Our readers talk back.
SOS Is DelusionalEditors,
Bill Bunch and the SOSAnistas' rationale for their latest mishmash of "reforms" is that the elected representatives of Austin, their staffs, and the higher administrators of the city are co-conspirators on tracts covered by the state's 245 law. A secret City Council committee "makes every single call about what deal development is grandfathered."
The mayor sent Bill Bunch a 99% blacked-out calendar, after Save Our Springs Alliance's latest phishing barrage (sorry, RFI).
The Champion tract, 2222, the Gables Project, and AMD "deal," all "proof" because the city didn't detail information out to Bill Bunch, so SOSA could timely bitch about it.
Since the mediators didn't decide in SOSA's favor, that's conspiracy too.
Conspiracy to what? Obey state law, as required? 245 is a lousy development law, but only SOSA counsels defiance. And since hard, scientific evidence of conspiracy is lacking, Big Brother will be installed on all devices any high officeholders of the city government might use in any formal or informal conversation relating to city government.
Similarly, SOSA instructs:
That the city isn't subject to state law and isn't vulnerable to retribution from a hard right-wing Republican state Legislature/senate/governor.
Austin doesn't have a political/legal/fiduciary responsibility to tell citizens, that city staff/departments fear that the city can't comply in "real time" and probably can't afford the equipment necessary to comply with the "open government" charter amendment.
That it's a betrayal of the people, for the council to tell them that explicit prevention of extending infrastructural/social/environmental services over the aquifer could legally preclude remediation to damaged/overdeveloped areas, which is what the Save Our Springs charter amendment demands.
Amendment Will Likely Make Things WorseDear Editor,
The proposed campaign-finance charter amendment is poorly written and had little public input ["Point Austin," News, March 24]. It likely will make matters much worse, which is a shame because we do need to increase the contribution limits and make other changes. But this proposal is much worse than current law.
The charter proposal has no limits on how much individuals can give to PACs, creating a giant loophole that undermines the proposed $300 individual limits on candidate contributions. This loophole simply will further empower the police PAC and other special-interest PACs. The city bureaucracy contends that the loophole is necessary because limits on individual contributions to PACs are unconstitutional, but they can't explain why federal law has had such limits since 1974, and the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld their constitutionality three times. The truth is that the Austin Police Association threatened to sue the city if it limited donations to the police PAC. The council caved and then used purported constitutional problems as cover.
The charter proposal also lacks an enforcement provision an omission of monumental proportions. When I and other reformers pointed this out at the last minute to the city, they agreed that they would add a provision that the city "shall" pass ordinances to enforce the charter. That was fine, but the final charter language says the council "may" pass enforcement provisions, rendering the provision into nothing more than a promise. Promises don't cut it at the city.
We need to raise reasonably the limits and make other modernizing changes to our campaign-finance law. But the charter amendment is poorly thought out and will result in the collapse of the entire campaign finance system which I am starting to think is its purpose.
Trying to Trump VotersDear Editor,
I understand McCracken and Maxey's plan to inject, through Proposition 6, a measure of fairness ["A Question of Fairness," News, March 24] into the city of Austin's current insurance coverage of its employees. The unwitting patient to be injected is no less than the voting public who made its voice heard in Proposition 2, which is affecting the coverage issue. These are the voters, patronized and chided at once, by McCracken, Maxey, and Sheffield as, "more tolerant," "light-years ahead," and "ridiculous," respectively.
Whether Proposition 2 voters' decisions were based on cost impact, moral grounds, or fairness, as tossed in the mix by these elected officials, it would seem cost impact and/or moral grounds held sway over fairness. Would it be fair to say Proposition 2 voters sought to be unfair? McCracken, Maxey, and others are free to launch and champion their cause to make fair the unfair. It is their prerogative, because, as says Maxey of the opposition, holds true of McCracken and company also: "Somebody's gonna do something." Should Proposition 2 be rendered powerless by voters, so be it. Better a ballot in the box than the politician's injection of fairness.
Major Mistake Missed!Hello,
In "Letters @ 3AM," Bodies Made of Snow [March 31], how'd y'all let this one get by: "catch a set by a young unknown at the Saxon Pub on South Congress"? If y'all need a proofreader, please let me know.
Discussion Speaks for AllDear Editor,
I want to thank y'all sooo much for the story about the waiters of Austin ["Restaurant Service: A Discussion," Food, March 31]. I am 24 and have been waiting tables for about eight years. This is the first time I have seen a story that discusses every aspect of what we have to go through and what we are about. My favorite part of the story is when the waiter states that there are some of us that are serving with a master's degree under our belts, so don't assume that we are dumb because it isn't the case, and that we spend just as much time working on our feet as people do sitting in their cubicles. I have wanted to say something like that for so long. I have felt in the past that some people out there that have never been in the service industry take us for granted and don't know what all we do, and now with this story they can appreciate us a little more. Once again, thank you, and go waiters!
