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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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There Is a Difference Between TIFs and PIDs

RECEIVED Wed., Jan. 17, 2007

Dear Editor,
    In The Austin Chronicle’s coverage of affordable housing strategies the city is considering (“Beside the Point”: TIFing the Eastside, News, Jan. 12), writer Wells Dunbar explains Tax Increment Financing. TIFs are useful and important community and economic development tools used to fund improvements with increased property-tax collections on the incremental rise of property evaluations.
    Unfortunately, his examples of Sixth Street and Congress Avenue are not TIFs but Public Improvement Districts. While this is a small and understandable factual error, it does leave one with the impression that Congress and Sixth have seemingly endless resources.
    In a PID, property owners agree to an additional tax burden – above the base tax rates set by the county, city, and school district – to pay for programs and services that benefit the PID. The two PIDs are managed with limited self-funding but with great benefit to the cultural and historic districts that visitors and Austinites enjoy.
    Congress and Sixth are part of the Downtown PID, which is managed by the Downtown Austin Alliance. On East Sixth Street, each property pays up to an extra $500 a year to fund an additional PID. The city has contracted with the Pecan Street Owners Association (from Sixth Street’s earlier name) to manage that PID.
    The association’s mission is to foster a renaissance for a vibrant mixed-use and historical district, making Sixth Street a source of pride for the entire Austin community. This will take time, patience, hard work, and many more dollars than the PID generates. Maybe Dunbar is on to something with an idea for Downtown TIFs districts.
Sincerely,
Josh Allen
Executive director
Pecan Street Owners Association
   [Wells Dunbar replies: Thanks for clarifying the difference between these two tools at the city's disposal. It will be interesting to watch as they spread out from Downtown, into the Eastside and beyond.]

Why Do Texans Let Weather Get in the Way?

RECEIVED Wed., Jan. 17, 2007

Dear Editor,
    As I sit at home, staring out at the refrigerated gloom of Downtown, I can't help but feel fairly disgusted with the Public Works Department here in Austin. It's neither a holiday nor a Sunday, yet the central post office (which is just below my windows) has been as dead today as it is on either of those; no mail was delivered. So much for “Neither rain nor sleet nor snow, etc.,” eh? Also, the lobby of our building was deserted for the third day in a row; not a concierge or maintenance person to be found. Hell, it looks from here like Austin is closed! And why? Because there's a hint of ice on the ground? A quarter inch of ice renders us helpless? We can't deliver mail, go to work, school, etc., whenever we have one of these winter storms? I mean, sure, going out in this wet, cold misery on foot is an act of masochism to say the least, but still.
    Well, I suppose ice storms haven't happened that often in the four-plus years I've lived here, but they are a fairly well-known condition of Texas winter. Suppose this weather continues; are we just going to keep closing things down, keep delaying important services, for as long as the storm goes on? This does not make sense to me. In Colorado, where I'm from, we have practical solutions for this sort of problem: salt and sand. Public Works vehicles go around in the early hours of the morning, salting (or sanding) the streets; businesses and even residents salt their own pieces of sidewalk. As a result, it takes the kind of catastrophic weather Denver has been having recently to force this kind of general shutdown. C'mon, folks; if it's bad enough to close down much of the city, it's bad enough to salt. Obviously, there are a lot of people who will have to drive in it anyway; certainly they deserve to have safer roads under their wheels. “It doesn't happen all that often,” my roommates, both Texas natives, told me as an explanation of why this wasn't being done.
    Well, it may not happen all the time, but it can happen more than once in a winter and does happen often enough that we should have effective methods for dealing with it. What do we pay our local taxes for, anyway? It is the city's job to deal with things like this so we don't have to close down when relatively piddly little storms blow into town and decide to hang around for a while. It just seems so contrary to the spirit of this city, let alone of this state, for us to let such a basically wussy winter storm keep us from doing our business; it's downright un-American! Since when have any Americans, let alone Texans, ever let a little thing like nature get in our way?
In all (well, half) sincerity,
Julien S. Walden

Practicing 'Civic Pride'

