Our readers talk back.
Wants Unbiased ReportingDear Editor,
The fast moving targets of Fix290 and Oak Hill neighborhood planning efforts make it difficult for reporters and readers to stay abreast of current developments ["Can the Y Be Fixed?," News, June 9]. Apparently it is also difficult for TxDOT staff to stay abreast of current efforts because Ms. Reeves quotes Don Nyland (TxDOT) talking about roundabouts and limited access across 290.
For the record, Fix290 efforts have not referenced roundabouts for some time now. Austin Neighborhood Planning efforts document improved connectivity and mobility across U.S. 290. Fix290's only focus is a parkway concept and the viability of that design to carry the traffic projected in CAMPO's 2030 Mobility Plan. The latest report from Smart Mobility Inc. states: "Using guidelines in the Highway Capacity Manual, and accepted traffic engineering practices for determining conceptual design, the proposed 8 lane parkway can provide sufficient capacity for the projected year 2030 traffic volumes in the CAMPO model for 290 to operate at Level of Service D/E."
It is our hope that two things will emerge from the Oak Hill neighborhood planning and Fix290 efforts. The first is a highway design that provides adequate traffic capacity, saves money, promotes community, and doesn't just protect the environment but also improves water quality in Williamson Creek. The second thing is that transportation agencies, local governments, and neighborhoods will discover a path to transportation solutions faster and with less rancor through cooperation. These are ambitious goals. I would hope Austin residents and institutions will see these efforts as worthy goals regardless of personal cynicism.
Since we all drive, we all consider ourselves transportation "experts." This leads to many "expert" opinions. Too often, professional engineers dismiss "lay experts" out of hand. Austin needs a calmer environment for transportation conversations to take place. We invite the Chronicle to support these efforts with, at the least, unbiased, accurate reporting.
David Richardson[News Editor Michael King responds: We're delighted to have David Richardson's updates on the evolving Fix290 proposals, which apparently no longer formally include roundabouts although we've received other communications from neighborhood participants still defending the idea (about which we take no position). We do find it puzzling that by "unbiased, accurate reporting" Richardson appears to mean not quoting anyone who disagrees with him.]
Benedict Clears Things UpDear Editor,
Since selling my business in March 2003, I've volunteered or worked on political campaigns full time except for a few months researching business opportunities plus a six week vacation in Playa del Carmen "studying Spanish."
The only pay I've received is $36,138 from the Libertarian Party of Texas for consulting services despite insinuations conjured from Texas Ethics Commission reports and partial contract descriptions. I've also spent $14,109 of nonreimbursed funds on my City Council campaigns and have contributed $4,137 to other candidates and political committees during that period.
Not what my parents expected when I graduated from the University of Michigan with master's degrees in business and engineering. I've forgone about a quarter million in pay working on politics instead of re-entering the business world. However, that's nothing compared to soldiers who have given their lives for America.
I'm proud to be working with Libertarians to restore the free-market system that made America the strongest country in the world. Working for a democratically elected committee of Libertarian Party volunteers ain't easy, but I love each one of them, sometimes quite toughly. However, I look forward to the day when someone more capable than me is willing to take on this role so I can move on without momentum sliding. And at 37 years young, I doubt I'll have trouble refilling my bank accounts when that becomes my goal again.
On a less serious note, I want to thank you, Judge Bill Aleshire, for analyzing LPT reports. I'm confident any fines against our treasurers for errors will be less than had the LPT paid for your help. And thanks, Bill, for the witty humor ["Libertarian Ganders Goosed by Aleshire 216 Times," News, June 9]. Punish work is more tolerable when the lines are funny.
Libertarian Party of Texas
"Evan, Why Don't You Play More Blues?' Now, "I Do.'Dear Editor,
Yeah, Clifford Antone was a straight-shooter. If you think about it, he had a lot of patience hearing music his whole life that wasn't the blues. He put up with all of it while he redefined what the blues is and are to a couple of generations of young people.
The only way to judge an impresario is to count up the number of artists they broke to national and international audiences and how many old timers they took care of. In Clifford's case, the number is too great to count. To put it in perspective, the whole of my hometown of Washington, D.C., in my lifetime, has not done the above for one artist. Austin was lucky.
