Our readers talk back.
Fri., Dec. 30, 2005
Openly Taking StanceDear Editor,
The current commissioner's [Karen Sonleitner] letter to the editor on Dec. 16 ["Postmarks"] only affirms our membership made the right decision by supporting Sarah Eckhardt's commitment to sound government ["Sheriff's Unions Back Eckhardt for Precinct 2 Comissioner," News, Dec. 9].
What's sad about the commissioner's letter is her frail attempt to try to equate our membership's decision to support Sarah Eckhardt with the personal greed of the men and women who protect this community. The commissioner's budget numbers and facts were skewed during negotiations this year, and they're even worse in her letter to you.
It's our position over the years that the commissioner has increasingly lost touch with her ability to effectively govern on issues relating to the crucial mission of the Sheriff's Office. The Travis County Sheriff's Officers Association and the Sheriffs' Law Enforcement Association represent nearly 90% of the employees of the Sheriff's Office. We take the safety of the citizens of Travis County very seriously. We feel it is our responsibility to ensure our office's mission is represented by our elected officials commensurate to the level of service we provide to their constituents.
In the case of the commissioners of Precinct 2, just because the commissioner tends to vote in line with other pro-public-safety members of the court, does not mean the commissioner is supporting our employees in a manner that is equal to the unmatched level of public safety services we provide throughout the county.
Our job as peace officers is sometimes unpopular, but very necessary, much like speaking out against an 11-year incumbent. The fact that both associations are openly taking this stance against the commissioner should alert the party and our citizens of the urgency for immediate change!
Brett Spicer, PAC chairman
Travis County Sheriffs' Law Enforcement Association
Alex Leo, PAC chairman
Travis County Officers' Association
Where Develop?Dear Editor,
In "Downtown Density Dreams" [News, Dec. 23] by Rachel Proctor May, Kirsten Bartel said, "We're all for [Austin] being denser overall, not just downtown." In a piece about AMD moving out off of Southwest Parkway again there is an anti-development attitude. I'm curious where the Chronicle thinks the best place for development is. Is East Austin OK? I doubt it, because of the horrors of gentrification and rising land values as a result but maybe I'm wrong. So that leaves North Austin, if you can look past the poor family farmer getting kicked off his land in Hutto after making a mint on the land sale. I'm all for planned growth, but this article hit the nail on the head of the problem when it states that Downtown living is too expensive for the average family. So what do we do? I hear Bastrop is nice.
John Phillippe[Rachel Proctor May responds: I'm confused. Bartel's quote is supportive of greater density Downtown, in her own neighborhood, and elsewhere. Someone's going to have to explain to me how that's "anti-development." Plus, the Downtown plan isn't the only effort afoot to create more and better affordable housing opportunities for your average Josephine: There's another movement afoot to try to figure out ways to develop the area around SH 130 in a more pleasing manner than has been achieved along, say, 183. That won't help much if you're a teacher who wants to live in Travis Heights or Tarrytown, but it's a start.]
Column Largely IncorrectDear Editor,
I am a criminal lawyer, board certified in criminal law since 1987. Part II of your recent column on deferred adjudication was largely incorrect. (I did not see part I) ["The Common Law," Dec. 16].
You can never get an expunction if you had deferred adjudication, or any other court-ordered supervision. The only cases which can be expunged are ones which were dismissed or in which you were acquitted. Both felonies and misdemeanors are expungable. There are some fine points, but that is the basic law.
Successfully completed deferred adjudications, felony and misdemeanor, are what petitions for nondisclosure are for. There are some exceptions, some waiting periods, and some ambiguities in this recent legislation. Unlike expunction, law enforcement agencies can retain records, but no information is to be disclosed to the public. The big difference is that unlike expunction, to which you are entitled if you qualify, orders of nondisclosure are to be granted by the judge if it is "in the interest of justice," meaning that as a practical matter it is discretionary with the judge.
There is a similar-sounding disposition called deferred disposition, in JP and municipal courts, for class C misdemeanors. If successfully completed, the case is dismissed and can be expunged.
