The Austin Chronicle


October 21, 2005, Columns

'Chronicle' Owes Yoda Apology

Dear Editor,

Regarding the "Best of Austin" '05 issue [Oct. 14], I don't know which appalls me more, the seemingly short-term memory of your readers in picking Kirk Watson as Best Citizen or your staff for glorifying that pick by designating Kirk Watson "the Yoda of Austin's urban planning." If anyone on your staff needs a refresher course, I urge them to look at some of the Chronicle's very own archived issues in which the "Watson legacy" was thoroughly discussed. For everybody else, all you need to do is to look around to see that Mr. Watson's urban-planning philosophy was and is bankrupt. If my memory serves me correctly, it was Mr. Watson who championed the idea "smart growth," a concept in which you limit high-density growth to a designated area of town or Desired Development Zone, thereby limiting sprawl and protecting environmentally sensitive areas. Sounds like a good idea except that under Mayor Watson's watch what smart growth actually resulted in was corporate welfare, back-room deal making, the gentrification of Central and East Austin, not to mention dramatically increasing property values in and around the downtown area to the point where there is now a substantial lack of affordable housing within 15 square miles of downtown Austin. A couple of other lovely byproducts of this Best Citizen's vision were the demise of Liberty Lunch in favor of a bigger rent check from Computer Sciences Corp., and lest we forget, the mother of all shrines to the Watson legacy – the empty shell that was to be the Intel building. Kirk Watson, "the Yoda of Austin's urban planning"? If you ask me, you guys owe Yoda an apology.

Tony Slagle

'Chronicle' Sloppy, Careless

Dear sir or madam,

Since arriving five years ago, I have come to regard the Chronicle as the most valuable local news and lifestyle source. I value having an honest, progressive paper dedicated to bettering this city. But lately, some sloppy reporting and careless word choices are endangering the very institutions that make Austin livable.

Dan Mottola's report on Ecology Action's troubles was not only well behind the pace of events (EA has been posting signs about the issue for months) but overlooked the very source of the problem: People are mistaking the recycling center for a dump, and leaving "mystery bags" full of nonrecyclable garbage after hours ["Ecology Action: Recycled by Zoning?," News, Oct. 14]. By overlooking this, Mottola makes it sound like it's all Ecology Action's fault just how things are done there. He was right about one thing: People do depend on EA, including me, since city recycling won't service apartments like mine. Therefore, I have to set the record straight before I lose my freedom to recycle.

Similarly, p.102's notice on EmanciPet made a tasteless joke about animal euthanasia at Town Lake Animal Center ["Best of Austin," Oct. 14], the second time I've observed this year that the Chronicle has mentioned TLAC solely in that context, and making it sound like a heartless game. As a volunteer there, I remind you that TLAC is the only shelter in town that does take animals in, and that all the others, including the no-kill shelters, get their adoption animals from us. Euthanasia, meanwhile, really is a last resort, and the numbers you cited should tell you how many more animals we successfully adopt out. We would have been no-kill as early as 2002 if Austin would just spay/neuter, but instead, this kind of coverage makes it sound like we kill animals without a thought, and makes our efforts that much harder.

Yours sincerely,

Nicholas Ivan Hentschel

No. 1 Black Yodeler Checks In

Dear Editor,

In regard to the article on Bart Plantenga's book, it was mentioned that Don Walser received only a short blurb ["Phases and Stages," Music, Feb. 13, 2004]. I received an e-mail from Bart early this year wanting to put me in his follow-up book, Yodeling in Hi-Fi, and I supplied him with a wealth of information, along with a requested list of other yodelers I knew that he wanted or didn't know of. I know McDonald Craig, Jante McBride, Joyce Leonard, Donna Hyland, Stew Clayton, Rick McWilliams, and a host of others. We've kept in touch and on May 7 I went to NYC to participate in Bart's yodel lecture at the Bowery Poetry Club along with yodelers Randy Erwin and Lynn Book. We had a good time. The show is also available on video from Roughshod Records. One of the things Bart mentioned was the difficulty in getting information, particularly from the living. While some were very enthusiastic, others were quite reluctant to give not only their own stories but to mention or steer him to other yodelers. So any shortage of information on a particular yodeler might not be deliberate, but because of a lack of cooperation.


