Our readers talk back.

Isn't a Park a Park?

Dear Editor,

In his letter in the Chronicle of May 6 ["Postmarks"], Jeb Boyt takes exception with identifying South Austin Park as a "neighborhood park," but this is the official designation on the city of Austin maps and online documentation.

One issue dominates the entire debate about the future of South Austin Park. The site is an entirely inappropriate and unworkable location for the Tennis Center expansion.

The project would add two acres of additional impervious cover in the flood-prone West Bouldin Creek Watershed. A majority of the multipurpose community green space in the park and recreation center field would be lost to a single-use, gated "managed facility." Four of the new courts would be built less than 50 feet from homes on Herndon and South Fifth. The others would be built about 100 feet from homes on the north end of the park that already suffer serious drainage and runoff problems from the tennis courts after every heavy rain.

The environmental concerns associated with the expansion, combined with increasing traffic, noise, and light pollution would result in a serious negative impact on the quality of life of hundreds of residents living on the perimeter of the park and adjacent streets. Neighborhood residents are not alone in their concerns. The Parks Board was deadlocked in their vote on the project (a 3-3 tie that was broken by the chair). All three of the board members who voted in favor of continuing the project expressed concerns about the site, including Mr. Boyt. The city of Austin Environmental Board voted unanimously, 7-0, to urge the city council not to proceed with the current plan.

Everyone loses in the expansion plan. The tennis players would get a short-term fix for their court needs and sideline their dreams of a publicly funded regional showplace for years to come, and an increasingly densely populated neighborhood would lose a beloved inner city oasis.

Sev Coursen

Boyd Vance Will Be Missed

Dear Editor,

On behalf of the Vance family, we want to thank you for Robert Faires' excellent tribute to my brother Boyd ["Touching All Those Hands," Theatre, April 29]. My brother was a beautiful human being and I think the many comments from others attest to this fact. Thank you Austin Chronicle and thank you Austin.


Clen Vance

'Chronicle' Too Gullible

Dear Editor,

Your article covering Texas Senate Bill 1858 inexplicably repeats developer attorney/lobbyist Dan Wheelus' assertion that "no one has ever justified that the 15 to 25% impervious cover limits were necessary to preserve and protect the recharge and contributing zones on Barton Springs" ["Senate Bill Threatens Local Water Quality Standards," News, May 6]. In fact, the one person testifying at the SB 1858 hearing with the best credentials to opine on that topic – environmental engineer Lauren Ross – submitted data to the Senate Committee showing the scientific consensus on the necessity for these restrictions. Why did your reporter choose to rely on a developer lawyer as the sole source of information about science rather than reporting on contrary information provided by a scientific expert?

SB 1858 is nothing more than an effort to take decisions regarding water quality protection standards away from local voters who are motivated to protect their environment and put them under the control of a state agency beholden to polluter lobbyists.

While environmentalists sometimes become elected to city councils, it is chemical company lobbyists and their ilk who are appointed to run the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. SOS Alliance and many other organizations have long petitioned TCEQ to hold hearings and gather scientific evidence on the adequacy of the TCEQ rules regarding the Edwards Aquifer, but these requests have been wholly ignored. "Scientific" decisions at TCEQ regarding water quality standards are driven by political constraints imposed by lobbyists like Dan Wheelus and their friends in the Texas Legislature. Please dig a little deeper on these issues, and don't allow yourself to be an unquestioning platform for developer lobbyists' assertions about environmental science.

Brad Rockwell

Isn't Rape a War Crime?


I was just wondering why "war crimes" was put in quotes in the Calling the Ghosts movie synopsis in the online version ["Film Listings Online"]. To me, the way the quotes appear around "war crimes" seems rape is not a war crime. I guess if rape technically isn't a war crime as defined by the Geneva convention, then a more appropriate descriptor could have been chosen.

Perhaps I'm merely misreading the text and the quote is from the women as a whole who are describing their experiences as war crimes.

Should anyone revisit this synopsis, I would appreciate either clarification of the speaker of "war crimes" or recategorization of "rape" in this piece.

Lisa Ann Kueter

[Marjorie Baumgarten replies: It was due to the testimony of the women profiled in the film and others that rape was "added to the international lexicon of war crimes by the UN Tribunal at the Hague" (from the film's Web site). The quotation marks I used were an inadequate shorthand meant to express the idea that the definition of war crimes is indeed malleable and expandable.]