RECEIVED Wed., Jan. 17, 2007

Dear Editor:
    Houston's Josh Krause [“Postmarks,” Jan. 12] needs to stop making assumptions and start asking those of us in neighborhood associations surrounding Northcross to discover exactly why we are campaigning vividly and vociferously against Wal-Mart. If he had spent time wandering around our neighborhoods, he would have noticed countless anti-Wal-Mart signs in spite of someone's cowardly efforts to remove them. We campaign because we don't want our local business enterprises to disappear under Wal-Mart's cynical practices, we don't want hundreds of delivery trucks thundering through our already congested cross sections at Burnet and West Anderson, we don't want 24-hour traffic crowding our dense neighborhoods. And we are working house by house, street by street, and business by business, to encourage everyone to get involved. Josh mentioned the need for "devout civic pride.” Well, that's exactly what we're practicing here, Josh!
Pamela Ellen Ferguson

Please Retire 'Hipster'

RECEIVED Tue., Jan. 16, 2007

Editors,
    It seems that "hipster" has become one of the paper's favorite adjectives (i.e., El Gringo review [Food, Jan. 12]; Marc Savlov's music article [“Planet Funk Meets Planet Punk,” Music, Jan. 12] used it four times, twice in the first paragraph). Can you guys please use some more creative descriptors? That adjective is about as played out as the scene.
Thanks,
Caitlin Murray

God and the Governor

RECEIVED Tue., Jan. 16, 2007

Dear Editor,
    It seems that with the weather, God must not be among the 30% or so of voters that thought Rick Perry should get another parade ... maybe God is a lesbian-virgin birth? Come on.
John Nordstrom

Making Austin Not Weird but 'Wrong'

RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 15, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Is it just me, or are those giant Gibson guitars all over town slightly annoying? Sure, the axes were a novelty at first, "enlivening our landscape." And they'll probably be auctioned off for charity when their tour of duty is complete. But the reality of the situation has struck me as the number of guitars increases. No sidewalk music performances are allowed by law, but music-industry ad sculptures cluttering our footpaths are totally fine. I can't see the artistic merit of the project beyond the fact that the painters are (hopefully) pocketing some pay for their work. Artists aren't generally known for the shape of their canvases – and in this case the medium is the message. Is this the future? Ad-works sprouting up where billboards fear to tread? More like the present. Culture shouldn't serve as camouflage for corporate interests. That ain't keeping Austin weird, it's making it wrong.
Best,
Jason Chrien

The 19th Anniversary of a Murder

RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 15, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Jan. 13 marked the 19th anniversary of my mother's murder. Some say that time heals all wounds. I've yet to be healed.
    My mother's name was Debra Baker. She was brutally murdered while she was home alone Jan. 13, 1988, at 1206 Dwyce Dr. in Austin. The person responsible was never found.
    My mother's death was an absolute tragedy. I have my opinions about the investigation that took place and the law enforcement officers involved, and overall I believe that mistakes were made. I feel like the Austin Police Department has given up all hope on ever solving the case, even though they don't have the nerve to say it.
    Am I angry? No. I'm livid. I'm outraged.
    I made an appointment to speak with the detectives in APD's Cold Case unit, and I was greeted warmly. I felt like the concerns that I brought up were taken to heart and there was still hope. In a few short months, I came to realize that the detectives were merely humoring me. They could not have been more insincere in their actions.
    I am writing this letter again with a renewed hope that someone will have information. I refuse to believe that the person responsible never confided in anyone, never bragged, never drank too much and let it slip. This was not a perfect crime. There must be more that hasn't yet come to light.
    It became clear last year that the majority of Austin's media is not interested in this case. The Austin American-Statesman ignored my letters, and all but one news station couldn't be bothered to run a story. The Austin Chronicle was the only source that continued to take an active interest, and for that we are eternally grateful.
    I absolutely will not give up hope that someday we will find the person who took my mother's life and forever altered my family.
    If anyone can offer information, please contact the APD homicide tip line at 477-3588 or the Homicide Detail at 974-5210. The Homicide Detail can also be contacted by e-mail at homicide@ci.austin.tx.us.
Caitlin Baker

