Our readers talk back.
Guilty of Being SuccessfulDear Editor,
Your article appears to find our NPR station guilty of, well, guilty of being successful ["KUT by the Numbers," News, Jan. 20]. Those of us that listen to NPR and public radio nationwide can attest that few other stations combine the popular and informative NPR news programs in the morning and evening drive-times with an in-station news department as well as real local, eclectic music programs, hosted by genuine long-term Austin on-air personalities. In addition, KUT features excellent drive-time traffic reports and also wonderful features like the Austin Music Minute. David Brown already has begun to produce features on Texas music. He came from Los Angeles, with a nationwide reputation.
What other Austin radio broadcasting outlet carried the entire Supreme Court hearings of Judge Roberts and, currently, Judge Alito?
As a regular listener and supporter of both KUT and KMFA, plus a fan of the local music programming and promotion on KGSR, I think we need to encourage, not denigrate, local broadcasters.
If you want to get on a high horse, then let's talk about the inexorable trend of commercial broadcast consolidation nationwide, so that one can be in any part of the country and the stations sound more or less the same. Satellite radio is growing fast based on unique content as a direct result of this mass radio conglomeration courtesy of the FCC rulings that now allow giant corporations to own large numbers of stations, plus other media, in a particular market. Hello, Big Brother calling?
My wife and I have long contributed modest financial support to KUT, and following my retirement, I now serve on the Board of Directors of Austin public radio and KUT. However, I write this letter as a private citizen. If KUT is guilty of anything, it is the willingness not to be satisfied with the status quo, to add local news, to seek excellence. Your article seems to blame the community for liking and supporting this. The fact that KUT has a larger share of the audience in its listening area than practically any other public broadcasting station in the country should be a source of great pride, celebration, and recognition, and not some dark conspiracy theory that the station is forsaking somehow a vow of poverty and failing to run on a shoestring!
Has KUT Lost Its Grasp?Dear Editor,
Thank you for the recent articles on KUT-FM ["KUT by the Numbers," News, Jan. 20]. I have been a member of KUT for years now and listen almost exclusively to them. I feel that my reasons for listening are the same as most members, the lack of commercial interruptions and the world-class local programming. But for the past few years I have been growing increasingly unhappy with the direction the station seems to be going in. Your articles have helped to illuminate the situation.
Like most members, I contribute during the annual pledge drives. Sometimes I do this once a year, sometimes twice. But the additional requests seem to keep coming. Last week I started receiving calls at my house from telemarketers asking for additional funding. These obviously weren't the friendly volunteers that man the lines during fund drives, but bored marketers making cold calls from a list. I sent an e-mail complaining about the practice and received a response from Sylvia Carson stating that the income from telemarketing was vitally necessary.
I truly feel that KUT has lost its grasp on what made it the station that it has been: the close relationship between station and community. I will be watching closely to see if this trend continues, and weighing my decision on whether to continue sponsoring such a decline.
Where Does Money Go at KUT?Dear Editor,
I am appalled by the article about KUT's highly questionable fundraising (or more to the point, spending) as delineated in your article ["KUT by the Numbers," Music, Jan. 20]. I was confused and anxious when the schedule of the incomparable Larry Monroe, who provides some of the greatest radio programming in America, was shifted around to accommodate nationally syndicated "roots" music shows whose value to Austin, with its own internationally renowned native music, was quite questionable. Larry is still on the air, thank goodness, but is he being paid what he deserves for his inestimable contribution to our culture and our city? Likewise, the brilliant Paul Ray, host and source of so much of Austin's soul which gave KUT its creative identity in the first place? I don't know, but I would lay odds they're getting woefully less than these pikers.
We would, truly, be culturally lost without Paul Ray and Larry Monroe, not to mention Tom Pittman; Dave Obermann; Ed Miller; yes, John Aielli (whom as you say, it's doubtful gets paid any large portion of the more than $100,000 "budgeted" for his show); and all the other great KUT announcers (who also do their own programming and thank God they do).
