Our readers talk back.
Save Las ManitasDear Editor,
Re: Las Manitas ["My Migas, My City," News, July 21]: So this is progress? Is every vestige of weirdness in Austin doomed?
I've been going to Las Manitas since it was created, and Lidia and Cynthia Pérez are my heroes. Feisty Cynthia always has a wry and very welcome comment on current politics and sometimes she even gives a much-appreciated back rub. (Definitely not the Bush surprise version he stupidly bestowed upon German Chancellor Merkel!)
Other cities have saved social landmarks. As but one example, legendary P.J. Clarke's restaurant in the middle of Manhattan was saved from the wrecking ball when a huge 45-story skyscraper was designated for the block. As the Web site says, the restaurant has stood on its corner site for some 130 years (www.pjclarkes.com).
Of course it didn't fit in with the developer's design to have one corner removed from a building site where the value of land is virtually measured in square inches. But P.J. Clarke's was left virtually undisturbed on its corner, regardless of the cost and design changes necessary.
It's easier and cheaper, of course, for a developer to level a block and start from scratch. But in this instance, a major part of Austin's soul would be destroyed. Can we allow that? I hope not.
Claude M. Gruener
"Of Course It's Doug!'Dear Editor,
Okay, this is getting stupid! I would expect this in the Ohio or Iowa type Chronicle. But The Austin Chronicle? Yes, the guy in the picture with Jerry Wexler is the one and only Sir Dad Sahm ["TCB," Music, July 14]. Why did no one call me or Shawn on such a simple thing as the Atlantic Session photos? How do I know? Well, for one, Dad used to carry a white comb in his back pocket! Plus, the Sahm family has tons of photos of that same session! Still, no phone call to back that up! I'm so sad, Raoul; now that you have confirmation tell everyone, OK? Here's a little bit of info that you don't know ... the Atlantic Session is also the Red Headed Stranger era. Wexler signed Willie right after these sessions! Again, no phone call! You've gotta be on crack! Call next time, OK?
Shandon Sahmp.s. Check out the white comb in his back pocket in the photo.
Austin: Grow Up and Be a City!Dear Editor,
Re: "My Migas, My City" [News, July 21]: The Austin Chronicle apparently can't see the forest for the migas. Austin has already made "a bargain with el diablo" by ignoring its growing population and fighting development at every turn. While Katherine Gregor is getting readers riled up on what are essentially rumors, Austin's culture is already falling apart. Austin has two choices here: Either we get distracted by one block of development while the city continues to sprawl, or we decide that Austin has to grow up and be a real city.
The loss of culture is a legitimate concern, but really, the worst that can happen here is that Las Manitas moves into the La Pena building and has more customers because there are more people Downtown. Maybe they can stay open past 4pm? By the same logic, maybe Escuelita will have more families to serve.
The city and builders know these are valuable businesses. I fear the spirit of cooperation and compromise mentioned at the end of the article will get lost in a knee-jerk reaction to development.
Coverage Not Fair and BalancedDear Editor,
It certainly strikes me as odd that Austin never has had a music critic that is worth a shit. What is really funny is that critics from other parts of the country have a better and fairer handle on the local music scene than the people who write for Austin papers. The Washington Post or The New York Times have more balanced coverage than the Chron ever has.
The problem I have with the Chronicle started with the demise of the Back Room and the lack of coverage of the metal scene in general.
Metal heads and prog rock fans have never had anyone willing to stand up to the nerds at the Chronicle, who would love to rewrite history with the Ramones or the Clash as the Beatles!
I just want to know what the Chronicle plans to do about it? There is a large group of readers that are being left out because the Chron chooses to slam and or ignore certain music styles. I am certainly hoping for a change in a more fair-and-balanced way.
Thank you and goodnight.
Jack Pennington[Editor's note: See this week's Music section for more on this subject.]
A Voice of SanityDear Editor,
Re: Michael Ventura's Got a Light? ["Letters @ 3am," July 21]: I have always enjoyed Mr. Ventura's delightful perspective of the world's woes. His latest article compels me to write and applaud him as a genuine voice of sanity in a seeming world of fruitcake. Bravo.
Just Concrete and More PeopleDear Louis,
I just finished the article about the "new" Downtown project and was so sorry to see such an article ["My Migas, My City," News, July 21]. Of course, it was bound to happen sooner or later.
Just please, please, people, get it done right or Austin will be just like the sucky, uncool, soulless city of Houston. As it is, when I do head toward Austin, all I see from the east side of Elgin (Yes! Elgin) is concrete and more people.
Unnerving and disturbing how we tear up this planet like we have all the rights in the world. My theory/opinion/saying: "Most of the problems on this planet are due to the stupidity of arrogance."
Imagine how hot it will be with all of that concrete in a confined area oh, and how about the demand that will be placed on city services (i.e., water, waste water ...) oh, and how about the traffic when all of those who live Downtown but do not work Downtown leave for their jobs, in those vehicles that will need their "own space."
