Our readers talk back.
Landeros Working for UNDear Editor,
Unless the United Nations has recently become a division of DynCorp, former APD Assistant Chief Rudy Landeros is not now, and never has been, employed by DynCorp as stated by Mr. King in his article regarding Stan Knee ["Good Morning, Afghani-Stan!," News, June 16]. Rudy left APD in March of this year to serve as a senior police advisor for the United Nations Integrated Office for Sierra Leone, a fact reported by both the Austin American-Statesman and, if I am not mistaken, the Chronicle. Whatever point Mr. King was trying to make, perhaps he should have done a little better job fact-checking when citing A.C. Landeros' new job as an example. Perhaps a correction is in order. Thanks.
Ann Landeros[Michael King responds: Ann Landeros is right; I should have done a better job of fact-checking. Thanks to Mrs. Landeros, readers should understand that Rudy Landeros is employed directly by the U.N. and not through a private subcontractor. I apologize for the error.]
Thanks for Jackson TributeDear Louis,
I just finished reading your Page Two tribute to Jack Jackson [June 16], as well as the article by Robert Faires ["Texas in Bold, Dark Strokes," Arts, June 16]. Thank you both for the well-written tributes. I was out of town last week at the funeral of my father-in-law, also, coincidentally, named Jack, and didn't hear of our friend's death until I saw this week's Chronicle.
I've known Jack a long time, since before we interviewed him for Trajectories in the mid-Eighties. I had enjoyed his work for years before that. At my uncle's funeral a few years back my cousin Cindy West told me a man named Jackson from Austin had sent her info on our great grandfather, Jack West's family, a line we knew little of. Jack and I shared a love of history and genealogy, and it was a joy to discover we were in fact related through the West line, some of the first Anglo settlers in Texas, years before Stephen F. Austin's colony.
I feel for you now because of the rift between you and Jack over the review of the John Wesley Hardin book. Michael Ventura was indeed wrong about Jack being racist, and as angry as Jack was at both Ventura and you, he was hurt as much as angry at what he felt was a betrayal by an old friend who should have known he was "not like that." I wrote you in protest at the time, as did others. Jack was a good and loving man and was looking for a prominent black Texan to do a comic on. Knowing both of you, I know your intention was not to hurt. I think he knew that, too, at some level.
Austin and indeed the world are, as you said, a lot poorer today at the passing of Jack Jackson. I will visit him in that cemetery in Stockdale where he lies with his parents and some of our common ancestors. And I will miss him greatly. Thank you again for the tribute.
Fix 290's Plan Beats TxDOT'sDear Editor:
Chronicle writer Kimberly Reeves got it right in her article "'Y' Can't We Be Friends?" [News, June 16] when she said that TxDOT's proposed expansion of the "Y" in Oak Hill will result in devastation of the environment and the historic Oak Hill neighborhood. Anyone can see for himself or herself how bad TxDOT's plans will be by watching TxDOT's own 3-D animated rendering of the huge elevated toll road through Oak Hill. You can watch that animation at www.fix290.org.
TxDOT's massive toll plan will also destroy Williamson Creek, which is in the Barton Springs watershed, and create pollution both during and after construction for Barton Springs and the Edwards Aquifer downstream. For this reason, I support the Fix290 Coalition's context-sensitive design alternative for the "Y."
That alternative is based on a consensus that is forming that Oak Hill and Williamson Creek deserve better than what TxDOT is proposing. Not only will the Fix290 Coalition's alternative satisfy CAMPO's mobility requirements, it will do so at a lower cost and shorter time to build than TxDOT's alternative. Not surprisingly, the Fix290 Coalition's alternative also lessens the environmental impact compared to TxDOT's toll-'em-high-and-pave-it-wide plan.
Tolls Should Be Last ResortDear Editor,
In Kimberly Reeves' article, "'Y' Can't We Be Friends?" [News, June 16], she says, "state highway projects ... had been stymied by diminishing returns on gasoline taxes." Where is her data coming from? According to the Texas government, 2005 was the first time since 1991 that gasoline tax collections dropped, and it dropped only by 0.6% because gas prices went up and people were purchasing less gas (www.window.state.tx.us/taxbud/revest0607-3rd/). So gas tax revenue per year has been steadily increasing since 1991 to 2005.
It is easy to raise money for roads without tolls: Raise the gas tax! When the price of gas is so high, adding another 5 to 10 cents per gallon to the cost is insignificant. Tolls roads are much less efficient revenue generators and are less safe. They are also ugly in my opinion. They should be used as a last resort, not as the primary solution for revenue generation, as the governor and several people in the legislature would have it.
