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'Chronicle' Needs to Print Truth!

Dear Editor,

Ms. Reeves' article on Comptroller Strayhorn and Sal Costello and his group AustinTollParty.com shows yet another media grab-ass for the politicians who have controlled Austin's destiny for the past several decades ["The Sal and Carole Two-Step: Toll Party Throws a Party," News, April 29].

The people continue to be abused in their wallets and instead of focusing on that real issue, Ms. Reeves writes a skewed version of the main issue.

It's obvious that neither Ms. Reeves nor Editor Black have a clue what has been going on regarding toll legislation that will tax our children's children for generations to come. Do you mean Strayhorn is the only politician who lobbies or "plays the crowd"?

You can call it politics and put down the efforts of the anti-toll activists; however, the truth is the truth.

One very real truth is that Central Texans already would be paying a toll on South MoPac to cross over William Cannon Road if it weren't for Strayhorn, Costello, and hundreds of other vigilant legislative watchdogs. They couldn't sneak this toll by us because we were watching their every move!

The Chron and its reporters can continue to use their sharp tongues without thinking, but the truth is that the bridge toll would have been a double tax. That project was already paid for in gasoline taxes.

Hey! Why didn't the Chron point that out to its readers?

Instead of continuing to put down those who don't bow down to wealthy special interests or turn the other cheek, why don't you print the truth for a change?

You quoted Mike Krusee. Krusee certainly is no angel. He's been instrumental in veiling the toll facts from other legislators, agencies, and the public in the drive to implement tolls behind closed-door meetings. Focus on that individual with all your sarcasm. Krusee deserves it.

The Chron needs to give credit when it's due – and focus it on the right people.

Merle Osmond


A Park by Any Other Name Is Not a Park

Dear Editor,

In the "Council Notes" for April 29 [News], the site for the proposed expansion of the South Austin Tennis Center was incorrectly referred to as a "neighborhood park." This site was purchased for use as a tennis center 20 years ago; half of the tennis center has been built. The proposal is to construct the second half of the tennis center on land that has always been intended for use as a tennis center.

Jeb Boyt

Chair

Land & Facilities Committee

City of Austin Parks Board

[News Editor Michael King responds: I don't wish to get into a semantic dispute with Mr. Boyt, but it's also clear that the folks in the Galindo neighborhood have come to consider this bit of green space a neighborhood park. Judging from their remarks at last Thursday's meeting, at least some council members have also begun to doubt the wisdom of expanding the tennis center in this particular location.]

Brian Beattie! Brian Beattie!

To everybody who read the Kathy McCarty article last week,

I totally screwed up when I wrote my article ["Infinite Capacity," Music, April 29] and didn't even mention the name of my best friend (referred to in the article as "the engineer" and "the producer"), Brian Beattie!!!!!! Without Brian Beattie I would not only have never made Another Day in the Sun or Dead Dog's Eyeball, but I probably would never have had the guts to play music at all. Brian Beattie is the one who let me use the studio and his time (and multi-instrumentalist talents) for free, for years. I really don't know what in the heck I was thinking. I have no problem telling the world that, musically, I can barely turn my amp on without Brian's assistance; I tell everyone all the time. I am not ashamed. In fact I am a little bit proud that I have a musical genius who thinks I am worth the time. But for some reason, which I haven't been able to figure out after beating myself up for days, I didn't mention Brian in my piece.

Anyway, Brian didn't even want me to write this, but I had to, because I feel like such a jerk. Actually, I feel more like a psychopath. Brian Beattie, ladies and gentlemen, the man responsible not only for Another Day in the Sun, but also responsible for making it possible for me to record anything, ever, in my life. (This is not an exaggeration. I have never recorded anything, not even the Buffalo Gals, or Sinequan, that Brian wasn't operating the machine.)

I am so sorry.

I don't know what's wrong with me.

Kathy McCarty


Biased Coverage (?)

Dear Editor,

I bumped into Michael King at a press conference called by the Austin Toll Party and one of our endorsed candidates for council, Wes Benedict. Wes filed suit alleging that the Real Estate Council of Austin is laundering money through the police union to support their favored candidates: Leffingwell, Knaupe, and Dunkerley. Why would RECA hide behind the badge? Because word is getting out that they're prime movers of the toll plan!