'Galactica': Feminist Propaganda That Shamelessly Denigrates Men

RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 15, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Battlestar Galactica has been removed from storage, and, zap me with a laser pistol, it has been gussied up as feminist propaganda. A writer to the Chronicle plugs the show as the best on television [“Postmarks,” Jan. 12]. It’s the best feminist propaganda, I’ll grant you that.
    You can’t fault women for wanting at least one woman to best a man in a science-fiction adventure, but the re-creators of Battlestar Galactica have used the feminist template to such an extent that the male element has been emasculated. Take Commander Adama, who appeared initially as a strong male character. By the end of the pilot movie (aired in 2005), he apologized to the newly installed female president, the former secretary of education, for not seeing the wisdom of her orders. As for the president being a woman, who has a problem with that? But why does she have to have breast cancer? By handicapping her that way, she emasculates the commander even more.
    Starbuck, the best fighter pilot in the fleet, is now a woman. No, he didn’t have a sex change. The brassy, cigar-chomping Starbuck is the feminist ideal: She can do whatever a man does, and she can do it better.
    Battlestar Galactica shamelessly denigrates men. Guess who is to blame for the near total destruction of humanity. It’s a computer genius, a man, who has an uncontrollable sex drive. For two years he had sex with a female spy, a humanized Cylon, who used him to gain access to the defense mainframe of the soon-to-be-destroyed colonies. The feminists must be gloating over this guy, who fleshes out their propaganda model of male behavior.
    Oh, I almost forgot. The colonel, the man second in military command, is a drunk.
Ron Jaeger

America's Labyrinth: A Fettered Fascist Regime

RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 15, 2007

Louis Black,
    I'm again mindful of the ironic circumstance that you and I could so passionately agree on a cultural event, i.e., that Pan's Labyrinth is a masterpiece, yet be so at odds in our world-view (of things as they are, not as we think they should be) [“Page Two,” Jan. 12].
    Pan's Labyrinth's mundane reality is set in 1944 with an unfettered fascist regime in a closed setting. Americans' mundane reality involves a fettered fascist regime attempting an international coup, in our name. Our situation is more complex, no less cruel and lethal, just less overtly so (within our shores at least). A huge propaganda endeavor reinforces the newspeak and doublethink to which we're exposed daily in the mass media.
    The only thing Pan's Labyrinth lacked for me was two or three minutes – no longer – developing the character of an alternate magazine editor, perhaps named Luis White, writing weekly that the full-blown fascism the people were experiencing was in fact not occurring, and its detractors simpleminded, deluded fanatics.
    Another thought: Thank God my first viewing of Pan's Labyrinth didn't have an egomaniac in the audience spinning in his seat, flailing his arms, exclaiming “what a ... oh my God ... that was ...” etc. Jesus God, thank you for that!
    (And reverent thanks to del Toro for his vision.)
Cordially,
Kenney C. Kennedy

Wal-Marts Are Their Own Malls

RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 15, 2007

Dear Editor,
    To answer Josh Krause's question in the Jan. 12 issue [“Postmarks”], Wal-Mart Supercenters are their own malls. A good example is the one north of Parmer on I-35. Wal-Mart Supercenters belong on superhighways. Those of us living, working, and playing near Anderson Lane and Northcross Drive don't consider our streets to be highways at all. I wonder if Mr. Krause could imagine a store this size in the middle of the bumper-to-bumper Rice Village in Houston where he lives. It would fit there no better and with no less disastrous consequences than if it were placed in Northcross Mall where he implies it belongs.
Darrold Smith

Rose Not a Pure Enough Democrat

RECEIVED Sun., Jan. 14, 2007

Dear Editor,
    A wolf in sheep's clothing? Democratic Rep. Patrick Rose of Dripping Springs keeps saying he'll do whatever necessary to approve toll roads and to re-elect Tom Craddick as Texas House speaker. Then maybe he should become a Republican and run on that platform.
    Voters of Hays, Blanco, and Caldwell counties need to know who they really are voting for so they and their "chickens remain safe in their barnyard."
Jonathan Conrad

Interest in the Entire History of Club Culture

RECEIVED Sun., Jan. 14, 2007

Dear Marc Savlov and The Austin Chronicle,
    Planet Funk may be meeting Planet Punk, but there’s a whole galaxy of music that’s glossed over in Marc Savlov’s article in last week’s Chronicle [“Planet Funk Meets Planet Punk,” Music, Jan. 12]. Sure, disco-punk and mash-ups may be spicing up the club scene, but – at least in my eyes – what’s really reanimating dance music is a newfound interest in the entire history of club culture. And that’s a history that extends far beyond New York’s downtown scene of the early 1980s. Now, don’t get me wrong here; it’s great to hear those Reagan-era NYC sounds. But, I’m also thankful that a lot of labels, DJs, and artists are exploring music that came from outside the Big Apple as well. For evidence of this phenomenon, just take a look at the recent glut of compilations that document everything from Chicago acid house to Detroit techno to the many variants of underground disco. While you’re at it, you might want to check out some releases and playlists from DJ/producers like I-F, Tim Sweeney, Metro Area, Optimo, Lindstrom, the Glimmers, and Theo Parrish. Those are just a few of the modern artists that are breaking new ground by combining a wide range of sounds from the past, present, and future. To me, that’s “the new shit,” and, in comparison, much of the music that Savlov champions – mash-ups, Eighties mega-hits (Prince, Blondie, etc.), and punk-funk anthems – seem to be pretty conservative.
Looking for the perfect beat,
Eric Wallenstein
BackSpin Records

What Is a Victory in Iraq?