Clifford and I only hung out alone a couple of times, and I sang and played guitar at one of his birthday parties with him on bass, cuz the white boys were late, but I remember him saying about 1986, "Evan, why don't you play more blues?"
Baumgarten Mocks ScienceDear Editor,
I question why, in her review of An Inconvenient Truth [Film Listings, June 2], Marjorie Baumgarten would choose to mock Al Gore's exhibit of scientific data ("wonkish charts and graphs depicting currents and temperatures and such"). Isn't science the point here? I'd like to think that viewers of this film could understand a simple line graph illustrating the correlation between atmospheric CO2 levels and temperature.
Baumgarten spent the majority of her review on useless and tired character analysis of Gore rather than addressing the serious issue at hand. She illustrates our cultural shortsighted inattention to real issues (ex.: global warming).
This is also illustrated by the cartoon Cars showing at 11 theatres while a smart film about global warming is at one theatre.
Go see the film!
Don't Misuse Parking Tags!Dear Editor,
Thanks for the piece on the misuse of handicapped-parking hangtags ["The Lame, the Halt, and the Parking Thieves," News, June 9]. My mom is 91 and uses a walker (barely). So it makes me especially mad when I see a vehicle with a hangtag pull into a reserved disability space and the driver and passengers get out and they all look and act like they could play for the Dallas Cowboys.
Constitutional FidelityDear Editor,
This is to commend Louis Black for devoting a column to the Constitution and for actually getting it right ["Page Two," June 9]. Most editorial writers, on the rare occasions when they discuss the topic, get something wrong. I also commend him for complaining that both conservatives and progressives depart from constitutional fidelity. Sounds like you are coming around to the libertarian view.
I hope you have found www.constitution.org useful in preparing that article.
Limbaugh-Meets-Coulter BabbleDear Editor,
In response to Vance McDonald's Limbaugh-meets-Coulter psychobabble "Restricting Freedom to Save It" ["Postmarks," June 9] ... well, where to begin?
In his rantings, Mr. McDonald strings together Fox News echo-chamber terms including "neo-leftist," "moral bankruptcy," "moral relativism," "Islamic fascist" ... oh yeah, throw in "national security" and "freedom," as if he had some profound insight on geopolitics.
Let's clear the air because the bullshit is pretty thick here.
Neo-leftist? This term is a red herring to the actual problem for our country and the world ... neo-conservatism.
The Bush administration, whose names read out as the roll call of the Project for the New American Century (who wrote the neo-con manifesto), exploited a national tragedy to enter into a war they had planned in the 1990s while the murderer of nearly 3,000 Americans is rarely mentioned and is still free after nearly six years.
Moral bankruptcy?! These are rendition torture boys on their world tour. As long as we're talking bankruptcy, check our national debt ... they spend like democrats ... oh! and another tax cut for the rich! I guess we poor schmoes have to make sacrifices for this Orwellian war of semantics and pseudo-reality.
Fascism?! We're talking about George "Ignore Law by Signing Statement" Bush. "I'm the decider!" Any dissent is not tolerated ... Joe Wilson (sic 'em Dick). Big Brother, aka total information awareness. Oh yeah, appointment to the presidency versus elected.
Where have you been the past six years?
I could go on but I'll just conclude by saying ... turn off Fox News and Rush for a few days and this dementia should pass.
Christopher W. Ringstaff
Support Public NursingDear Editor,
I was directed to the article "(Don't) Take Them Out at the Ball Game" [News, May 19] by Melanie Haupt by an online parenting community. I had heard about the breast-feeding incident at the Dell Diamond and was happy to see such a supportive article. It's hard enough for a new mother to do what's right for her baby without being told by random strangers that it's shameful or obscene. We have billboards on the side of the highway telling us that "Babies were born to be breast-fed," and then we hear about a mother being harassed for feeding her baby. Kudos to the Dell Diamond for eventually coming out strongly in favor of a baby's right to nurse in public.
Tommy Hancock ReportsLouis,
I admire and appreciate what you do. Here's what I consider a news item: Someone was talking on a phone while Danny Levin was playing the fiddle!
