Our readers talk back.
Fri., May 5, 2006
Neville Article Speaks TruthRobert Gabriel:
Mr. Gabriel, your article speaks truth ["Cyril Neville Tells It Like It Is," April 28]. I don't think many folks are ready (or willing) to wrap their heads around the issues of which you speak. Folks would rather put more energy into talking about anything but the realness. Thanks for being "that guy." Most folks won't discuss race issues and gentrification on that level. Not only did you discuss it; it's published on the cover. Thanks for holding it down for all people. Maybe your article (and Mr. Neville) will encourage folks to have more constructive discussions about the fascist regime that terrorizes all of us, not just black folks.
Doesn't Get How Sick They AreDear Editor,
Without getting into the merits of many of the issues raised in Michael King's April 28 "Point Austin" column [News], it's obvious he doesn't realize just how sick East Austinites are of getting a disproportionate share of infrastructure that benefits the entire city but has localized negatives. No issue exists in a vacuum, and the Guerrero plant was seen as just the last straw, that East Austin should get preferential treatment until more of a balance is achieved. The fact that the part of the park where the plant was proposed for isn't used much isn't a reason for sacrificing it. The existence of enough woods to serve as critter habitat and oxygen production is as important as jogging trails. Maybe on its own it would have been a good project, but East Austin is done with hosting more than its share of infrastructure.
Tom Cuddy[Michael King responds: Are those East Austinites who have suggested an alternative site nearer SH 130 also out of touch with themselves? This is a water-treatment plant, not a gasoline-tank farm. By Tom Cuddy's curious split-city logic, there are right now a "disproportionate" number of such facilities on the West Side, and a "preferential" treatment should be what? I don't have a position on where the plant, if any, should go, and Guerrero is, in any case, off the list. I was writing about the grandstanding accusations of nefarious, secret plots, for what was one of several potential proposals by city staff.]
"Chronicle' Mistaken to Endorse Kaplan for ACC BoardDear Editor,
We believe the Chronicle made a mistake in endorsing Allen Kaplan for the ACC board of trustees [Endorsements, April 28]. In your editorial, you state that you were "swayed by his experience and the stability he will bring to the board." On the contrary, for years Kaplan has been a destabilizing presence to the extent that he twice jeopardized ACC's accreditation status, in 1996 and again in 2003. Further, he has demonstrated an inability to manage his own personal finances.
As a board trustee, Allen Kaplan has repeatedly crossed the clear demarcation between the policymaking role of the ACC Board of Trustees and the president's role as the administrator. Specifically, in October 2003, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools noted that the situation regarding the functionality of the board, and its ability to separate its duties from the executive management, had worsened since its initial visit in March 2003 and singled out Board Secretary Allen Kaplan for special mention:
Interviews with faculty and staff representing all campuses and all major employee constituencies yielded additional strong concerns about the board secretary [Kaplan], whose spouse is an ACC employee. Representatives of employee associations told the committee that college employees are reluctant to express any disagreement with the interests or positions taken by the board secretary's spouse for fear of retaliation from the board member. Such sentiments were pervasive across all employee categories.
Kaplan can't manage his own money. The Austin American-Statesman in an April 23, 2006 article reported that "Public records show that in 1999, [Kaplan] filed for bankruptcy and that between the late 1980s and 2002, several liens and civil judgments were filed against him for back taxes." ACC has a budget of more than $140 million a year and is overseeing expenditures from a $99-million bond package. If Kaplan isn't able to manage his own finances, can we trust him to manage that of ACC's?
Ana Mejia-Dietche has the vision and the experience to bring a new and informed perspective, fresh enthusiasm, and integrity to the role of trustee and will bring the stability that ACC needs and the Chronicle desires.
