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 Thanks for your patience.
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Why Is Library Closing for So Long?

RECEIVED Tue., May 22, 2007

Dear Editor,
    What is the deal with the Twin Oaks Library (South Austin branch) closing for four months this summer? Just so they can put in new carpet and paint in a facility that will be closing permanently in a couple of years? It doesn’t make sense to me. Why don’t they spend the money putting in new shelves with lots of new books instead? And how about they get started working on the new Mary branch or the Manchaca branch for that matter instead of refurbishing an old facility that won’t be there that long anyway? Seriously, is anyone else kind of scratching their head about the logic of all this? Even the librarians don’t seem that enthused about this project. What about all the school kids who are out of school all summer? Is it really a good idea to close down one of the only other free sources of books? There are folks who rely on local access to the Internet and others who really benefit from a quick trip to the library on the way to HEB or just to get out of the heat. It goes against my sensibilities to see a library close down for so long. Especially when the purpose is for interior design instead of getting new books and tapes and DVDs and computers. They need a few thousand more books. Forget the carpet!
Kate Walker

Restaurant Poll Needs Innovative Restructuring

RECEIVED Tue., May 22, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Respectfully speaking, I'd just like to say, the Readers Poll doesn't do it for me anymore [Restaurant Poll 2007, Food, May 18]. Seeing McDonald's get runner-up for fries … I mean, I know everyone has a right to their opinion, but it makes me seriously wince, especially since I live here in Austin. And it's happened before, too. Secondly, it's many of the same restaurants over and over again every year who win (Hut's Hamburgers, Hyde Park for fries, Fonda San Miguel, etc., etc.). Not to attack those places, but from the perspective of wanting interesting reading, I pretty much know what's going to happen every year with the Readers Poll … so I can't look forward to the results. Maybe some restaurants need to be "retired" from the poll?
    Here's my ludicrous suggestion: For each category, list all the restaurants that are eligible to win that category (feasible? online for sure). Then, readers can give each eligible restaurant a score for the category. Then if a restaurant has, say, 10 or more ratings, average them out, and that's its score. Highest score wins the category. Perhaps that will soften the "tried and true/popularity" bonus that, say, Trudy's and Chuy's both get. Or Hut's, etc. Maybe then we'll get some more interesting results.
    I know running the poll is a lot of work, and I'm not trying to disparage the people who make it happen; I'm just saying, as a reader, the product doesn't deliver in its current form.
    Dunno … just my thoughts.
Paul DeMello

Dawson Neighborhood 'Elite' Putting Out 'Misinformation'

RECEIVED Tue., May 22, 2007

Dear Editor,
    I am sick of all the misinformation coming out of the Dawson neighborhood "elite.” I am one of the supposed "developer group" who is requesting a FLUM (Future Land Use Map) change. I have been a property owner and fellow Dawsonite for almost 10 years. I am not a developer, nor are any of the property owners requesting the change. Despite what these people have been saying, city staff, commissioners, and council members have a right to their opinion and do not have to side with the neighborhood. The neighborhood plan is a tool to work with the city, not the law. I agree with Chris Cosart's letter dated May 17, “Austinites Prevent Smart Growth, Not Facilitate It” [“Postmarks” online]. We have been upfront and honest and have tried to work with the neighborhood elite, but they want no change. Why do they think they have more say about my property than I do? What have they really done to improve the neighborhood? Nothing! Dawson is stagnant, and the only thing they want is status quo. Wake up, people. Austin is growing, and whether you like it or not, the changes we are requesting make sense. Every property owner requesting the change was included in the presentation to the Planning Commission, but I guess Donald Dawson would have to check facts in order to get it correct. And it has been very clear he and others voicing their opinion and sadly, representing the neighborhood have no clue. Their tactics are to confuse these elderly neighbors and incite the neighborhood. They have never tried to consider how the change might benefit the neighborhood. By the way, a FLUM change and zoning change are two completely different things. Do you get it?
Julie Alexander

