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Letters are posted as we receive them during the week, and before they are printed in the paper, so check back frequently to see new letters. If you'd like to send a letter to the editor, use this postmarks submission form, or email your letter directly to mail@austinchronicle.com. Thanks for your patience.
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Linda Curtis and Sal Costello Dispute Endorsements

RECEIVED Wed., April 20, 2005

Dear Editor,
    You certainly have the right to endorse anyone you choose [“Endorsements,” April 15]. That said, you left out the "left out" in this election – the majority of Austin voters who are disgusted with the double tax toll roads. Perhaps you didn't mention toll roads because had you done so, you would have had to print the endorsements of the Austin Toll Party – Casey Walker, Place 1; Margot Clarke, Place 3; (to whom you at least gave a dual endorsement); and Wes Benedict in Place 4.
    Our organization was seriously considering endorsing Leffingwell until we found out he's taking support from developers pushing toll roads. Witness Tim Taylor, a former chair of the Real Estate Council of Austin. He's now the treasurer of Citizens for Responsible Leadership, which was put together to try to stop our recall effort. Their claim wasn't that they opposed the toll plan, but merely the recall. We did not believe that for a minute. We believed then and now that Taylor was fronting for RECA's support of the toll road plan, along with their friend, Rick "Double Tax" Perry.
    In Place 4, you endorse Dunkerley while attacking Wes Benedict as an ideologue. Since when did Dunkerley, a government bureaucrat with lots of friends in RECA and the police union, ever do anything for progressive people in Austin? Benedict has a very thoughtful plan on how to address the dire need to keep Austin affordable, which, of course, includes keeping Austin toll free! What kind of ideologue is that?
    Anyway, we hope the Chronicle will try to make up for your endorsements with some coverage to encourage a real horse race!
Linda Curtis
Sal Costello
AustinTollParty.com

Lance Armstrong Foundation Supporter but Not Funder

RECEIVED Wed., April 20, 2005

Dear Editor,
    Let's set the record straight. I have generally disregarded the disparaging remarks recently published by The Austin Chronicle about the Lance Armstrong Foundation's very public support of Onward Austin and the proposed smoking ban. I am proud of the LAF's support of movements and organizations that help reduce the cancer rates in our society.
    However, Darcie Stevens' article “Smoke Signals” [Music, April 15] and Daniel Mottola's article “Where There's Smoke . . .,” [News, April 15] that state “Onward Austin . . . financially backed by the American Cancer Society and the Lance Armstrong Foundation” is not correct. As readers of the Austin American-Statesman know, Onward Austin has released its financial statement, and their sole source of financial backing has been the American Cancer Society.
    As a staff member at the LAF, I know the money that LAF constituents donate directly impacts our mission of providing practical information and tools that people need to battle cancer and live strong. LAF staff and volunteers are focused on helping people with cancer and their families.
    I hope the community of Austin will join the movement of communities across America and say to smokers, “Please step outside to have your cigarette.”
Willy Snell
LAF staff member

Supports Smoking Ban

RECEIVED Wed., April 20, 2005

Dear Editor,
    Reading this week's Chronicle [April 15] I can see that there are a lot of concerns over the proposed ban and a lot of opinions. I don't believe that banning smoking will be as dire to business as some seem to think. Many people avoid clubs because of smoke and this will bring them back. I lived in Ireland for a few months before smoking was banned and have returned twice since. Despite a few grunts from some friends, they still go to the pubs, and I found that Ireland's pubs and clubs aren't hurting for business. If an entire country can survive a smoking ban, I am pretty sure that a city famed for live music can survive, too.
Jessica Neville

Thank You Michael King!!

RECEIVED Wed., April 20, 2005

Michael King,
    All I can say is amen, brother, to your most articulate anti-smoking stance in this week's Chron [“Point Austin,” News, April 15]. Thank you! Everywhere I go, people ask how I, the most rabid anti-secondary cigarette person in eight states, can live under the same roof with someone who can find any reason to oppose a smoking ban. The answer? I don't know. But having you articulate the only rational side in the debate did us all proud.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Anne S. Lewis
p.s. You did I.U. proud – Bob Gross (oh, no, was he a smoker?), too.
   [Editor's note: Anne S. Lewis is married to Chronicle Editor Louis Black.]

Supports Some of Smoking Ban

RECEIVED Wed., April 20, 2005

To the editor,
    OK. After considering several arguments in the Chronicle in favor of the smoking ban I feel compelled to restate my arguments against it. The first issue is the health issue. Opponents say that they are drawn to live music venues for the music and deserve not to have their health put at risk. I can't argue with that and so I'm willing to support a ban on smoking in live music venues. But what about straight-up bars that are there solely for the purpose of providing a space to indulge in perfectly legal adult vices? Are we really convinced that it is OK to deny bar owners the option of catering to adults who prefer adult pleasures because we believe no one ought to have a business catering to those adults who prefer unhealthy vices over “wholesome” pleasures? What a bunch of paternalistic, puritan crap! Why are some folks so unwilling to even consider a compromise? I'll tell you, part of it is that people who push this sort of thing are puritans. It's an “I like a healthy lifestyle so everyone has to live that way” kind of argument. I also believe that a compromise would test the “smokers aren't an important constituency in the club scene” argument by seeing which clubs end up with the crowds. And I think most really know what would happen. If it's true that the majority of people who go to clubs and bars want them smoke-free, then why hasn't the marketplace provided those options alongside more traditional venues? Where are all of those healthy alternatives that so many are demanding? Perhaps it doesn't exist sufficiently and therefore the puritans must impose it upon us all.
Sincerely,
Thomas Boggs

Cat Pee?

RECEIVED Wed., April 20, 2005

Dear Editor,
    If Michael King's house smelled like cat pee, I wouldn't try to ban cats – I'd stop going to his house [“Point Austin,” News, April 15]. See how easy that is?
Sincerely,
Joy Petty

Why the F--- Should We Care?

