Our readers talk back.
All Schools Should Be ExcellentDear Editor,
I live in East Austin and teach at one of the shrinking schools, Allan Elementary ["Shrinking Schools," News, May 20]. I have taught there for seven years. I love the kind, hardworking, dedicated staff of teachers and support personnel that works there. We have had many problems over the years, but Allan teachers have always been there to teach and support the children and one another. Each year we set goals for ourselves and strive to make our school better because we care about our students and take pride in the work we do. My daughter, age 7, attends Allan.
Well-meaning friends and acquaintances have asked as to why I don't transfer my bright child to Matthews or Lee. I am my child's first and most important role model and teacher. We do reading, writing, thinking, and problem-solving at home. At school she has hard-working teachers whom she loves. I know she is getting a good education and plenty of enrichment. I choose to live and work in East Austin because it exists. Racism and social inequalities exist. Moving to some gated community in the suburbs, or sending my child to some higher-set school, doesn't make the racism or injustices go away, and I would be giving my child a false sense of security. What I do strive to give my child and my students is a passion for learning, and the tools to be critical thinkers, creative problem-solvers, and to have empathy and respect for others, and to work now, in the present, toward improving our world.
I hope more teachers, parents, individuals, and politicians, instead of complaining about schools, will work toward making all schools excellent for all children regardless of whether that school is east or west of I-35.
National Board Certified Teacher
Among Those Buried ...Dear Editor,
Thanks for posting the article on the cemetery ["In Memoriam," News, May 27], it gives me moral support! I'm a one-woman show to get the sadly neglected historic old San Antonio Masonic cemetery back in shape and on a perpetual care program. The Masons purchased this property in 1853. One of the earliest Masonic grounds in Texas, Alamo Masonic Cemetery contains the graves of some of San Antonio and Texas' founding families. It is the only cemetery that is neglected among 30 others in a 25-plus block area near the heart of downtown San Antonio.
This is just a partial list of residents:
Sinclair (wrote "The Eyes of Texas")
Driscoll (saved the Alamo for goodness sake!)
Smith (daughter of Erastus "Deaf" Smith)
Fisk (served in the Army of Texas from 1836 to 1837)
Menger (hotel & soap factory)
Meusebach (Mr. Meusebach founded Fredericksburg and made the peace treaty with the Indians)
Onderdonk (famous regional artist)
Cotton, Smith, Schmeltzer, Jenkins (all members of Terry's Texas Rangers)
Newcomb (Texas Secretary of State)
Van Riper (Texas Ranger)
Ham (came to Texas with Jim and Rezin Bowie)
Huth (involved in the colonization of Castroville)
Go look at www.rootsweb.com/
After I appeared on TV, the grass was cut Saturday the 15th. Now that the grass is cut, you can see damaged and broken tombstones everywhere. The Masons are now talking to the city about taking it over. The city has eight cemeteries that they maintain in the area.
It Was the Readers' PollDear Editor,
Starbucks?? Give me a break [Food, May 20]! With Austin's own Anderson's Coffee Co., that's like comparing McDonald's to Dan's or Fran's. Anderson's has been providing coffee to Austin's finest long before Seattle grunged us with the Starbuck (which sounds like a "hip" californicated Yankee from Santa Fe).
Jeeze, Chronicle! You're sellin' out!
Carefully Considered ResponseDear Editor,
In regards to the review of the Kings of Leon's Aha Shake Heartbreak, "Phases and Stages," Music, Feb. 25: Three-and-one-half stars, are you joking? That is the best fuckin' album ever! The Kings of Leon rule! They're fit! They rock!
Farnborough, Hampshire, England
Clarke Funding ReduxDear Editor,
I was quite unhappy with the treatment given to the $91,000 that Margot Clarke will receive for the run-off campaign. In "Headlines," May 20, [News] you wrote, "But the funds are not taken from taxpayers, but from lobbyist and candidate fees to which she is entitled for abiding by city Fair Campaign Finance rules." This sentence contains two pieces of information, both wrong.
Clarke is not receiving money for abiding by rules. She was definitely not required to abide by the rules and it is my impression that she did not. She is being rewarded for agreeing to abide by the spending limit rules if each and every one of her opponents did so. As she has admitted that she knew that some of her opponents would not agree, she is actually being rewarded for making an offer that she knew would never be accepted.
