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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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Enough Faux Outrage

RECEIVED Wed., May 20, 2009

Ms. Kate Getty,
    Re: “Sticks and Stones and Fair and Balanced?” [The Gay Place Blog, May 14]: This faux outrage gets me – I commented on Kate X Messer's original post. Jenni Lee used a descriptive word that she most likely didn’t mean to insult homosexuals. Sure, she meant to insult the person she was writing about - this guy on Amazing Race - because she didn’t like his mom. But that’s it; it’s an innocent comment.
    And now, you’ve all ostracized this person. You’ve put a red “H” on her chest and are now forcing an apology.
    And in this toxic environment created by this blog, you expect her and Fox News to reply to that. There is no response to this that would be acceptable to your intolerant ilk.
    It’s the same thing that happened to Miss California. She doesn’t comply with our version of tolerance, therefore we must destroy. Well, I for one am tired of it.
    There are words that are unacceptable. I hear them all the time, and sometimes they’re used in the gay and lesbian community. They use them on each other all time … but if a heterosexual that’s not “cool” with the in crowd uses them, well, we’ll just embarrass them.
    Heck, Kate X called herself a “Queer American.” Where’s your outrage? Where’s her apology? Isn’t queer a derogatory term among the gay community?
    No, I’m sticking with my term “Rainbow Scare.” That’s what you’re doing. I'm sick of it.
    This assault on a reporter is unfair, intolerant, and bigoted.
Andrew Medina

Satanic Hand Signals?

RECEIVED Wed., May 20, 2009

Dear Editor,
    In reply to comments made on a recent ChroniclePostmark” [April 10], Randy Noblitt never said anything about "robotic 'alters'" on the stand or anywhere else [“Believing the Children” News, March 27]. He did not treat the children. His only role was to help the prosecution travel through uncharted waters and manage the case in a way that reduced cross-contamination and kept things from taking on a hysterical edge or mirrored the unsuccessful outcome of the McMartin Preschool case. There was no mention by Randy of "satanic" abuse. One of the children alleged that he was told that Satan's arm bone was replacing his own left arm bone in a ritual, but he revealed that he peeked and saw they really hadn't done so.
    After the trial, Randy was approached by a TV news program that had captured Dan Keller making suspicious hand signs as he entered the courtroom and asked Randy to look at them. He did and commented that Keller could have been signaling the victims to be silent. Somewhere there may be a videotape of that very brief interview.
Pamela Noblitt
Marina del Rey, Calif.
   [News Editor Michael King responds: Pamela Noblitt's benign rewriting of her husband's role in the Keller case is unsurprising and unpersuasive. Here's a contemporary report, from Gary Cartwright's April 1994 Texas Monthly story, "The Innocent and the Damned": "Carol Staelin even speculated that it may not have been the Chaviers girl on the witness stand, but one of her programmed alters. Randy Noblitt, the Dallas clinical psychologist who was being paid $120 an hour to research satanic abuse for the state and another $140 to testify, had warned that this might happen. Satanists often use hand signals to control their victims, he said. What most people in the courtroom took to be the defendant’s running a hand down the side of his face, Noblitt interpreted as a signal that meant 'You saw nothing, you heard nothing, you will say nothing.' An Austin television station later ran a special report that showed Keller flashing a hand signal as he was led away from the courtroom. It looked like he was forming the letter C with his thumb and forefinger, and Noblitt told the TV reporter that this was a satanic message. In fact, Keller was saying hello to the boys in C Block, where he had been confined for the previous nine months."]

My Fellow Austinites, What Is It With Property Taxes?