RECEIVED Wed., April 20, 2005

Dear Editor,
    When Congress or the EPA decides to enact some piece of environmental regulation, the auto manufacturers and oil companies always protest by pointing out how expensive it will be. My usual reaction, one I believe I share with many in this blue city, is "Why the fuck should I care? Keeping your business profitable is not a problem that should concern our government."
    But when local clubs make essentially the same argument with regard to the upcoming referendum on a tougher citywide smoking ban, many suggest that I should have a different reaction. Why? Because these bars are small? Local? Purveyors of music? None of those arguments offer more than unsupported emotional appeals.
    Like most Austinites, I am a big fan of local live music, and I want to see the city retain its vibrant culture. If the live music industry cannot sustain itself profitably, then perhaps some city subsidy or tax-break would be appropriate. But I don't know that the appropriate municipal bounty – which is, after all, what any exemption from a citywide law would constitute – should be one that comes at the price of the health of bar patrons and employees. With the widespread consensus about the health risks of even secondhand smoke, Darcie Stevens' comment that "If there's any doubt about the smoking ban, maybe the price is just too high" is mind-boggling in its myopia.
Mike O'Connor

Arguments Against Ban Are Ludicrous

RECEIVED Tue., April 19, 2005

Dear Editor,
    The arguments against the smoking ban continue to amaze me. People continually argue that the ban is a violation of smokers' personal rights. The argument that nonsmokers should not go to bars where smoking is allowed is ludicrous. Why should I, as a nonsmoker, leave a bar where my favorite band is playing when I'm not doing anything to harm the person next to me, but that person is smoking two cigarettes to every beer he/she drinks? I do not believe that people have the right to smoke in public, period.
    I used to buy the property-rights argument, until I realized something. This is a public health issue. Buildings have codes that they have to stand up to. In restaurants, kitchens and bars have health codes that they have to adhere to. And why? For the safety and health of customers. How is the smoking ban any different? It's not! While I'm sympathetic to small-business owners, I'm more sympathetic to my own health. Whatever people want to do to their own bodies is their business, but when it affects my health, it becomes my business.
Angela Krause

Let's Do the Math

RECEIVED Tue., April 19, 2005

Letter to the editor,
    The Chronicle endorsed Council Member Dunkerley for her “financial officer's instincts” and “hypercareful approach” [“Endorsements,” April 15]. Yet, how do you explain her enthusiastic support of $60 million in tax subsidies to Endeavor Real Estate and Simon Property Group for the Domain shopping center near the Arboretum? Let's do the math.
    Dunkerley and the Austin City Council voted to give these developers $25 million in net present value tied to May 2003 with a steep 7.5% annual discount rate. The value grows to $28.9 million next month, and they just broke ground. On construction completion in Spring 2007, the deal climbs to $33.4 million.
    Over the subsequent 20 years, until mid-2027, the combination of high retail sales per square foot and deeply discounted sales tax and property tax rebates to Endeavor/Simon could easily top $60 million – a sickening misuse of public funds approved by Mayor Wynn and council members Dunkerley, Alvarez, Thomas, and Goodman.
    Direct quote from Dunkerley on May 8, 2003, during the council discussion on the Domain: “I'm a finance person, I've run city finances in two cities for 17 years, I'll do those projects every day of the week.” Massive subsidies for median wages of $8.65/hour, no health insurance requirement – all while kicking local retailers in the stomach until 2027? No thanks.
    Here's a lucky break for Ms. Dunkerley – my lawsuit, settled in June 2004, stripped away the subsidy guarantees for the Domain, and now the city can just walk away from this misrepresented project with no recourse. That's the question she should answer. Will she vote to walk?
Brian Rodgers

Retrofitting for Bicycle-Based Transportation Is Easy

RECEIVED Tue., April 19, 2005

Dear Editor,
    Duane Keith writes that “retrofitting Austin to bicycle-based transportation ... is unrealistic” [“Postmarks,” April 15]. This is a myth propagated by the car/road/pork crowd. Austin is already admirably suited to bicycle transportation. There are plenty of roads and plenty of space on the roads. The main reason more Austinites don't walk or cycle for transportation is that they are afraid of the cars. With a little restriction on the use of cars (e.g., roads for slow travelers, wide bike lanes where cars may not park, lights on timers instead of sensors, and an end to expensive meddling by traffic engineers to make cars go faster), Austin could be an ideal city for biking.
    The cheapest possible “retrofitting” is for cyclists and pedestrians. What is really expensive is “retrofitting” Austin for twice as many cars, without slowing them down. This last task is actually impossible, but any amount of money can be spent attempting it.
    Transportation departments and car ads have convinced motorists that, no matter how many cars there are, there should be room to drive them as in a movie chase or car commercial. Motorists have also been convinced that their self-interest lies in devoting all transportation funding to cars, designing roads for cars only, keeping speed limits high, and scaring pedestrians and cyclists off the roads. Some policies actually produce massive congestion, which increases demand for more road-building, light-synchronization, and so on.
    Retrofitting a city for cyclists and pedestrians can be done with road-striping and orange cones. Retrofitting a city for an ever-increasing number of cars is a hopeless task. We can expect it to absorb most of our public resources, to the detriment of everything we love, for as long as it takes us to wise up.
Yours truly,
Amy Babich

What We Don't Need Is More Laws!

RECEIVED Tue., April 19, 2005

Dear Editor,
    I understand the plight of the nonsmoker. I do not allow smoking in my business or my home. But –
    Fact: All nonsmoking, live music venues set up in Austin have gone belly-up within a year.
    Fact: If you want to go see bands once a month, when you get home you can wash your hair/clothes etc.
    Fact: There are people that go to see bands/support club owners every night.
    Fact: These people will stay home, organize house parties (more than likely somewhere near you), and give the apparently bored Austin law enforcement something to do.
    If you don't want to go to a bar/club that allows smoking, don't. I'm sure your lack of patronage will make a big difference. Ahart says music fans will go see artists anyway, he obviously has no idea how it works [“Where There's Smoke ...,” News, April 15; “Smoke Signals,” Music, April 15]. Bands/artists play where people gather, that's how they get heard. That's how an audience is built. Some smoker in some bar that you would not go to heard Pat Green, Trail of Dead, and the Mars Volta way before you did and probably told you about them. If there isn't a place to start off, people go different directions – and they're not always good directions.
    Stand up for your beliefs. Don't go to these places that allow smoking. But please don't give us any more laws.
    By the way, Natalie Zoe needs to talk to Kevin Fowler about the way things work. She'll be breathing just fine in an empty room.
Thanks,
Damon Gill

Over the Aquifer?

