Our readers talk back.
LCRA Has Forgotten Its MissionDear Editor,
Kudos to Amy Smith for her article on the current outcry among LCRA's electric customers tired of subsidizing LCRA's unprofitable water and wastewater division ["Who's Paying for the LCRA Growth?," News, Oct. 6]. The newly formed Wholesale Power Alliance is rightly upset that their electric rates (and rate increases) subsidize LCRA's water department expansion.
In general manager Joe Beal's quest to grow, LCRA has been taking on debt (and losses) to extend water pipelines across the Hill Country and over the fragile Barton Springs Watershed.
Why build the waterlines? To provide developers with the infrastructure they need to build high-density mega-subdivisions in the Hill Country. Electric rates should not be used to subsidize Hill Country developers at the expense of both LCRA's electric customers and the health and well-being of the Colorado River, the Highland Lakes, and the Edwards and Trinity aquifers.
With its sprawl-inducing infrastructure spending, LCRA violates its obligation in its mission statement to "ensure the protection and constructive use of the area's natural resources." LCRA is no longer bringing electricity to hardscrabble farmers living without modern conveniences. LCRA is subsidizing big-time developers and Hill Country sprawl, plain and simple.
One way to make LCRA more accountable to its rate payers and the public would be to have LCRA board members elected by citizens in the Lower Colorado River basin, rather than appointed by the governor as current law provides.
Thanks again for the reporting that we won't find elsewhere.
Save Our Springs Alliance
Imagine How Stupid I FeelDear Editor,
As a former Chronicle music writer, I can't believe it never occurred to me to contact former Chronicle contributer Spike Gillespie and ask her if she happens to be married to the former lead singer of a band I was reviewing so that she could help me correct any potential factual errors and offer input on what my opinion of the record should be ["Postmarks," Oct. 13].
You can only imagine how stupid I feel.
Lone Star Circle of Care Proud of Family-Planning ProgramDear Editor,
In response to Jordan Smith's "Planned Parenthood Slashed Again" [News] article, dated Oct. 6, in which she mentions my organization, Lone Star Circle of Care:
Midway through the initial family-planning grant cycle, it was apparent that we would not be able to spend the entire award; therefore we returned one-third of our funds to be redistributed appropriately. After the redistribution, LSCC successfully spent 100% of our Title X funds and 67% of our Title XX funds for the initial grant cycle, a total of $314,000. This grant period ended Aug. 31, 2006, so Ms. Smith's assertion that we had only spent 10% of the funds by July 11 does not accurately reflect our performance.
We did not receive more funds than requested for the second grant cycle, despite Ms. Smith's reporting. Unlike our first application, we had eight months of experience with the program and had a baseline for our 2006-2007 projections; we fully expect to spend 100% of the $598,000 we requested and received to serve 3,600 family-planning patients.
In just 10 months, we have built a family-planning panel of 1,090 patients. Because we are an FQHC, these patients have access to a multitude of services beyond their family-planning needs, including medical, dental, mental health, chronic disease management, low-cost medications, and comprehensive OB/GYN care led by a full-time obstetrician who provides prenatal, labor and delivery, and postpartum care. We are a medical home to uninsured and underinsured people in need. This year we will serve more than 13,000 patients.
I am proud of the work LSCC has been able to accomplish in our two years as an FQHC and four years of existence and am confident that our family-planning program will continue to flourish.
Pete Perialas, CEO
Lone Star Circle of Care[Jordan Smith responds: I am pleased to hear that local FQHC Lone Star Circle of Care (formerly Georgetown Community Clinic) is steadily building its family-planning clientele, an important step for ensuring that needy women do not slip through the reproductive health-care net as a result of last year's legislative decision to reprioritize family-planning funding allocations in order to fund all FQHCs first including the newest providers, like LSCC before funding traditional providers, like Planned Parenthood. I've neither implied or asserted that FQHCs are unworthy of funding, or are somehow incapable of providing these fundamental health-care services. Rather, I take issue with the political motivation behind the funding shift, which has created a bizarre environment in which entities that should be partners in providing women's health-care services are now pitted against one another for funding. That is unconscionable. Indeed, LSCC was one of a number of providers that returned funding to the Department of State Health Services at midyear because they were unable to use the funds as expected. This does not mean the FQHCs are bad, but it does expose a flaw inherent in the decision to so radically shift funding priorities in such a short period of time. Although those FY06 funds were reallocated, the damage to many non-FQHC providers, such as Planned Parenthood, was already done: Clinic hours and services were drastically cut, meaning some women in need were left without care and no midyear reallocation could correct that.