RECEIVED Wed., May 20, 2009

Dear Editor,
    My fellow Austinites have had some time to digest their property-tax estimates and after a collective WTF? I have a question for the Austin City Council and state legislators: Why do you consider my house an ATM? I understand that a state/city needs to finance schools and services in some form, but to base it all on the value of someone's house is ridiculous.
    I'm an average citizen, a graphic designer, who makes an average salary for Austin. I happen to live in a sort of upscale community (Travis Heights), only because I have one of the smallest houses in the neighborhood. I haven't received a raise in 1½ years, I haven't taken a vacation in five years, and I can't afford to contribute to a 401(k). Why? Because my property taxes run $8,000 a year.
    Every year, the city and state deem that my house has gone up 10% in value, thus leading to a tax increase of 10%. Because of the compounding nature of percentage increases, in eight years my tax will be double: $16,000 a year. Where am I supposed to get this money? My house is not an ATM. Just because someone arbitrarily says it's worth $30,000 more a year doesn't mean I can pull $20 bills out of the attic. The only way I'll be able to pay my property tax is to sell my home and move to another state. Why does Texas want me to leave?
    The only solution is either a state income tax or installation of circuit breakers on property taxes. Either let us be taxed by our income and not some arbitrary worth, or limit the amount taxed by a percentage of our income. If we lose our job or we retire, we're not on the hook for a ghastly amount that we have no way to pay. My neighborhood used to be full of artists and musicians, but they've all had to sell and move away because they can't afford the taxes. It's time to fix the system.
Nathan Yost

Kudos to Editor King and News Staff on Election Coverage!

RECEIVED Tue., May 19, 2009

Dear Editor,
    I just wanted to send a big thank you to Michael King and his News crew! Y'all get criticized often enough, so I wanted to thank you for the May 15 News coverage of local elections and state politics. The Chronicle is one of the few sources for me to keep up with all that is going on in this town, and the News blog is starting to rock!
Thanks from a South Austin activist,
Gary Hyatt

Concerns About Texas Residential Construction Commission

RECEIVED Tue., May 19, 2009

Dear Editor,
    The Texas state Legislature is considering several bills to modify or eliminate the Texas Residential Construction Commission. Republicans created the commission a few years back to make homeowners who had complaints against their builders go to the TRCC first before suing. The Republicans were acting at the behest of builder Bob Perry, a large Republican contributor, and they then appointed Perry’s lawyer as the head of the commission. As a creature of builders, it’s no surprise that very few owners’ complaints were acted upon. If you are a current homeowner or plan to be one, you might want to contact Rep. Joe Deshotel (joe.deshotel@house.state.tx.us), who is chair of the House Business & Industry Committee, and/or Sen. Troy Fraser (troy.fraser@senate.state.tx.us), chair of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee, as well as your local representative to make your experiences and concerns known to your legislators.
John Callaghan

Kudos to the Hilton for Saving the Pun-Off

RECEIVED Tue., May 19, 2009

Dear Editor,
    Utmost kudos to the Downtown Hilton, which rose to the occasion and saved the 32nd O. Henry Pun-Off from being canceled by last Saturday's noontime deluge. The Hilton offered use of a sixth-floor ballroom, and the joyful event was held by some soggy and very appreciative people. As the Pun-Off is one of the main annual fundraisers for the O. Henry House museum on the block next to the Hilton, it was truly neighbor helping neighbor. Bless y'all at the Hilton for your generosity and lifeline to the punsters.
Guy Ben-Moshe

Everyone Who Met Him Has a Carlos Story

RECEIVED Mon., May 18, 2009

Dear Editor,
    Re: “Carlos Rivera Pineda” [Arts, May 15]: Anyone who met him has at least one good Carlos story if not more. It was when he began work on his last major project that we spent a lot of time together. Carlos did a series of 25 oil portraits, pro bono, for the Mexican American Advisory Committee. Called “!Que Vivan los 25!” it honored Latino men and women from Austin for their accomplishments, dedication, perseverance, and hard work. These were reproduced on 13 banners and exhibited in the windows of the Scarborough Building during Hispanic Heritage Month in 2006. Though it taxed his stamina at times, I know he was proud of his work – as we all were. The MAAC continues to exhibit the banners and share with the community not only the individuals pictured and their stories but the art of Carlos Rivera Pineda.
Danny Camacho,
Chair, the Mexican American Advisory Committee

