Our readers talk back.
"Chronicle' Never Gets It RightDear Editor,
The sponsors of the Barton Springs protection and open government charter amendments appreciate the Chronicle's attention to the two ballot measures ["Point Austin," News, March 3]. We agree that the initiative and referendum process for making law is not perfect. But I&R can play a critical role in making a better future for Austin, especially when insider lobbyists exert undue influence at City Hall. That was the setting for the original two-thirds Austin vote for the SOS ordinance in 1992, and it's the same today.
While the legislative process does have flexibility that I&R does not, it's often not near as open or deliberative. Elected legislators regularly vote on laws they haven't read, don't understand, and/or have had little or no time to consult with friends, trusted advisers, or affected citizens. And they even get paid to do those things.
By contrast, voters will by election day have had five months to read the proposed amendments, ask questions, and decide whether, on balance, Austin is a better place with them or without. Just like legislators when the question is called, voters must choose "for" or "against."
One point of correction. Mr. King writes that the language in the Barton Springs measure concerning toll roads is too vague. As written, the measure only addresses debt-financed toll roads that predict toll collections from substantial traffic increases over the Barton Springs Watershed. While toll-road builders, developers, and Wall Street may want Austin to place a 30-year bet that we will pave over and ruin the Barton Springs Watershed, Austin voters may prefer to prohibit our city officials from making this Faustian bargain.
Money Has to Come From SomewhereDear Editor,
I recently got finished voting early for the 2006 primaries. Now, like everyone else, I've been watching the campaigns and the issues and the drama that inevitably comes from an election year. One thing I keep hearing is lower taxes, and the Democrat in me finally decided to come out. When you vote for someone, remember that despite all the chatter about lower taxes, the money to fund our public facilities has to come from somewhere.
When you're waiting in line at TxDOT or at the Municipal Court to challenge a ticket, remember that the money has to come from somewhere for them to open another line. When you see the parking outside of the courthouse filled with meters, and children not being allowed to take textbooks home, and firemen who are handling five calls in addition to yours, remember that the money has to come from somewhere.
I am a recent college grad, so you know I'd like to keep more of my money. However, I would also like to be able to call the police and send any future children to school. So, though I grit my teeth and roll my eyes, I know that the money has to come from somewhere. Vote for a candidate who remembers that, too.
Tolls Are Double TaxationDear Editor,
After reading Louis Black's recent column ["Page Two," Feb. 24], I felt compelled to bring some issues to your readers' attention. One problem with the toll roads is that they are really double taxation. We have already paid for the roads that are being turned over to private companies. You may want to check out the comptroller's Web site to see her take. Further, a significant portion of our critical infrastructure is being turned over to a foreign company. This private foreign entity will also have the power of eminent domain. What is the difference between this and the recent Kelo decision by the Supreme Court? It amazes me the length our governor will go to protect this stupid idea. If we are going to privatize, can't we find a U.S. company? Bear in mind that I am a Republican and an Aggie, who will not be supporting Perry this time around. As for Mr. Black, I hope he takes the time to look into this matter, rather than presuming to know everyone's motives.
RIP Jesse TaylorDear Editor,
RIP Jesse Taylor. He gave Joe Ely the courage to step out front and sing his ass off. He was a good ol' boy who occasionally liked to get drunk and hang off sixth-story hotel balconies. And holler. He didn't beat Joe Strummer to death for giving him a Mohawk in his sleep when they opened for the Clash in 1980. He showed a lot of Texas guitarists how to play louder and with more feeling (and fewer notes). He was the only Flatlander who could play a decent guitar solo. He always had a smile, a kind word, and even a hug for another soul. He was so deaf from playing loud that he probably didn't hear the grim reaper knocking for a year or two. I love you and miss you Jesse Taylor. Now you'll see Dallas from heaven at night.
But It's Good Fluff!Dear Mr. Black and blue,
Re: "Page Two" [March 3]: For whatever it's worth, that was the best article, I think, you've written in a long time. While most everyone understands that interviews these days are only done when certain ground rules are established: The Kris Kristofferson story was without question a fluff piece ["Lone Star," Music, Feb. 24]. But it was good fluff.
SXSW Ruined by Greed?Dear Chronicle,
Where is the outrage amongst the music lovers in Austin? Is it possible that I am writing the only angry letter about the way SXSW has been ruined by greed? And finally, why has the Chronicle, in cahoots with SXSW, for the past two years not posted or publicized wristband sales information until it was too late?
There is no wristband info on the SXSW Web site at all. The Chronicle stated sales info would be posted in the Feb. 24 issue, yet the paper is not available in most places until midday. By that time the meager offering of 4,000 wristbands were for all purposes gone. 4,000?