So my question is why does KUT need five (by my count) "executives" earning $50,000 to $100,000 a year, and why isn't that money going to the people who have well-earned and deserve it? I've never asked Larry, but I strongly doubt he is paid anywhere that much and he's on-air more hours than many of us work our day jobs, and contributes more to KUT, and to Austin, than anybody mentioned in your article.
I've written checks faithfully as often as I could for as long as I can remember, to keep people like Larry Monroe on the air. And that's certainly the impression I've been given in every pledge drive and request for funds pay up or lose Larry.
Heck, I'm ready to file a lawsuit myself. I thought my checks were going to (real, Austin) deejay salaries and equipment and stuff not some station executive's husband who wants to have a show. Boy, am I steamed. Thanks for a great article.
Unexpectedly QuotedDear Editor,
It is disconcerting to find in print an item about five words spoken at the only private party I have hosted in two decades ["Naked City," News, Jan. 20].
In mid-December, we mailed invitations "to celebrate life" on Jan. 11 at Zilker Clubhouse. The invitation mentioned dinner by Threadgill's, Floyd Domino at the keyboard, no presents but your presence, and did not mention birthday.
One of the invited guests was the incomparable Sarah Eckhardt, graduate of UT's law school and LBJ School, and candidate for county commissioner, Precinct 2. Sarah attended the 5:30pm party briefly and departed for her young son's birthday.
About midway in the party, I was surprised to see an uninvited Karen Sonleitner, wearing her campaign name badge, mingling with the guests (who wore our preprinted name tags). As a supporter of Eckhardt's candidacy, I spent several minutes wondering what to do since my guests quite naturally would assume that Sonleitner also was invited.
After Sonleitner finally departed, I concluded there was no alternative but to tell my guests (at this nonpolitical event) that I was supporting Eckhardt and that Sonleitner had crashed my party. The next morning, I received a note of apology from Sonleitner and was quite ready to close the books on the awkward happening.
A week later, however, I received my In Fact Weekly and was saddened to find words about the unfortunate event in print. In retrospect, I can only say it does seem curious that no one else in Austin thought the gathering was open to the public.
If ever again I get the urge to host a party, I'll probably try to rent the convention center and pay for open invitation ads in the local press!
Say No to Privatization!Dear Editor,
In recent months, the Chronicle has extensively covered the Convergys/HHSC fiasco ["Naked City," News, Dec. 16]. Well, the state is at it again. Right now the Department of Information Resources is poised to offer a contract to outsource many state services to a private vendor, including unemployment services (www.dir.state.tx.us/datacenter/index.htm). While the perception of many is that state employees are just feeding off the government tit, I can assure you that everyone at the Texas Workforce Commission works damned hard to ensure Texas citizens get their unemployment benefits on time, or ensure that someone looking for a job finds one. It is a job that I myself take very seriously. So I implore everyone to speak out against this consolidation plan. Contact the governor, your state representative, and your senator. Say no to privatization! Do not turn over state services to a corporation whose only concern is raw profit, not the welfare of the people of Texas!
Great Article on Thin Lizzy!Dear Editor,
Quite simply, Raoul Hernandez has written the single best article that the Chronicle has published: "Renegade" [Music, Jan. 20]. I was bitten by the Thin Lizzy bug at 15; Black Rose tour; Beaumont, Texas. I will never forget Phil Lynott shining the spotlight reflection from his pick-guard into our faces, grinning that grin and asking, "You out there?" Well Phil, I still am and lord knows rock & roll still wishes you were. Thank you, Raoul!
