Our readers talk back.

Cherish Las Manitas

Dear Editor,

My job recently relocated me to St. Louis, and I still refer to Austin as my home. I am compelled to write after reading the "David vs. Goliath" article in regards to Las Manitas and [J. Willard] Marriott ["Point Austin," News, Sept. 29], and just wanted to say there's no place like Austin. I hope Austin's citizens and businesses can find a way to keep Austin growing without stripping its charm and character away. A lot of Austintatious landmarks have already closed for the sake of growth. I mean, how often do we wish the Armadillo was still around? As my bumper sticker states as I drive past the Arch each morning, "On Earth as it is in Austin."

Don't mess with ATX,

Cecilia Martinez

St. Louis

A Lease Is a Legal Document

Dear Editor,

Re: "Tough Tacos" ["Point Austin," News, Sept. 29]: Does Gus Garcia really believe that it is the job of the City Council to meddle in the affairs of private citizens or businesses to end this bullshit? The taco place [Las Manitas] is in a tough spot, but a lease is a legal document, and when your stay is up, that may be the end. The property owner does have some rights left. How about a boycott of the new hotel? I am ready right now to state that I will never spend any money or time in that new hotel. Remember Gus, money talks and bullshit walks.

Ken Weigand

Think Taxes Not Tacos

Dear Editor,

Re: "Tough Tacos" ["Point Austin," News, Sept. 29]: I work Downtown, and I have eaten at Las Manitas a few times. I moved to Austin in 1981, the same year the cafe opened. I just don't see this place as worthy of so much attention. I very much admire Gus Garcia, but in my opinion there are better restaurants in the area. I won't mention names since they are already too crowded at lunch. The bigger issue to me is the impact on the vast majority of Austin residents who never set foot in the place but pay property taxes. Check the Travis Central Appraisal District information on the properties in question, and compare them to the others recently developed nearby. The way I see it, the property owners will pay significantly more when the property is developed. Several million more dollars in tax revenue for Austin schools seems like a pretty good reason to support this development, especially given the concessions already offered by the owners to the renters. I have urged our City Council to support an equitable solution that represents the majority of the city's citizens/taxpayers. I haven't seen a dime from the property-tax cut promised by the Republicans, but I can do the math on this issue.

Glen Shield

Protect Small Businesses

Dear Editor,

Reading J. Willard Marriott's let-them-eat-cake comments regarding Las Manitas' fate ["Point Austin," News, Sept. 29], makes me think he's forgotten his own humble beginnings as a small-business owner. Saving Las Manitas is critical to the concept of keeping Austin's small businesses thriving by saying no to multimillion-dollar investors who choose to profit at the expense of our city's flavor and culture and history. A solution must be found that allows the small businesses that have made Austin unique, like Las Manitas, to survive alongside carefully controlled new development. Let the solution set the standard – that our longtime cherished small businesses and landmarks are every bit as important to Austinites as new high-rise growth.

Jann Alexander

Questions 'Urbanist' Design

Dear Editor,

Re: Mueller ["Building Utopia," News, Sept. 29]: Since at least 2000, Mueller has been promoted exclusively through imagery of dynamic, well-structured, populated streetscapes and has been described as "urbanist." And yet, the very first building on the site, the Dell Children's Medical Center, abandons urban site-planning principles entirely. In classically suburban corporate-campus tradition, the building is a rambling form dropped in the center of its block, protected from the street by expanses of landscaping and parking lots. More disturbing is the site planning of the regional retail, which is nothing more than a large-scale strip center. The buildings are pushed to the periphery behind a large parking lot that covers the majority of the block.

I applaud Catellus for their commitment to green building, affordable housing, and access for minority- and women-owned businesses, but I would like to see a similar commitment to the urbanist principals that were used so aggressively to sell the Mueller concept.

Mark Zatopek

Mueller No Utopia

Dear Editor,

The Mueller "utopia" is a great deal if you do not know how to do math, don't consider interest, and spin the project like the city, project managers, and neighborhood/environmental cartel have done ["Building Utopia," News, Sept. 29]. It sounds better if you smoke some crack while you look at the balance sheet.

The land was given away, and the development cost is being paid for with city bonds. The zoning is a sweetheart deal at five-plus net residential units per acre (4,000/771 – not counting commercial and civic uses). No cost, no risk, and all profit. My house cats could make a fortune out of a deal like that.

