Our readers talk back.
Opposes McMansion OrdinanceDear Editor,
I was disappointed to see that the Chronicle has been beguiled by the screw-the-rich rhetoric of the McMansion proponents [Best New and Potentially Sexy Zoning Ordinance in Austin, "Best of Austin," Oct. 13].
The McMansion ordinance benefits large-home owners at the expense of small-home owners; makes Central Austin increasingly inhospitable to families; obstructs the natural process of densification; condemns us to a creaky (but expensive) inventory of increasingly substandard housing; maintains an unfair share of the tax burden on modest properties; stifles innovative design; hands over aesthetic regulation to reactionary neighborhood groups; penalizes two-car garages; encourages smaller yards; and further lengthens the lead time for new construction, the cost of which falls on buyers.
That's a lot for one ordinance to live down. It's not worth the right to "lounge naked in your back yard" with the "crickets and salamanders." (If you're lounging naked with crickets and salamanders, odds are you're not paying $350,000 or more for a central Austin home.)
If the McMansion ordinance was the "best" new zoning ordinance, Austin's in a lot of trouble.
'Chronicle's Grammatical FailuresDear Editor,
I'm flabbergasted. Reviewing Flags of Our Fathers [Film Listings, Oct. 20], Marjorie Baumgarten writes: "It is impossible not to find resonance ..."
I can't remember the last time a Chronicle writer let an infinitive slip by unsplit. I'm surprised Baumgarten wasn't caught and sent back with orders to write "impossible to not find resonance" 100 times.
Anyway, I'm glad she got away with it. I hope it's the beginning of a rebellion.
What Ends Up Penalized?Dear Editor,
Describing Dripping Springs and its mayor, Todd Purcell, The Austin Chronicle wrote, "His city would end up penalized for its tougher water-quality regulations if other cities and counties failed to join him" (in adopting the Regional Water Quality Protection Plan) ["Naked City," News, Oct. 13].
Of course we urge other jurisdictions to adopt the plan's higher water-quality standards, but how could tougher water-quality regulations possibly put Dripping Springs at a disadvantage when it is already overwhelmed with new development and has more knocking on the door?
Dripping Springs has a huge ETJ covering about 25% or more of Hays County that is greatly desired by developers, and having strong water-quality regulations can only enhance property values and help to maintain the quality of life that draws so many people to its ETJ. It's the mayor and his obedient City Council who are penalizing us in the ETJ. We get the development and its problems. Purcell gets the impact fees for his pet projects. The ETJ gets Belterra and its request for direct discharge of wastewater effluent into our streams. Purcell gets development fees to help pay for a debt-crushing $15 million central sewer that will serve only a portion of the city's 1,500 population.
Despite concerns of 20,000 disenfranchised citizens in the ETJ who cannot vote in city elections, and disenchanted city residents, Purcell pursues his personal vision for Dripping Springs and pays for it with high-density development in the ETJ.
Charles O'Dell, PhD
Dripping Springs ETJ[Editor's note: A clarification: as Kimberly Reeves reported, "Mayor Todd Purcell said his city would end up penalized for its tougher water-quality regulations if other cities and counties failed to join him." We reported accurately what the mayor said, and Charles O'Dell's disagreement is with the mayor.]
I Am a LibertarianDear Editor,
As the Libertarian candidate for governor of Texas, I was not surprised by the Chronicle's endorsement of my opponent Chris Bell ["Endorsements," Oct. 20]. I did, however, get a nice chuckle out of your description of me as an "extremist Republican" ["Endorsements" online, Oct. 20].
While it may have escaped your notice, I am the only explicitly pro-immigrant candidate in the race for governor. I am the only candidate who opposes discrimination against gays, and I have called for the repeal of all laws and constitutional amendments that so target them. I am the only candidate who has demanded an end to the cruel and destructive "War on Drugs." And I am the only candidate who favors strict civil liability against Texas polluters.
It is true that I am a fiscal conservative but I can assure you that given my pro-freedom agenda, Republicans have even less use for me than you do.
Libertarian candidate for governor
Bell Best ShotDear Chronicle,
I was happy to see that you endorsed Chris Bell and are telling it like it is about Kinky Friedman ["Endorsements," Oct. 20]. Like many progressives, when I first heard of Kinky's candidacy I was intrigued and thought I might support him. But as time has gone by, I feel alarmed that his presence in this race could be just the thing that tips the scale and keeps Rick Perry in the Governor's Mansion.
To your readers who are supporting Kinky because he's a maverick, or "Why the hell not?" I say, if you are truly a progressive, take a look at what Bell stands for and don't make assumptions just because he's from a major party that has disappointed all of us. Then ask yourself, what do you really know about Kinky and what has he come out in support of that makes you think he'll improve things for our children, our teachers, our minimum-wage earners?
We might have a chance to get rid of Perry, but it won't be by voting for Kinky. And Bell is much more than the lesser of evils.
Attacks Bell EndorsementDear Editor,
In endorsing Chris Bell ["Endorsements," Oct. 20], the Chronicle staff apparently overlooked Bell's very conservative stands on several important issues. In recent campaign appearances, including an interview on Texas Monthly Talks, Bell has said he supports the death penalty and opposes legalizing marijuana possession. Worse yet, he opposes gay marriage.
I know that in Texas, it would be political suicide for any gubernatorial candidate to publicly support equal rights for gays and lesbians. But running for governor in a state full of homophobic bigots is no excuse for promoting homophobia or bigotry. As a so-called "liberal" candidate, Bell should be ashamed of himself for his anti-gay rhetoric.