RECEIVED Tue., April 19, 2005

Dear Editor,
    In reference to the “Naked City Headlines" and Rachel Proctor May’s p.29 article [“AMD Plans to Move Over Edwards Aquifer,” News, April 15] on the proposed AMD facility near Oak Hill, I am compelled to clarify the claim that the site is “… over the Edwards Aquifer.” According to the geologic map published by the Bureau of Economic Geology, UT Austin, the proposed site does not overlie the Edwards Formation. The site is located to the west of the Mount Bonnell fault and on the outcrop of the older Glen Rose Formation. Here, the Edwards was eroded away long ago (along with the intervening Comanche Peak and Walnut Formations), exposing the underlying Glen Rose, which is not recognized as a significant local aquifer. Additionally, the excellent satellite image of the Barton Creek area on the SOS Web site shows that the proposed site is fairly remote to Barton Creek. As shown on that image, the existing developments of Barton Creek golf course and the Lost Creek subdivision would seem to pose a more significant element of runoff contamination, since they are far larger and lie directly on the banks of Barton Creek. Examination of the topographic map (published by the United States Geologic Survey) of the proposed site indicates that the bulk of the drainage at the proposed site is southward into the Williamson Creek Watershed, not Barton Creek. In these regards, the proposed site would appear to be fairly sensibly located. I offer this information not in support of development nor in opposition to it, but as a scientist concerned at the lack of accuracy in your and others' reporting of the issue. I suggest that you and SOS review the maps and your stated position(s) in this light.
Douglas B. Watkins
Exploration geologist
   [Rachel Proctor May responds: Point taken on "over the aquifer"; the proper term for the proposed AMD site, which is in the contributing zone, would be "in the Barton Springs Watershed." However, even if runoff from the site doesn't drain directly into Barton Creek, water in Williamson Creek ends up in the aquifer when that creek crosses the recharge zone.]

In Favor of Smoking Ban

RECEIVED Mon., April 18, 2005

Dear Editor,
    I have been a working musician since 1971 and I think the proposed smoking ban would be (in the long run) a great thing for Austin and I support it wholeheartedly. Virtually all of my friends and co-workers don't smoke; neither do I. On particularly bad nights I have come to resent feeling assaulted by volumes of foul air, especially when I'm working hard to entertain the very folks who are making it much harder for me to do so. My throat gets fried, my clothing reeks, my equipment stinks, and by the time I get home with all my stuff so does my car.
    I don't blame the smokers themselves as much as I blame the shoddy and often nonexistent ventilation systems in the clubs. There are ways to minimize the build-up of smoke but since it costs money to install and run I suspect many club owners would simply rather not.
    If this passes will there be a shakeout? You bet. Will this be better for most nightspots in the long run? Absolutely. You may find that removing the toxin that keeps the nonsmoking majority of people away in droves might come to find supporting live music a pleasurable option once again.
    Ask a club owner in Southern California how his business has been since the smoking ban went into effect there. Better yet, ask the musicians and waitstaff who work in those clubs how things are now. My sources tell me that business is just fine and it's a much better environment to work in.
    Change is tough, even if it's for the best. I understand the concerns held by the club owners. Here's the thing – I would really like to enjoy the places I work in, I'll do a better job and you'll have a better musical experience. Most acts in this area are already woefully underpaid for their services, how about a cleaner workplace for starters? Is this too much to ask for the "Live Music Capital of the World"? I think not.
Jeffrey Tveraas

Amused That Club Owners Are Worried

RECEIVED Mon., April 18, 2005

Put this in your pipe,
    I find it amusing to see some local bar owners band together to fight the oncoming smoking ban as if the government is trying to squeeze their doors shut under the flimsy guise of public safety.
    With 60 or more years of research and factual data proving the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoking, this is like fighting the seat belt law.
    Personally, I do not care if people smoke. My grandmother smoked and I loved her right up until her final struggled breath; she died slow from emphysema. But when I am out, it is unsettling when someone lights up one of their 20 cent cigarettes that have all of the rich tobacco flavor and smell of a Canadian tire fire, and blow it into my lungs, clothes, and hair (my beautiful hair). I never quite understood a smoker's inherent right to influence all of the shared air in a room, but I usually just try not to breathe in.
    In other cities the same laws and ordinances have been passed and bar owners pushed back with the same fears of being run out of business. Most bars closing during or after the smoking ban were plagued with poor business or poor business practices before that.
    In many cases, after the smoke cleared, bars saw an upswing in their weekly business. In Austin, where one can step outside unmolested by the weather 300-plus days a year, I think most well-run establishments will fare well.
    Smoking is a dirty habit that well suits many people as does drinking, but at least my Jim and Ginger will not end up in your liver.
Andrew Wegrzyn

Has Never Seen a Live Musician Onstage in Austin

RECEIVED Mon., April 18, 2005

Dear Editor,
    Austin, “The Live Music Capital of the World.” I live in Austin, but have never seen a live musician onstage here. Why? Having grown up in a smoking household, I now have chronic bronchitis and get sick every time I go to a club.
    My hope is to see Austin 100% smoke-free in all its public places this year. We all know that secondhand smoke causes cancer, heart disease, and respiratory illness. Yet knowing this, I don't believe that most people could truly know what smoking has taken away from us all.
    I wish I could regularly see Austin's live musicians and go dancing along Sixth Street. I am merely one person who cannot go to these places, but I'm in the company of masses of nonsmokers who will not go. Until Austin has a strong ordinance, I will continue to take my patronage to smoke-free places.
Jomana Malone