Please Help Save the Trees

RECEIVED Mon., May 18, 2009

Dear Editor,
    In reading your update on the trees at Barton Springs [“Chain-Saw Frenzy,” News, May 8], I read that the vast majority of the trees being considered for removal are regarded by the auditors as being viable if maintained by an arborist and reviewed for safety twice a year.
    If I understand correctly, the issue is that the funds do not exist to perform the maintenance and reviews to allow these trees to safely remain. This, in turn, (ostensibly) leaves cutting them down as the park’s only option to ensure public safety.
    While this is reported as a widespread issue in Austin parks, very few of those trees have the cause célèbre as the old growth trees around Barton Springs Pool. Though the cost of maintaining these trees as opposed to cutting them down was not mentioned, I would like to suggest that the park actively court people, classrooms, schools, and businesses to consider sponsoring these trees and/or planting a new generation of Barton Pool trees. Arborists themselves could volunteer their services.
    What more powerful way for a business to win the hearts and minds of the people of Austin than sponsoring a Barton Pool tree? What better way to get kids active in their community and ecology than to raise money to plant a new tree they can visit when they go swimming or to contribute toward funding the care of an old-growth tree that they were able to save?
    Though the exact window dressing is optional, what I would love to see instead of a laminated piece of paper tied to each tree outlining the reasons it should be considered for removal is a sign saying who we have to thank for their donations toward the maintenance of each tree that was spared.
Gwendolyn Norton

23rd Street Market Faces Extinction

RECEIVED Sat., May 16, 2009

Dear Editor,
    Soon to be extinct are the artisans of the 23rd Street artists market (aka Renaissance Market). This market used to enjoy a well-deserved national reputation, be a popular tourist destination, put money into the Austin economy, and provide a living wage for local artisans. It has degenerated into a local meeting place for gangs, drug dealers. and vagrants.
    The Austin Police Department does its best but is hamstrung by the local courts' dismissal of tickets written, lack of ordinances specific to the locale and problems, and city leaders who pander to faith-based groups who champion the homeless. The violence in this area has steadily escalated and threatens both the artisans as well as UT students and customers of the surrounding businesses. Now the few arrests the police are able to make aren't just turning up knives and drugs but handguns as well.
    Artisans and pedestrians are threatened on a regular and ongoing basis by gang members and aggressive vagrants. Artists are told to stay in the front part of the market and not to interfere with "business" being conducted in the back; artists are told that if they call the police they will be a target of retaliation.
    Plans are well under way to revitalize the market with such things as decorative arches and mosaics on the sidewalk and new trees – but no money is being allocated for security and protection.
    When the plans are finished, I'm sure that the area will be beautiful. Unfortunately, there won't be any artisans to see it unless we address this problem now. Do we really need to wait until there is an incident of sufficient magnitude to warrant publicity and public outcry before we take action? Please write or call the mayor, City Council members, and the Parks & Recreation Department, and let them know that the people of Austin want to protect this 35-year-old market and the local artisans.
Thank you,
Kat Allison

No Words to Describe How Ignorant This Article Is

RECEIVED Sat., May 16, 2009

Dear Editor,
    I have no words to describe how ignorant this article makes you sound [“Playing Through,” Sports, May 15]. To pretend that your ideas are better ideas than the ones of millions of people that have played the sport of soccer for hundreds of years is pathetic. I suggest you focus your stupid articles on something you actually know about. Try The Jerry Springer Show! That fits you better. Idiot.
Pedro Gallardo

Live Music for Opera and Ballet

RECEIVED Fri., May 15, 2009

Dear Editor,
    Last March hundreds of protesters demonstrated against the Texas Ballet Theater in Fort Worth. The reason: TBT was showcasing five performances of the ballet Cleopatra using a prerecorded orchestral soundtrack it obtained in China for $30,000. Quite aside from robbing Dallas musicians of their jobs, this amounts to artistic lunacy.
    In the last months I've been privileged to attend stunning productions by Austin Lyric Opera and Ballet Austin here at the Long Center. Again and again, I have been struck by the keen and sensitive interplay between actors/singers/dancers and the orchestra. My own experience has taught me that this continuously evolving (and involving) relationship is what makes theatrical and musical magic.
    I feel very fortunate to live in a city that likes its ballet and its opera grand, not canned.
Lyova Rosanoff

