Our readers talk back.

Supports Open Government, Not "Page Two'

Dear Editor,

I just read Louis Black's anti-SOS, anti-Prop. 2 rant twice, desperately searching for meaning ["Page Two," April 7]. First Black tells us that Prop. 2 will result in a process that is "only 'open' on one side." That's OK, Louis, the government is inherently more powerful than any private entity it might be negotiating with; I'd prefer that my government deal openly and fairly with everyone. Next he informs us that this will cripple the city's ability to negotiate without explaining how or why; apparently the government can't function without secrets and backroom deals! Next he tells us that "it is no longer important what you say." No, Louis, what you say is important, and I'd like my government to both do what they say and say what they do, which is why I support open government. Next Black goes off on a long anti-SOS rant, referring to them as "monomaniacal" and having an attitude which "contains the contaminated seeds of an anti-democratic fascism." Then he decries name-calling, character assassination, and casting aspersions. Hmmm, OK. Along the way he implies that realpolitik is more important than integrity and that paving over the aquifer "serve[s] the whole community" at the expense of one special interest group. The latter is news to me, and no, Louis, maintaining one's integrity is considerably more important than being able to cut a deal. Since I want my government to act with integrity at all times, I support open government. Finally Black again warns us that Prop. 2 will "fatally cripple" the city's ability to function with nary a hint as to why this would be. Black's diatribe is so vehement and yet so devoid of content, one must wonder if this editorial is some kind of payback for the special treatment SXSW, which is a great thing but still Black's private business, got from the city this year. I guess we'll never know because we don't (yet) have open government!

Patrick Goetz

[Louis Black responds: If I disagree with SOS, then of course I must be operating from corrupt motives. Great call, Patrick, you are certainly not slinging mud there! But rest assured, at least once and possibly twice the Austin American-Statesman filed open-record requests with the city for all transactions with SXSW. Because there is nothing to find there, they found nothing. Maybe, just maybe, I think that is a badly written, unclear proposition that will do more harm than good. Nah, you're right, I'm being paid off. But I'm open for higher bids.]

SOS Supports Propositions

Dear Austin Chronicle,

First off, we at Save Our Springs Alliance like the Chronicle. We go back a long way together in our shared vision of a progressive Austin. We were especially chagrined, then, to read Louis Black's peculiarly strident editorial on the charter amendments ["Page Two," April 7] and so feel compelled to clarify our position.

Most American cities have developed in a rather unconscious manner and so have thoughtlessly severed their connection with the natural world, to the point where generations of children are growing up without being able to experience an unpolluted stream or enjoy the view from an undeveloped bluff. In Austin, we've been trying to follow a different path. The Town Hall citizen rallies and subsequent SOS Ordinance of the early Nineties pointed toward a different kind of city, one that would consciously maintain its connection with nature. The SOS Ordinance is not just about one spring, even if it is one of our sources of drinking water, or one swimming hole, even if it is the best urban swimming hole in the country. SOS is about a vision for a city and its relationship to the natural world.

So why do we need charter amendments now? The recent failure of nerve of our political leaders has emboldened some developers to exploit "grandfathering" claims and so circumvent SOS standards. These two amendments would provide defense against those who would overextend "grandfathering" and would allow us to see clearly into our political process so we can get the government we deserve. In the early Nineties there were predictions that the SOS Ordinance would stifle growth, become too onerous, ruin Austin. Looking around the city today, those claims seem patently false. We feel the same way about concerns regarding charter amendments 1 and 2, and we trust the voters will agree on May 13, when they renew their pledge to protect Barton Springs.

You called us "fringe" and "monomaniacal." We are trying to help Austin become a new kind of city, one that other fast-growing communities might look to as a model. If there is something extreme about that, we see it as a good kind of extremism. Regardless of the outcome of the election, we look forward to working alongside the Chronicle for an Austin we can all be proud of.