Seattle Succeeded Because City Challenged Neighborhoods

RECEIVED Tue., May 22, 2007

Dear Editor,
    I was disappointed to see that Katherine Gregor failed to mention the central dynamic that made neighborhood planning in Seattle so successful, namely that neighborhoods were given a choice between mandated, uniform increases in density or coming up with their own plan for increasing density in their neighborhood [“Developing Stories,” News, May 18]. Given this, neighborhoods in Seattle rose to the challenge, not infrequently submitting neighborhood plans that added more density than they were asked to accommodate. With no mandates, neighborhood planning in Austin has been mostly an exercise in institutionalizing the status quo. Rather than add density, many neighborhoods have actually tried to decrease density by downzoning and attempting to make existing mixed-use and multifamily uses illegal. In this context, none of Seattle's "best practices" make any sense: A city fund for neighborhood projects? For what, exactly, given the plan is "no change, no way"? Until we start to think realistically about what it might take to survive the oil shortages and climate instabilities of the coming years, we will continue to drown in our own effluvium.
Patrick Goetz
   [Katherine Gregor responds: The effect of mandated density increases will be addressed in the second installment promised of best practices from Seattle, to run in an upcoming issue. According to Jim Diers, only two neighborhoods initially requested an increase over their mandated density, but all did agree to it. A key difference is that Seattle was itself mandated to conduct long-term growth planning (from whence sprung density mandates) by its state Legislature, leaving no room for neighborhood argument; Austin is not so fortunate.]

Austin Has Already Changed

RECEIVED Mon., May 21, 2007

Dear Editor,
    “Support Local Business” is a concept both noble and vital, but how did the slogan “Keep Austin Weird” get co-opted to this purpose? If people really think that's what it means, we've already lost it. For the record, here's what it meant before it became meaningless:
    Half the time we didn't bother to lock up our houses at night or roll up our car windows – and didn't need to.
    Whole families, from Mom and Dad to the toddler, skinny-dipped in any cove any day. Women and men, skinny or fat, got naked and didn't give a rat's ass what any thought of their figures.
    I could walk to my favorite bar (Spellman's) with an open longneck, carry it into the club, and carry my last one out for the walk home.
    This letter I'm writing in longhand on lined paper wouldn't have raised an eyebrow in the letters' department.
    Our city, and we ourselves, were still so far from being corporate-owned that most of us seldom gave a thought to the threat.
    And that's where we went wrong. Now, supporting local business is the pitiful last ditch left to us.
Don Taylor

Defending Dawson Neighborhood

RECEIVED Mon., May 21, 2007

Dear Editors,
    Our ragtag group didn't have a PowerPoint presentation for the Planning Commission; no colored maps, no aerial photos, no snapshots, no renderings of what wonderful projects could be. Unfortunately, this time even the city had a PowerPoint presentation against the neighborhood. We expected the slick slide show from the developer group. At the first Planning Commission meeting they had surprised us with a PowerPoint presentation. It was a particularly bitter surprise because the developer group had set through the neighborhood meeting the night before, not revealing their opposition. We felt infiltrated.
    Perhaps they changed their minds the next day and quickly put together their computer slide show just in time for the Planning Commission meeting. They showed houses in decay, graffiti, trailers, and the freeway. They portrayed that corner of our neighborhood as being blighted and in desperate need of change. They didn't show Mrs. Ng's rose garden, nor Mr. Sanchez's newly painted front porch. Any house that looked good was not in their PowerPoint presentation. They didn't mention that the houses in the worst decay had recently been bought up by members of this developer group and then purposely not kept up. No one said that nice people can afford to live in mobile homes. And the noise from the freeway and the proximity to the freeway isn't that bad. It is an excavated freeway. That corner of the neighborhood is on high hill, above the service road and way above the actual freeway. Height and trees protect these homes from the freeway. It is not a bad place to live.
    But this time at the Planning Commission, the big surprise was the changes the city's PowerPoint presentation proposed. Families who had owned their homes for generations had not been notified of these changes. Colored zoning maps where their lots had been yellow for family were suddenly turned brown for commercial. It is amazing what miracles modern technology can do. The city made no attempt to explain to these families what the consequences of the changes would be. The only information the homeowners received was from the developer group.
    This time we had several neighbors there. We tried to explain to the commissioners that there had been a mistake, that the city had no right to change homeowner’s properties without their consent. But we weren't very organized, we were perhaps too emotional, and we didn't have a PowerPoint presentation. We lost eight to one. Only the chair of the commission took pity on us. Next time we've got to have a PowerPoint presentation. Otherwise their may not be a neighborhood left to defend.
Donald Dodson, president
Dawson Neighborhood Association