Not This Time: Life Without Poodie

RECEIVED Fri., May 15, 2009

Dear Editor,
    Poodie and I met in the summer of '76 ["Off the Record," Music, May 15]. I'd moved to Austin to play music, and Richard, our manager, took us to see Willie Nelson at Soap Creek Saloon. Poodie spotted Richard as we started to pay and said, "Let those boys in." Later, when I was the day bartender at the Hole in the Wall, Poodie became one of my regulars, and our friendship grew.
    Whenever Willie was at Austin City Limits, Poodie would stick a pass on me, and we'd hang out. I love Willie, and I have seen him many times, but hanging out with Poodie was special.
    One day Poodie walked in, put a guitar case on the bar, and said, "See if you can tune it." It was Trigger, Willie's guitar – the most famous guitar in the world. I tuned it each night during the ACL taping of "The Big Six-0."
    Poodie was on the road when Donna and I were married in '84. She and I would join Poodie at the Hilltop for games and birthdays. When he became an owner and they changed the name to Poodies Hilltop Bar & Grill, I started bugging him for a job – I became the day manager in June 2007.
    Poodie was a rascal. The last time he sat at the bar, with a Bud Light and a shot of chilled Hornitos Reposado, he was teaching some friends a dice game. He talked about how he and Willie had won all of Owen Wilson's, Billy Bob's, and Woody's money the night before.
    To carry on without Poodie would be near impossible if not for the things he taught me. The show must go on. I now ask myself, what would Poodie do? He often told me, "Timing is everything." Not this time.
Brooks Brannon

Questions About the Restaurant Poll

RECEIVED Thu., May 14, 2009

Dear Editor and Virginia Wood,
    I've been thinking of these questions off and on for some years now, and with the release of the May 15 issue, I've finally remembered to sit down and ask them.
    As regards the release of the current edition of the 2009 Austin Chronicle Restaurant Poll, my questions are these. How many people voted in total? How many people voted for each winner and subsequent place? Did they receive 31 votes? Three hundred eleven votes? Three thousand one hundred and eleven votes? How many votes did they win by? Two? Twenty-two? Two hundred twenty-two? I ask these questions for a number of reasons.
    First, all of the fine folks who win these polls love to show them off in your paper and in their establishments. Great. But how big of a win was it? Do half the people in Austin think they're No. 1? Or is it really just a few hundred who took the time to vote? And, though I don't know how you'd know, was it a real win or some degree of ballot-box stuffing by employees and friends?
    Second, was the win a clear win or an exceptionally close win? On paper, a win looks like a win. Was it?
    Third, no doubt many readers look to these poll results to determine what new-to-them places they may want to investigate (hence the desire by restaurants to have the bragging rights), so why doesn't the Chronicle ever print the actual vote totals so your readers have a little more clear idea of where they may choose to spend their hard-earned money?
    I've lived in other communities with papers similar in format to the Chronicle and with similar annual polls. I've never seen polling results printed. What gives? Any chance you're afraid to risk advertising dollars from folks whose results don't show so well?
Do tell,
Peter Remington
   [Food Editor Virginia Wood and special issues Editor Kate Messer respond: We do not share polling numbers. When you share polling-number data with the organizations that have an interest in winning and that wish to have an edge in "gathering" votes, any undergrad who has taken a statistics class could easily figure out how many votes would set them off with an advantage. We cannot control one vote per one person like in municipal and national elections, so this is the best policy. The information we share is this: We get thousands of votes in each of our three annual polls. A percentage of those are determined to be legitimate. We employ some statistical theory to determine and resolve some issues regarding suspected stuffing. Also, a different number of votes makes up each sampling group for each award. For example, someone who votes for Best Sushi may have many empty nonvotes in other categories. Statistically, only a very small sampling is needed for credibility. The overall number of votes in each of the three polls is more than comfortably above that number. The Chronicle has never written about a restaurant solely because they advertise with us and has never ignored a food establishment because they do not advertise with us. While many winners do use their poll wins (banners, certificates) as promotional tools and some advertise with this paper, many others do not. Would knowing how many votes Uchi (a nonadvertiser) received really enhance your enjoyment of its sushi? Would Hut's Hamburgers (a longtime advertiser) actually taste better if you knew how many people voted for it?]
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