Yes, she is entitled to the money, but not for doing anything wonderful. What we should be asking is whether we like the result. A spending cap in this race would clearly have favored the candidate with the highest name ID, i.e., Clarke - especially since Dealey and Kim had their own money and Knaupe had the most well-heeled supporters. Rewarding a candidate who agrees to rules that favor her is kind of bizarre, don't you think? It is a bad law.
Finally, this is taxpayer money. Making lobbyists pay fees to create a campaign finance fund that I'm sure they don't even want is called taxing them. There are fees, e.g., car registration and state park admissions, but just calling something a fee doesn't make it a fee.
Raymond Heitmann[News Editor Michael King replies: Mr. Heitman disagrees with our interpretation of the campaign finance ordinance, and the law itself, as is his right, but that doesn't mean the information we reported is incorrect. We stand by our story.]
What's Happening With PlayersDear Editor,
Why has the Chronicle not printed a story about what UT Austin is trying to do to Players Restaurant at the corner of MLK and Lavaca? UT intends to build a 10-story hotel nearby and has threatened to use "eminent domain" to take away Players' property to erect a five-story parking garage for the hotel. The owners of Players, Carlos Oliveira and Eddie Hempe, originally from Brownsville and UT graduates, have refused to sell. They wish to continue the business that they have been running since 1981. Eminent domain is only supposed to be used in rare circumstances by government entities for projects in the public good. There is no shortage of hotel space in Austin, but soon UT will be competing with private hotels. How is it good for a state institution to enter a private-sector business? If the hotel needs a five-story parking garage, why don't they build it underground, beneath the hotel, instead of usurping private property? My friends and I have been regular customers of Players for more than 20 years. Players has been around long enough to become an Austin institution. What UT is trying to do is just wrong. The Chronicle should investigate and publish a story about the taking of Players. Thanks.
Unacceptable Land GiveawayDear Editor,
A vital transportation resource owned by the people of Austin is being ignored, destroyed, and given away to private landowners. I refer to the pedestrian right-of-way, the land already owned by the public and allocated for transportation purposes on both sides of most city streets. The pedestrian right-of-way is where the sidewalk would be, if there were a sidewalk. On most streets there will never be a sidewalk, because inevitably transportation money will be swallowed up by the insatiable motorcars.
Most people (though not all) can walk in the pedestrian right-of-way even in the absence of a sidewalk, as long as the right-of-way is not blocked. But usually the right-of-way is blocked every few yards by walls, fences, cacti, anything to keep people from walking in a relatively low-stress space.
I walk around the streets of Austin every day. It's really great when there's a place to walk where cars won't hit you unless they jump the curb. Walking is relaxing, but it's much less relaxing when there is nowhere to walk except in the path of the cars. When I'm walking, I notice that most pedestrians I see are walking as far as the nearest car. I think that lack of a clear off-street space to walk has much to do with people's aversion to walking in Austin.
The city of Austin owns this land already, and it is designated for transportation purposes. All the city needs to do is to explicitly affirm the right of the public to walk in the public right-of-way, even in the absence of a sidewalk, and to make clear what department is responsible for clearing reported blockages.
But I doubt this will be done, because it doesn't cost billions or require pouring concrete.
Motorcycle EmissionsDear Editor:
All conventions and group meetings create costs for our region as well as bringing revenue for our businesses and cities. However, I have never read where the costs that apply to air quality, solid waste, and expenses for public safety have been quantified, but we do pay a price.
The Republic of Texas (ROT) Motorcycle Rally, which takes place in early June, is one example. An estimated 35,000 motorcyclists meet at the Travis County Expo Center, and the sounds of their straight-piped exhaust can be heard in many parts of town.
Exhaust emissions from motorcycles are high, particularly for carbon monoxide. With the gradual decline in ozone-forming emissions from passenger vehicles since the 1980's non-SUV passenger vehicles are already cleaner than a motorcycle on a one-to-one comparison. For example, it is astonishing to note that one motorcycle emits the equivalent in ozone-forming emission of up to 20 current model year VW Beetles (www.epa.gov/autoemissions/
If 30,000 motorcycles traveled 100 miles during one day of the ROT they would emit approximately 11 tons of ozone-forming emissions and 45 tons of carbon monoxide. On the Saturday the event was held in 2003 an ozone monitor registered an exceedence of the Federal Ozone Standard. The total emissions from the motorcycles at the ROT were seen as contributing cause to this ozone exceedence by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
If a future ROT or other high-emission event caused an ozone exceedence that contributed to our violating the Federal Ozone Standard we could face economic sanctions that could nullify any economic gain derived from the event.