King raised the same silly charge he raised last week about our supposedly violating the local campaign finance laws – the $100 limits I helped pass ["Point Austin," News, April 29]. Some people are upset that we are using our list – a petition list gathered by volunteers across the city last year. We do not believe the list has the commercial value that some are attributing to it; suffice it to say, however, that if that's true, the so-called "violation" we're talking about amounts to about $88!

But, the Chronicle is hot on the case. Meanwhile, leaders of the Real Estate Council have been sending money through the police union PAC in lumps of up to $2,000. The Statesman said this is not a violation of the $100 limit!

Why do you think RECA and the police union bosses think our lists are so valuable? Answer: They represent ordinary people across this city who continue to go out and talk to their neighbors. That is something that money – even RECA's money – cannot buy.

We hope to continue to further a voter revolt in this city, with or without biased coverage from the Chronicle.

Linda "for a little more honesty" Curtis

[News Editor Michael King responds: Actually, Linda Curtis didn't "bump into me," she interrupted me when I was trying to cover her organization's press conference, where apparently only softball questions are in order. That's OK, but her studied pose of innocent bystander is getting very, very old. Curtis employs the common political standard for campaign finance violations: "When our opponents do it, it's an outrage; when we do it, it's a 'silly' nothing." I agree with her that the RECA/APA practice represents a greater present danger to the election system than the Toll Party's transgressions (although she apparently wants us to report it before it happens – see today's News section, "Full Disclosure: Here Comes the Late Money"). But that certainly doesn't mean she doesn't have to abide by the same campaign finance laws she applies to the competition. Curtis is a paid political consultant, and at least some of her "volunteers" were paid $1 a signature for a list that exceeds 20,000 names. She now wants to wish away the list's actual value – although one of the campaigns receiving her contribution has since rejected it. And she is inevitably the first to accuse those who disagree with her of being not just wrong, but corrupt (or, in our case, "dishonest"). Such inflated rhetoric may bring out the troops, but it also contributes to the debasement of the political debate.]

More Needs to Be Done

Dear Editor,

We very much appreciate your coverage of AMD CEO Hector Ruiz's proposal to move 2,000-3,000 Austin employees from offices in East and North Austin to a new campus on Southwest Parkway in the Barton Springs Watershed ["AMD and the Edwards Aquifer," News, April 22].

We ask that you do more to expose what such a move will mean for our city and the misinformation campaign promoting the move as good for Austin.

Both our local daily and AMD spokesmen support the move as good for Austin with two false claims: that the proposed complex will comply with the voter-approved Save Our Springs ordinance and that it will help reduce traffic because "58 percent of AMD employees live within ten miles" of the proposed site on Stratus Properties' Lantana site.

Stratus claims "grandfathering" for Lantana based on preliminary plans filed in 1984 by previous, long-since bankrupt owners. When Stratus bought the site in 1995, it was clearly under the SOS ordinance; but then "good citizen" Stratus (then Freeport McMoRan) went to the Legislature and lobbied retroactive grandfathering legislation. AMD's proposed facility will not even come close to complying with SOS water quality protection measures.

While insisting the Lantana site would serve employee convenience, AMD has admitted that only 36% of its employees live southwest. That means almost two-thirds live in other parts of Austin. The "58 percent within 10 miles" factoid has been manufactured to hide the fact that most AMD employees do not live in and do not now commute onto the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Watershed.

AMD has been good for Austin. We need it to stay that way. We ask the Chronicle, its readers, and AMD employees to join with Austin Neighborhoods Council, Liveable City, Save Barton Creek Association, SOS Alliance, Texas Clean Water Action, and Zilker Neighborhood Association in asking AMD CEO Hector Ruiz to reconsider his decision and to work with the community to find an AMD home outside the Barton Springs watershed. See www.moveamd.com for more information.

Sincerely,

Bill Bunch

Executive Director

Save Our Springs Alliance


Mentally Ill Criteria

Mr. Black,

According to Darcie Stevens, ... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead is "the biggest thing to come out of Austin in the last decade" ["Music Listings," April 29].

Can you please tell me what kinda mentally ill criteria is being used for this equation? Fastball, Los Lonely Boys, and Pat Green have all dwarfed this band with sales figures and attendance at concerts throughout the country, and they've all risen to the fore in the last 10 years.