Be Impressed With More Concrete Actions on Climate

RECEIVED Mon., May 21, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Characterizing Austin as having "the most ambitious municipal climate-protection plan in the nation" [“Writing the Climate,” News, May 18] is a very sad reflection on other climate-protection plans. I’d be much more impressed with some concrete actions that literally could be done with the stroke of a pen and that have proved effective elsewhere:
    1) Severely limit or prohibit adding new parking places Downtown, as Portland, Ore., has. If less space Downtown is taken up with parking, more space will be available for people to work Downtown and thus increase the number of riders to make public transit feasible.
    2) Adopt a congestion pricing plan as London and Singapore have done and New York is considering. Such a plan places a sizable – say $10 a trip – charge on driving into the Downtown area during daytime hours. That reduces the number of cars alleviating congestion. Receipts from the plan are used to improve mass transit for those going Downtown, creating a virtuous circle, fewer cars, less congestion, better public transit, more riders.
    Three: Dedicated bus lanes into the Downtown area are now standard fare in many cities. As long as buses get caught in traffic jams along with the cars that cause them, there is little incentive to switch. However if those who are stuck in traffic see buses zipping by them each day, many will be induced to leave their cars at home.
Philip Russell

Planning Commission Welcomes Input

RECEIVED Mon., May 21, 2007

Dear Editor
    I am writing in response to the column in the May 18 edition by Wells Dunbar titled “No Room at the Hutch” [News].
    One reason why public officials have voted for developments that include modest amounts of housing at 80% median family income and mixes of uses is that in many neighborhoods across the city, residents in older apartment complexes and small houses have lost their leases, and their former homes have been renovated or rebuilt to create housing for folks at 300%, 400%, etc. of the MFI, without any public process at all. Also, many commercial developments along arterial roads are very hard to access on foot.
    Planners have realized that by offering some incentives and setting new requirements to developers who are determined to make changes in our landscape anyway, we could preserve some below-market housing and increase the number of destinations people could reach on foot, bike, or bus. Obviously, in some areas 80% MFI is not affordable to local residents, and 50% or lower should be the target. Also, incentives should be geared to influence developments that would have occurred anyway, as opposed to prompting new development for its own sake.
    Based on the rate of conversions of older central city housing to upscale units, one has to wonder: Had the city not allowed a zoning change to Stoneridge or Lamar and Manchaca, how long would the current developments hang on before converting to chain-store strip malls, fast-food pad sites, or expensive condos? If the incentives aimed at providing walkable retail and affordable housing sped up the redevelopment of these tracts, it is probably by only a short amount.
    The Planning Commission welcomes input about changes to the city code to promote affordability and reduced reliance on driving. We meet the second and fourth Tuesdays each month at City Hall, 6pm, and the first item on our agenda is Citizens’ Communication.
Dave Sullivan
CoA planning commissioner

Luv Doc, What About Traffic Jams?