Ann Graham, Jan Soifer, Niyanta Spelman, Velva Price
Keep Austin White?Dear Editor,
I just wanted to draw your attention to the tone of the Cyril Neville profile ["Tell It Like It Is," Music, April 28]. The writer blithely disassociated the racism in Austin from the racism in New Orleans. When Mr. Neville was describing the black middle-class neighborhood that the city leveled with a freeway, I thought, well surely here's where the writer kicks it up and discusses the parallels here in Mr. Neville's new home and asks him what he thinks of this. The notion that Austin is somehow a respite or safe haven from these "isolated incidents" (to use the terms that keep whites in perpetual denial) of oppression, humiliation, exclusion, and violence is a position that creates the atmosphere of preciousness, passivity, and fashionable liberalism that Austin is known and loved for (by whites). Please consider probing into the dark side of Austin pun intended. Or just start probing that would be a good start. But what I anticipate is that this publication will continue to maintain Austin's status quo: Keep Austin white I mean weird! I look forward to your inevitable rebuttal.
"Chronicle' Mean-SpiritedDear Editor,
I found the Maroon "letter" and cartoon on Scott McClellan to be mean-spirited ["Scotty Needs Our Help!," News, April 28]. The piece mercilessly ridiculed McClellan, but what was its point? An ad hominem attack such as this one should include some journalistic value or at least advocate some position, but this one was just a series of nasty statements about McClellan. While it may be easy to kick a man when he is down, doing so is in very poor taste, not to mention completely inhumane (yes, even where Republicans are concerned). The piece you published was so bitter, it made me wonder what kind of personal insecurities the author may harbor where Mr. McClellan is concerned. As a longtime reader, I am disappointed that your editors allowed such a piece to be included.
City and University Are OneDear Editor,
Unfortunately, the recent "Naked City" news brief [April 28] about the disappointment of the Design Commission regarding plans for the new UT Hotel and Conference Center makes it appear there is a trend afoot on the 40 acres of turning its back to the city of Austin. On the contrary, the university fully understands and appreciates the importance of its outreach to and intermingling with the Austin community. In fact, the physical design of the new Blanton Museum of Art accomplishes exactly that. When phase II of the museum is completed, it will bookend the existing grand landscape entry that already beckons visitors onto the UT campus, making MLK a primary access artery, not an alley. Austin's intellectual and creative capacity is a critical element in UT's international acclaim. There are no alleys separating the capital city from its flagship university campus. The university and Austin are intricately interwoven.
Blanton Museum Council
Give Them Hell, Bill!Dear Editor
The Chronicle became my window on Austin after my wife and I moved from Falls Church, Va., to Hays County in 1999. I came to trust your reporting and then your judgment because I believed "you got it." Having grown up on a Dallas County farm during the Forties and Fifties drought, my memories of Austin were certainly idyllic of when it was a "sleepy college town."
Sometimes SOS Bill Bunch is his own worst enemy, but I shudder to think what Austin would be like today without this unique organization and its single-minded focus on protecting all aspects of Barton Springs.
Recent "Page Two" comments by Louis Black [April 7] and Michael King's "Point Austin" [April 21], bring to mind how "Establishment" the Chronicle has become in just six years when it comes to Barton Springs and what it takes to preserve that Edwards Aquifer canary.
Isn't anyone at the Chronicle listening anymore? Twelve thousand plus citizens created an Envision Central Texas paradigm that includes preserving the Aquifer, its watershed, and a lot more of what we need to retain that special quality of life that attracts so many of us.
Citizens across Hays and western Travis counties have coalesced to protect their own little "barton springs" from Houston-style high-density residential sprawl following LCRA Pied Piper, Joe Beal, as he plays the empty tune that the developers and engineering firms orchestrate. They all will be gone with their fortunes when there isn't enough water and the Piper has to be paid.
We can't rely on LCRA, TCEQ, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, or City Hall. SOS on its worst day has done more to preserve the public health, safety, and welfare than all of them combined. Keep giving 'em hell, Bill.
Charles O'Dell, Ph.D.
Dripping Springs ETJ
Wealth of "Chronicle' WritersDear Editor,
I'm guilty for taking your wealth of writers for granted. I want to thank Marc Savlov for writing the best review I've read all year in the conundrum of a movie called Silent Hill [Film Listings, April 28]. He hit the nail on the head with his review, driving it so deep into the cracked wood, I shall forever carry splinters. His resplendent imagination and descriptive phrasing ("nightshade logic") left me no alternative but to write in and display my man-love.