Mike Johnson

Country music's No. 1 black yodeler

Arlington, Va.

Austin Has One as Well

Dear Editor,

In reading the excerpt from Marrit Ingman's memoir, Inconsolable: How I Threw My Mental Health Out With the Diapers [Books, Sept. 30], I noticed her mention of Family Place, a community center for families in Canada that offers a toy library, parent support, and other services. She and other parents will be pleased to know that Austin also has just such a place for parents – FamilyConnections – that has a certified Family Place library with books and toys for children, as well as books, classes, and many helpful resources for parents of young children (see It is free thanks to the city of Austin and state, national, and private funders.

Jill McRae

Bankrupt Response


The current TV ads attacking Ronnie Earle (as if he were running for office against them) are finally confirming the average voter's growing suspicion about the neurosis of the conservative right. Faced with increasing national scandals and tragedies, their bankrupt response continues to be hiring public-relations firms instead of addressing the issue or even considering what the honorable thing to do would be.

Stanley Gilbert

Long Live the Queen

Dear Editor,

I want to thank you for printing Debbie Russell's letter to the editor ["Postmarks," Oct. 14]. I was under the impression that no one ever shows up for her events because she makes no attempt to build broad-based coalitions; that she is totally intolerant of other people's opinions and feelings; that she is notorious for pre-empting neighborhood, ethnic, or identity groups she presumes to speak for; and that rejecting her leadership is tantamount to being a Klan member. I stand corrected and pity those who presume to disagree with her. Long live the queen!

Paul Sherr

It Was the First One!

Dear Editor,

Wow! I see that once again people are bitching because we have yet another awesome festival [Texas Barbecue Festival] to attend ["Sausage Shrines," Food, Oct. 7]! Dammit, Austin! Why haven't you made this event bigger, better, and more organized? Why? Because it was the first one, you crybabies.

How about giving people a chance to fine-tune it before you critique and point out all of its flaws. Understandably it must have been frustrating to have run out of food and drinks, but guess what? Next time, they'll know better. I'm sure no one has ever thought to themselves that the first annual whatever-in-the-hell went off without a hitch.

Give them a freakin' break!

No one knew what the attendance was going to be because they had nothing to judge it against. I can't wait for the next one, and I can assure you I won't be crying about not having a $5 bottle of water when things run out, I'm going to take my ass to a bar and deal with it with a Lone Star in my hand.

Corri Mava

Oil Is Here to Stay

Dear Editor,

I appreciate Mr. Ventura's articles on the "gloom and doom" prognosis for the hydrocarbon industry, as well as their conclusions that it is related to everything from fuel oil to plastics ("Letters @ 3am," Oct. 14). While I am an avid supporter of alternative fuels, I disagree that anything of significance will happen right away. The oil "bidness" is famous for its wild price swings, and there is evidence that there is plenty of crude oil on today's market. The chief problem is that we (the U.S.) can't refine, store, and distribute the stuff fast enough. When Mr. Bush met the Saudi oil ministers he was told so. Simply stated, the world is swamped with oil. If we can't take it, the Chinese and others will. Yes, it is a "race to the bottom," but the end is not in sight.

I'd like to comment on the Brazil experience, where they refine plant products (not just sugarcane) into ethanol. From an energy input and greenhouse gas perspective, this could be said to be akin to "eating your grandmother" because it wastes more energy and creates more CO2 creating the stuff than burning it. Brazil's system was put together for political reasons, not environmental ones, and it can be directly linked to the immense defoliation of the forested jungles of the Amazon. So, think twice about making that one a role model, maybe.

Otherwise, right on, buddy.