Simple math – $48 million in bonds to pay development cost – $62,257/acre (or $652 million total cost at 4% over 20 years = $846,000/acre). The land should have been worth $200,000/acre or $154,200,000 (which would be worth $2.1 billion over 20 years at 4%).

The spin is that we have "utopia," it pays for itself in only 20 years and is "gravy after that." Actually we have one of the most expensive developments imaginable – close to $1 million an acre in city subsidies ($200,000 per lot). The reality is that the city could have sold the land to a for-profit developer, let the market drive the design (or give them the sweetheart zoning), and let them produce the same tax base in much less time, while paying the development cost. Tax revenue is the same or greater, and the city has $154 million in cash to pay for park maintenance, invest, or other cool stuff. It is all "gravy" from the start, just like all developments built with private equity.

The value of indulging the egos of goofy neighborhood groups, city bureaucrats, and blow-hard politicians all of whom believe they know how to create and manage development, may be "priceless," but the real cost in dollars when you aren't squandering someone else's money is a complete disaster for taxpayers.

Mueller is a "model" for how to steal from the public and take credit for creating "utopia" without accounting for any of the costs.


David Smith

Cedar Park

Good Article on Mueller

Dear Editor,

Re: Mueller article ["Building Utopia," News, Sept. 29]: Bravo! I haven't read many articles in the Chronicle lately until I saw this one. (You've upgraded since I last checked in.) I knew little about Mueller except what I noticed from driving I-35. A project like this deserves in-depth, well-articulated reporting with community-building, inclusive language. You captured that with a refreshing lack of spin. I feel like this is a project we all own and can be proud of. Well done.

Paul Gautier

Tribute Moving and Beautiful

Dear Editor,

Re: Your Sept. 29 article by Mark Rubin on Don Walser ["Song for My Father," Music]: Mark, thank you for one of the most moving, beautiful tributes I've ever read. I'm glad Don was fortunate to have had you as a friend. Good luck to you, and I hope to read more of your gifted writing.

Stan Purser


Road-Planning Like Metaphysics

Dear Editor,

I am writing in praise of your transportation reporter Kimberly Reeves. Ms. Reeves understands the politics and financing of Austin roads, which is roughly equivalent to understanding metaphysics ["Cease-Fire Ends in Southwest Road Wars," News, Sept. 22]. When our coalition in Oak Hill, Fix 290, got under way, she sat through an entire (somewhat boring) meeting at the Oak Hill Library taking notes. Later she came back to Oak Hill and spent well more than an hour listening to us and looking at our maps and diagrams. Again she took meticulous notes. Ms. Reeves and the Chronicle are covering our grassroots work in a fair and accurate way. I am grateful to her for giving us a fair shake as we work to save the magnificent live oaks of Oak Hill.

Nina Butts

Fix 290 Coalition

Oak Hill

Obsolete Gamer Bigotry

Dear Editor,

In his shallow and sloppy review of Saints Row [Screens, Sept. 29], presumably aimed at gamers who were considering buying this THQ video game, Jeremy Martin writes, "Ever want to implant your flabby gamer ass in the middle of a street gang? Here's your chance to make an eerily similar-looking – though infinitely more badass – digitized doppelgänger. There are no options for adding acne, armpit stains, or social awkwardness to your player, however, so he'll probably be an inexact copy."

Aside from the provable inaccuracy of this obsolete bigotry – I can introduce Mr. Martin to a hardcore gamer with a 60th-level EverQuest monk and a brown belt in kung fu, who can cream Martin's pasty butt three falls for three – this passage is interesting, in that both writer and editor decided it makes good sense to openly insult the target reader. Could you clarify why?

Will Jeremy Martin carry this unusual stylistic choice to, say, the Food section of the Chronicle? "You'll like the Kansas City strip at Ruth's Chris Steak House, assuming you can haul your football-shaped carcass from your Hummer and plant your obscene lardass at the table without shattering your chair."

What about music? "A memorial service for country-music legend Don Walser will be held this Sunday for all the inbred, bucktoothed, yodel-happy hayseeds who couldn't find their way out of the trailer park in time for the last service."

And just imagine Jeremy Martin's approach to "The Gay Place," Cinco de Mayo, and Martin Luther King's birthday!

Let us know how this career strategy works out for you, Mr. Martin.

