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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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Ventura Is a Genius

RECEIVED Wed., May 28, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Do you folks understand what a genius you have working for you? I'm talking about Michael Ventura – and specifically his latest column, "Greater and Lesser Conformities" [“Letters @ 3am,” May 23].
    If you aren't submitting his name for the Pulitzer Prize every year, you're depriving him, yourselves, and all of Austin of a much-deserved recognition.
    I've seen some magnificent pieces of writing from his "pen," but this one is … ah, words fail: It's something that deserves to take its place among the best writings of nearly any essayist in American literature.
Tom Davis

Who Is Paying for 'Click It or Ticket'?

RECEIVED Tue., May 27, 2008

Dear Editor,
    In Downtown Austin, there is a huge "Click It or Ticket" banner on one of the new high-rise condo buildings. I have recently become aware of the obscene cost of outdoor advertising. I know large billboards on major highways can cost $10,000-$15,000 a month. So I have to wonder, how much does this three-story-high banner cost? Secondly, is my tax money paying for this? And most importantly … is anyone confused about the law requiring seat belts to be worn? I'm pretty sure that any licensed driver is aware that they can be ticketed for being in a vehicle without a seat belt on. Maybe this building and all the billboard companies are donating the space for advertising, but if not, is this really a good use of tax money?
Steven McCloud

Cycling Is a Legitimate Mode of Transportation

RECEIVED Tue., May 27, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Mr. Jason Bratcher (“Postmarks,” May 23) writes: "Traffic laws are inconvenient for motorists and cyclists, I know. But they work, and yes people break them, and they always will; they will also reap the consequences of doing it." Unfortunately, Mr. Bratcher, most times motorists don't reap the consequences of breaking the law. I can give you the names of at least a dozen cyclists I know who have been hit by motorists and only about a third of the time did the driver find it necessary to stop. Case in point: A co-worker of mine was hit by a car while riding his bicycle home from work a few weeks ago and left for dead. He is now confined to bed 23 hours a day in a brace to allow his spine to heal. The driver, as happens all too often, was nowhere to be found.
    Is Mr. Bratcher as equally annoyed when he sees a motorist crowding a cyclist on the road? What about when he sees a motorist making a turn from the wrong lane? Or what about when he sees a motorist barrel through a red light wrongly assuming it would stay yellow just a few seconds longer? These are things the average cyclist, myself included, sees and experiences routinely. To quote a different letter [“Motorists Also Break the Law”] from that same edition of the Chronicle: "The reality is that both bicyclists and motorists break the law. The difference is that when motorists do it, someone other than the law-breaker frequently gets hurt or killed." A scary truth that's stated perfectly.
    When will Austin start taking cues from cities that view cycling as a legitimate mode of transportation and create a sensible infrastructure to support it as such? Auto accidents are responsible for more than 42,000 deaths a year in this country and, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the leading cause of death until the age of 44. While it's obvious Mr. Bratcher was annoyed with what he saw, I think if he has a genuine concern for having safer streets, he would be better off redirecting his energies elsewhere.
Darren Raymond

An Opposing View on Cycling

RECEIVED Tue., May 27, 2008

Dear Editor,
    It is very nice that Michael Bluejay at BicycleSafe.com gets to air his comments in the Chronicle [“Postmarks,” May 23] … but what about an opposing view? After going to his site and trying to give a response, I was turned back at every try. I will only make a few points which I am sure Mike has heard before. As a motorist in a big Texas truck, which I enjoy, I have been just overwhelmed in the last two to three years by the total lack of concern by our fellow motorists for our safety or well-being. Whether it has been looking down for phone calls or whatever, it's become pretty much dodgeball with 3,000-pound vehicles. My advice to a biker is to go where there are few cars. No matter what you wear or do, we cannot see you a lot of the time, so it's up to you. Man on bike vs. 3,000-pound car. Sorry Mike, I think you need to move to France, or you will lose (die), get it?
John Hanna

Will Miss Some but Not All of Austin

RECEIVED Sun., May 25, 2008

Dear Editor,
    After 14 years in Austin, I'm moving. I lost my job after 11 years at a Fortune 500 semiconductor equipment company. I basically got canned for not wanting to work any more 13-hour night shifts (after eight years).
    That's OK; it's a blessing in disguise. I'm an outdoor recreation major who has worked in a building with no windows for a quarter of my life.
    Venuewise, I will miss Liberty Lunch and the Electric Lounge the most. The South by Southwest wristbands were $30 in '95. Emo's will live on! The noise complaints about Stubb's outdoor shows are insane. That place was there before all the complainers moved in around Red River.
    The litter in this town is out of control. My last trip to the green belt was sad. Broken glass, diapers, beer cans, plastic, dog crap, etc. Who leaves a diaper on the green belt? Who brings glass bottles to hang out on the rocks along a creek?
    I'll also miss KGSR, Enchanted Rock, McKinney Falls, Zilker Park, the Chronicle, and all of the great friends I met here.
Brian Gleason
South Austin