Any Development Needs to Contribute Positively

RECEIVED Mon., April 18, 2005

Editor,
    I am writing in response to the News article regarding the protests over the development of the Waterstreet Lofts in East Austin [“Protesters' Message: 'Stop Gentrifying the Eastside'”]. Mr. Ortiz's statement, "We are 100 percent compliant with the current neighborhood plan" is unfounded given that the plan was developed by his friends at the East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Planning Team in 1999. It is well known that the ECC Planning Team holds their monthly meetings at Nuevo Leon Restaurant, which is owned by Terry Ortiz.
    The development is targeted to single, young adults that will be considered "transient" residents because they will not contribute long-term to the community. In addition, young families will not be attracted to the development given that 700-square-foot lofts do not appeal to three-to-five-person households.
    Any development in East Austin, specifically, the East Town Lake area needs to contribute positively to the community and not destroy it due to the profits that can be made in the short-term by a few stakeholders who have ulterior motives.
Thank you,
Juan Reyna

Secondhand Smoke Sucks

RECEIVED Mon., April 18, 2005

Editor,
    OK, regarding that anti-smoking ordinance proposal, it is a public health issue first and foremost! Secondhand smoke contains formaldehyde, arsenic, cyanide, carbon monoxide, plus more than 4,000 other chemicals, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
    It will slap you down with a host of diseases and ailments, make you smell like an old sofa, discolor your teeth, and even be the Grim Reaper of death. Wow!
    By the way, cigarette smokers who are male can easily become sexually impotent, according to interviews with researchers on 60 Minutes.
    Secondhand smoking really sucks! Thus, I'll vote to tighten the city smoking ordinance.
Gary Shelton Daniel

Here's the Truth and What's Really Important:

RECEIVED Mon., April 18, 2005

To anyone with a brain,
    OK, so clubs want smoking for the few (and that is the case; they are now the minority, thank god), but really, is it going to hurt business? No, and no. I am from a nonsmoking state, California, ever heard of it? Lots of live music, lots of great restaurants, lots of bars, and you can't smoke in any of them. Guess what, they do just fine. We're not asking one or two clubs to stop the smoking, so that "their" patrons can go around the corner to a different club, we are asking all the clubs to ban smoking. So if these passionate smokers want to see music they have no choice. Seriously, do you think folks will give up music, beer, and socializing over smoking?
    I do find it interesting that we are trying to reason with people who think it's their right to put others at risk; hey, they probably smoke in the car with their kids. Such a great lesson for everyone, screw public transportation, school bills, sobriety check points, gun laws, I'm gonna stand up for smoking.
Peter Reeves

What About the Occasional Smoker?

RECEIVED Mon., April 18, 2005

Dear Louis,
    For the sake of the smoking-ban argument, which like most "controversies" in Austin tends to be dominated by polarized self-interested parties, I am amazed by the following omission and lack of consideration (argument-wise) thereof. A good number of patrons of the 211 businesses in question are what we might call nonsmokers who enjoy an occasional puff when they drink. I would venture to say that there are more people who smoke only when they drink alcohol in these establishments than smokers per se, though I haven't been privy to any such polling data. I wonder why these voices have been absent in the debate?
Sheri Goodman
Houston

Based on My Experience Support Smoking Ban

RECEIVED Mon., April 18, 2005

Dear Editor,
    As a young professional that recently moved to Austin, I find your stance on the smoking ban to be incredible. In my own experience, smoking bans are not a death sentence for local bars and music venues. I've lived in Boston and San Francisco, before and after their smoking bans. For nonsmokers (these folks outnumber smokers in Boston and San Fran, my guess is they do in Austin as well), the smoke-free bar has become a much more attractive environment. My friends and I would routinely go to the sports bar in California on college football Saturdays starting at 9am to eat, drink, and watch the games (running up huge tabs for burgers, sodas, beers, drinks, etc.). When smoking was permitted, we would never have considered spending the whole day in a sports bar. Austin's population and San Francisco's share a lot in common – young, active, healthy people that enjoy outdoor sports and indoor drinking and music. We spend big money at bars, we just don't want to breathe carcinogenic air. We are happy to poison our own livers with alcohol provided we are personally deriving the (perceived) benefits of drinking. Moreover, I probably spent two times as much money in bars in Boston after the smoking ban went into effect. There are so many other arguments in favor of a smoking ban (safety of employees, helps people quit smoking by making it more difficult for them to do so, etc.), but I won't go into those now.
    The bottom line is that in my experience, the smoking ban causes nonsmokers to increase their patronage of bars, and causes smokers to spend less time smoking and about the same amount of time and money in bars. As such, the ban seems like a boon for Austin. It's just gonna be bad for dry cleaners, cause your clothes won't reek of smoke anymore.
Brian Spaly