RECEIVED Mon., May 21, 2007

Dear Luv Doc,
    You've got the best column [“The Luv Doc Recommends”] this side of “News of the Weird” and the poor lost "The Straight Dope.” I clip and treasure for my descendants all of your articles.
    However, I was disappointed to see you omit my favorite worry in your very complete (almost) May 11 list of buggy stuff: That is traffic jams.
Tommy X Hancock

Teddy R. Was Talking to Vance

RECEIVED Mon., May 21, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Teddy Roosevelt once said, "To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile but is morally treasonable to the American public."
    Yeah, Vance McDonald, he was talking to you [“Postmarks,” May 18]. Teddy's calling you "morally treasonable," and I agree with him. You can stay part of that small percentage of hardcore stupids that Bush can still count on, but don't call yourself a patriot, a-hole.
Ben Hogue

McDonald Boldly Confronts Stephen Moser's Politics

RECEIVED Mon., May 21, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Stephen MacMillan Moser’s May 18 article reveals a void of intellectual and moral maturity [“After a Fashion,” Arts]. I intend no ad hominem attack on Mr. Moser, but really. He confirms Churchill’s famous observation that if you are older than 40 and a liberal, you have no brain.
    As the Byrds' old song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (where verses from the Old Testament are used as lyrics) attests, there is “a time of war” and “a time of peace.” Perhaps Mr. Moser was too young at the time to recall that. But the timeless wisdom of those lines has escaped him now. Indeed, he apparently longs nostalgically for the time of “beads … incense … music by Buffy Sainte-Marie and Donovan.” Today, as in the Sixties and Seventies, this type of credulity weakens the civilized world – with dire consequences.
    Alas, peace will never “rule the Earth.” There will always be evil men willing to use aggressive violence and despotism to impose their malevolent goals. As much as we wish otherwise, this is the way of the world. It happened in World War II and the Cold War. And the only reason those evil men did not succeed was because more courageous good men stood to defeat them.
    History is now repeating itself. The new enemies of liberty are the forces of radical Islamist supremacy. They are committed to enslaving the world just as the Nazis, Japanese, and Soviets attempted in those earlier conflicts. It is time for Mr. Moser and all who would look away to understand that there are millions of Islamist extremists devoted to this sinister cause. Item one is the September 11 attack against America and the free world. If we do not defeat these terrible people, they will impose worldwide genocide, cultural collapse, and tyranny surpassing all previous crimes against humanity.
Vance McDonald

What About the Kaiser Chiefs?

RECEIVED Sun., May 20, 2007

Dear Editor,
    The 2007 Austin City Limits lineup has been announced, and I have seen press all over Austin for bands ranging from marquee status (Bob Dylan, White Stripes) to the obscure (Peter Bjorn & John). Where, oh where can I find some commentary about the incredibly awesome UK phenom the Kaiser Chiefs? I am shocked and disappointed at the utter lack of local support for a band that is the literal toast of the UK. Their second album, Yours Truly, Angry Mob, is a UK No. 1 smash, and as we speak, they are headlining tours all over Europe. The Chiefs just finished a U.S. tour, with a stop at Coachella, and I flew to Chicago to see the band. The singer, Ricky Wilson, regularly crowd-surfs to the bar, the songs are catchy and infectious … what's not to love? Are they supposed to put lingerie-clad women in their videos to get some attention? Have we really come to that? Their single "Ruby" is fantastic. I urge the Austin music community to check out the band, buy the album, and see them on Friday night at ACL. You will have a blast.
Yours truly,
Janis Powers

Fan of O'Keefe

RECEIVED Sun., May 20, 2007

Louis Black,
    I've loved Danny O'Keefe since I bought O'Keefe in the cut-out bin in the early Seventies. Really thrills me when you refer back to him [“Page Two,” April 27 and May 18]. One of my biggest regrets is not seeing him at the Continental Club so many years ago. Anyhow, take care and thanks. He deserves much credit. (Fred Neil, great stuff, too.)
    Love your work.
Jim Brewer