Bunch's "Guest' EditorialDear Editor,
Proposition 2 gives Austin voters the opportunity to ask city and corporate officials to take action now to save Barton Springs. At the moment, the whole future of Barton Springs and 30 years of city planning to protect Texas' most vulnerable major aquifer are being thrown out the window by Jim Bob Moffett's former right-hand man, Beau Armstrong, and Armstrong's new business partners at AMD and City Hall. This is the first major component of the scheme that the Chronicle exposed and help defeat in years past. We knew then, and we know now, what it means for Barton Springs.
What has changed? Water quality at Barton Springs has deteriorated as "grandfathered" development has continued. The worst algae bloom in memory persists today. The science is even more compelling that we will lose Barton Springs if we do not direct development into our Desired Development Zone.
And Moffett's original plans for a satellite downtown on Southwest Parkway expanded, adding the "Lantana" tract where AMD is now slated to build offices for 3,000 employees. The role of one of the world's worst corporate offenders of human rights and the environment is obscured, leaving us with the wispy-white Stratus Properties and AMD's greenwashing.
Austin voters have a say in the future of the soul of Austin. A vote for Proposition 2 is a vote for securing our future and protecting our heritage.
Save Our Springs Alliance[Editor's note: Bill Bunch played a prominent role in shaping the language of Proposition 2.]
Just an Exercise in Power and EgoDear Bill Bunch (El Pomposo SOSAnista),
When development is ecological and profitable, the aquifer shall be saved. Until then, only a losing advocate attempts to switch the topic to a consensus object like "clean water." No one is arguing about the aquifer or watershed being in trouble; the question is, do the proposed charter amendments help the situation or not? They don't, and that is revealed by the ACLU analysis of the amendments, that leaves crucial decisions in the very hands of the officials your gangrene-clique rationale holds are conspiring against the SOS ordinance. Since one cannot logically take the position that the Austin City Council is running a secret star chamber imposing Chapter 245 on neighborhoods and then propose a solution whose execution would allow those same officials to be in charge of the "reforms," the amendments are the very essence of deception and hypocrisy. Which means that this is an exercise in nothing but political power and ego.
Your BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody) "strategy" to deal with MoPac congestion while buying all the watershed land is an exercise in herbal fantasy. The sprawl and the billion dollar figures are real enough, but tell us, commandante, what's the real 3-D alternative?
Finally, any appeal to citizens to save Barton Springs is marginalized by SOSA's environmental smear of anyone disagreeing with the latest encyclical decree. The science indeed shows a problem, but your "solution" is just another special-interest power broker ruse into Austin politics. Words illustrate intent, but action shows true meaning. Why, after 14 years, are there no specifics for "conservation-oriented development"?
Passionate Arguments for PropsDear Editor,
Even if we ignore the political timing of a "gift" given to make us forget Stratus Properties is the local name for Freeport-McMoRan, one of the worst corporate polluters on the planet, we have to understand this money will be used by the Hill Country Conservancy (where Freeport's old point man David Armbrust is chairman of the board) to create green zones that will increase the value of Stratus property on the aquifer. Is this a gift or the cost of doing business?
Stratus sold the Lantana Tract to AMD, which is in a donating frenzy, too. But are these really gifts? Or a vast loss for the people of Austin the loss of Barton Springs.
If these "gifts" get us to defeat propositions 1 and 2, Austin will give hundreds of millions of dollars to corporations like Stratus Properties that lobbied (more "gifts") for the grandfathering bill that has enabled 119 projects in violation of current water ordinances.
If we don't pass Prop. 1 we'll get more back room deals, like the new Clean Water Ordinance drafted by Council Member Leffingwell last week. A fraction of zero compared to Prop. 2, it goes before the Environmental Board Wednesday, May 3. Lee Leffingwell is a member of the EDUCATE PAC, founded by Mike Blizzard (paid by Stratus), who works to discredit propositions 1 and 2.