Curt Karnstedt[News editor Michael King responds: As Curt Karnstedt's own recommendation raising the gas tax implies, state gas tax collections have not kept pace with the statewide demand for roads. (Whether that demand is itself to some degree manufactured is a separate question.) That's all that is meant by the phrase "diminishing returns." As an alternative to tolls, raising gas taxes may or may not be financially advisable but the notion that it would be "easy," in the current Texas political culture, seems at best naive.]
TxDOT Can't Be BotheredDear Editor:
In "'Y' Can't We Be Friends" [News, June 16], Bob Daigh of TxDOT can hardly contain his disdain and condescension for the Fix290 proposal when he says, "I applaud their concern and their interest in their community." Daigh probably doesn't even realize how hypocritical and shallow his statement sounds to citizens.
And he goes on, "We, too, are interested in working with them to whatever degree possible, to provide a transportation facility that will work in a way that can meet all our goals." A "transportation facility" that can meet all our goals? We are talking about a road that will accommodate through traffic, will provide connectivity in Oak Hill, will be cost-effective, will respect the many historical trees, and will incorporate modern design that results in context-sensitive design for the area.
Then, as if to make his point clear that TxDOT is not to be bothered by community concerns and interests, Daigh says, "We do, however, have a U.S. highway and a state highway and an underlying responsibility to provide a facility that will move people and goods efficiently through the area."
In other words, roads using expensive, outdated design by TxDOT take precedence over communities, and the bloated TxDOT bureaucracy could care less about communities since TxDOT caters to the road-building industry that greases the skids for TxDOT at the governor's office, in the state Legislature, and in our Congress.
In the immortal words of the Valley Girls, "Gag me with a spoon."
Charles O'Dell, Ph.D.
Moser RefreshingDear Editor,
Though the self-satisfied Republicans amongst us may be gathering their skirts about them, the faint rustling noise does nothing to obscure the refreshing truth as presented by Mr. Moser ["After a Fashion," June 16]. How refreshing it is to have someone of intelligence and courage "tell it like it is" with no fear ... I am his newest fan!
Jay D. Barbee
Go, Dangle, Go!Dear Editor,
Congratulations to the Chronicle! In a series of Coulter-bashing political cartoons on www.cagle.com, a political cartoonist's haven, it was pleasant to see that a cartoon good enough to be chosen for the Chronicle was also published nationally. I hope to see more from The Austin Chronicle on www.cagle.com in the future.
Allow Officers to Enforce LawDear Editor,
I commend Bruce [Elfant] for taking up this issue ["The Lame, the Halt, and the Parking Thieves," News, June 9]. But, shouldn't Bruce allow his officers to do more? He has over a dozen officers on the street, and yet he doesn't allow them to enforce the law. I encourage the Chronicle to examine the constable's track record of enforcing the law during his tenure. The Chronicle will find a disturbingly low number of citations issued by that agency despite officers often seeing violations occurring in their presence.
Theocracy: The HorrorDear Editor,
I recommend reading last week's "Quote of the Week" to anybody who likes horror movies ["News," June 9]. It sure sent a cold chill down my spine. The official platform of the Texas Republican Party says that the U.S. is a Christian nation and that separation of church and state is a myth.
Oh, I understand that people have differing views of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. But to state that the U.S. is specifically Christian is just a lie. Might as well say the Earth is flat (which, no doubt, many Republicans also believe.) The right wing has been using that lie to build a theocratic government here in what was once the land of the free. If the U.S. is a Christian country, instead of a free country, what will become of the non-Christians? It is only logical that the new theocracy will marginalize them and eventually eliminate them. That's how it's always worked before, when government and religion have gotten mixed up together.
Maybe the Republicans meant that statement as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Are they already firing up the ovens?
Antone: Gift From the CoastDear Editor,
Every good person has a Clifford Antone story. I call Clifford Antone "the gift from our Texas coast." His musical grace and independence for the blues and other good sounds secured our city for future generations. There is only one Clifford Antone, and there is only one KUT Radio. Mine goes way back through happy and sad times. I did not allow many to know me after that bad divorce publicized much. "It'll get better, Cleo, go on and dance," he'd say.
I could dance like a maniac "many a night, for years to come" and go home alone. Clifford's embrace carried me. With the most respect I continue to mourn him. We made the headlines with our troubles. I had a very angry ex-husband who had some political strength. Fourteen years later God totally intervened.