And, as always, when sloppy writing and reporting fall through the cracks, you gotta find fault with the editor. That said, please put a cot in Hernandez's office. He's sleeping on the job. Again.

Sincerely,

Chris Grady


The Right to Engage in Activities

Dear Editor,

I don't smoke and don't like it whenever anyone remotely near me does. Yet I will vote against the smoking ordinance on Saturday. This issue is – even more than abortion – a referendum on pro-choice and pro-life positions.

We already have such a strong smoking ordinance in place that nonsmokers are rarely inconvenienced by smokers. Is it really so important that we never be inconvenienced? I don't think so. This is about the majority doing what it wants because it can.

Is the United States about democracy, or is it about liberty? I think the founding fathers chose democracy because they believed it was the governmental system least likely to trample our liberties, then they added the Bill of Rights because they knew that even with democracy liberty was an uphill struggle. Preserving liberty is not about preserving those rights that everyone supports – those are never endangered in a democracy. It is about preserving the right to engage in activities like abortion and smoking that the majority finds abhorrent.

Sometimes the rights of individuals must be sacrificed for the greater good. But it should always be done with hesitation. People who never support the rights of others to participate in objectionable activities don't believe in liberty at all. I am resigned to this intolerance from the right; I hoped for more from the left.

Raymond Heitmann


Don't Mourn, Fight for Justice

Dear Editor,

Thank you for writing an article on Dorothy Turner's death ["Dorothy T. Goes Home," News, April 22]. She would have been amazed that the Chronicle covered her passing because she believed you did not give fair coverage of the problems in East Austin. Actually, she thought you did not cover at all the problems of police brutality, job discrimination, or the encroachment of developers into the historically black community, forcing people out of their longtime homes. So, perhaps the best tribute to her would be for the Chronicle to take up the fight for justice. Surely, you, the Chronicle's founders, have some anger about the direction this country is going under the leadership of greedy people. We all live on the same planet. We do not all live under the same degree of repression. Greed is a disease that can never be satisfied. The right-wingers – both Republican and Democratic – will destroy the human rights we all fought for. Then, what will we do?

In community,

Trella Laughlin

Fayetteville, Ark.


Students Are What's Important

Dear Editor,

Lost among the turbulence of the last few months in RRISD is the fact that our students continue to perform at high levels ["Round One at Round Rock," News, April 29]. Our TAKS scores are very good and higher than predicted. The achievement gaps between different populations are closing faster than in most other districts in the state. Our teachers continue to deliver quality instruction with larger classes, lower budgets, and diminishing support from the state.

Unfortunately, it's hard to get headlines with good news these days. Negative stories have that locked up.

I'm confident RRISD will navigate through these choppy waters and continue to provide an environment where students can succeed. The kids are doing great. It's the adults I'm worried about.

John Romano

President, Round Rock ISD board of trustees


Educate the Whole Student

Dear Editor,

As a parent of two students in the Round Rock school district, I was elated to learn that Tom Gaul has resigned his superintendent's position ["Round One at Round Rock," News, April 29]. Test scores may have improved during his administration, but teacher morale has sunk to a new low due to impossible expectations and lack of administration support. Staff reductions have resulted in higher class loads, and ridiculous busy work takes time away from teaching and diverts it to nonproductive projects that only serve to make administrators look good. Anyone who knows a teacher in the district knows this is true.

Athletic programs and fine arts have been shoved to the side as nonessential to the education of our children. In reality, athletics and other extracurricular programs enhance the overall performance of the students involved in them. Children graduate with work ethics, discipline, and knowledge about the real world that these programs promote, which contribute to their success in life. Coaches have struggled to maintain programs over the past few years that have been rendered impotent by cuts in funding and administration support. Once respected in these areas, RRISD is in danger of becoming a half-baked mediocre district unless some changes are made.

My hope is that the Round Rock district voters will elect a board that will hire a superintendent who believes in the value of educating the whole student, and provide facilities that will enable the teaching staff to produce outstanding, productive citizens, as they have in the past. This board would not include the threesome running together (Bruce-Juhlke, Sullivan, and McFaull). This group poses a real danger to the district as they have exhibited a penny-wise, pound-foolish approach to funding district needs. The ideal situation would be the election of a more moderate board and the appointment of a superintendent who can balance the demands of the budget with creating a positive working environment for teachers and promote learning among district students. The taxpayers can only hope this can be accomplished without the expense of importing a candidate from Alaska or Florida.