Sad Attitude Toward AccessibilityDear Editor,
Mario Rodriguez is right about Austin's sad attitude toward wheelchair accessibility ["Postmarks," March 24]. Not only do Austin's government and motorized citizens disrespect and fail to accommodate people in wheelchairs; they also treat pedestrians with contempt.
Austin's Department of Public Works and Transportation does not consider walking a real means of transportation. The right of the public to walk in the public right-of-way, they say, is outweighed by the need of private citizens to plant cactuses there. Austin's mayor, Will Wynn, declines to defend the right of the public to walk in the public right-of-way.
There are no sidewalks on Barton Springs Road from Robert E. Lee to MoPac and Rollingwood. Public Works was ready to build them, but the good citizens of the Parks Board voted against sidewalks, on grounds that they would increase impervious cover. Two Parks Board members admitted to me that, in their view, impervious cover considerations outweigh pedestrian access and mobility, but motorcar access outweighs impervious cover considerations. For the same reason, Riverside from South First to Lamar is still open to cars, but part of the wide sidewalk on the north side of Riverside has been removed. That's just great for people in wheelchairs.
Some of Austin's motorized citizens seem to think that all wheelchair users have SUVs to transport their wheelchairs. This is untrue. Many people in wheelchairs ride the bus, and are dumped unceremoniously at the sides of busy roads without sidewalks. Motorized citizens park their cars and trucks on sidewalks and dump trash there.
Maybe they're not trying to be mean. Maybe Austin's motorized citizens just don't notice people on foot, with or without crutches or walkers, or people negotiating the streets in wheelchairs. Please, people of Austin, wake up! Life exists outside your cars!
Treat Police FairlyDear Editor,
I understand that there are police officers that abuse their power and position. However, why do we label them all the same? Why are criminals allowed to abuse the law and then play the victim? Drug addicts, robbers, and even murderers are allowed to walk free, but when an officer protects himself, his partner, or a civilian, he's the bad guy? The guy that sold your 15-year-old meth and then tried to take an officer's gun doesn't deserve to have the daylights beaten out of him? What about the guy that broke into your car or your house? When he fights an officer, they're not supposed to fight back just because he's hopped-up on coke? I think we forget that regardless of how much we hate speeding tickets and whatnot, these people are here to protect us. To keep the drug dealers away from our children, the thieves out of our homes, prostitutes off our streets, and murderers behind bars. So, before you judge an officer for using a type of force, get all the facts first. Put yourself in their position. They have just as much right to go home to their families at the end of the night as anyone else.
A Misleading PortraitDear Editor,
First, I'd like to thank the Chronicle for printing my actual name in reference to the Place 5 council race ["What's at Stake at City Hall?," News, March 13]. But, I'd also like to clear up what I believe may be a misleading portrait of me by quoting the following text from my Web site (www.kedrontouvell.com):
"Economically, I believe that government should not be 'pro-business' or 'pro-worker,' but 'pro-market' and should concern itself with setting up efficient markets that offer appropriate incentives and capture all existing externalities (In plain English this means that competition should be fierce, compensation should be performance-based, and polluters should pay the 'hidden cost' of their pollution). Of course, many of the services we as citizens desire will never be produced effectively if left to the market alone. In these cases, government can and should step up to deliver these services in an efficient and innovative manner."
Services that I believe should be delivered by the city include subsidies for affordable housing and the protection of our environment. I'm not sure what a "market solution" for gay rights is, but I am strongly in favor of gay rights in general.
Kedron Jerome Touvell
Thanks for SXSWDear Editor,
I know this is a little belated, but I just have to say thanks to anyone and everyone who had anything to do with this year's SXSW. I can't recall having spent a more enjoyable weekend anywhere, anytime. I couldn't in good conscience not say thank you to someone. I'll never miss another one!
Ventura: A Rebirth of WonderDear Editor,
This will be short, as I have grown so out of the habit of writing that I know I can't do Michael Ventura justice with words. He so beautifully describes and makes poetic the world in which I live. I am a 60-year-old female baby boomer who has not been able to make sense of anything in years. Thank you Michael, for making me feel again and for giving me hope, even as you describe my existence in terms that are so accurate they scare me. Thank you for who you are and how you interact with me and others when you share your vision of things. You wrote in your last column about what a wonder is was to be enthralled again ["Letters @ 3AM," March 31]. Yes, and thank you.
Quality of Life Under AttackDear Editor,
There is a critical decision currently on the plate of the Lakeway City Council that affects everyone who lives in or visits the Lake Travis area. The attraction of the area to visitors and the quality of life for its residents are being diminished by giving profiteering developers the permission to bulldoze, bulldoze, bulldoze and build, build, build. The dramatic natural beauty we enjoy is gradually fading to a picture that portrays "Anywhere, USA."