The last 10 years I have been very sick, but I have had a vision from Clifford to live, sing, dance, laugh and re-enjoy my children even though they are grown now. My friends kept telling me to go to the club, and I did not. I am having such a hard time saying goodbye. It is so hard to see his picture without crying and wishing I had done what he asked me to do since the Seventies. I dreamed about Clifford and could not make sense of it. I returned from my cardiologist appointment to find out my beautiful friend had died. It just cannot be. And you know it just cannot be. I can barely walk. I went to the record store. I sat and looked across the street. I am truly blessed to have known his love and character. Clifford Antone gave me strength to live, as has George Lopez.
I went to see him at Güero's with my longtime boyfriend Keith. That hug is so special. He said I smelled good. I said that Cliff was back, and he said, "And Cleo's back still waiting for those songs." We also laughed about mozzarella cheese. What I have learned is do not hide your feelings no matter what.
Tears on my pillow probably forever.
Clotilde Cleopatra Jacobs Sofikitis
Giving Cutter His DueDear Editor,
I read Margaret Moser's review of Cutter's book, and I loved it ["Rock & Roll Books," Music, June 2]. This book was written in the way they all lived and talked. Lots of love, respect, and pride went in to this book. Not to mention that memories were resurfaced that brought tears and laughter. I, for one, am very proud of this book, and proud of Cutter for fulfilling one of his dreams. He took a chance and it worked. Others have given reviews that weren't so kind, and they're entitled. But I know this book is a winner.
Rove and the ConstitutionDear Editor,
Congratulations on a well-written article re: the Constitution ["Page Two," June 9]. It is the bedrock of our nation and unfortunately, Karl (The Architect) Rove knows it. Keep up the good work.
Why Not Electronic Music?Dear Editor,
What's up with the Austin Chronicle music listings section? The June 16th and the June 9th issues both failed to recommend a quintessential pioneer of the industrial music genre: Front Line Assembly. Was it because they were playing at Elysium? A club that, according to the owner, has had no recommendations in a very long time. Or perhaps it's because FLA doesn't fit the profile of whiny/emo/indie/math/whatever "rock" that's mass-produced in this city. Or maybe the music editor is one of those eternally bored (and boring), depressed individuals who listens to that "McMusic." Or maybe the Chronicle lumps together all music coming out of that venue as "gothic" music, a misnomer and a term that the whiny aforementioned emo types have a strange aversion to. I am speculating because I am confused how an "alternative" paper could fail to recommend a band that influenced just about all electronic music out today.
Justin Webb[Music Listings editor Audra Schroeder replies: It was an oversight on our part; sorry about that. However, the oversight was, sadly, not part of a bigger conspiracy to bring about the downfall of all electronic music in Austin. And, certainly, it was not an act of malice toward Elysium.]
For the Common GoodDear Editor,
Hooray for the proposed helmet law ["Shall We Bike?," News, May 26]! Like so many other folks (including the former mayor), I firmly believe that Austinites ought to be free to make the "right" decisions based on my concerns and beliefs. I am a bike rider (I don't even own a car) who is deeply concerned about the rising costs of health care, rising oil prices, and poor judgments. So I propose a law that would make it illegal to drive cars. Like our former mayor, I too have had a brush with near-catastrophe. Once, through carelessness and sloth, I gained a dangerous amount of weight. Therefore, I propose a law that fines everyone with a fat arse $500 for every burrito with 700 calories (and 50% fat) shoved into their mouths. Now that we have a smoking ban and are soon to have a helmet law, it's important to keep the momentum going for the greater good. I therefore propose that we force every fat assed, SUV-driving, nonsmoking yuppie to run five miles a day around Town Lake. I'll bring the cattle prod. Is this a great country, or what?
Thanks for VenturaDear Lucky Readers of the Austin Chronicle:
This is to thank you, belatedly, but sincerely, for publishing Michael Ventura. His piece about immigration should be republished in all the mainstream papers ["Letters @ 3AM," May 26].
Thank goodness for you and your paper, given all the bad vibes Texas is suffering for you-know-who.
Ventura Wrong on ImmigrationDear Editor,
After reading Ventura's "El Pueblo Unido" ["Letters @ 3AM," News, May 26], I have concluded that he is so full of shit that his eyes must be brown. Something is owed to illegals? Are you kidding me? According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 28% of the inmates are illegals. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, incarcerated illegals cost the Feds $624 million and the states $891 million each year. Who is going to pay that, Mike?