Choice, Choice, Choice

RECEIVED Mon., April 18, 2005

Dear Chronicle, hey folks, etc.,
    OK. I'm stirred up! I'm an adamant nonsmoker who doesn't even like being around the stuff. My daddy died of emphysema. Don't get me started!
    Don't make this smoking ban stuff too complicated. I don't doubt the sincerity of the nonsmokers who write in that they would go out to nonsmoking clubs. My sympathy is squarely with them. This isn't Ph.D. dissertation stuff, rocket science, or high-IQ obscure philosophy. The music clubs of Austin have an incentive to be successful. Crassly put, they want to make a profit, or maybe even a killing. Choose your rhetoric. You say they're greedy, they say they just want to survive. As a professional musician playing in Austin I claim a small measure of greed and a large measure of fear of nonsurvival over this proposed smoking ban. But a music club will voluntarily offer a choice when it's good for their bottom line. Period! It's that cotton-picking simple!
    The Cactus Cafe is a nonsmoking live music venue. As a nonsmoking musician and occasional concert fan, I love to play there, go there! The short-lived Acoustic Cafe on Sixth Street was a no-smoking venue. If there's a market for more nonsmoking venues, they'll appear voluntarily. No laws needed other than the law of supply and demand. Many clubs have already invested in better ventilation systems and have outdoor listening spaces. If a club has a nonsmoking night, once a week, every first Saturday, or what-have-you, then the nonsmokers will choose to go on those nights; the club will be hugely successful; it will have more of the same, and other clubs seeing themselves left out will follow suit.
    Yes, but, what if it doesn't happen that way? Then that means there's a large measure of mendacity in what the nonsmoking voices are claiming they number.
    After many years of unsuccessfully trying to prove a health hazard in secondhand smoke, the true believers will never give up. They never do. But as for Austin's problem, leave it alone! Choice, choice, choice. Voluntary, voluntary, voluntary. Two great American words also found in the English dictionary. In 1938, the first government progressive enough to ban smoking in public places was Germany under the National Socialist German Worker's party. (Does the name Pavlov ring a bell? How about Adolf?)
Sincerely,
Slim Richey,
my guitar "smokes"!,
No. 9 in Electric Guitar, Music Poll '05

What Happened to the 'Chronicle'?

RECEIVED Mon., April 18, 2005

Dear Editor,
    What happened to my Chronicle? For years it had funny, insightful, witty little things in it that never ceased to entertain me.
    Has there been a push over the last few years by your management to make your publication more professional/journalistic? If so, I apologize to your staff as they are doing what they are instructed.
    However, if you are the alternative newspaper you once were, you would start adding the little things you used to add that made this publication such a joy to behold every Thursday.
    For example, years ago I read a movie review and I forget every single word of it except for a phrase which went something like, "Another fine performance by the Shakespearean Jean-Claude Van Damme." This is the kind of humor my friends and I miss so much.
    Using cool wording like "natch" instead of naturally, etc. adds a lot to your hipness and entertainment value.
    Lately I have been laughing more from how bad the Statesman is instead of at how witty you are. That, my friends, is indeed a tragedy of Oprah Winfrey proportions.
Giddy up!,
Tom Strubbe

Some Businesses Will Be Forced to Close

RECEIVED Mon., April 18, 2005

Dear Editor,
    I am the president of Clicks Billiards. When Tempe, Ariz., passed a strict nonsmoking ordinance my sales in Tempe dropped 35%. I had a profitable business in Tempe for 15 years. I closed the location eight months after the ordinance went into effect. Of the 200 alcohol-permit holders in Tempe, 30 closed within a year of the passage of the ordinance.
    I am now in the process of closing my El Paso location due to the impact of their no-smoking ordinance.
    I spoke with the Tempe city manager about the economic impact of the smoking ban; his comment was, “It was not so much the impact to the city; what was sad was to see the individuals who came before the council who had purchased a business in Arizona for their retirement years, and then lost everything." The point is that these are private properties, not public properties. Public properties are City Hall and the library. The authors of the Constitution tried to protect the rights of private property owners. Our founding fathers also set up a representative form of government so that the minority could not trample on the rights of the majority.
    Of course governments have the right to pass laws to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public, but they must do so within the constraints of the Constitution.
Nick Alexander
Dallas

What About Club Owners' Rights?

RECEIVED Fri., April 15, 2005

Dear Editor,
    Something that seems to be receiving little mention in the debate over the proposed smoking ban is the rights of the club and bar owners. These establishments are not public space, they are privately owned businesses. As such, their owners should be deciding whether or not smoking will be permitted on the premises. Nonsmokers are free to exercise their right to go elsewhere.
    The anti-smoking lobby has proven their organizational abilities – utilizing them to convince club owners to voluntarily become smoke-free or provide smoke-free events would certainly be preferable to punishing these clubs with a law voted on by people who have never set foot in a live music venue smaller than the Erwin Center.
Brit Jones

Where Does Their Information Come From?

RECEIVED Fri., April 15, 2005

Dear Editor,
    When Rodney Ahart says that people are "more dedicated to the performers than to cigarettes” [“Where There's Smoke ...,” News, April 15], I'm forced to ask where he gets his information from. I think if you ask the Backstreet Boys how their merchandise is selling now compared to how it sold in 1999, and then ask Philip Morris the same question, you will find that fan loyalty hangs on the whim of a fickle public, and smoking, well, let's just say that it's easier to quit the Backstreet Boys. But just who is Onward Austin getting its information from anyway? I am a local musician, as are most of my friends. I've never been consulted, and neither have they. Are they asking people whom this ban will effect, or someone who thinks that Beerland is a theme park in Shiner? Did they do a survey on Red River, or randomly over the phone or around town. I don't presume to know the answer to that; however, one could find it easy to speculate. They say that it's simply a public health matter, but there are far more nonsmoking bars than ones that allow smoking. What is wrong with those places? And yes, there are live music venues that have nonsmoking shows. If you had shown up to them, this whole issue would be dead. What about the bar staff? There are other places to go for them as well. Go tell a coal miner how hazardous your job is. Why are former ban-hating bars now for the ban? Because they are getting killed. Don't tell me that there is this big consensus that will crawl out from their hiding places like a bunch of oppressed villagers with an Anne Frank complex. People that won't go to these bars will be making decisions for them.
Gregory Lewis