As to whether LSCC received more funding than it initially requested for FY07: The funding amounts I reported were taken directly from DSHS documents, which note LSCC requested "less than level funding" for FY07. Nonetheless, DSHS-prepared spreadsheets ultimately show LSCC was granted additional funds, for an FY07 total of $598,500.]
Stand Up for Equal RightsDear Editor,
Atticus Circle is absolutely thrilled to be named Best Straight People in the Critics Picks in this year's "Best of Austin" [Oct. 13].
Many thanks to the Chronicle for recognizing our efforts to get people to Stand Up Straight for Equal Rights.
Townies Need More Fresh Air?Dear Editor,
Picked up the Oct. 13 ["Best of Austin"] issue yesterday, looked at the drag king and queen cover, and thought: 1) Good thing I already just ate lunch. 2) Is it Halloween already? 3) Maybe you townies ought to get outdoors in the fresh air a little more often.
La Punta de Los Muertos
Thanks, AustinDear Editor,
To my surprise and delight, I opened the "Best of Austin" issue [Oct. 13] of the Chronicle last Thursday to find out I had been voted Best Clothing Designer in the Readers Poll! This was so unexpected, I was not even aware that the category existed. I just want to sincerely thank all the people out there, friends or not, who voted for me. It is such a testament to how much you can accomplish if you have the love and support of your community, the desire to create high-quality, yet accessible, products and put all of your energy into something that you really want to do.
So, thank you Austin! I love you, too!
Chiap.s. To Austin Chronicle: I would have totally come to the reception last Wednesday night, but I was not notified about my win or invited to the party. Thanks to whoever wrote my blurb you very aptly described my work.
'Chronicle' Credulously Swallows Load of CrapDear Editor,
Whoever wrote the fawning copy for the award for the McMansion ordinance [Best New and Potentially Sexy Zoning Ordinance in Austin, "Best of Austin," Oct. 13] needs to come over for a visit. On my street, this abomination is going to prevent me from building a second story or a garage apartment (both on existing footprints) for my growing family; and my next-door neighbors (family of five living in 1,050 square feet) must choose between demolishing an existing garage apartment, in which the kids' aunt lives, or foregoing most of their second floor. Or, as seems more likely, moving out of central Austin. All this while every other lot on the block has at least two dwelling units on it already.
This ordinance simply hurts families who weren't here early enough or aren't rich enough to have bought large lots and it will lead to a net decline in affordable housing in the central city as people demolish existing garage apartments or fail to build new ones.
Most of the task force that drew up this abomination lives in homes which violate the spirit, if not technically the letter, of this ordinance (their homes are certainly as large or larger than anything I'd build under the old rules). Shame on the Chronicle for credulously swallowing this load of crap.
Internecine Warfare Among the Landed GentryDear Editor,
I suppose the McMansion ordinance does protect "you and me" so long as "you and me" doesn't include the working and middle class families struggling to stay in what is rapidly becoming a childless city [Best New and Potentially Sexy Zoning Ordinance in Austin, "Best of Austin," Oct. 13]. And no, I don't mean rich people who think they need a 4,000-square-foot McMansion to raise one or two kids.
I'm talking about people who have to stretch to afford the smallest house on the smallest lot. Already that is beyond the means of a first-time buyer making the median income in practically all of central Austin. They buy hoping to expand later, perhaps funding it with a garage apartment or converting to a duplex.
(The Planning Commission, in fact, commented on the Task Force's hostility to secondary dwellings and duplexes and suggested modifications which the City Council ignored in the face of NIMBY pressure. I thought we wanted more density and less sprawl?)
The standard response is to say these families just need to go for approval to the "citizen review board" composed of the same mix of singles, DINKs, and affluent families who came up with this ordinance. Can they not see how this institutionalizes middle- and working-class families as second-class citizens in this dictatorship of the bohemitariat? A family should not have to go before a board to see if their fellow citizens particularly those who have no concept of the challenges of raising a family find them worthy to remain in their own home.