The mission statement of the Lakeway City Council says, "All new development will complement our desired quality of life." This mission seems to be under attack. The snarling traffic that continues to worsen has residents resorting to dark humor, describing the turning lane on RR 620 as the "suicide lane." Highway officials seem perplexed about any possible solutions to the problem, so we will undoubtedly see the number of accidents and fatalities increase. Noise and air pollution are additional unhealthy side effects of too many cars in not enough space.
This area is also home to a number of endangered species, the most well-known being the golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo. These species lose members with each new construction project. Their homeland can be legally "mitigated." ( A developer can buy them land somewhere else.) Not that the birds would move their nests and prosper accordingly, but it looks good on paper.
The trend toward excessive development of the Lake Travis area suggests that the developers are getting more, while the citizens of Austin are getting less. If the growth of the Lake Travis area doesn't come under closer scrutiny and better management, its unique character will be lost forever. Urge the Lakeway City Council to take a stand to stop careless overdevelopment now! Go to www.seedlakeway.com.
Protesting Dr. SchlessingerDear Editor,
Last year I was one of a number of Austin-based performers taking part in a major fundraising evening to benefit the Austin Theatre Alliance held at the Paramount Theatre. I feel safe in saying that on that evening all the performers involved seemed more than happy to offer their talents to help shore up the finances at an institution that has served local artists and audiences so long and so well. We all felt at home, which was evident by the camaraderie backstage, and I must say that I personally enjoyed sharing stage time with the well-meaning, progressive women and men whose performances were their way of giving back to the community. We were obviously performing in a venue that we all loved and felt at home in. I can also assure you that there wasn't one fraudulent, hate-mongering, gay-baiting bigot among the group. So, you can imagine my distress, when walking down Congress Avenue the other day, I read the Paramount's marquee announcing that evening's headliner: Dr. Laura Schlessinger.
As a gay man and parent of an adopted child one of the cultural prototypes that Dr. Schlessinger has gotten wealthy spewing hatred and bigotry toward I feel an explanation is in order. The Paramount's board of directors and those who book the theatre have a right to rent to anyone they wish, and hate speech is protected in this country. I don't question that, but I find it odd that, when it's time to raise money, the local, progressive artists get the call, and when it's time to book an odd Tuesday in March, any old bigot will do.
Consider the AudienceDear Editor,
Under your front-cover legend SXSW WRAP, I saw "Charlize Theron" and eagerly sought information about the actress I've respected tremendously since seeing her courageous, powerful performance in Monster. But I went through the issue three times without finding anything about Theron [Editor's note: There was a photo of Theron that ran with "The Long Goodbye," Screens, March 24].
I'm only a tenured professor of English, so I sought the help of my husband, the real researcher in the family an attorney. He gave up after about 15 minutes as well.
I also sought in this issue enlightenment concerning the controversy about the auditor for the city of Austin. But the article was so snide ["Beside the Point," News, March 24], and (I infer) assumed so much knowledge and attitude about the controversy especially knowledge that supported the author's assessment of the situation that I came away just as unenlightened about that matter as I was about Charlize Theron and SXSW.
Please. Consider what Aristotle advises about communication: consider audience. Your readers may not be exactly like you, but they deserve respect and need your consideration if you hope for them to share or even understand your position on an issue.
June Chase Hankins
Big Business 1, Citizens 0Dear Editor,
Re: "Chipping Away at CHIP" [News, March 24]: Big business 1, citizens 0, again. What was the commissioner at Health and Human Services Commission thinking when he wanted to outsource CHIP? I think we as citizens should have some say in how our tax money is spent.
And no, our elected House and Senate members are not going to listen to us. I have been waiting for a reply from our district representative for more than a year. Mail your concerns to the governor's office and Albert Hawkins, commissioner at HHSC.
Clyde L. Harris
McMansion Tour Guide?Dear Editor,
I suggest you compile a tour guide of the Austin McMansions ["Whose House Is Fattest? Join the Online Melee!," News, March 24].
Mr. Luis E. Campos
LeRoi Brothers NeglectedDear Editor,
I was very disappointed to see nary a mention regarding the LeRoi Brothers 25th anniversary in the last issue (March 24). They certainly deserved at least a Recommended listing. Even the Austin American-Statesman gave props to this great Austin band in the XL section. As for your own paper, they've won the Best Roots Rock Band award in The Austin Chronicle's readers poll more than a few times.
Here's a challenge: Do a proper feature piece on these legendary Austin performers.
Tracy Hightower[Editor's note: FYI: as a rule, the Chronicle staff tries to never rise to challenges, respond to dares, or in any way prove it has balls.]
Good Health and Many More PerformancesEditor,
The Austin Music Awards show was a blast; fun to see so many old boomers out enjoying Three Balls of Fire, Eliza Gilkyson, Kris Kristofferson and Jessi Colter who looked great from where I stood ["Roky Road," Music, March 24]. But the emotional highlight for us was seeing Jon Dee Graham and his son Willie performing together. I wish them good health and many more performances together.
Kathleen Weager Coyne