Black's Opinion Cockeyed; Here's the Truth

RECEIVED Fri., April 15, 2005

Mr. Black,
    Usually you're editorial pieces are well considered and fair, but your brain went on vacation on the smoking-in-bars issue.
    I have been to Austin bars since the New Orleans Club, Vulcan Gas, Armadillo, Club Foot, etc. I hardly go anymore to nonoutdoor venues because of downstream nicotine smoke.
    After seeing scores of fathers (including mine), mothers, friends, even total strangers die the slow and debilitating death caused by lung cancer and emphysema, I know they didn't want to go that way and neither do I. I know that inhaling someone else's expelled smoke or even the first whiff of someone's lighted cigarette is not a health-improving event. Regardless of the aesthetic of secondhand nicotine smoke contamination, consuming it is not a health-enhancing life experience. Even if Beethoven were premiering his Ninth Symphony this evening, I would not go to an Austin club to hear it. My cultural life would be much the poorer, but my physical health would be far less impaired.
    The premise on which you base your argument of club deaths and disbanding of marginal garage bands is based on the false assumption that there are more smokers than nonsmokers in the general population. This, of course, is patently false. So is the corollary that smokers spend more on entertainment than smoke-free citizens. Notice how much movie theatres, public concert halls, office buildings, and airlines have declined due to banning smoking during their events? Absolutely horrible! Livelihoods and industries laid to waste and ruined by the lack of compulsory sharing of pernicious smoke!
    I wonder why no one considers the greater expanded potential audience that lies untapped by most clubs? I wonder why certain performers specify smoke-free shows? Want to smoke? Fine! Just do it where I don't have to share it! It's your vice, not mine.
    Hopefully the concern for public welfare and the greater economic health will prevail in your future advocacies of social change rather than myopic group-think lockstep with those who are ignorant of recent history and refuse to see the future.
    Breathing freely is one of life's most precious experiences. Why should one have to forego a healthy life to be culturally enriched? Why should those who prefer impaired health be allowed to impose their choice on others without the consent of those affected?
Brian Peterson

Personal Freedom?

RECEIVED Fri., April 15, 2005

Dear Editor,
    I find it a bit disturbing that the proposed smoking ban debate simply comes down to an economic issue with so many. In all of the letters and articles I've read, not one person against the ban has disputed the health/safety issue. Dollars over danger, so to speak.
    More than 60 known carcinogens have been identified in environmental tobacco smoke. There are strict standards as to what industries can burn and the resulting release into the atmosphere. Yet, every single day, people are indoors, in public places, burning objects that release formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, benzene, lead, and vinyl chloride into the air along with many other chemicals. ETS has been linked with cancer, heart disease, and respiratory problems, including asthma, in nonsmokers. This has been confirmed by numerous health agencies, including the U.S. surgeon general, Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational and Safety Administration, National Academy of Sciences, International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the toxicology program of the National Institute of Environmental Sciences.
    As the result of such tobacco research, smoking prevalence has decreased 28% in Texas since 1990. Many who have stopped smoking said they not only quit for themselves, but for the health of their family and friends, as well.
    At least I can respect the economic arguments. The “personal freedom” and “property rights” angles are embarrassing. There are countless laws already in place that restrict personal behavior in public places and place standards on how a business must conduct itself. For example, one can't stand up and make a speech in a movie theatre, or smoke, without consequences. See those required lights marking a fire exit? Judging by the number of new movie theatres built in the Austin area, that doesn't seem to bother many on the grounds of freedom and rights.
    Finally, as far as economics, how about the fact that tobacco costs Texas at least $10 billion annually in health costs and lost productivity? As a result, since 2000, Texas has spent more than $60 million dollars on tobacco-control programs. All Texans pay those tabs – the nonsmokers have no "personal freedom" in the matter.
Paul Betts, MS
Epidemiologist

Would Like to See More National Political Coverage

RECEIVED Fri., April 15, 2005

Dear Editor,
    I was dismayed (although not at all surprised) when I picked up the latest copy of your paper and noticed that you had elected not to print a letter to the editor that I read on your online “Postmarks” page [April 12]. The letter was titled "Stop Whining" and was signed by Kyle Swanson. I for one thought that Mr. Swanson made some very good points about the lack of real news coverage in this country. I also agree with him that The Austin Chronicle is one of the last good independent U.S. newspapers, and I would love to see more news and editorials covering the stories that don't make it into the mainstream press. Perhaps if you printed his letter you would get more feedback and learn just how much of an appetite your readership has for what he has proposed.
Avid reader,
Curt Sellmer

New Jersey Checks in on Austin Smoking Ban

RECEIVED Fri., April 15, 2005

Dear Editor,
    A number of years ago my independent life insurance agent thought he could get me a better deal and had a new insurance company check me out. I had quit smoking almost 30 years earlier, but was hanging out at Dallas and other country & western dance clubs every night. As a result of the nicotine in my bloodstream, the insurance company classified me as a smoker. Nonsmokers shouldn't let smokers kill anyone except themselves.
Peter Hempel
Princeton, N.J.

Smoking Ban: The Cart Before the Horse

RECEIVED Fri., April 15, 2005

Dearest Editor,
    As a bartender and manager of a Red River bar that has ample patio seating, I'd probably be one of the first to profit from a de facto implementation of an indoor smoking ban. However, even if I could numb myself to the plight of my friends and neighbors, I just can't support the legislation of what should be a personal issue.
    I would think that if the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the American Cancer Society wanted the most for their anti-cancer buck, they could easily afford to set up and advertise a local nonprofit that offers counseling and services to individuals who are truly ready to quit smoking (or boost support to similar programs already in existence), instead of pushing a ban that will kill jobs, depress revenue, and seriously damage local culture. Then if they create an army of smoke-free showgoers, nonsmoking venues would have a viable demand. Although it has less press appeal, and would be a long-term effort, it would be putting the horse in front of the cart, which is where it belongs.
Trying to quit,
Benjamin Reed
P.S. p.s. Incidentally, I grew up near San Francisco and return often to see my family. And, of course, to go out. There are two obvious reasons the smoking ban hasn't devastated their bar industry. First, San Francisco's locally driven music scene can't hold a candle to Austin's, and isn't the primary reason their bars stay in business. Second, as it is in New York City, many bars just let people smoke anyway, and nobody seems to mind.