The Leffingwell draft (sham) ordinance, the Green Water Treatment Plant/Guerrero Park debacle a few weeks ago, the court order requiring the city to clean up inaccurate and negative ballot language aren't these arguments to vote for Open Government, Prop. 1?
It is heartbreaking to see the devastation that's resulted from these developer "gifts," which represent vast loss to the environmental community and to state and local government.
All New Roads Over Aquifer?Dear Editor,
Come on Colin [Clark]! First you say that the roads CAMPO is planning to build will all be over the Barton Springs Watershed ["Postmarks," April 28].
Then you imply that the money CAMPO is planning to spend on the roadways can somehow be used by the city to purchase open space.
You know that is just not true. CAMPO money is almost all state and federal, which cannot be used for anything but transportation. You know this you have been beating CAMPO up for years on these projects!
Make your arguments on truthful statements. If they are valid, a "spin" doesn't need to be applied.
Apple Defines Her ActivitiesHello,
While I'm extremely appreciative of the nice things Stephen MacMillan Moser writes about me in his blurb about my Web site, www.found clothing.blogspot.com, and the recent New York Times article about it, it seems that he somewhat misses the point of both the article and my hobby (finding clothes and accessories, washing them, then wearing them) ["After a Fashion," Arts, April 28]. I don't think of what I'm doing as a "trend," as he calls it, and I don't think that other people who find clothes do, either. That's like calling garage-sale hopping or thrift-store shopping "trends." In other words, I think that people have been doing these things for decades I was just the first person (maybe) to produce an online archive of found clothing and items. (Also, I don't understand why he puts "found" in quotes. I mean, the clothing is exactly that: found. I mean, it's not a brand name or euphemism! Then again, maybe my nitpicking is just the future trademark lawyer in me coming out.)
As I explained to the Times, my reasons for finding and wearing clothes have nothing to do with being trendy (at 30, I'm a little too old to be so concerned with what's cool, don't you think?) and everything to do with recycling, conservation, spontaneity, and thrift. People, especially New Yorkers, throw tons and tons of perfectly useful items on the street every day. It's enough to make even the most casual environmentalist wince.
That said, thanks for the coverage! Please eat some good salsa for me; up here the salsa's like baby food or something.
New York, N.Y.
Truly Progressive City ...Dear Editor,
"Boo hoo hoo ... I can't afford to fill up my SUV, and traffic is awful, and then when I finally get to downtown, parking is a nightmare ... boo hoo hoo. I wish someone in power would do something."
Every time I turn around, I hear this same refrain. This, my friends, is a classic example of people wanting government to change so that they don't have to. If parking and traffic and gas are driving you to the poorhouse/crazy house, why not get off your fat ass and ride a bicycle once in a while? Park 'em anywhere. Runs on food. And despite what many people believe, it is an extremely fast way to get around this small, centralized city. If you can't do three miles on a bike, you've got worse problems than gas prices.
If Austin were a truly progressive city, it would address our car-related problems. But instead of real solutions for this, we keep coming up with ways to bring more cars and pollution and traffic into downtown. Wake up people! Cars are the problem! We need fewer cars downtown!
The City Council should support a broad-based measure to encourage bicycle commuting in the Austin area. It's easy, cheap, and extraordinarily effective. Unfortunately, you can't cram a cheeseburger in your face and slam a Big Gulp on a bicycle, but given the "huskiness" of so many of our citizens, maybe this is a good thing.
Healthy, environmentally sound, fast, fun, stress relieving, cheap ... too bad it doesn't come in pill form; someone could make a fortune.
Mike "Dub" Wainwright
OMG! What's Next?Dear Editor,
I was in a bar the other night, and an illegal immigrant was smoking inside. He was also talking loudly so he must have been publicly intoxicated. He even tried to bring his dog on to the patio! I don't think he was wearing sunscreen, either! OMG! What's next, dogs and cats living together?
Because We're Not Californians?Editor,
If California can recall its governor, Gray Davis, for alleged inaction, why can't Texas recall its corrupt representative, Tom DeLay, for unethical, un-American, anti-democratic political prejudice in Congress, and criminal violations?
St. Helena, Calif.