You also state that this protects "the little guy" from "yuppies." How does someone who can afford a $350,000 "bohemian" bungalow in Hyde Park or Bouldin not qualify as a "yuppie"? This is not about protecting "the little guy," it's internecine warfare among the landed gentry.
Dissent Is PatrioticDear Editor,
We all have heard dissent is patriotic. It's not only patriotic, but necessary for a democracy. This can be as simple as voting independent. Since both parties are owned by lobbyists and special interests, why not vote for Kinky Nov. 7? Without dissent, we all would have a British accent.
Dead People Can and Do VoteDear Editor,
I love Eyebeam [Oct. 13], and I voted for Hank way back when, but Sam Hurt is wrong: Nonexistent and dead persons can vote. Remember Tammany Hall, Daly's Chicago, and Duval County? (All Democrat operations.) They would have voted in Florida, but the Supreme Court got in the way. And Hank, of all people, should know that they can win elections, too. So, why isn't Hank running for governor?
Nader Is Still the AnswerDear Editor,
Bravo to Michael Ventura for his detailed assessment of our thief-in-chief's recent burning of the Bill of Rights ["Letters @ 3am," Oct. 13]. When George W. says that there is still an enemy our there who wants to harm you, he's right. Yes America, your president and his administration are enemies of the people of this once-great country. They attacked on 9/11, and they'll do it again. And now we see and you see, Michael, how little the Democrats as a whole will do to march right along. So will you continue to paint independent candidates like Ralph Nader, who demand more resistance, as being "election spoilers" and at odds with progress?
Use Dollars to Influence KUTDear Editor,
"How do we keep KUT from drifting [off track]?" asks Stuart McDow ["Postmarks," Oct. 13]. Here are two choices.
Continue to support KUT, but give J. Stewart Vanderwilt, station manager and architect of the "new" KUT, your 2 cents' worth when you renew your KUT membership. Simply add 2 cents to your pledge and express your support of a return to what made KUT a special Austin radio station a great variety of music and not much spoken word.
Or, do what I did. After 20-some years of support, I did not renew my KUT membership last spring. Too many "Support for KUT comes from" commercials ruin the flow of music, programming changes reflect a cold, corporate attitude, and veteran deejays like John Aielli continue to have their on-air hours cut. Yes, that same Aielli who once again was voted Best Radio Deejay in the 2006 Chronicle "Best of Austin" poll [Oct. 13].
City Denies Voters' RightsTo the editor,
In the upcoming city of Austin bond election, voters should be as interested in what is not on the ballot as what is up for a vote. For many years, the city government has been depriving voters of their prescribed rights in the city charter.
Article 7, Section 11 of the city charter states, "All revenue bonds issued by the city shall first be authorized by a majority of qualified electors voting at an election held for this purpose." Revenue bonds fund our municipally owned electric and water utilities. The city government has been defying this charter provision for well more than a decade.
There are several reasons for this. One is that many City Council members and staff believe routine bond-funded utility maintenance should not be left to the voters. But usurping the voters' rights does not allow the people to participate in major policy decisions. Should Austin buy a coal plant or (!!!) another nuke? Should the city build a water-treatment plant on parkland or endangered-wildlife habitat? Should rate payers even fund a new water plant at all if it is cheaper to delay the need through conservation? All these decisions can currently be made without voter approval.
Financial issues are also at stake. Utility decisions affect the city's economy through utility bills. Since 1996, $711 million of utility bonds have been passed without voter approval. And a new natural-gas power plant was funded with electric utility overcharges that were not approved by the voters either. (These overcharges were illegal, since they were levied without a rate case.)
The bottom line is your bottom line. Your rights are being denied by a city government that thinks it is above accountability. And you pay for their unaccountability in your bills.
I want my vote back. Do you?
Please Add 'Get Your War On'Dear Editor,
So why aren't y'all publishing Get Your War On yet?
GYWO is funny as hell. We even had a local theatre group make a play about it that managed to get some national attention.