Vehicle emission testing will begin in September, 2005, in Travis and Williamson Counties. Please keep your vehicle well maintained to reduce emissions throughout the year to protect the community's health.
Now It's Your TurnDear Editor,
All right, it seems that the smoking ban has passed, and that we will no longer be forced to endure the awful clouds of noxious fumes that the anti-smoking lobby has finally saved us from.
I better see each and every one of you who voted for the ban at a bar this September. You have no more excuses. Go spend your money at a bar, and go home smelling like a rose.
May God have mercy on your soul if Lovejoy's closes.
Ban Discussion of BanDear Editor,
OK, I get it already. The hipsters of Austin are revolting; they are refusing to ahem patronize the clubs they were trying so desperately to save by protesting the smoking ban in protest of the smoking ban. Last I took a pass by Red River, it looked pretty packed to me. Must be the "scab" hipsters.
And all this fuss because the "yuppies" are taking away our freedoms, man. Yeah, it's the yuppies. They got so sick of us having our degenerate fun that they thought the best way to get at us was by forcing clean air down our lungs. Damn you, yuppie scum!
But seriously, this country is all about honest debate degenerating into a pointless distraction from issues that actually matter, so why not? I mean, we all know that whether or not our laundromats suffer a drop in business from cleaning smoky clothing is waaay more important than issues like making our local transportation shittier, educating our future nursing-home abusers, encouraging business shenanigans by politicians, not to mention the national emergencies of civil liberties (y' know, the real ones?), the potential of which was so easy to ignore last November by these sudden smoking activists.
In the meantime, I propose a brand new ban for the city of Austin, not just the bars, but any public area where one can be overheard: a ban on discussing the goddamned smoking ban. No more letters, no more whining, no more pithy comments about how "the man" will be banning sex/alcohol/nose-picking next.
Enjoy the gorgeous weather (for May! It's amazing!), the music, that you're alive and have the ability to get involved in other debates besides this one ... and the fact that Austin, if you could learn a little humility, would be the perfect place to live.
Exhaust Fumes NextDear Editor,
One last point regarding the the smoking ban: I'm a guy who rides a bicycle everywhere I don't even own a car. Everyday I have to inhale exhaust fumes as people drive by my home or pass me as I ride my bike to work or to the store. Now, I'm certain that almost all of the ban supporters drive cars and SUVs, etc. Now, take your car/SUV and park it, while running, in your living room, and you'll be dead in short order. Contrast that reality with me sitting in my living room smoking cigarettes, and still alive! Yet here these bastards are telling me that I can't smoke in a bar with mutually consenting adults while they (or people like them) drive up and down my fucking street without my consent every damned day. Not to mention that they're damaging the entire ecosystem far more than any smoker. I'll stop smoking if you stop driving! Motherfuckers! Talk about toxic factories!
So, Yacov Sharir and José Luis Bustamante are the Lewis and Clark of the local dance scene ["Dancing Through Uncharted Territory," Dance, May 13]? I'll buy that trope as both duos have demonstrated that neither exploration of the unknown nor cultural transgression is necessarily a "good thing."
Let Gay Couples AdoptDear Austin,
Giving gay couples the right to adopt a child is a fair decision. It's better for a child to be in a loving household rather than be in an abusive orphanage. Giving a child a loving home would probably save them from abusive orphanage owners who could care less for the well-being of a homeless little girl or little boy.
Finding a home for abandoned children shouldn't be a problem whether the soon-to-be parents are gay or not. You're giving a kid a chance to be loved by a caring family. Taking a child out of an orphanage into a household is very remarkable because it may change a child's thinking and/or way of life. Just think of a kid being raised in an orphanage along with other children who have not been brought up in the correct background, which doesn't give these children a chance to live.
Letting same-sex couples adopt a child gives them a chance to create a family. It lets them experience raising a child and get the feel of encountering a relationship with a son or daughter. Loving and teaching a child is the most significant experience in this world, it affects our future by what the child learns; for example, how the child loves, builds, imagines, or devises, this can create a whole new atmosphere and or habitat.