America's Troops Deserve More Than They Are Getting

RECEIVED Sun., May 20, 2007

Dear Editor,
    We’ve turned a corner in the slogan “I support the troops.” Our nation's biggest troop booster, President Bush, has the audacity to deny a 0.5% raise to our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines and, to add insult to injury, also to deny a $40-a-month death benefit to our deceased soldiers. There have been 3,401 soldiers killed and thousands more wounded, but that is not worth an average of $6 a month to our President Bush. I hear Republicans decry any effort to discuss options in strategy as not “supporting the troops,” but not giving them a 0.5% raise and taking care of their families is somehow supporting the troops. I wonder when the Republican Party – in particular our Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison and my Rep. Michael McCaul – will put national interest above partisanship and support our troops with more than words but with deeds. I know we take exceptional care of Haliburton, Blackwater, and any other contractor. How can we be judged a superpower when we deny a 0.5% raise to our soldiers? Who among us is willing to risk life and limb for $1,300 a month? It’s a miracle that we can find anyone to do so, because anyone with the slightest means would never even consider going into the military. President Bush was quoted as saying that the raise and death benefits were “sufficient.” I may be naive, but I always believed that the goal was generous. I have personally handed a flag to widows and children asking them to please accept this flag from a grateful nation. I had always hoped that besides grateful we could also be generous. James Madison once said, "Those who are to conduct a war cannot in the nature of things be proper or safe judges, whether a war ought to be commenced, continued, or concluded." These patriots deserve respect and payment in full, not empty rhetoric.
Ron Ruiz

Right-Wingers Fear Global Warming

RECEIVED Sat., May 19, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Let's face it: Right-wingers fear global warming because it highlights the bankruptcy of their policies [“Writing the Climate,” News, May 18].
    The only solution to global warming is a planned economy and international cooperation – a prospect that makes wing nuts pee their pants. That's why they've concocted a phony controversy on the subject.
    The people pontificating about how global warming is a hoax don't know squat about atmospheric science. They'd rather let the planet die than give up their obsolete, anti-government philosophy.
Perry Logan

Black Is Mistaken and Will Not Concede

RECEIVED Fri., May 18, 2007

Dear Editor,
    I was interested in moving on to another point about the Bush administration, specifically a connection between the Bush family fortune and Hitler.
    However, before making that case, I will clarify comments of Louis Black about my previous letter [“Postmarks,” May 18].
    Black wrote that conspiracists have no interest or knowledge in history, economics, or government. I then quoted Gore Vidal, who describes himself as a conspiracy realist. Black countered that Vidal’s superior intellect does not make him correct on every matter. That is beside the point, which is that Black is mistaken that everyone who contends there is a nefarious government conspiracy is uneducated and unknowledgeable.
    But Black will not concede. He will intentionally make the same false statement at a later point in time.
    This manipulation of semantics makes carrying on a debate quite difficult. But that is the nature of the media beast, apparently.
    Humorists are very important in our society. I do not think I could cope without laughing at the work of David Letterman, Craig Ferguson, Jon Stewart, and Bill Maher. Humor is very difficult to do, making these individuals and others very rare and valuable.
    Absurdists (not a reference to Black) are people who have disdain for just about everyone and everything in society. Their response to any dialogue will be something that makes very little sense. While they are attempting humor, unfortunately, this is seldom the result. They are merely sabotaging progress in a debate because that is what they do. They are particularly fond of name-calling, seemingly without the slightest awareness that any idiot can call someone an idiot.
    I would caution fellow conspiracists attempting to impart a point of view or statement of fact to pay no attention to these persons behind the curtain pulling their levers, sounding bells and whistles that mean nothing.
Kenney Kennedy

