The Austin Chronicle


February 24, 2006, Columns

Bishop of Austin Disapproves

Dear Mr. Black,

On several occasions I have had the opportunity to read The Austin Chronicle and have at times enjoyed the thoughtful writings and news items that have appeared.

The positive sentiment was certainly not the case regarding your Jan. 27 issue. I was extraordinarily disappointed by the front cover, which I believe is an insult to women, to God, and to religion ["The New Texas Family Planning," News]. I think that you have reached an all-time low in journalism.

No matter where you stand on the issue of Planned Parenthood or abortion, I think that such a graphic representation is truly inappropriate and does not contribute to the good of our society.

I respectfully submit this concern and hope that your editorial board will reconsider such indecent displays in the future.

Wishing you God's blessings, I am

Sincerely in Christ,

Most Reverend Gregory M. Aymond

Bishop of Austin

Holding Someone Accountable

Dear Austin Chronicle editor,

In your article last week ["Primary Colors: Part II," News, Feb. 17], you stated that Commissioner Karen Sonleitner "supported floating a gas-tax option as a toll road alternative, a proposition supported by anti-tollsters." That is not the case.

I was there on April 27, 2005, in the House Ways and Means Committee hearing to testify for the option for a region to vote on a local gas tax as opposed to freeway tolls. Karen Sonleitner was there to push the local gas tax in addition to the freeway tolls.

The article also states that "blaming Sonleitner for the toll plan has been overblown." Sonleitner is responsible. In that same committee hearing, Sonleitner herself stated that she worked extensively to help create the authority. The unelected board members of the toll authority are mostly Williamson County people that will set the toll rates for roads we've already paid for here in Travis County, while Williamson County gets more freeway built without tolls. The state comptroller has since found that the toll authority creates double taxation without accountability, as well as favoritism and self-enrichment.

E-mail records from 2003 show Sonleitner pushed Judge Biscoe to "expedite" a Travis County tax giveaway of $550,000 to the bureaucratic tolling authority as seed money. Sonleitner voted to privatize and toll hundreds of millions of dollars worth of our public highways! The fact is, Austin public highways will be the first freeways in the country to be shifted to toll roads, permanently taking expressways away from citizens that paid for them. The added tax to move all goods and services in Central Texas will increase our cost of living, as the additional freeway toll expense will get passed on to our families. Sonleitner's financial reports show the same special interests who profit from the freeway tolls fund her campaign.

It's time for Karen Sonleitner to be held accountable in the Democratic primary taking place now.


Sal Costello

Founder of People for Efficient Transportation PAC

[News Editor Michael King responds: Despite Sal Costello's tendentious and Manichean rewriting of history, Commissioner Karen Sonleitner attended the Ways and Means Committee meeting, along with several of her colleagues from CAMPO, to support a bill allowing a regional gas-tax option as an alternative to toll-road funding of highways, as we reported.]

Juanes Colombian, Not Mexican

Dear Editor,

I would like to refer to the Juanes article you published ["Short Cuts," Screens, May 7, 2004]. Although a superstar, he is not Mexican but Colombian. Winner of several Latin Grammys.

Felipe Carrillo

A Cover of Grace and Understanding

Dear Editor,

I am writing to say that I truly appreciate the artwork on the Jan. 27 cover ["The New Texas Family Planning," News]. Having grown up in the Bible Belt, I am all too familiar with the powers that be taking the tactic of handing out Bibles instead of birth control or funding reproductive health (which means abortion to them instead of pap smear), and I thought that your cover art articulated that state of affairs perfectly. It was really a photographed political cartoon.

As for your detractors, since you're not answering them, I'll take a shot at it for you. The point of the Bible's location is not that the Bible is against her crotch, the point is that it's been issued by the state to "protect" her vagina from pregnancy (well, sex really), medical care, and potentially abortion by blocking access in lieu of funding actual health care. It's not sexual, and its location is not meant as an insult to the contents of the book – it's an illustration as to how the book is being used to block boners and speculums. Additionally, the woman's face is not shown because this is not one woman's story, it is every woman's story. And finally, yes, if another religion was the vastly prevailing religion in this region practicing these identical politics, then the book that they thump while making up these policies would have been there instead of the Bible.

As to if this should have been the cover or an inside illustration or not is another matter. To me, this is one of the most eloquently stated political art pieces I have ever seen, and after a lifetime of having life filtered for me by the people who really object to images like that, I think that that was the best cover ever, and I'm very glad that you ran it.