You want to talk schools? How much property tax does a family of five illegals living in a two-bedroom apartment pay? Do you think it's anywhere near the $18,000 each year it costs to educate the three children? How about health care; welfare fraud; EMS, fire, and police services? Did Mike do research on the burdens illegals place on society? Of course not. He quoted a Newsweek reporter who referenced income taxes. Well, according to the IRS, in 2003, the top 50% of wage earners paid 96.54% of all income taxes. I would be willing to bet that the infinitesimally few illegals who actually paid income taxes were outnumbered by those who received a refund under the earned income credit.
So it boils down to Social Security benefits. You know what, Mike? Tough tit. You break our laws and drain our resources and that's the price you pay, just like the $3,000 paid to the coyote. Bottom line: Illegals are a net loss of at least $55,000 per year (Center for Immigration Studies).
Lastly, to imply that racism is involved is despicable and demonstrably untrue. The right and the Hispanics of Cuban origin have had a love affair lasting more than 40 years. Moreover, no one is arguing against legal immigration from Mexico, India, China, Africa, etc. We just don't want America to be drowned in an illegal tidal wave. And I'll be happy to march to that.
Toll Roads Will Be BurdenDear Editor,
Kimberly Reeves' article on 290 West highway planning through Oak Hill "'Y' Can't We Be Friends?" [News, June 16] did a fine job of presenting the context of highway planning. We appreciate the Chronicle's work in showing the complexity of decision-making and the breakthrough recently achieved by Fix290 as we chose collaboration over confrontation in our approach to TxDOT and the CAMPO Board.
As an insider in Fix290 (chair and spokesperson for the coalition), I see only two omissions that need mention. First is the absence of any reference to the highway's impact on the Edwards Aquifer. In contrast to the 12-lane highway proposed by TxDOT, the Fix290 concept offers a smaller footprint that will not only reduce the impact on the aquifer, but will also be cheaper and faster to build. Fix290 wants to leave Williamson Creek intact while TxDOT plans to widen and channelize it, in effect turning a natural stream into a grass-filled ditch. Indeed, the issue of environmental damage caused by an over-built highway deserves an article in itself.
Second is the absence of any mention of the strong support the Fix290 Coalition has received from toll road opponents. One of our sponsoring organizations is Texans Against Tolls, a dedicated group of community activists who do not deserve to be labeled as "hate-mongers." Those who work with Fix290 are motivated by a passion for social justice and a conviction that the Phase II toll roads are not financially viable and will prove to be a long-term public burden.
Fix290 is gratified by the cordial response from the CAMPO board after our presentation on June 12. We see doors opening and a real possibility that we may in fact "be friends" as we work toward better solutions for transportation, neighborhoods, and the environment.
Enforce Laws, Reduce DeathsDear Editor,
Bruce Todd is a visionary for American cycling bicycle helmets should be made mandatory before we do anything else to reduce road injuries and deaths ["Shall We Bike?," News May 26]. Just kidding. If we really wanted to reduce head injuries for cyclists, motor vehicle drivers, and pedestrians alike, we should avoid passing new laws and instead actively enforce existing traffic laws, specifically those relating to alcohol and driving.
I would wager, based on my own observations, that a large percentage of people driving to and from downtown on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights are intoxicated and do so with little risk of arrest. This is a situation that can only occur if:
a) The city and police department are balancing enforcement against loss of downtown income and,
b) We as individuals allow drinking and driving to be socially acceptable in our own peer groups.
OK, end of sermon ... the facts speak for themselves: "Texas has the nation's worst problem with drunk driving in terms of total deaths and injuries. Texas had the highest rate of alcohol involvement in traffic deaths of any populous state, with 50% of traffic fatalities involving alcohol, compared to 37% in California, and 40% in Florida. Only Alaska and Rhode Island have higher rates of fatalities involving alcohol than Texas."
(Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Center for Statistics and Analysis, Research and Development, Traffic Safety Facts 2000 on Alcohol, p. 7; www.window.state.tx.us/etexas2003/gg25.html)
I found this information at the State of Texas Web site via a Google search. Politicians either don't read their own reports or simply prefer to avoid the real road-injury issues.
Now look a little further and it gets worse. The No. 1 killer of Americans ages 3 to 33 is not guns, or violent crime, or cigarettes, or drugs, or terrorism, or any other issue we are fighting a "war" against, but motor vehicle crashes, according the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Partisan SpendingDear Editor,
Let me offer a couple of minor clarifications to Christopher Ringstaff's rebuttal to Vance McDonald ["Postmarks," June 16]. Mr. Ringstaff is correct about the exploitation of a national tragedy as justification to go to war, but neglects to add that to this day 9/11 is uttered nearly every third syllable in a criminal attempt to conflate that tragedy with the quagmire that they've gotten us into. By design, they continue to muddle the issue. Mr. McDonald, on the other hand, is clearly very confused as to who it was that attacked us. It was not the secular regime that we toppled, Vance.
