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
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RECEIVED Wed., Jan. 24, 2007
The Austin City Council has made a jaw-dropping final decision to build the new water treatment plant on some of the most environmentally sensitive land in Austin: at the headwaters of Bull Creek and adjacent to Balcones Canyonland Preserve (“Naked City,” News, Jan. 19). Council’s decision comes after the Travis County Commissioners rejected a City Council proposal to move the treatment plant to a less fragile area. Both actions were preceded by years of stonewalling and cover-ups by the Austin Water Utility in appearances before Austin’s Environmental Board, of which I was a former member. So, the Austin Water Utility has at long last realized its inexplicable obsession with landing its project on this sensitive area.
The water treatment plant will hurt endangered species, including species in the adjoining Balcones Canyonland Preserve created to protect them. Not only will the treatment plant likely disrupt Golden-cheeked Warbler foraging and nesting in woods adjacent to the plant site, but it is anticipated that it will have a devastating impact on the Jollyville Plateau salamander population located downstream from the plant inside the Balcones Canyonland Preserve. Also, the city plans to construct transmission lines from the plant through the preserves themselves, tunneling through the fragile karst ecosystem. Astoundingly, there has been virtually no public discussion of the dollar cost of tunneling these transmission lines under the preserves, or the significant environmental costs.
A water treatment plant and transmission lines through the BCP here, a roadway expansion in the BCP there, new electric lines through the BCP over there. The BCP lands and their endangered inhabitants will die by a thousand cuts. Your public officials are failing miserably to protect them, or adequately mitigate the harm from new infrastructure development. The citizens of Austin should be outraged. I am.
Mary Ruth Holder
Mt. Vernon, Wash.
RECEIVED Tue., Jan. 23, 2007
The Lower Colorado River Authority is attempting to educate the public about water in the lower Colorado River basin. This is good, but they're also misleading the public.
In the first series LCRA compared Travis, Burnet, and Llano counties growth rate to Colorado, Wharton, and Matagorda counties at 37-to-1. This is astounding news; no wonder our Region K will have a future water shortage. So why give our water to San Antonio?
In the second series LCRA dictates more reasons for future Region K water shortages. Sad, but all true and good reasoning. Once again, if Region K will have shortages with the Austin area demanding more water from the Colorado River, why in the world do we want to supply Region L's San Antonio area with water from our basin? We will need it for ourselves.
LCRA hits the nail on the head in their third series. While LCRA and others continue to assure us that no groundwater will go to San Antonio in the LCRA SAWS Water Project, some folks keep asking why so many (70) huge deep groundwater wells are necessary for this project. LCRA claims it's to supplement farmers' irrigation water.
However, in paragraph four of the third series it clearly states, "Region L (San Antonio) identified a dozen ways to meet future shortages with groundwater and surface water from the lower Colorado River basin."
There it is, folks, plain and simple. Region L plans to take our groundwater as well as Colorado River water! As inter-basin transfer of surface water was made legal with the stroke of a pen in 2001 as House Bill 1629, the same can happen overnight to the shipment of groundwater. Our groundwater! You cannot tell me that both LCRA and the San Antonio Water System are planning on this change in the future.
Don't be taken in when LCRA says this was a misprint, mis-statement, misinterpretation, or otherwise mistaken wordage. If that sentence is wrong, don't you think LCRA's multiple proofreaders, various communications experts, and all approvers of their public statements would have caught it?
LCRA and SAWS both want what the Colorado River basin has – surface and groundwater! Don't let them fool you.
Speak up, stand up, let your local, state, and U.S. representatives know you want to keep Region K's water in Region K. Let SAWS know, too!
Judy Bishop Jurek
RECEIVED Tue., Jan. 23, 2007
Katherine Gregor’s cover article in your last issue is one of the best I’ve ever seen in your publication [“On the Waterfront,” News, Jan. 19]. It is meticulously thorough, clear, insightful, and very helpful in outlining the basic issues facing everybody’s favorite Town Lake Corridor. In addition to a tremendous amount of historical information, Ms. Gregor helps us understand all the issues that effect this precious heart of our city and gives us a hand in delving the myriad complexities of this issue. In addition, and probably most importantly, we are given some tangible ways to make a difference in the future of our wonderful waterfront. My hope is that city planners and neighborhood councils will be able to work together toward a common vision for this glorious heart of gold that we’ve been given as Austin’s centerpiece. My hat is way off to your writer for clarifying the issues for all of us who love our city so much.
RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 22, 2007
Thank you Katherine Gregor and Chronicle for your in-depth reporting on the development frenzy [“On the Waterfront,” News, Jan. 19]. It is imperative that citizens are aware and involved, lest our local leaders act merely as water boys for development interests.
RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 22, 2007
Michael Ventura's articles (“Letters @ 3AM”) are always well-written, sometimes thought-provoking, and occasionally well-researched. His latest, “110,000 a Year” [Jan. 19], was none of those.
Michael's statistics were, indeed, chilling. Unfortunately, the piece came to no useful conclusion (a common failing of Michael's columns). "Both Iraq and our health care crisis are about not looking at ourselves." Huh?
For me, though, this latest article “lost it” when Michael referenced the British National Health Service. Michael seems to be under the impression that Britain's NHS "like most nationalized systems" attends to prevention. Oh dear.
As a British national who has lived in the United States for more than two decades and experienced both the British and American health care systems in some depth, I could write at length about the relative merits of our health care systems. To save you space on your letters page, however, let me fill in just some of the appalling gaps in Michael's “knowledge” of the British "health care system":
The NHS, "like most nationalized systems," sucks most of the public's money into management, consultancy, and waste. The system does next-to-nothing about preventive health care and, in fact, rations medication and treatment because of lack of funds (see first sentence in this paragraph). MRSA (one the health-care killers Michael uses to criticize American health care) is rife in the NHS – as its Victorian-era facilities are poorly cleaned, and its medical staff are not disciplined enough to follow basic rules of hygiene. Patients routinely die in the NHS while enduring eight-month waits for treatment and “medical mistakes” (another of Michael's criticisms of the U.S. system) are so frequent as to be rarely reported.
Michael, the next time it crosses your mind to say anything about health care systems outside of the United States, please do a little research first – even just by calling me.
John A. Blackley
RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 22, 2007
Re: “Who Squared the Circle at 31st and West?,” Jan. 19 [News]: In her article, Katherine Gregor presented a unique hypothesis regarding the Heritage Neighborhood’s request for a traffic circle at 31st and West. I’d like to provide some facts and perspective.
A recent engineering traffic study revealed these streets have low volumes and low incidents of speeding. In addition, only two accidents were reported on this street over a five-year period. As a result, my recommendation to the city manager was to not support a traffic circle at 31st and West.
Missing from the Chronicle’s article are the numerous road-marking improvements that have been made after we conducted this traffic study:
– Painting “stop lines” on 31st Street for eastbound and westbound traffic;
– Painting “Stop” on 31st Street for eastbound and westbound traffic;
– Installation of “Cross Traffic Does Not Stop” signs under the existing “Stop” signs;
– Installation of a “Stop Ahead” sign on 31st Street for eastbound traffic;
– Recommended (and approved by City Council) reducing the street speed limit to 25 mph.
City staff has worked with Ms. Kiolbassa and other neighborhood representatives over the last couple of years to address their concerns, including children walking in the streets. The city has offered to install sidewalks at the neighborhood’s highest priority areas and match the funds they received from the developer. That offer was rejected.
I find it troubling that while Ms. Gregor chose to theorize on the “political” aspects of providing traffic devices to specific neighborhoods, she chose not to interview specific staff deeply involved in this process. City staff knowledgeable on the Heritage Neighborhood request would have been happy to discuss the established criteria and the benefits of making such decisions based on facts and engineering expertise.
In summary, the city manager continues to evaluate this issue. If it is decided to recommend some form of traffic calming, the entire neighborhood will be asked to vote first – as required by our policy on traffic calming.
The question for those who do not live on West Avenue or on 31st Street (where the traffic calming is proposed) will be: “Are you willing to risk having more traffic shift over to your street and have response time impacted?”
Sondra Creighton, P.E.
Director, Public Works Department
City of Austin
[Katherine Gregor responds: The Chronicle appreciates the director of Public Works' sharing her perspective and background information on the city's engineering study and road-marking improvements. See "Naked City" bullet (Jan. 26) on new COA solution suggested: speed cushions.]
RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 22, 2007
In Michael King's column "Point Austin: Act Against the War" [News, Jan. 19] the author makes the following statement: "But the ubiquitous conspiracy theories about the administration's ultimate intentions all have a fatal flaw: These vainglorious idiots simply don't know what they're doing." King's statement depends on the metric one would use to judge the results of Bush's actions. No, they have not brought democracy and stability to Iraq, but there was never any intention to do so. They have, however, come quite far in taking over and controlling the resources of that country. It is clear to anybody who judges these people based on their actions, while ignoring the rhetoric they offer for popular consumption, that they have been quite successful. In fact, as you read this letter, they are wrapping up an agreement that will turn over control of these resources to foreign oil companies, i.e., Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, and Chevron Texaco. In the eyes of the Bush administration's benefactors, they have been quite successful. Insisting on portraying our current leaders as bumbling but well-meaning people who have failed to do something that they never really intended on doing betrays a rather shallow understanding of U.S. foreign policy. If the people in the Bush administration were as stupid as Mr. King insists, they would not be in power.