Attorney at law
Can't Afford MarfaDear Editor,
After reading "Morphing Marfa" I felt as deflated as I did after leaving on a recent trip this summer ["To Marfa, on a Tuesday in December," Arts, Dec. 23]. I looked at real estate with the dream of possibly moving to Marfa and teaching nearby. I was shocked by the prices of these homes when I contacted agents. Sure, Marfa is on its way up thanks to the hipster scene, but I think it's unfortunate that people who want to come to Marfa to "play cowboy" for a weekend contribute nothing to the local economy. "They see the doctor, refill prescriptions, and dry-clean their clothes in Houston, Austin, Dallas, or New York." That's the problem. These visitors aren't helping the town build these services locally. You are keeping people out who love Marfa and want to build a life there. As it stands, there is no way someone like me, a schoolteacher, could move to Marfa and afford to live on the wages the town is capable of providing in relation to the cost of housing. Sadly, it looks as though Marfa won't continue to grow until the wealthy find their next hip getaway.
Progressives Will Turn OutDear Editor,
Part of the answer to Michael King's question as to the whereabouts of all the progressives in the current Capital Metro vs. unions fray is that the NPR set may pity workers, but they rarely identify as workers ["Point Austin," News, Dec. 16]. Also, the local dailies Statesman, Texan, and TV refuse to cover most labor unrest, fearing advertising backlash and unionization by its own workers. Were it not for the Chronicle, and our local IMC, the plight of workers in Austin would be little known. Once we overcome the labor blackout by corporate media, the progressives will begin to turn out. When they realize their own true place in capitalism's scheme they will turn out in droves.
UT shuttle worker
Who Cares?Dear Editor,
Re: "Page Two," Dec. 16: "The Loner" was Neil Young's first solo single and was released on a 7-inch in December 1968. The original pressings of Neil Young didn't have any text on the front sleeve, so mistakenly calling the album by the first track isn't all that far-fetched.
Mr. Black and the SXSW crew got Neil to come to Austin.
SOS ElectioneeringDear Editor,
Thank you for Amy Smith's great article on AMD's proposed move of thousands of employees out of East Austin and into the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Watershed ["Back to the Trenches," News, Dec. 16]. To our knowledge, no company has ever proposed to abandon East Austin and relocate in our most fragile watershed. This controversy will only intensify in the months ahead.
We are working with many community groups to gather enough signatures to place on the May ballot two proposed charter amendments (changes to Austin's constitution). The Save Our Springs charter amendment would if approved by voters specifically ask AMD and other major employers not to locate in the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Watershed, among other measures to protect Barton Springs.
The Open Government Online charter amendment would if approved by voters put City Council members' calendars online, so the public can see whom they are spending their time with, along with other measures to improve transparency at City Hall for all citizens to see.
Mayor Wynn was meeting privately with AMD about their scheme months before the public knew of AMD's intentions. If the Open Government Online charter amendment had been in place, the public would have known when the mayor's meeting with CEO Hector Ruiz was scheduled.
Rather than alerting and enlisting the entire community to deter AMD from a disastrous decision to urbanize the fragile Barton Springs Watershed, Wynn agreed to keep AMD's plans secret. With a smidgen of public leadership, AMD would have already changed course and narrowed their search to the Desired Development Zone, as so many tech companies have done successfully, most recently downtown-bound Silicon Labs.
Read both of the proposed charter amendments at www.cleanwater-cleangovernment.org. You can also download the petitions and gather signatures to help get these needed amendments on the ballot in May.
Save Our Springs Alliance
Gosh, This Is EmbarassingDear Editor,
I know there is a taboo against understanding basic economics (abortion is sooo much more important), but does this have to extend to the top of Capital Metro ["Bus Negotiations Headed for Collision," News, Dec. 23]? When I pay taxes to support them it is implied that they pay adequate wages. Why? Because of an economic concept called the multiplier effect. When Dell brings money from outside our area and spends it locally it will go round and round in the local economy generating activity. That multiplying factor is between 3x and 8x and is the subject of argument between economists. But this much is clear, as wages drop that multiplier goes down. Tax expenditures are midway in the chain and have a larger effect. The extra that Metro workers have to spend is the money that small businesses live from. This is basic high school economics. Was it dropped from the curriculum? Is the world so full of specialists and micromanaging accountants that we have forgotten how the whole system works? Why does this need a letter to the editor to even come into the discussion? Where is the union? This should be part of their interview. Gosh, this is embarrassing.