The other point that begs edification is his assertion that Republicans "spend like Democrats." To be sure, both spend. The devil's in the priorities. Liberals have historically used federal spending for social programs designed to keep people from falling through the cracks and to create an environment where everyone has a fair shake.
Conservatism, conversely, refuses to address, or even acknowledge, the inherent and institutional inequities that keep the poor poor. The well-to-do are quite happy with the status quo, which explains why they're overwhelmingly Republican. The anti-affirmative action crowd has benefited in every way conceivable from the very same policy that they rail so strongly against. Their primary mission is to help those who need it least. They spend all right, but they're partial to lavishing bloated (frequently no-bid) contracts. Defense spending to the tune of $1.5 billion a week on a war of choice ($9 billion to date is unaccounted for), and over $1 billion lost by FEMA in the Gulf Coast come to mind. Our money is lost to misplaced priorities, and plenty of graft, corruption, and cronyism thrown in for good measure. The icing on the cake is tax policy as yet another vehicle to enrich the already obscenely wealthy.
Don't Box Northcross InDear Editor,
Please bear with me while I put this in perspective: Northcross Mall is situated minutes from MoPac and 183, it will be within walking distance of a commuter rail station, and it has an established infrastructure of good schools and governmental facilities. Moreover, it is a capstone to the Burnet retail corridor, a street that keeps Austin, well, Austin.
For this reason I find it hard to believe that Lincoln Property wants to simply convert the mall into a big-box center. Do they not see how easy (and profitable) it would be to incorporate new-urbanist principles into their blueprints?
Moreover, I cannot believe that the president of the Allandale Neighborhood Association has already given it her public approval. I can only put faith in the Statesman's track record and assume that they misquoted her.
With the exception of Mueller, Northcross Mall is presently the most lucrative piece of land within the city limits. I am hopeful that the residents of Allandale, our City Council, and the city as a whole will lobby Lincoln Property and help them realize that an alternative to big boxes exists.
Crude Awakening, IndeedDear Editor,
Last year, I served as the director of Crude Awakening, a group dedicated to raising community awareness of peak oil. I organized a town hall meeting on peak oil last summer, which was covered by the Austin Chronicle ["Naked City," News, Aug. 12, 2005]. I wish to state for the public record that I have since resigned from Crude Awakening. While I had hoped to build it into an organization that would promote common sense transportation and energy policies for Austin, the membership gradually became extremist and, in many cases, paranoid. They believe that peak oil means the end of civilization and wish to "prepare" for it. I resigned because I do not wish to have my name associated with such paranoid beliefs.
Go Meatless Before HybridDear Editor,
Al Gore's riveting documentary An Inconvenient Truth has focused public attention on the looming disaster of global warming and the associated flooding of coastal communities, extreme weather conditions, and destruction of wildlife habitats. Global warming is brought on by emission of "greenhouse gases," primarily carbon dioxide and the much more potent methane and nitrous oxide. These gases trap the sun's heat in our atmosphere creating a greenhouse effect.
Most of us blame automotive and industrial emissions. But animal agriculture is a major culprit as well. It emits carbon dioxide from the burning of forests to create animal pastures and from combustion of fossil fuels to operate farm machinery, trucks, refrigeration equipment, factory farms, and slaughterhouses. It emits methane from the digestive tracts of cattle and nitrous oxide from animal waste cesspools.
According to a recent University of Chicago study, a meat-free diet reduces greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide per year as much as switching from an SUV to a hybrid car.
Folks who care about the future of life on Earth would be well advised to consider switching to a meat-free diet even before they switch to a hybrid car.
No Accountablity for CHIP?Dear Editor,
I am a single mother of three, with an ex-husband who has not in the past three years provided health coverage for his children. I cannot afford the coverage through my employer, and I make too much money (I don't know how) to qualify for Medicaid, so in January 2006, I applied for CHIP [Children's Health Insurance Program] for my children. As of today, and after several phone calls and being told that my children do qualify, I still have not received the insurance. I thought that maybe a letter to the editor might draw some much-needed attention to this program and the fact that, since it is a government-funded agency, it seems to have no accountability or responsibility. Please help.