Austin's Relevance up for Sale

RECEIVED Sun., May 25, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Opportunists are snatching up affordable, historic, single-family dwellings faster than renters can sign another lease. This situation often occurs while the renter is still residing in the property. The destruction of affordable housing and substitution with over-the-top urbanism has renters facing unexpected challenges in their quest to find equitable housing. Neighborhoods are being re-created one investment property at a time – by the dozens. Historic homes that haven’t yet been demolished are aggressively being surrounded with obnoxious, mass produced, urban filing cabinets. This "growth" is desecrating the landscape, causing property taxes to rise, and is successfully wiping out the history and culture of Capital City, Texas. City leaders are to blame. They’ve placed Austin’s significant relevance up for sale. They continue to entice out-of-state profiteers and misuse taxpayer dollars. Realistically, these opportunists are short-timers who will soon dump their gargantuan investment properties leaving behind abandoned condos, urban dwellings, and McMansions, inevitably making Austin an urban ghetto. Renters, even when faced with skyrocketing rent and the elimination of housing, continue to pay hefty deposits, tolerate price gouging, and succumb to countless fees by varying service providers and landlords. It is in the city’s best interest to acknowledge renters' considerable role in Austin’s culture and landscape by providing rent control, utility competition, and a renters association. Provisions for the common renter who exists between elitism and poverty would be a welcome relief during these tumultuous times.
Colette Michalec

Great Town to Bike In

RECEIVED Sun., May 25, 2008

Dear Editor,
    I love to bike Austin. I am tired of hearing the complaints about how dangerous it is to ride here. Sure, improvements could be made here and there, but overall, this is a great town to bike in. The only places in town I find relatively difficult are east/west routes Downtown and between Guadalupe and Lamar up to 45th. Widening the sidewalks with separate bike/walk lanes would solve that. There will always be conflict between bikes and cars; time to accept that as a fact. Stay off of the roads where one is likely to be killed.
Tim Pipe

City Sweeps Its Problems to East Austin

RECEIVED Sat., May 24, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Until I moved to East Austin about a year ago, I never realized the vast difference of city life, city image, and city representation between East and West. West-of-35 Austin is the chamber of commerce’s ideal city used in all their promotional advertisements, while east-of-35 Austin is the rug under which the city sweeps all of its problems.
    A few months ago, the council unanimously approved renting city property in East Austin for a homeless “RV park.” There was very little notice given to neighbors, and the current council railroaded through the matter. The “park” initially proposed to have up to 150 people living in RVs and cabins with all tenants undergoing a thorough background check. After it was approved, an Austin news station reported that the park would house more than 200 people living in RVs and tents, and violent criminals or sexual offenders would be welcome because “they need a second chance like everyone else.”
    Now there is a proposal before the council to approve a 110-unit “low income/homeless” complex adjacent to established neighborhoods and schools near Manor Road and Rogge Lane. This nonprofit also promises background checks and to closely monitor the residents. The residents would be overcoming addictions and trying to get a fresh start. However, this site is right across the street from a bar and down the street from a drug-infested area.
    This proposal has received enormous opposition from its neighbors. Many halfway houses, group homes, shelters, and low-income housing are already located in this area, and the residents feel the area has reached saturation. Judging by the lack of city representation at neighborhood meetings, their objections seem to fall on the deaf ears of city leaders. Many residents have lived in the area their entire lives and paid their taxes to a city that shows little interest in their opinions or concern for their quality of life.
    At the same time these citizens of East Austin are ignored; the council is relenting to a handful of residents who chose to move in to Downtown condos and are now complaining about the noise. The council wasted no time in forming a “task force” and seems willing to threaten the live music industry to placate these Downtown whiners.
    It seems the city likes to wave its flag touting how great they are and how much they support the homeless and lower income of the city … as long as they stay on “their side” of I-35.
Tom Van Schaik

Has No Problem With Polygamy Per Se

RECEIVED Fri., May 23, 2008

Dear Editor,
    I have no problem with polygamous marriage per se. If consenting adults want to be married to more than one person, the state should mind its own business and let them live in peace [“FLDS Hearings Turn on Ages of Mothers,” News, May 23]. Forcing children into marriage and sex acts with men old enough to be their grandfathers is a very different story. The men at that compound in Eldorado are rapists, and the adult women are accessories to rape for allowing the abuse to continue by not reporting it. None of the people who engaged in or condoned this abuse should ever be allowed to have custody of children again. They should spend the rest of their lives on the sex offender registry, but now the appeals court is saying that the children should be returned to these rapists.
Michael Guidry