Board of directors, Save Our Springs Alliance:

Karin Ascot, Roger Baker, John Barkley, Susan Caldwell, Robert Corbin, Ann Del Llano, Michael DiLeo, Ray Goodrich, Tim Jones, Dick Kallerman, Mark Kirkpatrick, Marcia Lucas, Kirk Mitchell, Nancy Scanlan

[Editor Louis Black responds: I'm somewhat astonished that although the SOS board "likes" the Chronicle, they choose not to respond to any of the editorial's arguments. Instead, they take it as self-evident, without justification, that the charter amendments will magically produce "open government" and "clean water." Regardless of what SOS says it wants, or what they intend, if the propositions pass, it won't be SOS enforcing them. Austin will be left with horribly worded, unclear, and confusing propositions that are just as likely to do the opposite from what is intended and promised. If they pass, the only certainty is subsequent litigation.

And isn't it just a bit disingenuous to argue that "In the early Nineties there were predictions that the SOS Ordinance would stifle growth, become too onerous, ruin Austin. Looking around the city today, those claims seem patently false." The Chronicle and I (in that we don't always share the same opinion), of course, didn't make those predictions but argued exactly the opposite. Before there was an SOS, the Chronicle had staked out a very clear position rebutting that nonsense. Now, I feel, we're rebutting different nonsense.]

Black Blowing Air and Masturbating

Dear Editor:

First of all, Mr. Black's rant is confusing in that Prop. 1 (that's Prop. 1, not Prop. 2) is the open-city-government amendment ["Page Two," April 7]. Is this what you are talking about, Mr Black – open city government?! Or are you just blowing air and analogies about cards and masturbating?! Get your amendments straight! Secondly, this amendment is trying to stop the government from being run like a corporation and help us (the people for whom these elected officials work) to hold them accountable. Yes, we want them to show all their cards when they are "negotiating." This is something that would benefit us all. This amendment would make it more difficult to meet with lobbyists at lunchtime and conduct your affairs at City Hall! Your readers must realize that the City Council wants so badly for this not to pass that they attempted to misrepresent the information. This was ruled in a court of law! And this was the first time in Texas history a City Council was reprimanded by a court of law for unlawful ballot language! Unlawful! If City Council does not want this to pass so badly that they are willing to lie to the people then I want it to pass even more. I am sure if people realize this they may feel the same way.

Lisa Boettrich

[Editor's reply: Sorry for any mistakes on my part. Actually, concerning economic development matters, the two propositions overlap in a complex and confusing way, which is yet another reason to oppose them. Unfortunately, the proposition, not its intention or your version of it, becomes the law if passed. The ballot language proposed by supporters was even less informative than that proposed by City Council. Finally, with all this talk of open government, do you really want the city to show all their cards when negotiating with AMD, major mall and residential developers, the state and the like?]

Christopher Gray Delusional?

Dear Editor,

Is Christopher Gray delusional? In his column on April 7 ["TCB," Music] he compares Austin country icon Dale Watson to Nashville pop star Tim McGraw.

Specifically, Gray compares Watson's title track on his new release, Whiskey or God, to McGraw's 2004 single "Drugs or Jesus."

Let's see ... Watson wrote the song in question (as opposed to McGraw's hit being written by another).

Additionally, those who have seen Watson perform on a regular basis know that he wrote and has been performing "Whiskey or God" since 2001 at the latest. Hmm, by my count, that's two full years before McGraw recorded his hit.

Actually Watson wanted to record his song on earlier albums but was told "no" by the record labels.

At any rate, anybody that has the audacity to compare Dale Watson to Tim McGraw is either mentally challenged or deep in the throes of a substance abuse problem.

One day at a time Christopher, one day at a time.

Daniel Saxon

Special Afghanistan "Chronicle'

Dear Mr. Black,

By the time the Jan. 27 issue of The Austin Chronicle made it out here to me in southern Afghanistan, the cover had been torn off. Do you think you could send me another one?

By the way, if you want to report on substandard women's health care, you should send one of your reporters out here to Helmand Province. Here, basic women's rights are denied in the name of a holy book also.

1st Lt. Robert Truax, RN, PA-C

Medical officer

Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan

Doesn't Like CTRMA

Dear Editor, Austinites, and surrounding area,

CTRMA spent our tax dollars creating and placing a two-page ad in The Austin Chronicle on pages 76 and 77 of the March 31 issue.

CTRMA is a nonelected panel of pro-tollers that is partly responsible for the toll-road nightmare in Central Texas.

The Texas comptroller issued a special report on the CTRMA at:

It was the CTRMA that lost a lawsuit for their members holding over two-year terms. So Rick Perry tried to extend the terms for CTRMA members at the last state election, and lost.