Tommy X Hancock
Texicalli LoveDear Editor,
Thanks for the article of Virginia Wood's on Austin food ["Musicians on the Menu," Food, May 12]! Music, picture, and all. Really appreciate all the help keeping the doors open on the Texicalli.
Danny Roy Young
McMansions and LessDear Editor,
First off, "McMansion" is appropriate if they are "cranked-out" tract homes, but some of these have a unique style to them. A new combination of eclectic architectures combined to create a new statement: Metropolitan Style. However, I wholeheartedly agree that these homes should not exceed 40% of the lot's total square footage. I believe this involves impermeable installments, such as driveways, retaining walls, etc. Thank you for letting me voice my opinion.
Asleep at the WheelDear Editor,
The City Council last night passed on first and second reading an ordinance that ignores the input of the Planning Commission and enshrines into law rules that effectively ban young families like mine and especially my neighbor's from expanding our homes (to non-McMansion-like proportions, which are already common on our block and, not coincidentally, among members of the task force).
The last time these folks had their way, they obstructed multifamily development in the areas near UT for a decade or two, resulting in a plague of super duplexes and McDorms as students (who still want to live close to campus, of course) found other options.
This time around, the unintended consequences are similarly easy to predict: less affordable housing (as duplexes and garage apartments are now less feasible than they were before) and fewer families in the urban core (unless you think somebody wanting to have more than 1,200 square feet for a family of four, or more than 1,010 square feet for a family of five, is being unreasonably suburban).
I alerted the Chronicle beforehand, and all I saw in this week's issue was a small blurb about the upcoming meetings ["Beside the Point," News, June 9], with no analysis of the rules or their possible effects (other than the spin put out by the task force themselves). I'm very disappointed in you folks for being asleep at the wheel here.
Party of the ConstitutionDear Editor,
It's true that the left and right have abandoned the Constitution ["Page Two," June 9]. But they abandoned it many years ago. The right's abandonment of the Constitution was initially lead by Alexander Hamilton and his doctrine of "loose interpretation." The left waited a little longer. First, it was the Federal Reserve system and the Palmer Raids during Wilson's presidency. Then it was the New Deal of FDR.
America does have a constitutional party and has had one since 1971. It's called the Libertarian Party. We believe that the federal government should only do things specifically authorized by the Constitution. That is actually a very short list.
Giving Up on Bicycling So as Not to Be KilledDear Editor,
Amy Babich's letter last week is quite timely ["Postmarks," June 9], and should be read with the gravity it deserves. A close acquaintance of mine was recently hit by a driver while cycling as well, breaking both of his legs. The driver drove on, without stopping. Half an hour later this individual called the police to inform them that someone had "thrown a body" at their car. The cyclist who was killed on Sixth last year moved within my circle of friends as well.
I, myself, was involved in a bicycle/car accident last week, destroying my bike in the process. I was lucky to have not been seriously injured. That driver, as well, did not stop to offer assistance.
The lethal combination of poor bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure and poorly trained, careless drivers has made Austin a quite hostile environment for those of us who bicycle or walk for pleasure or necessity. Our lackluster bus system is woefully downtown-centric, and those who neither reside or commute to our city's center are left with few options, save cabs, long walks in blistering heat and rain, and cycling.
So that's it. I give up. I take back what I have said in these pages previously about cycling as a viable means of transportation. I'm taking what little money I have and buying the cheapest auto I can find, simply so I will not be murdered by a careless driver on my daily commute. I spent three years trying to tell myself that Austin was a sophisticated, forward-thinking metropolitan area in which one did not need a vehicle for everyday use. I was wrong. Any individual who rides a bike or walks as their primary means of transportation treads a fine, dangerous line in this city and will find that there are few sympathetic ears with the power to help.
Perhaps one day I can move to a more forward-thinking city and not fear for my life on a bicycle every morning. Perhaps Austin's city government will one day invest in the infrastructure to protect and foster bicycle transportationalists. I, for one, cannot wait that long.
