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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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Tax Abatements Are Not Just for West Austin Mansions

RECEIVED Tue., Jan. 5, 2010

Dear Editor,
    The recent controversy over property tax abatement for West Austin mansions overlooks some critical factors regarding the city historic zoning program.
    First, most designated properties are not in West Austin, and most are not mansions. There are a variety of significant commercial and residential properties generally scattered over older parts of Austin. There are some grand buildings, but more are modest and tell of life in Austin a century or more ago: important cottages, bungalows, and Victorian storefronts.
    My own house in Hyde Park is an intact Victorian cottage, a typical prosperous middle class cottage built in 1896 that has grown in importance with the demolition or mutilation of its contemporaries. In the 25 years I’ve lived here and had historic zoning, it has been open for six homes tours and hosted probably 50 large and small nonprofit events. Total strangers walking the neighborhood regularly compliment us on the house and garden, and it was photographed for a Money magazine article on good things about Austin.
    Unquestionably, I take better care of the property because of its city landmark status. In a recent remodeling, at the request of city staff, I gave up skylights that would be visible from the side street. The landmark staff visits the house annually to ensure it is being maintained before abatement is granted. Their requirements are usually reasonable but have included repairing an abandoned, dead-end sidewalk on city property.
    Maintaining a landmark is typically expensive and impractical. But I firmly believe that there is a true public benefit in the recognition and preservation of local landmarks, and the abatement program is one very important tool. Compare Austin to Dallas or Houston.
Peter Flagg Maxson

Ski Shores Will Reopen

RECEIVED Tue., Jan. 5, 2010

Dear Editor,
    Re: Another Austin institution bids farewell [“Headlines,” News, Jan. 1]: “The Ski Shores Waterfront Cafe, a Lake Austin burger and live music joint, is closing its doors after many decades. Owners George and Dianne Levy notified patrons and friends of the closing in a mass e-mail Tuesday, signing off, 'Goodbye to all, good health and god speed.'”
    The facts are that Ski Shores Cafe was built by our family in the early 1950s and has been owned by our family since that time. George Levy has been a tenant/operator whose lease has expired and will not be renewed. Ski Shores is temporarily closed for repairs and maintenance and will soon reopen under new management.
Yours very truly,
Brad Fowler

Happy to Be Present

RECEIVED Tue., Jan. 5, 2010

Louis,
    Re: “Page Two” [Dec. 25]: I love who you have become.
    We all went through the "worst of times" which were really the best of times, looking back.
   Now we are all just happy to be present. It's not so bad, is it?
    I light that candle with you.
Kyle White

Permit the Road Before the Mine

RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 4, 2010

Dear Editor,
    Re: “Naked City” [News, Jan. 1]: When TXI first applied for a permit to mine sand and gravel in our Hunters Bend residential neighborhood, the plan called for a conveyor to move raw materials to an existing plant in Webberville. Now, because the conveyor would have required a variance hearing with citizen input, TXI has decided it instead wants to use FM 969 to move 710 trucks per day along an already dangerous stretch of road used by thousands of commuters. The people of Webberville and points east have not been informed or consulted about this 20-year project with its 3-mile death zone of truck traffic. The roadway improvements that TXI has promised to make in order to put 710 trucks out there with all those unsuspecting residents need to be permitted before TXI is issued a mining permit.
Richard Macdonald

County and State Do Have Regulatory Authority

RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 4, 2010

Dear Editor,
    Re: “Naked City” [News, Jan. 1]: I am unclear why our local media keeps relaying that the county and state have no statutory or regulatory authority to deny the TXI Hornsby Bend Gravel Pit permit application without responding to this misperception. This is a highly inaccurate claim to communicate, as state statute (in any state, including Texas) binds the states and all applicable local governments to federal law requirements and compliance authority actions (be it Environmental Protection Agency, United States Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and National Environmental Policy Act (especially), SAFETEA-LU, et al.).
    Numerous district and U.S. Supreme Court rulings have also been upheld in favor of such counties and states to deny such permits on the grounds of public health and safety protections (federal agency and law defined rock, sand, and gravel as air/water pollutants), as well.
    Court rulings have also upheld that a county's denial of such a permit is not determined as zoning regulation (or attempts thereof without such granted authority), but "as an ordinance measure" to protect public health and safety from federally defined pollutants.
    Travis County's own ordinances provide them with such basis to deny on such a measure.
    We have provided the county with numerous, numerous supportive federal, state, and court laws, rules and regulations, and court upheld precedence as evidence, as well, so they are well aware of their legal ability to deny the permit.
    There is financial gain/benefit in approving the permit, not lack of regulatory authority, and this is the only reason for some of them to claim that their hands are tied (until it is for a handout).
Caraly Foreman