Don't Take Offense at OthersDear Editor,
It is increasingly clear that "behavior" legislation in this country has leaned dramatically toward accommodating the "needs of the few," essentially to promote "political correctness." This is disastrous policy. Is this what freedom is supposed to be about? What happened to basic courtesy and tolerance for others?
Responding to Russell Kirkman's letter ["Postmarks," Dec. 23], I would submit that fault can be found everywhere a few people take offense to the goings-on of others that don't conform to their own "perfect world" expectations. Better watch out, because legislation or the ACLU is soon on its way to put a stop to it.
"Holiday Tree"? Give me a break three out of four Americans are Christian and are following an American tradition. "Intelligent Design"? Did we really need the Supreme Court to rule on the stupidity of that one? Can't print a T-shirt with the outline of a fish on it for your high school class because it's a religious symbol? Come on.
And we'd better not help our fellow man, or share, or tell the truth, or have any thoughts at all about anyone, especially your neighbor! because those cultural aspects all have a foundation in some religion. We'd also better outlaw the practice of serving fish in virtually every restaurant in America on Fridays and accommodating every other religious/cultural behavior!
If you truly dig down into the origins of virtually any tradition or act or symbolism in America, you'll find a basis for it in one religion or another. So does that mean we need to restrict them all? If so, we'd all better just stand still. Better yet, if you don't like a tradition or cultural practice, go somewhere else.
Last Day at Mojo'sDear Editor,
Re: My last day at Mojo's, Dec. 18, 2005: I first started to partake in the culture of Mojo's in 1997, then heavily in 1998 after the first girl that told me she loved me broke up with me. That was the day after my 25th birthday. Chris and Ron were sympathetic ears to my sadness. Several games of spades, bridge, hundreds of hours of bullshitting (really), porch drama (oh damn, porch drama), frat-boy fights (and the threats and golf balls thrown at us from the muhfuckas), drag rats and homelessness (including myself), drunken harassment, clouds of weed (and after all this time, I still did not partake), predatory males and females, death, marriage, divorce (and an upcoming marriage), loneliness, school, the insanity of life. I don't consider myself a representative of too many places. In this case, I do represent a place that houses people that don't have a home. Like many families, it is dysfunctional, but love (in one way or another) was always around for the giving and taking. Before I go on to make more run-on sentences and spout all-around bad grammar, I shall take leave of Mojo's remembering the all-nighters in the spring, summer, and fall. Now that Mojo's Daily Grind is descending into its winter, hopefully the spirit of Mojo's shall spring up elsewhere. For me this is not a goodbye, it's "later."
Have a Gay HolidayDear Editor,
Re: Leoda Anderson's letter ["Postmarks," Dec. 9]: We're tired of you shortsighted bigots "redefining new ... social situations." Let's stick with the old constitutional rights of all U.S. citizens. Constitutional rights are not subject to majority rule. Two foxes and a hen don't get to decide what to have for dinner. Your comparing apples to oranges to gay marriage is comparing apples to oranges and totally bigoted. Marriage is already defined as "A union between two people who are committed in a loving relationship as spouses." And we'll stick with the Constitution not your fascism and call ourselves spouses and married, not your suggested "matches." "Tim and Jim" pay taxes, for your brats education I might add, and can't even protect each other as spouses from haters like you. You don't own the word marriage or the sanctity of anything, period. Have a gay holiday Leoda.
Are You a Looney?Dear Editor,
Are you a tin-hat loony, like Alex Jones? Take the following quiz, based on statements made by Alex on his ACTV/PACT show. Read each statement carefully, then count up the total number with which you agree:
The ruling elite of the world worship Moloch.
The secret rulers of the world can live forever.
The elite have openly announced that they want to kill 80% of us.
Vicente Fox can morph into a green devil. (Alex says he saw him do it. Honest.)
The Communist Chinese Army has taken over the Massachusetts Port Authority.
There are live AIDS viruses in the corn.