RECEIVED Fri., Jan. 19, 2007
I read Ron Jaeger's letter regarding the new Battlestar Galactica, and it sounded awfully familiar [“Postmarks,” Jan. 19]. In fact it sounds like he simply rewrote Dick Benedict’s (Starbuck in the original series) critique. I guess we should be grateful he didn't use the nickname Stardoe.
It's a good show. That's all it is. I think it is one of the best and smartest things I've seen on TV in a while. I believe those that whine about the emasculation of the male characters might be worried about it happening to them on a day-to-day basis.
Hypothetical “shortcomings” aside, one of the things I love about the show is that it showcases strong women. There's no need to label it though. Labels are for people that can't handle complex ideas. To quote Michael Stipe, "Labels are for food ... canned food."
If you don't like Battlestar, that's cool. Don't watch it. However, don't deride it because it showcases strong women. There aren't nearly enough shows that do.
RECEIVED Fri., Jan. 19, 2007
A few years ago Mr. Louis Black stated that he opposed the initiation of the war in Iraq but that we could not withdraw until there was a functioning democratic government in Baghdad. (Twenty years?) He also supported Sen. John Kerry for president in 2004, whose platform advocated a “surge” in U.S. troop deployments in Iraq.
Last month Mr. Black editorialized that elite government leaders should ignore the will of the people and vote against their wishes [“Page Two,” Dec. 29]. Mr. Black may have been sending signals to President Bush but the context of his editorial was tolling of our road network, another action that is widely opposed by the people.
Are the issues that different? No. America has had wars that were sparked by governments that passed unpopular taxes. The Revolutionary War, the Whiskey Rebellion, the War of Secession. Those were the bloody wars. Several “cold” tax wars could be added to the list.
In short, Mr Black, by undermining a pillar of democracy, throws a bomb into the social order. A toll-tax rebellion may not turn bloody, but the harm done to our social fabric will be substantial.
Vincent J. May
[Louis Black responds: Where did I say our troops should stay there until there was a democratically elected government? I may well have, but I certainly don't remember it. I was pointing out that the Constitution of the United States was so structured as to allow some parts of the federal government to operate on principle rather than be overinfluenced by (perhaps rapidly changing) public opinion. It is surprising that Mr. May equates expressing an opinion with throwing a bomb. The outcry over the toll tax is sad, especially from Libertarians, to suggest it might lead to some serious social disruption even sadder. But to compare the inconvenience of a toll tax to the deaths and wounds of tens of thousands of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians is pathetic.]
RECEIVED Thu., Jan. 18, 2007
On Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, many newspapers still didn’t do justice to his legacy. They only acknowledged him as a great civil-rights leader, not mentioning the depth of his commitment to social justice and the complexity of his political convictions. And on TV we watched replays of his “I have a dream” speech but no footage of his more radical “Beyond Vietnam” speech of 1967. This holiday is becoming like others, with no sense of honoring the true meaning of the occasion. Only when we understand the full scope of King’s vision of equality and human rights can we appreciate his true legacy. The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was just the beginning for him. Dr. King was intelligent and conscientious enough to recognize and empathize with global injustices. He criticized corporate capitalism and interventionist U.S. foreign policy. Dr. King’s moral vision and reach extended far beyond questions of war, peace, and racial injustice. He saw that true democracy could never be realized without economic justice for the poor. Along with our New Year’s resolution we need to make a strong commitment to help continue Dr. King’s struggle for social justice and human rights.
RECEIVED Thu., Jan. 18, 2007
I was surprised to find your opposing stand for vouchers in Texas [“Post-Election Coverage,” News, Nov. 24, 2006] and making it seem as giving public funds to private schools when in fact the choice of how these funds are spent should be with who provides these funds to begin with, the residents of Texas. This is not about taking away or giving; it is about having choices and finally putting some pressure on the public school system by adding some competition and making them accountable for the results, which has not been happening lately. I invite you to familiarize yourself a little more on the voucher proposal and its benefits (www.hcreo.org) and move away from the rhetoric that has plagued this topic. One thing that I find interesting is that you are in favor of stem-cell research and yet consider vouchers an "experiment.” I believe that opening his mind to new ideas is the only way for Gov. Perry to lead Texas forward to a brighter future.
[Editor's note: "H-CREO," the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options, is a D.C.-based pro-voucher organization lobbying for taxpayer funding of private schools, especially religious private schools. According to an April 29, 2005, article in the Texas Observer, "H-CREO receives much of its funding from right-wing pro-voucher groups such as the Walton Family Foundation of Wal-Mart fame and (James) Leininger's own pro-voucher political action committee, Children First America." Leininger associate Robert Aguirre is chairman of the H-CREO board of trustees. H-CREO has scheduled a pro-voucher rally at the Capitol for Feb. 7.]