Views OversimplifiedDear Editor,
While I agree with the tenor of Louis' comments about the agenda of those with much to gain from this culture of greed and disdain, I disagree that this is the majority opinion held by most conservative Christians ["Page Two," Jan. 20]. I think you'll find that over the next several months hundreds of thousands if not millions of them will begin to desert the movement, or demand in louder and louder voices that it change to reflect their perception of what it is and how it's gone so terribly wrong. The defining issue will be the Jack Abramoff scandal. Ralph Reed is already feeling the heat. Watch his race for lieutenant governor of Georgia. So many conservative Christians, like most Americans, wanted a quick fix to all of our problems. They saw their salvation personified in people like Reed. Now that it is painfully obvious that Reed and his wife and all who are within his select circle are about nothing but money, the wall will start to fall. And won't that be nice?
Steve Hellyard Swartz
Either Lacks the Knowledge Or ...Dear Editor,
Mr. Douglas Watkins' letter stating that all recharge from Williamson Creek discharges to Cold Springs is wrong ["Postmarks," Jan. 20]. He misread and misinterpreted the dye studies he quotes. The dye studies have been done during extreme low-flow conditions. For each study, the dye was injected to a single fault, cave, or hole. The entire recharge zone for the creeks has not yet been tested. Additionally, three dye studies have been done in the Williamson Creek basin for two of the studies, the dye discharged to Barton Springs rather than Cold Springs.
Furthermore, water-volume budgets conducted for Barton Springs and the aquifer prove that the recharge contribution from Barton and Williamson creeks to Cold Springs is limited to be only a small part of the total recharge from these two creeks (pubs.er.usgs.gov/pubs/wri/wri864036).
Additionally, the aquifer is not "extensively" developed, as Watkins states. The impervious cover in the recharge zone and contributing zone is only about 3.3% but is projected to be 14.9% in the future (almost five times higher than present), as referenced by the city of Austin report at www.cityofaustin.org/watershed/downloads/bart_inv4.2_.pdf.
Even with the minimal development, Barton Springs water quality has degraded substantially as shown in table 2 of the city of Austin report at www.cityofaustin.org/watershed/downloads/barton03_wq_update.pdf. For example, organic carbon has increased 180%.
I have studied the hydrology and water quality of Barton Springs and the aquifer for many years and authored about 25 reports on the subject. Mr. Watkins claims he is amazed at the lack of scientific logic applied to this issue, but maybe he either lacks the knowledge or represents somebody who wants to ignore the truth.
Raymond Slade Jr.
Certified professional hydrologist
Must Work TogetherDear Editor,
The National Association of Manufacturers is not "blaming workers" for the broadening skills gap in America, as Jim Hightower claims in "The NAM's Mess" ["The Hightower Report," Jan. 13].
The 2005 Skills Gap Report by the NAM, the Manufacturing Institute, and Deloitte Consulting cited by Mr. Hightower issues a call to arms for manufacturers to invest more in skills training (roughly 3% of payroll) if they want to stay ahead in today's rapidly changing economy.
But even dramatically higher investments by manufacturers won't overcome the poor quality of our K-12 educational system. Modern manufacturing requires employees with advanced technical skills and a solid background in math, science, and communications that many of America's schools are not providing.
Another difficult hurdle is our industry's negative image, which stems from a fundamental misunderstanding about the high-paying, challenging jobs in today's cutting-edge manufacturing. Manufacturers must do a better job telling their story to potential workers if they want to have the high-performance workforce that three out of four tell us is the most important driver of future business success.
We need a thoughtful national debate that rises above finger-pointing if this country is to avoid a human capital crisis when the baby boomers retire with no generation of skilled workers in the pipeline to replace them.
The Manufacturing Institute
(the research and education arm of the NAM)
Washington, D.C.[Jim Hightower responds: Thanks, Jerry, for noting that NAM's report is "a call" for manufacturers to invest more in skills training. But are they answering the call? And, while you criticize "the poor quality of our K-12 educational system," corporate members of NAM routinely demand that local school districts exempt them from school taxes when they move into an area. Sometimes it takes a little finger-pointing to get not merely a debate, but action.]