It is a true slap in the face to the Austinites who have helped to make SXSW what it has become over the past 20 years when the wristband sale becomes a dirty little secret without any advanced notice or press.
The money grab for wristbands and badges this year and last is a shame. It has become increasingly impossible for us in Austin to purchase wristbands. Over the past 11 years SXSW has been a pleasure, and access to wristbands was easy, publicized well in advance, and spread out geographically over a period of weeks. It is no longer that way, and this is a great disappointment.
So I ask, what gives?
People are not stupid. It is clear that SXSW is doing this to sell as many $575 badges as possible, leaving those in Austin who were unable to get one of the 4,000 wristbands in the lurch. Making these people wait two weeks before further announcements are made is despicable.
Shame on you all! Whoever came up with this shameful scheme to shut the true Austin music lovers out of the festival has truly sold their soul.
[Louis Black replies: When you are going to sell a limited number of wristbands, advance notice can end up in very long lines of people waiting for hours. We are always clear about when and how the information will be announced. The point is they sold out in a day (and we put on sale the same amount on sale initially as we have done for the last several years).
NoTo the editor,
Can I enlist the Chronicle's help in ridding the streets of litter? Cigarette litter specifically.
Smokers in cars already know the world is their ashtray and that the little covered tray in the dash of their car is really for change. They apparently know it's OK to toss a lit butt out onto the tinder-dry roadside, or flip it so I have to dodge it if I'm following them and the top is down in my car.
But I also manage a pub on Sixth Street, and I am tired of sweeping hundreds of butts off my front doorstep into the street every day and night.
City street-sweeping machines sweep Sixth Street almost every night. The sidewalks are not swept. Since we now force smokers to smoke on the sidewalk, and there are no ashtrays or trash cans anywhere in sight, here's a hot tip: Smokers: stomp your butts out in the street, not on the sidewalk! This way they will get swept up, and not litter the sidewalks. You can bring the empty packs inside for disposal, but the butts go in the street. Oh, and I wouldn't mind if y'all stopped tossing them out car windows too. Even without the fire hazard, that's just lazy, selfish, and it sucks.
Elementary-School MathDear Editor,
Thank you, Louis Black. That's all. I just want to say thank you. We've admired your column before for the way you show your work, to use an elementary-school-math metaphor, but there's almost too much potential work to show this time ["Page Two," March 3]. Instead, what's admirable this time is the way you (sensibly as always) put it all together and state it clearly.
Would Rewrite PassageDear Editor,
Wes Marshall's piece Little Brewery, Big Flavors, Feb. 17 ["Liquid Assets," Food] states that "Austin is home to several stellar brew pubs." I am aware that we used to have the Waterloo Brew Pub, the Copper Tank, the Bitter End, and the Armadillo Brew Pub on Sixth Street. The first three, more than any others, helped set a new standard for quality crafted beers and also helped energize the urban core/entertainment district.
In my opinion, the passage could be rewritten to state, "Austin used to be home to several stellar brew pubs, and still a few exist." Overhyping Austin's amenities helps accelerate the migration of folks who move here. This can be detrimental to both our city's affordability and quality of life.
Head Out to Caddo LakeEditor,
Y'all scored big points with my folks with your story about Caddo Lake ["Texas Parks in Harm's Way," News, March 3]. My dad, Sam Canup, is the mayor of the town of Uncertain, on the shores of Caddo Lake. The first lady and he, and the "lake people" of the Greater Caddo Lake Association, worked real hard to win this victory; in deep East Texas, the environment, for once, won out over "bidness" interests.
You also get points with my friend Mary Decker of Jacksonville, who is active in fighting the destructive Neches River reservoir the city of Dallas thinks it needs.
I encourage Chronicle readers to head out on a Caddo Lake and Neches River road trip this spring, and drop some of your eco-tourism dollars in these communities.
Thanks for running this important story.
There's No ContradictionDear Editor,
Your article wrongly poses a contradiction between the need to limit house size and the need to increase urban density ["McMansions Sweeps Week Approaches," News, March 3]. Mansionizers and developers like to promote the view that McMansions somehow help relieve housing shortages. The fact is, supersized houses do nothing to increase density, they just add mass. Far from benefiting the community, McMansions stamp out neighborhood character and deprive their neighbors of sunlight, air, and privacy.
Los Angeles, Calif.
Zimmerman Not Normal?Dear Editor,
Since I know this individual, I was astounded to see Don Zimmerman in the same sentence with the word "normal" ["Primary Election Notes," News, March 3]. You should have a conversation with him, if you can corner him. If that happens, I guarantee that afterward you will be tempted to issue your own "alien alert" as in "on what planet did this creature originate?"
