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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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Kick Trainer Off Music Task Force

RECEIVED Wed., June 17, 2009

Dear Editor,
    Scott Trainer should be removed immediately from the Live Music Task Force due to his inability to separate his self-serving agenda from the community goals as outlined in the Task Force Resolution [“Off the Record,” Music, June 19]. His personal views are hindering his ability to create resolution on such an important note/voice/sound that affects all Austinites.
Richard deVarga

Considering the Brackenridge Tract

RECEIVED Wed., June 17, 2009

Dear Editor,
    On June 18, the University of Texas Board of Regents will again consider the future of the Brackenridge Tract, land deeded to the university for the "purpose of advancing and promoting University education.” Currently, more than half of this legacy is leased for retail and golf. The more direct university functions of student housing and the Brackenridge Field Laboratory occupy the remaining 152 acres.
    For those to whom all things are quantifiable as cash, the monetary value of these 152 acres seems like a goose pregnant with golden eggs. Certainly riverfront condos and coffee boutiques could generate many times the revenue of a research lab or student housing. As usual, this fails to account for the intangibles: an urban green space contributing to air and water quality, habitat for indigenous plants and animals in a rapidly growing city, an educational facility serving the community from scout troops to graduate students, and, especially, a top flight research facility investigating the most important issue of our time, environmental biology. The long-term biological records of a wilderness area now within the urban core cannot be overstated.
    I feel strongly that Brackenridge Field Station’s value to our university and community far outweighs the monetary rewards of yet another residential or retail development. I hope that the Board of Regents’ decision is guided by values deeper than those preceded by dollar signs.
Thank you,
Melody Lytle
Sierra Club Executive Committee

Running the Government on a Shoestring

RECEIVED Tue., June 16, 2009

Dear Editor,
    Brady Bragg stated in his "Tax Revolt Time" letter printed in the June 12 issue [“Postmarks”] that property-tax payers in Florida "pay one-third of what you pay." The truth is that the average property tax rate in Florida is 7.4%, and in Texas the rate is 8.4%. The Floridians pay 88.1% as much property tax as we do, not 33.3%. The reason Florida can have this slightly lower property tax rate is that its sales-tax revenues export much of the state's tax burden to tourists.
    I love the way those right-wing nuts make their points by backing them up with with misinformation.
    As for Mr. Bragg's rant about his neighbor making $71,000 without having received a college education: I salute the neighbor for working his way up to manager level despite his lack of a college education. My guess is that he must be quite an excellent worker to have done that. He is probably underpaid relative to what he could be making in the private sector.
    Texas is seventh from the bottom in property-tax rates among the 50 states. Maybe that is why we are so close to the bottom in so many measures of quality of life. Running the government on a shoestring has its consequences.
Jerome Olson

Keep Austin Kid-Friendly

RECEIVED Mon., June 15, 2009

Dear Editor,
    My wife and I and our four kids are Austin natives. Growing up, our kids have been blessed with opportunities for sports which were at times beyond our financial means. For four decades, the Balcones Youth Sports volunteer organization has supported Little League Baseball and softball players from age 5 through their teens.
    This week, Austin's children may lose those opportunities.
    Balcones' registration fees have always been family-friendly, because in 1965 the city agreed to provide power and water if the volunteer organization would maintain the facilities. Now, the City Council is scratching around for money and may disavow the old agreement, doubling Balcones' operating costs by charging for utility service.
    Keeping kids occupied with sports is a worthwhile investment. Austin's electric and water utilities generate revenue. I hope it's worth the council's time to look at their options and keep Austin not only weird, but kid-friendly.
Mark Ballard

Questioning APD's Use of Helicopters

RECEIVED Mon., June 15, 2009

Dear Editor,
    The use of Austin police helicopters should definitely be under review. Like a scene out of Escape From L.A., an APD chopper roars over the treetops of my Bouldin neighborhood just about every night, directing a huge spotlight over the West Bouldin Creek greenbelt. Is APD looking for transients? If so, this is a grossly absurd and expensive tactic for policing homelessness. I'd like to know what we're getting for our money in terms of crime prevention with this intrusion.
Mike Rieman