Small Tipping Yuppies Push Smoking Ban

RECEIVED Fri., April 15, 2005

Dear Editor,
    Natalie Zoe's quote in the April 15 Chronicle [“Where There's Smoke ...,” News] prompted me to wonder: Does she play venues where there is smoking? Doesn't she play at places like the Cactus? This is the crux of the issue for me: I don't know anyone who's for the total smoking ban who goes to the clubs (Room 710, Beerland, etc.) that are going to be affected. They claim to speak for the service industry, but we're all a little wary of promises and small tips from yuppies.
    For years, I've heard people whine about all the smoke in the jazz clubs (the Elephant in particular). But here's the irony: Now I'm booking local jazz at a new venue (Stars Coffee) that, according to the smoking ban on the books now, has to be a nonsmoking venue. And even though we feature many of the same jazz artists, there's very little attendance and support, especially from the anti-smoking community.
    Also, one wonders about people who "secretly" bring reefer to shows – are they going to have to make brownies now?
George Leake

There Are Better No-Smoking Policies Than Ban

RECEIVED Fri., April 15, 2005

Dear Editor,
    Well, this certainly is a delicate issue: how to balance public health benefits while curbing the imposition on individuals and their ability to make a living.
    Not that I don't enjoy a clean smoke-free bar or a smoke-filled back room depending on my mood. I think it should be the option of the patron to pick the environment in which he or she spends time. But that view seems to have passed out of favor.
    That's why I would much rather see an incentive, either tax- or rebate-based, policy. If the city would offer either a reduction in fees, a tax break, or transfer some of the payments from smoking permits to declared nonsmoking venues it would offer both a financial and public health benefit to smoke-free establishments.
    This policy would have the benefit of aiding the transition to more smoke-free establishments while still protecting the livelihood and choice of those that choose to cater to a smoking clientele.
    The numbers could be worked out by the City Council to create a revenue/loss neutral situation where public health is advanced.
Jeff Scott

Austin Will Survive and Thrive With Ban

RECEIVED Fri., April 15, 2005

Dear Editor,
    I am a native Texan who lived in Austin for five years and moved to Los Angeles two years ago. Los Angeles is one of those radical cities that implemented a smoking ban in bars and clubs – that's right, a city with a thriving nightlife has a smoking ban. When I first moved to the city, I was shocked to find that smoking was prohibited inside restaurants, bars, and clubs and yet they were still packed most nights of the week. And as is the case with many Austin transplants in L.A., most of my friends are from Austin, and most of them smoke. How could all of these smoke-friendly Texans survive in a land that doesn't allow you to light up indoors when throwing back drinks with friends or dancing the night away to your fave band? I'm sorry to break hearts, but everyone – smokers and nonsmokers alike – has adapted just fine. In fact, now when we return to Austin we complain about how nasty it is to have the smell of smoke forever infused in your hair and clothes from being at a bar for more than 15 minutes. I think that smokers and nonsmokers can agree that the smell of stale smoke on you, as well as the refreshing feeling of your eyes burning, is a less than pleasant experience. If you want to smoke, step outside. It's not as if venues are so large, so cumbersome to navigate, that you will forget how to find your way back inside. In fact, you might even meet some new friends out there.
    Somewhere along the line smoking became the icon for individualism and peoples' rights, much to the chagrin of big tobacco I'm sure. And I realize that Austin, as much as it tries to fight it, is a part of Texas: a good-ol'-boys club that loves its smokes as much as it loves its beer. But maybe it's time Austin evolves to the healthy city it portrays itself as. Make a change for cleaner air, inside and out, before the sprawl continues and the smog lingers. Austin will continue to thrive and rock with the ban. It takes an adjustment, but that is life.
Courtney Kemp
Los Angeles, Calif.

Smokers Should Just Get Used to It

RECEIVED Thu., April 14, 2005

Dear Editor,
    To the pro-smoking (surely minority) of Austinites and club owners fretting about a smoking ban: Relax. Delaware enacted the country's most stringent (at the time) anti-smoking laws, and bar owners and smokers here raised the same sort of fuss. Well, only the crappiest little dives took a true financial hit; restaurants and venues that focus on supporting live music are doing just fine.
    Smokers crying about their rights need to remember a couple of things: 1) They're in a minority that loses numbers via smoking-related deaths and quitters ever day – and the majority rules in a democracy; 2) your rights do infringe on and harm those around you. I don't want to smell your stinking smoke, and I sure as hell don't want to inhale it.
    Far more so than around here, Austin welcomes families and multiple generations to live music venues. Responsible parents who won't take their kids to a honky-tonk choked with smoke will have no such qualms about a smoke-free environment.
    Yes, things will be tough when the ordinance first goes into effect – it was here, too, and Delaware is a stone's throw from three other states that aren't as tough on smoking. Some folks bail to the Pa. bars but mostly because last call there is 2am, not 1.
    Face it, tougher smoking laws and outright bans are not going away. Think about how common smoking in the workplace was just 15 years ago, and you can see where this is going. Austin would be wise to make the inevitable work for it instead of uselessly fighting and wasting time and money. Club owners: Market yourselves to the majority of nonsmokers. Powers that be: Help them out and make all-ages shows common and profitable and lighten up about the so-called noise.
Regards,
Donna Brown
Wilmington, Del.
   [Editor's note: A point we make on some kind of sporadic basis, which is especially appropriate here, is that we live in a constitutional democratic republic where the majority rules but the rights of minorities are considered and protected.]