RECEIVED Sun., Jan. 14, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Everyone, well, mainly Republicans and other warmongers, have been talking about "victory in Iraq,” and I would love to know what the heck does constitute this sought-after victory. When I ask soldiers and supporters of the other (wrong) side, they bring up Saddam Hussein. OK I got that, but, guys, hey ... not only was Saddam captured years ago, he is now really, most sincerely, dead. So with our idiot-in-chief going on and on about deploying more of our sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews, and placing too many moms and dads in harm's way, I want to know: What gives?
    Now, I do not consider myself someone who is intellectually challenged; far from it, and I am not out of touch with what either "side" has to say in this country or even in Iraq (though I really have a difficult time listening to Bush at all), and I just do not get it.
    Please, if anyone knows the answer to my query: Respond. Let me have it, you know, get mad at me if you want ... but, please: Just tell me, what is a victory in Iraq at this point in time?
    Thanks for your help.
Anne Beckett

Outraged Over Wal-Mart

RECEIVED Sat., Jan. 13, 2007

Dear Editor,
    As a native of Austin and 45-year resident of the wonderful neighborhood community of Allandale, located within Central Austin, I was outraged to hear Wal-Mart was taking over our quaint, family-friendly neighborhood. I am not an avid Wal-Mart shopper and don't intend to become one! Wal-Mart and Lincoln Properties' "bully" tactics will backfire! The foundation of this community was built on family-owned-and-operated businesses. Over the years, national retail chains have come and gone. The ones that are successful cater to our community and the shoppers that support them. I watched Northcross Mall being built every day after school. I can remember when it was bustling with shoppers. Maybe it has just been poor property management! Maybe Lincoln Properties should have surveyed the community in the first place and asked us what we would support as residents of the community! They have made an enemy of themselves in our community. I would not spend a dime of my money at their current plan. Wal-Mart is not the only answer to the redevelopment of Northcross Mall. I am admittedly against Wal-Mart! I have grown up enjoying the ease of mobility, charm, and convienence of living in the Allandale community. I fully understand that "profit" is not a dirty word ... but the words "Wal-Mart" are! I would hope Lincoln Properties is smart enough to recognize their mistake and do better! It would seem they are driven by greed and not what is best for the surrounding community.
    Step up to the plate Lincoln Properties, show us you are not puppets of the puppet masters Wal-Mart!
    They can both crawl back under the rock they crawled out from under.
Outraged in Allandale,
Kathleen McComb

The 110th Not the 100th

RECEIVED Fri., Jan. 12, 2007

Dear Chronicle,
    I always enjoy reading your elections and political coverage. You made a mistake this week however. The new Congress in Washington, D.C., is the 110th [“Naked City,” News, Jan. 12]. The 100th Congress ran from January 1987 till December 1988.
Semper Fi,
James Crabtree
   [Editor's note: Thanks for the correction, and we regret the error, which we hope was a typo.]

Objections to Wal-Mart Are Not 'Whining'

RECEIVED Fri., Jan. 12, 2007

Dear Editor,
    In response to Josh Krause ["Postmarks," Jan. 12] and all the other letters that don't understand the outrage over Wal-Mart moving into Northcross Mall.
    I am a native of Austin, having lived in Central Austin near Northcross Mall for the last 27 years. I love Austin. The way it used to be and the way it is now. The issue of Wal-Mart in Central Austin has nothing to do with weirdness or even that it is a large retailer. In fact when I first heard about it, I wasn't very concerned because I thought it would be a small boutique Wal-Mart, like we had a few years ago behind Highland Mall. Then I hear that the proposed Wal-Mart will be larger than Cabela's, more than 200,000 square feet, and that the traffic that is already backed up on Burnet Road and Anderson Lane will not just double but will quadruple. They expect so much business and traffic that the already-normal parking lot at the mall will not be enough, so a four-story parking garage will have to be built. In addition, the money that is spent at our local HEB (which is a local business and has been in our neighborhood since the dawn of time) and our wonderful hold-out of an independent grocer, the Crestview IGA Grocery store, plus countless other small independent businesses who pour money back into the community, instead of sending it back to Arkansas, will suffer to the point they may no longer exist. So who do you think we should hold our allegiance too? To no one as you do? Should we say, “Go to hell” local business; if you can't stand the turbo-jet-fueled blast of heat, stay out of the kitchen? Go to hell livable city. Should we "just let things happen," as you requested, and allow our city to turn into a "cesspool" as you describe Houston, where you live?
    We are not "whining" Mr. Krause, we are fighting to protect our neighbors and standard of living in Austin, Texas.
Cynthia Sanders