Illegal immigration is a government plot.
The counterculture is a government plot.
Vaccines are a government plot.
Thumb scanning is a government plot.
Environmentalism is a government plot.
The National Seatbelt Initiative is a government plot.
Feminism is a government plot.
Toll roads are a government plot.
Antidepressants are a government plot.
All domestic terror attacks are government plots.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is part of an Austrian plot to take over America.
Skull & Bones is part of an English plot to take over America.
The United Nations is part of a (very slow) plot to take over America.
Children's cartoons are part of a government plot to brainwash us.
Gloria Steinem is a CIA agent.
Michael Moore is a CIA agent.
Noam Chomsky is a CIA agent.
People have tattoos saying "Don't Kill Me" in Holland.
The government keeps "giant, honeycombed hives full of toddlers drugged on lithium."
Tally up how many answers you marked as "true." The result tells you how crazy you are.
1-5: You forgot to take your meds.
6-10: You'll believe any old sh*t.
11-15: You're a "Patriot" i.e., an angry white guy with an IQ in the mid-80s.
16-20: Take your meds.
21-25: You are Alex Jones.
Californian Telling Us What to DoDear Editor,
In the new year we could see billboards in Texas calling for the recall of Tom DeLay? In California, Gov. Gray Davis was recalled by the voters and he hadn't committed a crime. Tom DeLay [allegedly] has. He had yelled for impeachment of President Clinton for a consensual three-time affair when other Republican members had long-term affairs that broke up marriages. Tom DeLay has [allegedly] committed crimes of conspiracy and money-laundering and has excluded the Austin district from the democratic process. He uses his job not to serve the people, but to keep Democrats from being elected. Never has a recall been more deserved. His gangster's false-smile should be on the billboards suggesting that Texans soon "Recall Tom DeLay!"
St. Helena, Calif.
Leader Manipulates SystemDear Editor,
Closed-door meetings where note-taking is not allowed; a president who dismisses the checks and balances of a democratic nation; makes decisions on information only he is privileged to know; a war sold to the American public on manipulated information; Homeland Security knows your library preferences. President George W. Bush has proved to be a political leader able to manipulate the political system in this democracy to obtain almost autocratic power. Like Hitler, Bush is a leader bored by administrative details, which opens the way for fanatical and often corrupt subordinates.
Now the American public is being spied on without knowledge or authorization from the judicial system, an integral part of this government's checks and balances. Bush claims his authority as president gives him permission to override the protection our founding fathers fought for and Americans die for. Behind a facade of legality, just like the Nazis, Bush has dismantled the established protections of law.
Bush has become a true demagogue who has gained power through impassioned public appeals to the emotions, fears, and prejudices of the American people. We invade and conquer foreign lands, proliferate Bush's democracy to Third World nations; advancing his occupation while consolidating power while scapegoating dissenters as unpatriotic and terrorist sympathizers, the object of irrational hostility.
Mary Jo Osgood
Take to the StreetsDear Editor,
Illegal war, illegal torture, and now, illegal wiretaps. Bush, Cheney, and all the usual suspects tell us that the president can do it all. So, how surprised will everyone be when the 2006 election is 1) suspended; 2) canceled; or 3) stolen? After all, we've seen them break any law they want without consequences.
It's time to quit complaining and start acting before it's too late. Get in the streets with the World Can't Wait movement in January. If you rely on voting them out next time around, you may be disappointed.
It's not who votes that makes the difference. It's who counts the votes.
Okay, Okay This Is a Joke, Right? Stupid Opinions and Unsupported ClaimsDear Editor,
This bunch that supports killing the unborn, encourages homosexuality, that nearly ruptured a gut pulling the cord on Terri Schiavo, that are somehow concerned about civil liberties' endangerment over ordered intercepts of suspected terrorists, that want the Ten Commandments and anything else pertaining to God removed and out of sight, that speak their stupid opinions and unsupported claims publicly without consideration of how it affects our troops and encourages the enemy, that accuse our troops of committing terrorist acts and claim the war is not winnable, have all gathered around their "Holiday Tree" asking for donations for their party. So anyone that believes they came from monkeys and has the IQ of a dingbat join with them and send money!