Mike "Dub" Wainwright
Barton Springs Is Dead to MeDear Editor,
Barton Springs pool is dead to me. Each summer, I kept hoping that the thick algae sludge would disappear, but year after year it worsens. Can prohibiting development in the tiny little areas called the recharge and contributing zones of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer really save the pool? For those of us that spend their free days listening to music, being on the Zilker trails, and taking a swim at Barton pool, the decision to commute an additional 10 minutes or someday have to backfill the polluted Barton pool is a no-brainer.
Brian "Bronco" Broussard
Follow South Austin PlanDear Editor,
Along the south shore of Town Lake, from Zilker Park to South Pleasant Valley Road, the city is treating one rezoning request after another as an isolated case, without applying any planning guidelines. Yet years ago, the city hired a consultant to develop those guidelines. That ROMA study called for all property owners to work together for a unified plan before additional height or increased density would be granted. Similar reasonable planning guidelines were developed for the Mueller Airport site; a key element there is the use of traffic impact analysis to set overall density for new development.
The South Central Coalition of leaders from many of the neighborhoods in 78704, along with East Riverside neighbors in 78741, believe that the current piecemeal approach is not in the city's best interest. Using the ROMA and Mueller efforts as models, the City Council should develop a comprehensive planning strategy for this area based on these principles:
1) Protect scenic vistas along Town Lake by adhering to the guidelines in the Town Lake Corridor study, Town Lake Master Plan, and the original Town Lake Waterfront Overlay ordinance.
2) Use current zoning entitlements to set maximum allowable development density, but also use a regional traffic impact analysis to cap further density so as not to overburden local streets and arterials.
3) Tie the accommodation of taller buildings to clear community benefits, providing open green space, pedestrian access, views, and environmental protection.
Our coalition calls on the City Council to recognize the validity of the city auditor's recent report, criticizing the lack of "a citywide vision for growth to effectively guide long-range planning decisions," and to undertake a master planning process in conjunction with adjacent neighborhood plans before approving any more major zoning cases on the south shore.
for South Central Coalition
People With Disabilities Shut OutDear Editor and Readers,
After watching the local elections and the ongoing forums for the gubernatorial slot, I realize (once again) that my vote, and those of more than 1 million other Texans, is not valued.
As a deaf person 16 years after ADA was passed I am disgusted that not one candidate in any election has bothered to caption their commercials, provide ASL interpreters for public meetings, or assure that all of their campaign events will be in accessible sites.
HHSC/DARS/DADS says that close to 2 million "known" persons in Texas have disabilities; and while not all are of voting age, many are also not counted.
Despite public beliefs to the contrary, those of us with disabilities pay taxes (regardless of whether we work or not) and have strong interests in representation and public programs, services, and spending.
If even one committed candidate would promote and use accessibility and inclusion, it could change the course of Texas history. Texans who do not currently need accessibility would have the pleasant surprise of not having to fight for it when you (or those you love) do need it!
Like most people with disabilities, I do not want "special" or "special needs" items: I want my tax dollars to make public services, events, and information available to me. If you want my vote, make sure I know who you are and why you think you should be elected!
Mary E. Wambach
Hoping to See BuzzDear Editor,
Since no other mainstream outlets are following up on Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s June 1 article about the vast evidence that George W. Bush is not the legitimate president of the USA, I'm hoping to see some buzz at least in The Austin Chronicle. I mean, the fact that the U.S. government has been overthrown is kind of important.
Beky Hayes[Editor's note: The article by Robert F. Kennedy, "Was the 2004 Election Stolen?" is available in the June 1 Rolling Stone and at www.rollingstone.com/news/story/10432334/was_the_2004_election_stolen.]
The Cost of WarDear Editor,
How did we get so high and mighty that we have to wage a perfect war free of any killing of civilians once we commit our troops in harms way in a foreign hostile country.
As far as civilian casualties, we killed more than 600,000 in Germany and more than 300,000 in Japan (not counting radiation victims after four months) in order to end World War II. We weren't so high and mighty back then on the rules of engagement.
How many billions have we spent and lives lost not taking out the top terrorist leaders three years ago when we had a chance but were worried about civilians or Saudi princes.
If this war is worth it to stop terrorism (which is highly debatable) then we need to quit liquidating our treasury and making our soldiers sitting ducks with this "perfect war" we're trying to wage. That would support our troops a hell of a lot more than yellow ribbons.