Allen Varney

Review Does Injustice to Edson

Music editor,

I take serious issue with your review of Johnny Edson's album ["Texas Platters," Music, Sept. 29]. Johnny and I have been friends for more than 30 years, and I was in Uncle Uh Uh. When that band disbanded, I continued playing music because of the quality of Johnny's songs. He didn't want to perform in public at that time, and I thought America needed his quirky, intelligent, and catchy songs. Indeed, I formed a band, Ain't Misbehavin, which was sustained for our four years together by many of Johnny's songs. When we play our reunion gigs, as we have done several times at Antone's, the room is filled with people calling out for his material.

His ability to put together quality musicians in the studio is a two-way street – we love playing Johnny's songs. His smart lyrics and memorable melodies keep us coming back.

As I've said many times when people have told me they don't get my music: Sometimes the biggest compliments come in the form of insults from people whose opinions I have no respect for – your review would be an example of that. So, I've gotta ask – why would you even review the thing?

Keep up the good work, Johnny, and we will continue to listen and show up.


Herman Bennett

Missing True Art of Mars Volta

Dear Editor,

I was shocked when I read Darcie Stevens' review of the new Mars Volta album ["Texas Platters," Music, Sept. 29]. I urge readers to give the album a listen despite the two-star ranking. One thing that must be taken into account when listening to such a band is that they are not merely making music; they are painting with sound. Each song paints a picture, some larger than others obviously (with "Tetragrammaton" at 17 minutes), but each revolves around a central theme of fear and confusion derived from religious piety. They use sound to build and shape the listeners' experience much as Dalí used random images and realistic figures in surreal surroundings to create his masterpieces. When you're appreciating art, you cannot just stroll through the gallery, you have to actually evaluate the symbols involved in the work. The song "Asilos Magdalena," which got dismissed as cheesy, is actually a heartbreaking song told from the point of view of Mary Magdalene about the loss of Jesus. "Tetragrammaton" covers a true story of a woman thought to be possessed by the devil who was choked to death by a monk to exercise the demon. Each song uses lush and elaborate arrangements with cryptic, but beautiful, lyrical symbols. It's far more than "druggy boredom" or "brain-fried wankery"; it is epic musical painting. I think Darcie Stevens was just looking at pictures rather than enjoying the true art within the music.

Thomas Yarbrough

Doesn't Caligiuri Get It?!

Dear Editor,

Re: Mr. Caligiuri's "review" of John Edson's latest release, More Than Friends ["Texas Platters," Music, Sept. 29]: Do you think John Edson slept with Mr. Caligiuri's significant other? Or maybe some other really talented singer-songwriter slept with Mr. Caligiuri's significant other? Or maybe Mr. Caligiuri is just cranky? Whatever the reason, something distracted Mr. Caligiuri when he listened to John Edson's More Than Friends CD while he was supposed to be reviewing it. What a pity – it's a great album.

If he had really listened to More Than Friends, Mr. Caligiuri might have caught the subtle humor in songs like, "Waitin' for Water to Boil" and "Father Time." Also, if he had truly cared about this assignment, Mr. Caligiuri might have commented on the cool cover songs that Mr. Edson chose to include on this CD like "Meditation," "Wabash Blues," and "Wolverton Mountain." I mean, come on – "Wolverton Mountain"! Nobody has the courage to do that song – but Johnny did it with feeling!

It's true that many of the players on the album could have phoned in their parts, but they/we all showed up because we all like Johnny and think that he is one of the most original, coolest, hippest songwriters alive today. I encourage Mr. Caligiuri to call any of the players on More Than Friends and ask them what they think about the recording sessions and the CD.

Doesn't Mr. Caligiuri get it? Sorry, stupid question. Based on the past and current reviews I have read, I can only hope that Mr. Caligiuri gets fired or gets a clue. Dig deeper, and try harder, Mr. Caligiuri.


Craig Calvert

Two Very Different Paths

Dear poet novelist,

Re: "Letters @ 3am" [Sept. 29]: Thanks for your brutally honest description of what would-be artists have in store when they travel that tough road.

Ninety-nine percent of what I read about being an artist is how great it is. The truth is that it can be very challenging and sometimes outright depressing.

Ever since I was young I wanted to write songs and play music, but instead I chose the safer road and studied science and have maintained a comfortable lifestyle and good career. On the other hand, my former classmate and bandmate got into a situation where he just went for it, dropping out of school, and has lived the dream as the singer for R.E.M. That really skewed my thinking. That must be a statistical outlier. However, it says that one can make a living at art.

I'd be interested in an actual survey of Austin artists and musicians.

I am soon approaching a point where I need to provide career advice to my teenage daughter, who is both musically and academically inclined. Two very different paths into the forest of life.

Craig Franklin

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