Sam Wells

South Padre Island

Semantic Manipulations

Dear Editor:

The heading "Black Too Moderate" (according to Kennedy) ["Postmarks," Oct. 7] implies that those who insist there is a conspiracy to effect a brave new world – after eviscerating the U.S. Constitution and fully enforcing the PATRIOT Act – are extremists.

One of the manipulations of semantics by this network of omnipotent supervillains has been to label those who know they exist as "extremists" and to equate extremism with violent terrorism.

What dangerous, unpredictable menaces to society the antagonists of the new world order must be! Or are they merely pathetic little nerds? Well, the latter if they are ineffectual; but the PATRIOT Act explicitly codifies the consequences which will befall the "domestic combatants" who effectively impede the implementation of the prison state which will result should that document be realized.

I denounce the PATRIOT Acts (I and II and their authors) and profess loyalty only to the U.S. Constitution, intact. No idiot faux-cowboy mobster is going to supplant it, regardless what the toady media (Fox News, et al.) does to legitimize him.

The bird (avian) flu is a hoax. How could it progress from 80 deaths throughout all Asia (from 150 human cases) to a pandemic that will kill hundreds of millions?

Any soldiers (sworn to uphold the Constitution) who would kill an American citizen resisting a (pseudo) quarantine (or anyone who would condone such action) are traitors and the lowest form of slime since the gestapo.

I am quite unconcerned if Louis Black believes this scenario is a fairy tale. I do regard him with admiration (his latest "Page Two," "It Was 20 Years Ago Today" [Oct. 14], is great), and I do appreciate his opinions and "moderation."


Kenney C. Kennedy

The Founder Speaks Out

Dear Editor,

Austin Council Member Brewster McCracken is pushing for a taxpayer-funded "independent" review of the toll plan. But, documents illustrate that the review has been hijacked, and it is neither independent nor balanced.

A March 3, 2005, city resolution for the taxpayer-funded independent review promised "the study is not to be delayed." That was seven months ago.

For months, McCracken promised all the meetings would be made open to the public, that a citizens' committee would steer the neutral company hired to produce the study, and the community would have full opportunity to speak up in this very public independent review. Brewster said, "Everything will be open and in the sunshine."

The truth is shown in the draft of the interlocal agreement: The supermajority, if not all of the steering committee, are pro-tollers who already voted twice for the toll plan, secret meetings by the steering committee are allowed, the public cannot speak at all meetings, the agreement claims the steering committee is not subject to the open meetings act, and the toll authority (CTRMA) is the project coordinator! That's like Enron auditing itself.

And here's where the pro-toll steering committee, including McCracken, who has voted twice for the toll plan, can trash the study altogether: They can decide not to accept the study results!

TxDOT documents show most of the roads in the phase two plan are already funded with tax dollars. To place tolls on already-funded roads is highway robbery. Pretending to perform an independent study with our tax dollars is just plain offensive.

Sal Costello

Founder of People for Efficient Transportation


Dads Who Rock Corrections

Dear Austin Chronicle,

Thanks for honoring the Pop Stars: Dads Who Rock at Jovita's with the "Best of Austin" Event to Take the Kids and Get a Beer [Oct. 14]. We love it and couldn't agree more. But, two things to note ... there are actually four original Dads Who Rock – Michael Fracasso, Nathan Hamilton, Matt the Electrician, and Beaver Nelson. Second, the Sundays tend to vary and are not always the first and last Sundays, so be sure to check with Jovita's before heading out with kids in tow. We hope to see all of Austin at Jovita's this Sunday, Oct. 23, 6-8pm.

Thanks for the mention.

Laura Thomas

ComboPlate Booking

Grim Future of Petro Products

Dear Editor,

Thanks to Michael Ventura for writing about the grim future of petroleum and its inevitably adverse effect on all of us – especially here in the gas-guzzling United States ["Letters @ 3am," Oct. 14]. It's a shame that our government and the people who elect them (whoever that is) have done so little to address what is fast becoming a nearly insurmountable problem around the world.

Mike Lawler

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