college, though I had a car, 90% or more of my road time was on bicycle, and I'd love to commute by bicycle.
Reorienting the roads themselves to accommodate thousands of bicyclists will mean kicking cars off, unless someone can convince a huge number of sedentary people to adapt to regular, strenuous biking thus replacing cars with bikes.
Count on many more cycling injuries than there are automotive injuries. Include heart attacks with the strains, sprains, abrasions, and fractures.
And yes, we do fear drivers ["Postmarks," April 22], with good reason, because many Austin drivers are badly trained if at all trained. Did you know that kids can now be licensed on the strength of a note from home?
The main point is, though, that altering the roads is relatively easy, but altering Austin is not. The distances involved in getting around the city and into it from the "suburbs" are too great. There isn't time enough in the day for many to ride, and few places of business have enough shower facilities for sweaty cycling employees.
Doesn't Go to Shows and Won'tDear Editor,
Jomana Malone claims that she's never seen a live musician in Austin ("Postmarks," April 22), because of the smoke. Yet, her assertion that she would start going to shows if the ban passes is contradicted by the fact that Austin already has nonsmoking venues. If she's such a music fan, why hasn't Ms. Malone gone to shows at the Cactus Cafe, La Zona Rosa, AMH, coffee shops, or restaurants, or to smoke-free shows at places like the Saxon?
Ms. Malone is exactly the kind of patron who doesn't go to concerts now and won't start, regardless of the outcome on May 7.