Mistakes Made in Restaurant Review

Dear Ms. Wood,

I have lived in Austin since 1979. I have had the nachos at the Armadillo and the chicken-fried steak at the Stallion. Over the years I regarded you as someone who was knowledgeable about the local restaurant scene. Recently you proved that to be wrong with your review of El Pollo Feliz ["Cheap Eats," Food, April 15]. In the first place, Guadalupe Street and Airport Boulevard do not intersect. There is no such address as 6801 Guadalupe. You were apparently thinking about the intersection of North Lamar Boulevard and Airport Boulevard. However, there has never been a restaurant at that location called the Hamburger Haven. The name of that restaurant was Airport Haven.

I suppose everyone makes mistakes now and then, but I expected better from you.

Here is a bit of advice – if you want a truly fine meal for a reasonable price, go to El Patio at 2938 Guadalupe and order the chicken enchiladas. Good luck to you!


Gary L. Zimmer

[Food Editor Virginia B. Wood responds: Well, off with my head! You are so right, it was Airport Haven, I stand corrected. As for the address, the restaurant is located just south of the intersection of Airport Boulevard and North Lamar. I copied an incorrect address off of a take-out menu without checking it first, another huge mistake. It's comforting to know that while it's so obvious I don't know everything, there's always a reader out there who does. Thanks for your help.]

Thanks, Austin, for Ban

To the Austin community,

I am writing in response to Dan Mottola's article "Where There's Smoke ..." [News, April 15]. I am Christine Carlucci, the program coordinator of oriGENal voice, GENaustin's public awareness campaign that empowers middle school and high school girls with important information about the dangers of tobacco use. Just like several other thousands of Austinites, the girls of oriGENal voice are thankful the smoking ordinance passed since it will be enforced in places where they spend time with their families – particularly bowling alleys.

I heard a "Keep Austin Free" representative on the news accuse those supporting the smoking ban of having nothing at stake, as bar owners do. The American Cancer Society reports that secondhand smoke attributes to 300,000 lower respiratory infections in children each year and cases of asthmatic children due to secondhand smoke leaped from 200,000 to 1 million this year. It doesn't take a biologist to understand adults are affected in equal measure. In many ways tobacco is directly marketed to girls and women, playing on insecurities associated with fitting in and mythology about smoking and weight-loss. The facts are staggering regarding how many girls will start this year. Today, 457,000 girls under age 18 are likely to become daily smokers – 146,000 under 18 are likely to die prematurely as a result.

oriGENal voice is dedicated to counteracting these trends, teaching girls to use media to raise awareness about the risks of tobacco use and secondhand smoke among their friends and family. Funded by the Texas Cancer Council, oriGENal voice is a unique group within the GENaustin network, a nonprofit existing in Austin since 1996 focused on building girls' confidence and critical-thinking skills. The girls of oriGENal voice send a resounding thanks to Austin for taking their health and wellness into account during the recent decision!

Christine Carlucci

Addiction Is a Disease


Remind me to box your ears next time I see you.

Just because I said addiction is a disease not a lifestyle choice ["Postmarks," May 13] doesn't mean I want to ban smoking, prohibit liquor, or further criminalize drugs, etc. You are adding to my arguments your own paranoid fantasies. I voted against the smoking ban by the way.

Addiction is a disease that subverts the individual's ability to choose, among other things. I don't think smokers need help unless they want it. Cigarette smokers can have integrity and individuality; crack smokers will come to a place where they have neither.

So once again, we find our words useless to describe a phenomena as multifaceted as addiction. Perhaps our wonderful civilization has come to the place where we need many words for the concept. The Eskimos had their snow.

David Burks

Austin Used to Be Cool

Dear Editor,

Too bad. Austin had a good thing going. Free markets were working well and everyone had a place to go. Now the holier than thou folks have taken over. Thanks to the smoking ban, my friends and I will not be spending another tourist dollar in Austin. Remember, smoking doesn't make you cool ... but a lot of cool people smoke. Austin used to be cool.

Andrew Schulze

Washington, D.C.

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Our readers talk back.

July 9, 2004

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

March 31, 2000

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