Dear Austin Chronicle, First off, we at Save Our Springs Alliance like the Chronicle. We go back a long way together in our shared vision of a progressive Austin. We were especially chagrined, then, to read Louis Black’s peculiarly strident editorial on the charter amendments [“Page Two,” April 7] and so feel compelled to clarify our position. Most American cities have developed in a rather unconscious manner and so have thoughtlessly severed their connection with the natural world, to the point where generations of children are growing up without being able to experience an unpolluted stream or enjoy the view from an undeveloped bluff. In Austin, we’ve been trying to follow a different path. The Town Hall citizen rallies and subsequent SOS Ordinance of the early Nineties pointed toward a different kind of city, one that would consciously maintain its connection with nature. The SOS Ordinance is not just about one spring, even if it is one of our sources of drinking water, or one swimming hole, even if it is the best urban swimming hole in the country. SOS is about a vision for a city and its relationship to the natural world. So why do we need charter amendments now? The recent failure of nerve of our political leaders has emboldened some developers to exploit “grandfathering” claims and so circumvent SOS standards. These two amendments would provide defense against those who would overextend “grandfathering” and would allow us to see clearly into our political process so we can get the government we deserve. In the early Nineties there were predictions that the SOS Ordinance would stifle growth, become too onerous, ruin Austin. Looking around the city today, those claims seem patently false. We feel the same way about concerns regarding charter amendments 1 and 2, and we trust the voters will agree on May 13, when they renew their pledge to protect Barton Springs. You called us “fringe” and “monomaniacal.” We are trying to help Austin become a new kind of city, one that other fast-growing communities might look to as a model. If there is something extreme about that, we see it as a good kind of extremism. Regardless of the outcome of the election, we look forward to working alongside the Chronicle for an Austin we can all be proud of.
Sincerely, Board of directors, Save Our Springs Alliance: Karin Ascot, Roger Baker, John Barkley, Susan Caldwell, Robert Corbin, Ann Del Llano, Michael DiLeo, Ray Goodrich, Tim Jones, Dick Kallerman, Mark Kirkpatrick, Marcia Lucas, Kirk Mitchell, Nancy Scanlan
[Editor Louis Black responds: I'm somewhat astonished that although the SOS board "likes" the Chronicle, they choose not to respond to any of the editorial's arguments. Instead, they take it as self-evident, without justification, that the charter amendments will magically produce "open government" and "clean water." Regardless of what SOS says it wants, or what they intend, if the propositions pass, it won't be SOS enforcing them. Austin will be left with horribly worded, unclear, and confusing propositions that are just as likely to do the opposite from what is intended and promised. If they pass, the only certainty is subsequent litigation.
And isn't it just a bit disingenuous to argue that "In the early Nineties there were predictions that the SOS Ordinance would stifle growth, become too onerous, ruin Austin. Looking around the city today, those claims seem patently false." The Chronicle and I (in that we don't always share the same opinion), of course, didn't make those predictions but argued exactly the opposite. Before there was an SOS, the Chronicle had staked out a very clear position rebutting that nonsense. Now, I feel, we're rebutting different nonsense.]