Walkable Urbanism

RECEIVED Mon., June 15, 2009

Dear Editor,
    Re: “A New Transportation Funding Strategy: CNU” [Newsdesk blog, June 13]: Yes, myself and the Gateway Planning team, including PlaceMakers, were involved on the "Red Line." Working for a public-private partnership of the city, major landowners, and Cap Metro, our Gateway Planning team planned and rezoned (through a form-based code) a 2,000-acre, transit-oriented, development- and traditional-neighbor development for Leander, creating a cosmopolitan village environment to harness the promise of commuter rail connecting to Downtown Austin. Leander's future is now walkable urbanism.
Scott Polikov

Who Is Dick Cheney, Really?

RECEIVED Mon., June 15, 2009

Dear Editor,
    So who is Dick Cheney, really? Because continuous degrading of Obama's security program becomes a sound bite over time, should we be unfortunate enough to suffer another terrorist attack of any measure, the danger of Cheney's relentless attack stands to put the entire country – left and right – in an uprising and on the streets. One has to wonder just who Cheney is employed by and what their organization's real agenda is.
Jim Lacey

Moral Confusion and Intellectual Laziness

RECEIVED Mon., June 15, 2009

Dear Editor,
    Sticking with your standard flair, your June 12 piece shows more moral and intellectual laziness [“Page Two”]. And as usual that laziness manifests itself in your need to be popular with the neo-left chic. Moreover, once again you malign those who stand for objective moral clarity while blindly making your own stand for your perception of your own moral clarity! Unbelievable hypocrisy!
    As for “the effects of McCarthyism on the Hollywood film industry,” Mr. Cecil B. DeMille showed a mature understanding of the evils of Soviet Communism. Conversely, Joseph L. Mankiewicz didn’t. The bottom line is that Communism in any form stands for tyranny, torture, and genocide. It’s as malevolent as Nazism. But it’s clear you’re still in the Mankiewicz camp.
    Thankfully, those who had the wisdom exhibited by Mr. DeMille prevailed. For the time being, Communism has been sidelined. But as we know, it’s still alive and well in places such as China, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, and U.S. academia/media. And it’s often dangerously soft-shoed in not a few influential political interest groups such as the Democratic Party. And unfortunately you must be considered as one of its sympathizers. This is why your moral confusion is so dangerous.
    It’s never right to be morally weak. With Islamist fascists, adversaries like the above, and a flailing economy, this is especially true right now. Whether you like it or not, America is the guardian of liberty and civilization. So get with the program. You are too old for this childish ideological nonsense. After all, you said in your piece that you were positively moved by the work of John Wayne. And it’s crystal clear where he stood!
Vance McDonald

On Noise Ordinance – Time for a Class Action?

RECEIVED Mon., June 15, 2009

Dear Editor,
    Does anyone know exactly how many live music venue owners (who've been cited under the noise ordinance) it would take to meet class action status? It seems to me – what with all those conspicuously uncited Republic of Texas Biker Rally events over the weekend – that venue owners would have a pretty solid case against the city of Austin for unequal enforcement. Since the City Council's sole contribution to the idea of "live music capital of anything" appears to have been thinking up the slogan, maybe some charges of false advertising could get thrown in there as well.
    How long is it to the next council election, anyway? A lot of Austinites go out to see live music, and a clever venue owner could probably whisper a few words in his customers' ears come election time on the subject of council members who want to put them out of business.
Jason Meador