The Human Cost of Iraq

RECEIVED Fri., May 23, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Finally someone in the media has the courage to point out the human tragedy and loss of life in Iraq [“Point Austin,” News, May 23].
    While I grieve for all of the death and destruction in China and Myanmar, these natural disasters were in some instances unavoidable, though the response rate of the Burmese government and the shoddy construction of the Chinese have added significantly to the death toll.
    Iraq is not a "natural" disaster but is and was avoidable. The U.S. is now responsible for the deaths of at least 600,000 Iraqi civilians (Lancet, October 2006). Estimates show this number may be on the low end and closer to 1 million.
    The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Refugees did a study (November 2007) on "internally displaced persons" from Iraq and found 2.7 million have left the county. The U.S., in its "gratitude," has allowed only 2,000 IDPs into the United States. Syria, labeled a "terrorist sponsor" state, allowed 1.3 millions Iraqi IDPs into its country.
    Darfur, while in itself also a great human tragedy, has a U.N. estimate of 300,000 dead. Which is worse, the U.S. invasion of Iraq or the genocide in the Sudan? The brutality of both are hard to equate or even measure.
    So what do we do? Molly Ivins, in her final article before she passed away, said, "We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it, now!'"
    Molly was right … do something! The Senate passed a war-funding bill of more than $165 billion to fund through 2009. This bill will go to the House for approval sometime in the next week. Contact your congressional representative at www.house.gov.
    Tell them no more money for this or any other war. Molly would be proud.
Paz y amor,
James M. Turpin

Considering Gov. Perry as Texas' CEO

RECEIVED Fri., May 23, 2008

Dear Editor,
    If Gov. Perry wants to be considered the CEO of Texas, let us look at what he has done for his shareholders, the citizens of Texas. Texas ranks at the top in the number of people without health insurance, at the top in the number of high school dropouts (due in part to the necessity for more paychecks in households). He has sold off one of our most valuable assets – land – to foreign interest. He has pushed for the Trans-Texas Corridor, which will benefit Wal-Mart and China far more than most Texans. His plan to privatize help for Texas' neediest citizens has been such a failure that even he couldn't ignore it. He has attempted to privatize government services even though he knew cost would increase. He has stated that Texas citizens who don't agree with his fanatical Christian beliefs should find somewhere else to live. His fixation on funding for the Boy Scouts would make a Freudian blush. His cronyism would make the Fergusons envious. If he had been a CEO, he would have been given his walking papers, not a golden parachute, long ago.
Charles Waldrep

Texas Needs Film Incentives

RECEIVED Thu., May 22, 2008

Dear Editor,
    Thanks for the excellent story about the need for Texas to offer incentives to get filmmakers back into Texas [“Abandoning the Nest,” Screens, May 23]. I urge readers to send copies of this article to their Texas state representative and senator, asking them to act on this important economic issue. To find out who represents you in the Texas Legislature, go to www.capitol.state.tx.us and click on "Who Represents Me?"
Sincerely,
Declan Mantis
   p.s. Loved the article photos – it was cool to feature the crew folks in a film industry story.

Visitor From Holland Had a Great Time in Marfa

RECEIVED Thu., May 22, 2008

Dear Editor,
    I was searching for a review on the opening night of the Marfa Film Festival, just to see if there were any photographs available. Then I found your article [“You Can Leave Your Hat On,” Screens, May 3] and read the first line, about festivalgoers from as far as Holland. I am one (of the two) festivalgoers from Holland! So I'm now just writing you to let you know that we had a great time at the festival. My friend saw the film There Will Be Blood on the plane to Texas, and we were really just passing through Marfa. By accident, we stopped at a house where "Michelle" lived, and she told us about the opening night, being on the set of the film, and showing the film. A bit earlier I was at the hotel downtown, also by accident; I was just looking for – excuse me – the toilet, and in a hall in the back of the hotel, I met some people of the organization of the festival who were also trying to talk me into going to the festival. Our plan was to drive on, see the Davis Mountains (which we also did, by the way) and then drive farther to who knows where? But at the end of the day, still in Fort Davis, we decided to drive back to Marfa and to go see the film. We've met some very nice locals; we've been talking to them – telling us about being in the film and asking us how we heard of Marfa.
    We had a great time there!
    So it was fun to read the first line of your review!
Bye,
Simone Buddemeijer
Holland

Bicyclists and Motorists Need to Work Together

RECEIVED Thu., May 22, 2008

Dear Editor,
    The cycling community should be assured that not all motorists share Mr. Bratcher's negative mentality regarding cyclists [“Postmarks,” May 23]. For car drivers to sit in the comfort of their air-conditioned vehicles, burning fossil fuels, and bitching at the entire cycling community is cowardice and pointless. Motorists need to recognize the hazards all cyclists endure on Austin's "shared" roadways. Recreational sport or commuter, spandex or skirts, motorists or cyclists, we should all extend courtesy and forgiveness (for mistakes on the road) toward one another. Public forums are a great means of expression and awareness. It should be utilized as a means of working together as a community to find reasonable solutions and share camaraderie. The bottom line is that the cycling community is a reflection of primordial Austin. It only behooves everyone to support the cycling community because in turn, it will only better Austin. The less cars, the better. The more greenery, the better. The less pollution, the better. It's a no-brainer. So who is the real "pea brain,” Mr. Bratcher? It's the one avenue in which we can truly keep Austin close-knit and local in the midst of the "New Urban" terrorism that has captured our city.
Colette Michalec
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