For the Earth We Should Err on the Side of Caution

RECEIVED Fri., May 18, 2007

Dear Editor,
    In reference to Thomas Laprade's letter to the editor on Global Warming [“Postmarks,” May 18], Mr. Laprade claims that humans are not the cause of global warming based on a single study by the Danish National Space Center. He cites a "series of experiments" conducted by the Danish scientist showing the Earth's temperature fluctuations are caused by the sun and not by the 6.5 billion humans who presently inhabit the quaint little rock we call Earth.
    Well I have two barroom experiments for him. First experiment: Light a cigar. Then take a glass and turn it upside-down. Tip the glass slightly and blow a big puff into the glass. You've just conducted a scaled-down version of a finite volume of atmosphere and the effects of human-generated pollutants on that gas. Did the gas change physically and chemically? What the hell do you think 6.5 billion fossil-fuel-emission-spewing monkeys are doing to the atmosphere? Experiment two: Take a bowl and place a rock in it. Put ice cubes in the bowl. What happens? When the ice melted the rock went underwater. Imagine that rock is any low-lying coastal city in the world. The Danes should be especially sensitive to this concept considering the area of their country protected by dikes.
    It isn't so much that this single scrap of so-called research sounds like another Exxon-funded study. There are hundreds if not thousands of studies, reports, peer-reviewed journal articles, etc, etc, that directly contradict the conclusions of the Danish "research" and attribute the unprecedented rate of change we are presently witnessing to human influence. Perhaps humans should come to the realization that we only have one Earth to live on, and maybe we should err on the side of caution. Unfortunately, humans have historically managed by crisis. This is painfully evident in lack of foresight shown by this state, this country, and nations abroad as people continue to build more coal-fired power plants and burn more and more fossil fuels. I hope we as a species can pull our collective heads from our asses. Enjoy your cigar.
Christopher Ringstaff

9/11 Questions

RECEIVED Fri., May 18, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Asking questions, here are some that bother me:
    What would have been the government's motivation for destroying the World Trade Center and attacking the Pentagon? If they wanted an excuse to invade Iraq, there could have been many less destructive methods, since we eventually did invade Iraq with no actual connection to 9/11 anyway.
    Do you really believe that no military or Department of Defense personnel, who may have had friends die in the Pentagon, would blow the whistle on a government plot of this magnitude?
    Could this group realistically plan and pull this off only eight months after entering office?
    Don't you think any journalist who wanted to make a name for himself/herself, à la Woodward and Bernstein, would absolutely salivate over the possibility of proving these conspiracies to be true? That no one at The New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, New Yorker, The Nation, etc., etc., etc., would be only too glad to print damning stories of the Bush administration, if they could prove them? Not to mention thousands of Democrats?
    As you can see, I'm all for asking questions. I just don't understand the energy spent on asking questions that have already been answered again and again. There will always be pieces missing from a puzzle this large and chaotic, but this is also what makes the idea of a vast cover-up so unbelievable. Part of any "truth movement" should be to accept logical and scientific explanations, whether they fit your world-view or not. I would think there's still plenty of genuine government corruption and mismanagement to focus on instead.
Greg Murphy

Applauds Conspiracy Theorists

RECEIVED Thu., May 17, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Re: The debate over 9/11 conspiracies: They (the Bush administration) pee in our face and tell us it's rain, and unfortunately we seem to accept it. FYI: It's patriotic to question, and I applaud the few that do!
Jinny Lee
Melrose, Fla.

Healthy Dose of Absurd Comedy

RECEIVED Thu., May 17, 2007

Dear Editor:
    In your last issue, Chris Gray actually suggests that Avril Lavigne and Pink provide a sonic platform from which young female listeners might gravitate to Patti Smith [“Phases & Stages,” Music, May 18].
    And to think I was going to have to revisit some Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco works for my healthy dose of absurd comedy this week.
Christopher C. Grady

Austinites Prevent Smart Growth, Not Facilitate It

RECEIVED Thu., May 17, 2007

Dear Editor,
    One key factor in Seattle's process is that it requires increased density [“Developing Stories,” News, May 18]. The mistake made with Austin's neighborhood planning process was the assumption that central Austinites were actually the progressives and environmentalists they claimed to be. The NP process forced them to put up or shut up and show their true colors. With only a few exceptions, they (or at least those dominating the process) showed themselves to be pro-sprawl NIMBYs, and we ended up with most NPs being used to prevent Smart Growth, not facilitate it, and to encourage sprawl, not limit it.
Chris Cosart
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