Link Between Military's and City's Budget Shortfalls

RECEIVED Sun., June 14, 2009

Dear Editor,
    The linkage between military adventures and Austin’s budget shortfalls is fairly easy to pinpoint. Since the original purpose of the Internet was to survive a nuclear attack, the military investment in that technology from 1968 to 1994 was essential to the ordered and timely migration of that technology to the commercial and consumer environment. Once this became a service for “everyone,” billions were spent building semiconductor, computer, software, and networking infrastructure in the Austin area, creating tens of thousands of jobs, many for newcomers. Now that that demand has tanked, the city is left with a hangover. Given that the military is now busily pursuing robotic vehicles that drive themselves, it is clear that at some point in the future Austin’s shortfall will be even larger, after a new round of factory construction, software development, research, and education peters out in some global economic retrenchment. I can think of other regions of the country that would like to trade our problems for theirs.
Meredith Poor

Need to Fix Noise Ordinance Now!

RECEIVED Sat., June 13, 2009

Dear Editor,
    I am heeding the call from Kevin Russell [“Postmarks,” June 12]. Hopefully, lots of others will follow suit. Our band, the Bonneville County Pine Box, lost at least two gigs at Freddie's because of the last news-making sound ordinance story. Why is it that music is the only thing being enforced under the "noise" ordinance? We are in Austin, right? What about leaf blowers, motorcycles, car stereos, construction crews (don't you love that incessant beeping when in reverse gear?), and countless other noisemakers? How about any intersection Downtown? We better start making some "noise" about it for real. Start calling 311 for every noise that bothers you. You can bank on it being more than 70 decibels. Even casual conversation can be that loud. Is that level really what it's all about? Live music capital of the world? I don't think so. Let's fix this now.
    Beware, O people, for what is going on. These are the days of the disappearing voice.
Sincerely,
Jeff Farris

City Ticketing Another Economic Injustice

RECEIVED Sat., June 13, 2009

Dear Louis,
    I feel that the fines for tickets being levied against our citizenry have become unjust. Fines account for too much of the city's income. For example, my acupuncturist was ticketed $500 at First Thursday for handing out leaflets from a table in front of his SoCo clinic. This ticket was issued under a new ordinance, and while the ticket was too high in any event, a warning seems more just for a first offense. A lot of people are going to jail because they can't pay fines, which I find cruel, unconscionable, and expensive for the city. I think the fines should be more reasonable, and certainly they should be issued on a sliding-scale basis according to income. Fines for tickets have become another way to harass the poor, especially the homeless. I call upon our City Council to right this wrong.
Sincerely,
Lili Li

Sound Restrictions Damaging Soul of the City

RECEIVED Fri., June 12, 2009

Dear Austin Chronicle,
    I attended the Gourds concert at Shady Grove on June 4 with my girlfriend unit (GFU). We went inside and ate dinner and then came outside. The only chairs left were pretty far back, so we stood just under the patio cover about 50 feet from the stage. We were in the center, a perfect place to hear the show. There was one small problem though; we couldn't hear the music. Everyone was talking, and the sound level was so low that we couldn't even hear the words of the singer.
    After a few songs, we decided to leave because the sound level was not adequate for that number of people. GFU and I were both shocked to hear the show was later cited for being too loud. Huh? We had both decided the venue was too crowded and the sound quality so poor that we were not interested in future shows. The Shady Condo just didn't have the appeal that Shady Grove used to have.
    I really sympathize with Kevin Russell (the Gourds) and the rest of the musicians in the "live" music capital [“Postmarks,” June 12]. Shady Condos is only the latest price all of us Texans pay for overdevelopment and underrestrictions of development.
    While no one seems to mind ignoring setbacks, cutting down trees, and impervious cover restrictions so condos can be built, the city of Austin government continues to refuse to enact reasonable restrictions to keep the soul of this wonderful city.
    Businesses trying to provide a value-added product of music to their venues are victims of a police state where one whiny "Texain't" can stop the enjoyment of hundreds. Where are the restrictions that historic music venues will have events until a reasonable hour (10pm or so) with reasonable sound levels? Shoot, the former residents of Shady Grove always bragged they got free concert music piped in! Go ahead Austin, kill the goose that laid the golden egg. Viva la 1980 crash!
Respectfully,
David Klein, Ph.D.
San Marcos