Gwendolyn Norton

Insider Lobbyist Bill Bunch

Dear Editor,

Thanks for reporting on the two citizen-initiated city charter amendments: one to protect Barton Springs, and one to make Austin a leader in direct disclosure of city information to the public via the Internet ["SOS: The Amendment That Didn't Bark," News, Feb. 17].

Chronicle readers may ask why Jo Clifton, owner and lead reporter of the city insider newsletter In Fact Daily, appears hostile to the Open Government Online amendment sponsors. While a fine reporter, Ms. Clifton's work thrives on leaks of city insider news. The proposed charter measure would give her instant access to far more city information than is currently available. But it would give everyone this increased access. Like other city insiders, Ms. Clifton may fear that her superior access to inside information may lose value if everyone has timely and instant access to what our city is doing.

City officials hate, hate, hate the Open Government Online amendment because it would go a very long way toward putting an end to the "done deal first, public disclosure second" process that is standard operating procedure at City Hall. Think $58 million in tax giveaways for Samsung, $100 million cash for LCRA, AMD moves to the Hill Country, Champions on 2222, Gables on Town Lake, etc. With the Internet we have an opportunity to reclaim public ownership of public information so that Austin's future may be shaped more by caring citizens and less by insider lobbyists.

Bill Bunch

Save Our Springs Alliance

Below the Radar

Dear Editor,

Michael Ventura's column, Sorry We Missed Church, ["Letters @ 3am," Feb. 17] is simply one of the most brilliant things I've read recently about the current state of our nation. It manages to make a case for American exceptionalism without sounding smug and self-satisfied, and reminds us that much of what is important about our country takes place below the radar of conventional politics.

Chris Protopapas

New York City, N.Y.

Blinded by Partisan Ideology?

Dear Editor,

Just read Vance McDonald's stirring diatribe against the "neo-leftist utopian Democratic Party" ["Postmarks," Feb. 17] and I must say ... his flair for the dramatic is only matched by those that are manifested in the actions of the very Islamist extremists he wants to destroy. And before I am verbally tarred and feathered as a "coward" and branded a neo-leftist, I happen to agree with the core of Mr. McDonalds' argument. The rotten shell that envelopes that core though is that it's consistent with the administration's adherence to the script. No one argues with the fact that the terrorists struck us and we had to retaliate. I agree that we had to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan, but that's where it should have stayed. Fact of the matter is that Saddam Hussein was bad for business. All of that nonsense with the WMD was just part of the script that was written by the neocons way before Bush took office. It's those same neoconservative hacks that have seriously damaged this country's foreign policy. Their short-term greed for spoils of war on the cheap has been grossly mismanaged. One wonders how it is that individuals that have been at the highest levels of government have such a shortsighted grasp on geopolitics. We might have rid Iraq of Saddam, but we removed a counterpoint to Iran, who the administration has made the pre-eminent power in the Persian Gulf. They have WMD and they are on the verge of unlocking the power of the ultimate WMD. All under George W.'s watch! It's time for the administration's apologists to face the truth and stop being blinded by partisan ideology.

Paul Chavera

Helvete Not Euronymous

Dear Editor,

Oystein Aarseth owned the record shop/label you mentioned in this article ["Norwegian Black Metal – Photographs," Arts, May 6, 2005]. The shop wasn't called Euronymous; Aarseth's stage name was Euronymous in the band Mayhem, which he though meant "Prince of Death" in Greek but was actually a Greek demon from the Satanic Bible written by Anton Szandor LaVey. The shop was called Helvete, which meant "hell" in Norwegian.

Kyler Morgan

Boise, Idaho

Sensible Center Is Stumped

Dear Editor,

Re: It's That Time Again by Michael King ["Point Austin," News, Feb. 10]: I suspect that many people share Michael King's ambivalence about the gubernatorial race. It is an easy choice for passionate partisans, but the sensible center is stumped. For me, I found more clarity in shifting the geometry of the question. Rather than what policies would I like to see promoted, I am looking at who is most willing and able to improve the process of government. Who is mostly likely to champion nonpartisan redistricting reform, open primaries, bipartisanship, cooperation, collaboration. For me this is Carole Strayhorn. She was a conservative Democrat and then a moderate Republican, and finally an independent when the Republicans leaned too far to the right. I believe she is most likely to grasp the importance of building up the sensible center of governance. If that were all she accomplished I would consider that a meaningful long-term success.

Paul Silver

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