Support Safe Climate Act

RECEIVED Fri., Jan. 12, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Re: "Greens to Politicians: Stop the Runaway Coal Train" [News, Jan. 12]: With polar bears drowning in melting landscapes at a rate even the Bush administration cannot ignore, it's becoming harder and harder to deny the realities of global warming, despite the current, ineffectual debates over its existence. Now, we can trace our own state's potential for environmental irresponsibility all the way from asthmatic school children in the Sherman, Texas, area to the rapidly thawing north. But we also have the potential to lay down some new tracks at the state level to enact change at the federal level, which Reps. Doggett, Johnson, and Lee have already begun by co-sponsoring the Safe Climate Act. (Right on, Doggett!) This science-based legislation would work to reduce global warming pollution levels in order to prevent its worst effects. Implemented through the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy, the legislation would put caps on emissions from the largest polluters, establish national efficiency standards, and issue requirements for increased use of renewable energy sources. It is essential that Texans from all over the state urge their congressmen to support the Safe Climate Act so that we can begin a new course of action to protect, not only polar bears, but our children as well.
Liz Wilfong
Field associate for Environment Texas

Must Act to Ensure Safeguards and Protections

RECEIVED Thu., Jan. 11, 2007

Concerned Austinites,
    Once the debacle of Wal-Mart at Northcross is “over” we must continue our pursuit in ensuring safeguards and protections for our pragmatic city. Be involved. We should expect this of our current City Council members and continue our strife by electing future council members who will unequivocally choose Austin over corporate America. Austin needs local representatives who understand and will act consequently on what is truly best for Austin and its citizens. Keep in mind Wal-Mart wants to build an additional 11 supercenters in Austin. If this doesn’t alarm you, maybe having your children grow up in a city with 21 Wal-Marts will. Don’t give way to indifference. We must stop Wal-Mart at Northcross. Time is of the essence. Please visit www.rg4n.org and sign the petition, e-mail City Council members, contact Wal-Mart’s attorney. Please do it today. Get the word out. Surrounding communities should witness Wal-Mart’s bullying practices in Austin. Tell friends and family even if they do not reside in Austin that 70% of Northcross neighbors do not want this Wal-Mart in their back yard. That’s not a dismal number. Wal-Mart has been aggressively invading small-town America for years. If they can get away with it here, they can get away with it anywhere. Shop responsibly. Send a clear message to Wal-Mart shareholders that Austin does not tolerate economic slavery. For further information on how other communities successfully stopped Wal-Mart, please check out: www.walmartmovie.com and www.walmartwatch.com.
    Take Austin back.
Always,
Colette Michalec
AustinFullCircle.org

It Is Not for People of Color

RECEIVED Thu., Jan. 11, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Can we please stop saying that people of color are the only reason that the Wal-Mart idea sounds like a good idea in the Northcross Mall space [“Postmarks,” Dec. 29]? Can we? In New York City, there are two Kmarts in Manhattan. Clearly, traffic isn't that much of a problem, and race has nothing to do with those decisions. Apparently, white people shop there, too.
    There happen to be white people in Crestview. That's it. Those of you who are so gung ho over Wal-Mart because it's "for the brown people" ought to consider why no people of color are pushing for the Wal-Mart to be off Airport Boulevard or Chicon. Or wait, how about 183 or 290, since all the rest of them are off I-35 and 71? No, they wouldn't want the Wal-Mart there, either, because then the Campbell, Zavala, Martin, Kealing, etc. communities would have to deal with Wal-Mart sucking the income out of their communities without putting much back in them.
    The fact of the matter is that Wal-Mart is not a community store and therefore doesn't belong in a community. Period. Whether there are people speaking a variety of languages, or just one, a huge store doesn't belong in a residential community. That's why we folks here in Austin support local businesses: to fill in the gaps between residential and commercial zoning.
Stephanie Webb
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