Good Article on Hattersley

RECEIVED Fri., June 12, 2009

Dear Editor,
    I would like to express my thanks for Margaret Moser's good article about Lissa Hattersley, my favorite female vocalist [“Sometimes the Bride,” Music, June 12]. My favorite song by her is "Romance." I also loved her in her post-Greezy group, the Midnight Angels, in the early Eighties.
Thanks again,
Bruce David Johnson

When the People Living in Houses Were More Important Than the Houses

RECEIVED Fri., June 12, 2009

Dear Amy Smith,
    Thank you for the coverage regarding my mother's house [“The Battle Over This Old House,” News, June 12]. I would like you to know that the decision to demolish this house was not one made in haste. We had thought more than two years ago that we could repair and possibly restore my mother's home for her. After inspection reports, on both the structure and the internal environment, we learned that the cost just to get this house to city code was more than $1 million because of all the issues related to the problems of this structure. This property has SF6 zoning, a zoning that has been in place for more than 30 years, which would allow for townhomes, duplexes, or condos. We thought since it would not be economically feasible for us to just bring the house to code, that we could build my mother a new home on the property she has owned for more than 65 years and a second unit to be sold to pay for the project. There is a similar project not 10 feet behind her house. The property has an appraised value of $579,742 with $437,500 for the land and $142,242 for the house, according to the Travis Central Appraisal District assessment for 2009. How do you justify spending more than a million on a structure valued at less than $143,000? And how do you force someone who has spent the majority of her life on this property to sell? That's what this neighborhood association wants. Lorre Weidlich, the chair of the Hyde Park Local Historic District, wrote the following: "We believe that the Bradford-Nohra house will be replaced by a fourplex. Is that what we want occupying an important corner lot? Or do we want a vintage home, restored and housing a Hyde Park family?" Since we can't afford to restore, I guess we're not "a Hyde Park family." I grew up in this neighborhood. I remember the time when it was the people living in the houses, not the houses that mattered. Times have certainly changed.
Sylvia Nohra Dudney

Black's Hypocrisy

RECEIVED Thu., June 11, 2009

Dear Editor,
    Louis Black's column [“Page Two,” June 5] is excellent, and I agree up to a point, but then he delivers the shiv that demonstrates his own bias. I agree that we should respect the differing opinions of people and not issue blanket condemnations of other points of view, but it seems that Black does not recognize his own bias when it comes to the abortion issue. I quote: "When anti-abortion groups [note: no qualifying 'some anti-abortion groups'] picket clinics, create websites that encourage murder, and treat such murders as heroic, they do so in the name of God." Such a blanket condemnation of all pro-life groups defeats his argument. I do not say that he is dishonest or in bad conscience, but he seems to have missed the beam in his own eye. We must recognize that people of good conscience differ, but when it comes to abortion, there is no gray: When an unborn baby is dead, it is dead.
Al Clerc
   [Louis Black responds: Since several people have pointed this out, I obviously messed up. When I wrote "picket clinics, create websites that encourage murder, and treat such murders as heroic, they do so in the name of God," I meant those as three separate activities, though evidently this was not made nearly clear enough. Groups can (and the vast majority do) picket clinics without encouraging the murder of doctors. Obviously there is an enormous difference between the many groups and individuals that are opposed to abortion and the small minority that advocate violence against providers. I wish I had done a better job of clarifying the distinctions I intended to convey. The fault is mine. Politically and morally I do disagree with those who would like to see abortion outlawed, but this is a legitimate intellectual disagreement. Inherently they are doing nothing illegal (nor am I), and I didn't mean to imply they were. Obviously those who advocate violence and murder are in a minority, championing a position I believe to be immoral and illegal. Next time I will choose my words and build my sentences more carefully.]
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