Great History LessonDear Editor,
Just wanted to thank Margie Hammet for that great history lesson in Democratic presidents' wartime achievements ["Postmarks Online," March 6]. I found her point a bit biased, but who am I to argue with history? Besides, some of our Republican friends seem to need some lessons in history from time to time. And to be fair, I wanted to recall a few of the great achievements that the recent Republican presidents have bestowed on us. Nixon = Watergate. Reagan gave us Iran-Contra. Bush Sr. looked into our eyes and said, "No new taxes." Bush Jr. has given us record deficits, Iraq, border security, Abu Ghraib ... and the missteps keep coming. And hey ... I voted for Bush Sr., but these Republicans are a new breed. A breed that can only leave a history of abysmal failure.
Hall of Famers?Dear Editor,
Never lived in Texas. Visited it three times. Twice to see my brother in Dallas, and once in San Antonio on business. I love the music that comes out of there. With the exception of Memphis, Detroit Rock City, and Liverpool ... the best. Why no mention of King Curtis, who was the greatest rock sax player and first sideman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? And Eddie Cochran, whose songs "Summertime Blues" and "C'mon Everybody" were rock anthems in the Fifties?
East Brunswick, N.J.
AMD "Propaganda'Dear Editor,
I just got a nice package in the mail today. It was from AMD, and I was wondering what they wanted to tell me. I opened the large envelope to see a pamphlet with a picture of a child planting a tree on the cover. It was propaganda to build support for their new commercial project on our greenbelt. Well, I'm not falling for it. AMD is now joining the ranks of Freeport-McMoRan with their new "campus" on our greenbelt. It is just another notch in the belt against our streams and quality of life. Parking lots with oil and radiator fluid runoff will be going in upstream because they are exploiting the environment to attract workers who like to do what we all like to do go to the greenbelt. As long as they are upstream, who cares what happens to the rest of us downstream? I have been climbing and enjoying the greenbelt for more than 20 years, and I can really see the degradation. Now when I go to climb I walk past the smell of sewage and when it rains I will not go into the water anymore. Too bad, I wanted to let my son swim in the flow of the stream, but it surely doesn't look like that will happen.
Thanks AMD and others who only care about their stock price.
Actually "The Worthy News Aspect' Is Exactly What's Up for DebateLouis,
I took a fair swipe at Andy Langer's failure to ask Kris about a newsworthy and local-angle subject of obvious import to the Chronicle's cover story ["Lone Star," Music, Feb. 24]: Mark McKinnon's Kristofferson/Bush connections and Kris' obvious liberal bent.
You replied on Andy Langer's behalf and said that you knew personally from prior experience that Kris wouldn't touch the subject.
Does this mean that A) Andy was correct in not broaching it with Kris, or does it mean B) that you told Andy in advance not to broach it with Kris?
Your published reply strongly suggests it was one of the two, or both.
Shouldn't Andy have asked, and shouldn't Kris have been afforded the opportunity to say, "I ain't going there"?
I stand by my last sentence in my letter: "Perhaps someone with a real nose for news should have tagged along."
I can't stand "obvious unmentionables" in supposedly legitimate journalistic enterprises, Louis (which the Chronicle is), and you shouldn't defend the practice. We've gotten too much of that the past five years on a national level.
It needn't have been antagonistic on Andy's part, and Kris could have gently demurred. That's how it should have been.
That's how journalism works, right? The reporter asks, the subject replies. Right?
The worthy news aspect of McKinnon and Kristofferson's shared past, in an Austin-based publication, is surely not up for debate here.
Talking About the Concept of "Peak Oil'Dear Editor,
The New York Times publicly acknowledged this week that the concept of peak oil has not been widely written about. But people are talking about it now. It deserves a careful look largely because it is almost certainly correct. That The New York Times would print this is a huge wake-up call we're running out of affordable oil!
A big vote of thanks goes to The Austin Chronicle for keeping this crucial issue on the Austin radar for the past year or so. But now it is time to ramp up the debate even further.
What are Austin's leaders and residents doing to prepare Austin for an economy that can no longer depend on oil for energy or transportation? Wait a minute! won't that somehow impact our food supply?
Austin will host the world premiere of the documentary OilCrash. Everyone should plan to go see it. I certainly will.
Cheers for New ChinaDear Editor,
For too long, the west side of downtown Austin has suffered from a dearth of decent Asian-food eateries. Lament no more west-enders, there is a new kid in town. New China restaurant at 12th and Lamar recently changed hands, and the new owners have spruced up the menu with a diverse offering of various Asian delights. The new chef comes with 15 years' experience in cooking at Austin's best known and loved local Thai eatery, and she'll prepare just about any Asian dish you desire. The new New China has filled a huge void on this end of town. Give 'em a try, y'all!