Vote No on Smoking Ban

RECEIVED Thu., April 14, 2005

Dear Editor,
    I applaud y'all for publicizing the proposed smoking ban ["Smoke Signals," Music, April 15; “Where There's Smoke ..,” News, April 15]. Anyone who frequents bars and clubs needs to get out there and vote no on this ordinance.
    This will be a low turnout election, and those that do vote are likely to be the very people who never patronize bars and music venues. I fear that suburban soccer moms and retirees who read the referendum text will think it sounds good, even though they have zero vested interest in the outcome.
    Everyone who wants to keep local bars alive and prevent downtown from being overrun by Dave & Buster's and other nasty chain bars needs to vote no on May 7 (early voting starts April 20, so you have no excuse).
Drew Dupuy

Let Me Speak for Myself; Don't Protect Me

RECEIVED Thu., April 14, 2005

Dear Editor,
    Cute ads with faceless physicians who spew dismissals of tobacco's relevance to the live music scene ought to relegate themselves to talking about that which they know, such as golf, and their unchanging practices which were forged over a hundred years ago by people with little or no medical training. The truth, dear MDs, is that tobacco sales built and sustained the live music scene all over this planet. It is a fact that tobacco sales account for 10% of income for most bars in Austin.
    The suggestion that nonsmokers are chomping at the bit for the ban to go through, so they can start freely frequenting bars and clubs, borders on absurdist fiction. If there is such an enormous market for these pink-lung'd music-loving ninnies, then why hasn't somebody opened a place for them? I'll tell you why.
    These bars have been opened to the public within the last two years, and they never last more than a few months. A fine case-in-point would be the Parish, a venue in the heart of the downtown area featuring some of the finest touring acts in the world today, while sporting the best sound in Austin. This is a venue which is struggling right now, not having reaped any benefits from shifting to a nonsmoking business model.
    Clubs like 710 and Beerland should be permitted to run their businesses as they see fit, to cater to whatever clientele they wish to pursue, even if this excludes the horde of creeping suburbanites that infest the Bee Cave.
    In closing, as somebody who works at clubs frequently, I take great offense to organizations lobbying on my behalf. I choose to work at a smoking venue, though I do not smoke. What happens after we ban smoking? Do we attack the detrimental effects of alcohol, and all socially destructive activities that occur amongst the inebriated? What about the decibel level of live music? I should be permitted the right to face these risks if I so desire.
    As for the democrats lobbying for the ban to go through, while shouting, "Who will take care of you when you're a wreck?" Well, I don't know. You're the democrat. Aren't you for socialized medicine? Well, caring for your constituency entails more than cutting corners with condescending and cost-efficient substitutes. In the end, the ban amounts to little more than a half-assed alternative to a real solution.
Yours truly,
Max Dropout

A Lot More Than Just Architecture and Planning

RECEIVED Thu., April 14, 2005

Editor,
    Highest compliments to Mike Clark-Madison for his coverage of the downtown development saga [“Delay of Game,” News, April 8]. As a relative newcomer to Austin (two years) who is most interested in how our town develops, I find Clark-Madison's work quite illuminating. He weaves together enough history, civic perspective, and political candor that I can feel how alive this set of issues/opportunities really is. It's a lot more than just architecture and planning. The "Delay of Game" piece and the earlier "Downtown Dominoes" [News, April 9, 2004] have helped me get a grip on how our city works in matters of civic vision.
Respectfully,
Barry Mathis

Smoking Is Not What Makes Austin Weird

RECEIVED Thu., April 14, 2005

Dear Editor,
    Louis Black writes, "If you support the smoking ban, don't pretend you want to keep Austin weird" [“Page Two,” April 8]. Huh? So it's smoking that makes Austin weird? That's insulting. I've been going to Austin since 1968 to enjoy music and food among other things. Austin being weird is not about smoking. By the way, on March 30 Minneapolis implemented a smoking ban in bars and restaurants. That evening I went to see Texas' own Jimmie Dale Gilmore at a bar in Minneapolis. The place was as packed as it could be. The same was true two nights later for Reckless Kelly. This past weekend I was in Boston; bars and restaurants so crowded you have to stand in line to get in. No, smoking doesn't make Austin weird. Consider for the moment that it's the music and the food, etc., not smoking, that draws the customers, weird or otherwise. The smoking ban fears are baseless.
Andy Eisenzimmer
Saint Paul, Minn.

HIV Revisionism

RECEIVED Thu., April 14, 2005

Dear Chronicle,
    I've been regularly annoyed, angered, and dismayed by some of the statements, falsehoods, and pharmaganda in your "About AIDS" column for some time ... this week did not disappoint me [April 8].
    What is "HIV drug resistance" really? It means the poisons you take are performing their function to stop cells from multiplying, healthy normal cells, interfering with the body's assimilative, defense and repair capabilities, until these "medicines" finally kill you.
    "Virus mutation" is an ad hoc excuse for a lack of progress owing to: 1) the status quo is too profitable, and 2) changing direction could be very embarrassing. Worse than Oswald's magic bullet, the construction of “HIV” defies everything we know about every other virus and disease process. Instead of recognizing this will-o'-the-wisp, those invested in this paradigm march doggedly forward with fantastical excuses for their failures and repeat the same bromides like "mutation" as if it were fact and not the unproved hypothesis that it is. The "experts" can say just about anything about "HIV" publicly. These two articles by journalist Liam Scheff tell the story of the mainstream medical literature we don't read in the papers: www.gnn.tv/articles/article.php?id=1035 and www.gnn.tv/articles/1210/Sex_Crimes.
    The most important thing in my opinion is not what will kill us, but how we choose to live, and by extension, how we face the reality of our inherent mortality. Seek we redemption for sins? The answer will not be found in a pill nor in handfuls of them. "HIV" is a psychological WMD, it feeds from guilt, and breeds despair, and like Saddam's alleged hidden weapons, is ultimately missing in action. Do we value life? We can save more lives by letting “HIV” go – fear itself has been our worst enemy all along.
    Visit QuestionAids.com.
Mike Rock
   [Sandy Bartlett replies: Young Mr. Rock belongs to a small but vociferous group of folks worldwide called "AIDS denialists," whose basic belief is that HIV and AIDS are nonexistent, artificial constructs, usually invented for drug manufacturers' profit. Maintaining that HIV/AIDS is artificial is a perverted intellectual exercise in using selective factoids put forth without context and linked by twisted "logic" that would make Karl Rove and the neocons proud. The April 22 “About AIDS” column explores some issues raised by denialists. Skepticism can be a healthy thing, but when "the facts" are selected to fit one's preconceived agenda – well, you get the Bush administration.]
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