Please add Get Your War On (www.mnftiu.cc/mnftiu.cc/war58.html) to the Chronicle's comic repertoire.
Question About RaceDear Editor,
Here's my dilemma; I don't love any of this current crop of gubernatorial candidates as much as I'd love seeing Rick Perry out of office. I'd vote for Chiquita Banana if it'd guarantee Rick Perry a one-way ticket back to North Texas. Question: Does one wait till midnight on Nov. 6 slavishly following the polls to determine how to proceed, or is "Governor Good Hair" truly a fait accompli cause we're all over the map this time?
Tito's Vodka FanDear Editor,
I've been devoted to Tito's Vodka for a couple of years, done my share of spreading the word, and am delighted with the story about it ["Beveridge Man," Food, April 19, 2002].
I make occasional trips to Austin and will be conducting a family tour there this weekend (Oct. 14-15) for relatives from New Orleans and Dallas. In the four years since you wrote "Beveridge Man," I suspect improvements have been made across from the Charro Rodeo site and would love to see with my own eyes how Tito makes vodka.
Voting for KinkyDear Editor,
I'm a-votin' for Kinky Friedman! Yes, sir. I remember Mayor McClellan saying, "The voters are confused," the second time we voted down the South Texas Nuclear Project. Then "they" pushed it through again, timing the election for when the students were out of town. What kind of democracy is this where the moneyed elite keep on pushing until they get their way?
That's former Mayor Carol Keeton McClellan Rylander Strayhorn, former Democrat and former Republican. Yeah, you can really trust her!
And Rick Perry, he's just a loan shark land-grabber with helmet hair.
And who knows who the Dem candidate is? All I know is when Victor Morales ran against Sen. Phil Gramm and had a chance of winning, the Democratic Party hacks didn't give him more than a small, insulting bit of money. Upstart uppity Chicano schoolteacher trying to act like this is a democracy where any American can hope to win! The nerve!
Kinky Is Not a Funny JokeDear Editor,
Kinky is a joke and not a funny one. He's a two-dimensional character no better than any politician. He doesn't know anything about what the job of governor requires and made a fool of himself at the debate. And what is up with him having Jesse "the Body" Ventura speaking on his behalf? That's supposed to help him? Ventura is a bigger moron than Kinky. He's an ex-WWF wrestler for God sakes. Kinky will never win; Leslie has a better chance.
To All Friends of Civil LibertiesDear friends of civil liberties at The Austin Chronicle,
Thank you for giving the ACLU of Texas the "Best of Austin" nod for Best Card-Carrying Canaries in the Political Coal Mine [Oct. 13]. We're real proud to receive it.
The reason that ACLU is doing more than ever before to guard liberty is because so many more people are standing with us. Our membership has doubled nationally since 9/11 and more than doubled here in Texas to almost 17,000. We're using our growing strength to assure, confidently and effectively, that no one is above the law's authority and no one is beneath the law's protection.
We encourage folks to get involved with the ACLU of Texas. Start at our Web site, www.aclutx.org, where you can learn about our work, connect with our volunteer-led Central Texas Chapter, and sign up to get e-mail alerts whenever the bad guys try to sneak another unconstitutional initiative past a scandal-weary public.
Yours in liberty,
Director of development
God Save the Kinkster!Dear Editor,
God save the Union; I'm voting for Kinky. He seems to be the only honest choice, and if he accomplishes what he wants to do, we will be better served. If not, and the ship sinks like it already has, at least there won't be an oil slick left, and the captain will go down with the ship. Vote Kinky '06, but definitely vote!
'Best of' Thank YouDear Editor,
Please tell everyone a big "Thank you!" from all of us at PinkDome.com ["Best of Austin," Oct. 13]. Two years in a row! We're very honored and appreciate the recognition very much. It was especially nice after the San Antonio Current totally trashed us the day before ... those bitches.
Join us for Veuve Clicquot on election night at the Stephen F., and we'll make out with all y'all.
Peace in Iraq?Dear Editor,
The only way peace will come to Iraq is when the country is divided into Kurdistan, Shiiastan, and Sunnistan. Each country can keep their militias, and each gets a share of the oil.
At $2 billion a week, couldn't we have bought all the real estate in Iraq by now?
Michael D. Noren