Good riddance to bad rubbish, Dr. Gaul!

Sandy Worthy

Round Rock


Addiction Is Not a Lifestyle?

To the editor,

OK, three times is enough. Louis Black, Michael King, and now Daniel Mottola have in the course of arguing the pros and cons of smoking bans, called smoking a "lifestyle choice." No one can claim ignorance of the truth that smoking is not a lifestyle choice. It is a devastating addiction that kills 1,000% more people per year than all other drugs combined. Smoking is not a choice. It is a compulsion brought on by experiencing the effects and then having to continue. Even the tobacco companies have admitted it and paid heavily for pushing it to children.

Smoking is a horrible addiction, and we have finally trumped the poor tobacco companies' bulging PR coffers and gotten the word out. There will be no turning back. There is no argument from a smoker that means anything. They are sick people who need help. Just like alcoholics, we must approach them with understanding and kindness and then try to help in any way we can. Secondhand smoke is not even an issue. The source of the problem is and always has been that they are trapped in a desperate compulsion brought on by a substance that attracts and then kills. If I can do anything to help them, I will. Banning smoking anywhere helps them. They are the real victims, and any business that depends upon encouraging this horrible addiction in order to survive (like tobacco companies or bars) must be eliminated. There is no argument that can validate preying upon these unfortunate addicts in order to make a living.

Michael Hankin


Disappoint

To the editor,

I am curious as to why you used the title of my letter to editorialize. You wrote "Isn't Addiction a Lifestyle Choice?" That is not at all what I wrote. Plenty of pro-smoking letters did not receive such attention. One would tend to think there is a bias here. For the record, the text of the letter states: "Smoking is not a lifestyle choice." I'm disappointed with the Chronicle.

Michael Hankin

[Editor's note: Editor Louis Black writes almost all the headlines.]

ACC Ballot Proposal Perverse

Dear Editor,

The ACC board of trustees slipped onto the May 7 ballot what can only be labeled a perversion of democracy. Community college taxing districts are built on school districts. There are three areas inside the Austin city limits that belong to other school districts, districts that are not part of the ACC taxing district. Those three small areas are about to be swamped by a vote allowing everyone currently paying ACC's tax to extend that tax to cover those three areas. It is a basic tenet of American democracy that only those facing a tax should be allowed to vote on that tax. I believe that was one of the principles upon which we rebelled. ACC's sleazy backdoor effort to expand their tax district makes a mockery of the democratic process. And their only response to that is to repeat, in mechanical fashion, that it's for our own good. The obvious arrogance of that comment aside, it doesn't address the issue. I live in a MUD and pay the highest property taxes in Austin. How about we hold a vote out here to extend our tax to Dr. Mink. Oh, she'll get to vote on it, too. It's at least as fair as ACC's proposal.

Scott Sexton


Austin Most Racist City in Texas

Howdy y'all,

Last week I attended four of the meetings the City Manager's Office held. They were "focus groups" for African-Americans. I expected a chilly reception. Talk about hard stares, I got them. I am a tall, bearded white man with a rather long ponytail.

The UT Humanities Institute and Waterloo Press published a book last year, Writing Austin's Lives: A Community Portrait. I was able to get some of the African-Americans to be friendlier by reading them the last line of one of the many stories in that book. Plez A. Wooley is the author of "Momma's Crystal Ball." The main library downtown has the book, and it's in bookstores or at the Austin History Center.

The last line of Mr. Wooley's story reads, "I am embarrassed to say that I am from Austin, because it is such a racist city, especially for African Americans." When I read that line to some of the East Austin folks, they quickly asked to read the whole story. The first line reads, "Austin is beautiful, but the Austin Police Department is trying to kill my style: most black men here have become a victim of racial profiling."

I hoped to meet Mr. Wooley and thank him. He is correct. I have learned something over the 54 years that I have lived here. Austin, Texas is the most covertly racist city in all of Texas. Someone should warn African-Americans who are thinking of moving here. I am certain the City Manager's Office is not going to do that. I must also say: This city's development planning is just a continuation of the same discrimination and segregation that has existed in Austin since before the Civil War.

Rick Hall

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Our readers talk back.

July 9, 2004

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A plethora of environmental concerns are argued in this week's letters to the editor.

March 31, 2000

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