Later dude. ...
Piece on Jerry Williams GoodDear Editor,
I just stumbled across Bill Bentley's article on Jerry Williams from January while I was trying to find some info on Williams on the Net ["The Lone Ranger," Music, Jan. 27].
I still have a copy of Gone that I bought back in 1980 ... and it has driven me crazy trying to find out what happened to this guy.
I knew he had written a lot of songs, but I never knew he wound up here in my state.
Judging from the topics of other articles Bill has written, I need to check out austinchronicle.com more often.
Oklahoma City, Okla.
Helmets for Car Drivers?Dear Editor,
The city of Austin claims to support clean air and clean transportation. Purchasers of electric or hybrid cars get a year's free parking Downtown. People who walk for transportation get nothing, and now those who bicycle are threatened with a mandatory adult bicycle helmet law. As Bill James notes ["Postmarks," July 21], the state (not the city) has an adult motorcycle helmet law, but most motorbikers are exempt from it, and police do not chase motorcyclists for riding bareheaded. Should the proposed law pass, police will chase bicyclists, but not motorcyclists, for riding without helmets. Would the City Council consider a law requiring riders in electric and hybrid cars, but not in regular gas-guzzlers, to wear race-car helmets?
Helmet law proponents, such as former Mayor Todd, are nearly always sport bicyclists, not utility bicyclists. For them, bicycling is a sport that comes with sports gear. In cities like Amsterdam, where utility cycling is mainstream, people ride bicycles in suits, tight skirts, high heels, and so on. They don't usually wear helmets. And they have far lower death and injury rates than helmeted American bicyclists.
Why do some sports cyclists feel they must force helmets on all utility cyclists? Amateur race-car drivers don't try to put race-car helmets on ordinary motorists, although such helmets would no doubt save lives and reduce medical costs.
In 1996, Austin's City Council unexpectedly imposed an all-ages bicycle helmet law. While circulating a petition to put this law to a vote, I spoke with a young nurse. She said she liked helmet laws because she had seen head trauma in some injured bicyclists. I said, "I bet you've seen a lot more head trauma in people injured in cars." She said yes, that was true. I said, "Would you support a law requiring people in cars to wear race-car helmets? It would save lives and reduce head injuries."
"For cars?" she squeaked, in a voice that went up two octaves. "No!" Then she actually ran away.
Jeffs Just a RuntDear sir,
Thank you so much for your informative and detailed article on Warren Jeffs ["Meet the New Neighbors," News, July 29, 2005]. I live in Britain, and last night there was a TV documentary on Warren Jeffs, and I was just curious to know more. He is a total runt, to put it politely, and to be honest, I doubt very much if the FBI will ever catch him. He has so many followers who believe him to be sent from God that they will keep him from being caught, which is a shame. From what I can gather, he has done so much damage that he needs to be punished. Thanks again for your informative article. Well done.
Drug Laws Not About HealthDear Editor,
Regarding Jim Hightower's thoughtful July 21 column ["The Hightower Report"], if health outcomes determined drug laws instead of cultural norms, marijuana would be legal. Unlike alcohol, marijuana has never been shown to cause an overdose death, nor does it share the addictive properties of tobacco. Like any drug, marijuana can be harmful if abused, but jail cells are inappropriate as health interventions and ineffective as deterrents.
The first marijuana laws were enacted in response to Mexican migration during the early 1900s, despite opposition from the American Medical Association. Dire warnings that marijuana inspires homicidal rages have been counterproductive at best. White Americans did not even begin to smoke pot until a soon-to-be entrenched government bureaucracy began funding reefer madness propaganda.
By raiding voter-approved medical-marijuana providers in California, the very same U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration that claims illicit drug use funds terrorism is forcing cancer and AIDS patients into the hands of street dealers. Apparently marijuana prohibition is more important than protecting the country from terrorism.
The following Virginia Law Review article offers a good overview of the cultural roots of marijuana legislation: www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/Library/studies/vlr/vlrtoc.htm .
For additional historical background please see the Canadian Senate report: www.parl.gc.ca/37/1/parlbus/commbus/senate/com-e/ille-e/rep-e/summary-e.pdf .
Robert Sharpe, MPA
Common Sense for Drug Policy
MetroRail Night Owl Service?Dear Editor,
Capital Metro unveiled its MetroRail line this week ["Naked City," News, July 21]. As a rail-supporting, sometime-bicycling, New Urbanist, music-loving, crunchy-liberal Austinite, I can't help but wonder: Why will the trains only run at rush hour?
The current MetroRail plan serves urban professionals that live or work Downtown. In time, the plan will attract additional development along the line. Great! But, what if you are a night reveler in this town? Will the train serve you?