Is Bell himself a bigot, or is he just pandering to bigots? The answer doesn't really matter. Either way, the Chronicle staff should never endorse a candidate who opposes gay marriage and, in effect, supports discrimination.
I realize that Bell has taken progressive stances on issues such as health insurance and education, and he's a far better candidate than Governor Goodhair, Grandma Strayhorn, or Kinky Friedman. But his anti-gay views are disgusting and inexcusable, and should disqualify him from holding any public office. For this reason, the Chronicle should change its endorsement in the gubernatorial election to "none of the above."
Don Clinchy[Editor's note: A clarification: Democrat Chris Bell has said he does not support gay marriage, but he strongly opposed the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, because, he said, "It's designed to drive a wedge instead of building bridges. I support civil unions, because everyone deserves equal protection." More broadly, we don't believe that a Chronicle endorsement requires that we agree with a candidate on every issue.]
Nobody Talked!Dear Editor,
I saw Jenny Lewis do a great show at Stubb's last night, and I was floored by the fact that nobody talked loudly, laughed, or yapped on his cell phone during the quiet songs. You could hear a pin drop. In the past, that has absolutely killed my concertgoing experience in this town. I'm probably too optimistic in thinking this is a new trend, but it was a nice change.
SOS Supports Proposition 2Dear Editor,
Thank you for Katherine Gregor's informative article on the varying definitions of "conservation development" being discussed in Travis and Hays counties ["Save as We Pave," News, Oct. 20]. To be sure, we need our local governments to take action to make all development less harmful to our environment.
Most people understand that we cannot simultaneously pave and save the Edwards Aquifer and the Hill Country. We also know that it is far cheaper to protect sensitive watershed land than to pay for infrastructure to serve far-flung Hill Country sprawl that pollutes our creeks, streams, and aquifers.
That's why Save Our Springs Alliance supports Austin bond Proposition 2, which includes $50 million to protect undeveloped land in the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Watershed.
Thanks also to Austin Chronicle readers for voting us Best Effort to Improve Austin (along with Keep Austin Beautiful) and for choosing Barton Springs as Best Swimming Hole ["Best of Austin," Oct. 13]. Chronicle readers can help buy and protect critical Barton Springs Watershed lands now by voting for Austin bond Proposition 2. Early voting is already under way.
Save Our Springs Alliance
Unfair Treatment of KinkyDear Editor,
More than half the article endorsing Chris Bell for governor was devoted to denigrating Kinky Friedman ["Endorsements," Oct. 20]. To compare Kinky with the current president was low-down. Kinky has run a clean, honest campaign and his views on the issues are clearly laid out for those who care to read and listen. The real joke is not Kinky, but rather that the Chronicle endorses the trained politicians who do not rise above the slick, politically correct solutions that have gotten us where we are today. Go Kinky!
Gail Clinton, PhD.
Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Oregon Health Sciences University
Screw Democrats, Vote KinkyDear Editor,
I was disappointed, but not surprised to see the Chronicle supporting Chris Bell for governor ["Endorsements," Oct. 20].
We, the progressives of Texas, have been ... how shall I say it? Screwed. Screwed by politicians posing as populists. Screwed by Democrats who are as corrupt as any Republican could ever be. Screwed by a political system that disavows input from anyone but Tweedledee and Tweedledum, left and right, yin and yang.
You claim, like others, that Kinky is a "joke" candidate. Yet, his political reform plan is brilliant, well thought out, and has nothing but good to bring to Texas. He also wants to bring us a quality health care system, decriminalize marijuana, and aggressively pursue a renewable energy plan.
Let's open Texas politics to the common man, provide for our citizens, and look to the future. Screw the Dems. It's time to give them a taste of their own medicine! I, for one, am tired of forcing down this bitter pill of a "lesser evil."
Viva la Kinky!
Mike "Dub" Wainwright
Why Not Endorse Brees and Buchanan?Dear Editor,
It was disappointing that you chose not to endorse in two of the races for the 3rd Court of Appeals, those involving Democratic candidates Mina Brees and Bree Buchanan ["Endorsements," Oct. 20].
The Chronicle's omissions leave the false impression that these contests are unimportant and that the sacrifices and talents of the candidates are insignificant. Nothing could be further from the truth. Both Mina Brees and Bree Buchanan are highly respected lawyers who have a wealth of practical experience, both in and out of courtrooms, that would translate well to the appellate bench. And the 3rd Court of Appeals may be the most important appellate court in the state, passing as it does on matters related to the administrative agencies of our state government, in addition to other civil and criminal matters.
As you were, apparently, unable to come to a decision in these races, I suggest the Chronicle refer readers to the Voters Guide at the League of Women Voters Web site (www.lwvaustin.org) for a full list of candidates and their responses to the LWV questionnaires. Your readers deserve the full story.
Chair, Travis County Democratic Party
Buchanan for Court of AppealsDear Editor,
Why did the Chronicle choose not to make any endorsement on Place 6 in the 3rd Court of Appeals race ["Endorsements," Oct. 20]? Bree Buchanan, who is running against Bob Pemberton for Place 6, represents the only family-law expertise available to the court as Justice Bea Ann Smith steps down. Her 17 years of legal experience, which include her current position as a professor at the UT Law School, running the Children's Rights Clinic, and serving as legislative director for the Texas Council on Family Violence make Bree an important addition to the 3rd Court of Appeals.