The CTRMA advertisement says, "We can't afford to build the roads we need." We can afford to build roads, provided legislators pass a gas tax increase to adjust for inflation. Inflation average has risen 80% since 1991, gas tax stayed flat.

Texas legislators made matters worse in 1991 by approving 25% of our yearly fuel tax revenue to go to the school fund instead of road construction.

The ad says, "Giving drivers an option to avoid congestion." Paying a high toll or facing congested discontinuous roads are not good options. The ideal option is to provide quick and efficient mobility for everyone regardless of financial class. A gas-tax increase would provide that option.

Boycott the tolls if you can. Use less gas by moving closer to work, carpool, check into working from home, use free roads during off-peak hours for shopping, etc., to ease free-road congestion. Vote for anti-toll candidates.

And please don't allow yourself to be misled by pro-toller propaganda; stay informed.

Thanks for reading,

Mark Stenger

Shut Up! Listen to Me! I Know and You Don't

Dear Austin Chronicle and Rachel Proctor May,

I have been watched, incarcerated, and watched again after I made some protest art before the war started, so unless you have the CIA up your backside for years on end and have been in jail for the truth you should let me talk instead.

How dare you chastise the Arab League ["The Rhythm of Peace," News, March 24].

What do you know about peace marches? Do you show up every year and write your little column to make yourself feel better, or do you fight the good fight every day? Have you put your life on the line for the truth, or is it just easier to attack those that have?

And when did you become the goddess of peace protests, anyway? Who gave you the right to say how anyone should peacefully protest the great Halliburton war? Bush, the neocon, or did you just anoint yourself?

You should have chastised the rest of the musicians from Austin for not showing up to the Million Musician March, but instead you attacked the Arab League for fighting the good fight with freedom of expression and as they would say, "dope beats."

I love the fact that the artsy-fartsy, latte-drinking Austin Chronicle loves to act as though it is out there on the edge, pushing the envelope, in an effort to better the world. When in fact you are a bunch of soulless wimps.

Risk your lives like the Arab League does each and every time they perform for peace, or at the very least create some art that gets you in trouble for speaking the truth, like I did, before you act like you care. Proof of which you spent more time covering the Arab League, a band you never listen to, than you did promoting or covering the peace march. This is a very sad indictment of your character. What, is the Chronicle afraid to speak out, or is it that you just don't care?

Call me when you get done looking in the mirror.

Richard Harris II

St. Louis, Mo.

[Editor's response: The Chronicle always welcomes constructive criticism from experts like Richard Harris II, clearly an authority on looking into mirrors. Yes, the Chronicle is afraid to speak out and just doesn't care.]

No More "Skronky'

Dear Editor,

To the writers in your paper who repeatedly use the word "skronky" in the description of the sound of music (you know who you are), may I respectfully request that you either publish a definition alongside it, or remove it from the vernacular of the paper? After the fourth or fifth time I saw it, I felt this letter could no longer be put off.

It's not that I'm some kind of cranky grammar grandma sleeping with a dictionary between my legs. It's just that the word "skronky" conveys absolutely nothing meaningful about anything I know of. And while I'm all for creative license, this may be one scenario where you should heed that red line that I know your computer is putting under the word "skronky," because my computer is doing just that right now.


Max Juren

[Editor's response: "Skronky" is, of course, the adjectival version of "skronk," a term that likely sprung from the free-jazz movement of the Sixties and itself was probably a bastardization of "honk" – a "honking" horn solo with a lot more dissonance. Time to update your computer's spellcheck.]

Dale Watson Fan

Dear Editor,

I am a fan of Dale Watson. I would like to see Dale play at the Austin rodeo sometime. Also, they do not play his music much on the radio. He doesn't get the recognition he deserves. I would like to be able to turn to any radio station around here in Central Texas and hear his type of music. I loved your article ["Honky-Tonkers Don't Cry," Music, Nov. 25, 2005].

Bonnie Skaggs


Another River Lost

Dear Editor,

Re: Blanco River: Another one will bite the dust. The natural Central Texas rivers will soon be a thing of the past. But putting money into the pockets of out-of-state land investors continues to be the wave of our future. While we were sleeping.

"When lost, always follow the money trail, it never fails."

Trebor Vanboom

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