MetroRail should offer Night Owl Service. Most everyone who has ever headed Downtown for a band, a premiere, a dinner, or even dare I admit it gelato, knows nighttime parking is a bitch. It's either $7 a spot, endless circling, or sharing a sloppy road at 2am. With Austin nightlife an honored institution, it seems that those heading to and from Downtown from 9pm to 2am might prove a loyal rider base. I know I'd certainly ride it then.
But don't listen to me. Apparently I live too near the worst block in Austin.
Defending WhistlersDear Editor,
I would defend whistlers as a group from critics such as Ms. Jackson ["Postmarks," July 14] on the same grounds that I would defend public singing: It is healthy to have a song in one's heart. Indeed, whistlers, singers, and other musically inclined people depend on song to ease them through the mundane and difficult moments of life, and this is why they react with hostility when asked to stop.
Besides, I should think that living in New York with taxicabs, jackhammers, exploding buildings, and Robert De Niro constantly shouting out the window would rather inure a person to the more benign sound of a whisting human being.
Sean Ragan[Editor's note: The article in question is a little piece called "This Blows" by Jay Hardwig and first appeared in The Austin Chronicle in 2000 (austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/issue/story?oid=oid%3A77448). We're thrilled that a feature from a beloved long-lost freelancer is generating interest today. If you are interested in more Jay, check out our author archive: austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/authors/jayhardwig.html.]
Fixing Education Easier Said Than DoneDear Editor,
Golly, thank God all the candidates for governor are going to fix education; now all our kids will be going off to school at Harvard and MIT. Wonder how they're going to "fix" education? The problem is not something a governor or a school superintendent can fix, or they would have, right? This "crisis-in-public-schools" bullshit has been going on for 30 years; one would have to assume that if "the government" had a solution or fix, they would have implemented it, yeah? The problem with public schools is unfit parents and people like our own superintendent, who constantly suggest they can "provide an education." If a parent were not feeding his or her kids, they'd be declared unfit by the state and everyone. Yet, when a parent robs a child of his birthright of achievement, nothing happens. Parents need to be involved in their kids' education; they need to teach their kids to read and do basic math before they get to school; they need to make sure the kids are doing their homework and projects and know what kind of grades they are getting. The big mistake was removing parents from education, and not one candidate has even mentioned parents once in their campaign speeches on "the big fix." Wonder what the cost per grade per student is going to be when they're all making straight A's?
Cars but at What Cost?Dear Editor,
In response to Eric Harwell's letter of July 7 ["Postmarks"]. Yes, there will always be cars but at what cost? I'm a typical 56-year-old American who has owned some sort of car or van since I was 20 years old. And I've loved my cars.
But lately I've had to ask myself some hard questions. What am I going to do when gasoline is $5 or $10 a gallon? I believe the days of cheap oil are coming to an end. As I write this, sweet, light crude is hovering around $75 a barrel. How will I deal with the personal hardships, as gas prices slowly creep up?
One way to change is to drive less; no more compulsive motoring. I own a bicycle now, I walk and take the bus several times a week. I can't change anyone else, but I can change me.
Ethanol and Old CarsDear Editor,
I am all in favor of ethanol. I just have one question, that being, what do those of us who drive older model cars do? My car is 12 years old, and there is no way that I can afford to purchase a new one. I don't believe that my car will run on ethanol; what do I do?
Tolls Levied East of I-35Dear Editor,
I understand that the Chronicle has limited space for news coverage. As is often the case, coverage of toll-road issues leaves out the concerns of people living east of I-35. In a nutshell:
CAMPO has approved building brand-new "free" freeways west of I-35. Not a single mile of new untolled freeway is proposed for east of I-35.
CAMPO will not toll any roads west of I-35 that had previously been funded with gas tax dollars. Every mile of every road east of I-35 that was previously funded with gas tax dollars will be tolled.
CAMPO has approved the tolling of four existing freeway facilities east of I-35. Not a single existing freeway facility west of I-35 is slated for tolls.
CTRMA has publicly stated that toll roads east of I-35 will be used as "cash cows" to subsidize road projects west of I-35.
CTRMA director Mike Heiligenstein said that replacing tolls with increased gas taxes would cost "$2 to $3 dollars per gallon." CAMPO staff estimated the cost at "1.6 to 2.1 cents per gallon."
None of the new "free" freeway projects proposed for the CAMPO area are located in Travis County. Travis County gas tax payments will be shifted to other counties' "pass-through financing" projects to subsidize sprawl, or the Trans-Texas Corridor boondoggle.
US 183S, if built as current plans propose, will have 18 lanes where it crosses the Colorado River.
Applauding MoserDear Editor,
Thank you Stephen Moser for contibuting to beauty and peace in Austin: first, by publishing that exquisite photograph in your column ["After a Fashion," Arts, July 14]. It is a work of art. Second, by reminding parents that their child-rearing responsibilities do not cease when they walk into a restaurant.
I applaud you,