Supports Smoking Ban

RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 4, 2010

Dear Editor,
    Regarding Austin Powell's complaint about the ban on smoking a "perfectly legal substance" [“Off the Record,” Music, Jan. 1]. Bleach and rat poison are perfectly legal substances too, but we don't allow them to be sprayed in people's faces in public places either. And while it's a shame for Room 710 that they lost half their business, perhaps they should point the finger where it belongs – at the self-centered customers who stayed home pouting about their precious nicotine addiction instead of supporting a local venue by enjoying some amazing live music.
Kristin Casey

'7 of 9'

RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 4, 2010

Dear Editor,
    Reading last week's issue with the Top 9 Letters of 2009 [“Postmarks,” Jan. 1]: I thought I would see my own clever witty one there. But, no, I find my significant other's letter. Still, she's "7 of 9.” You know, I've always thought of her that way myself.
Bryce Welch

Supports Legalization Of Marijuana

RECEIVED Sat., Jan. 2, 2010

Dear Editor,
    Regarding Jordan Smith’s Jan. 1 column [“Top 9 Joints,” News]: The drug war is largely a war on marijuana smokers. In 2008, there were 847,863 marijuana arrests in the U.S., almost 90% for simple possession. At a time when state and local governments are laying off police, firefighters, and teachers, this country continues to spend enormous public resources criminalizing Americans who prefer marijuana to martinis. The end result of this ongoing culture war is not necessarily lower rates of use.
    The U.S. has higher rates of marijuana use than the Netherlands, where marijuana is legally available. Decriminalization is a long overdue step in the right direction. Taxing and regulating marijuana would render the drug war obsolete. As long as organized crime controls marijuana distribution, consumers will continue to come into contact with sellers of hard drugs like cocaine and meth. This "gateway" is a direct result of marijuana prohibition.
Sincerely,
Robert Sharpe
Policy analyst
Common Sense for Drug Policy
Washington, D.C.

The Interest Is in Hunter's Bend Though They Say It's Hornsby

RECEIVED Fri., Jan. 1, 2010

Dear Editor,
    Re: “TXI Dust Not Settled” [“Naked City,” News, Jan. 1]: As TXI well knows, they are requesting a permit to mine gravel on Hunter's Bend, not Hornsby Bend. Hornsby Bend has been ruined for years. Hunter's Bend, the next bend on the Colorado, is undisturbed, except for housing developments. Among other things, there are 800 acres of irrigated pecan orchards on Hunter's Bend. They will not be mined because the owners would not sell to TXI. I believe that TXI purposely chose Hornsby East and Hornsby West for the names of their mining sites here on Hunter's Bend. Most persons reading the name of the projects will immediately make a connection to Hornsby Bend.
Judith Holden

Unfriendly and Uncooperative Police

RECEIVED Fri., Jan. 1, 2010

Dear Editor,
    I consider myself a responsible citizen of Austin, with a level head on my shoulders. This is why I feel the need to write in about an incident occurring this New Year's evening. After enjoying some festivities on the east side of town with a couple of friends, we decided to leave the bar a little early in order to try and avoid the chaos that was to undoubtedly be abundant on the trip back down to our southside home. As we were leaving and walking to our car from the bar, we passed a police officer sitting in his car, just hanging out on the side of the road clearly waiting for someone to drive by. My roommate/driver, who had been drinking less than a drink an hour knowing he was to drive us home, began to second-guess his driving due to the constant talk all night of a heavy police presence. He then decided to ask the police officer if he could blow a sobriety test in order to know if we should instead call ourselves a taxi. Not only did the officer say no, but he did so in an extremely unprofessional manner.
    Now after deciding he was just being paranoid, we ended up driving ourselves home. Correct me if I'm wrong, but how is it that someone attempting to be responsible ahead of time should get the cold shoulder on such an action? It seems to me that, in any other circumstance (for instance, walking into a police station claiming to about to go out and kill someone, only to be told “no, kill them first, and then we'll care"), is the wrong message/action to take when living in a city plagued with such a bad stigma of drunken driving. If this is in fact the case and you are not allowed to ask an officer to check your blood alcohol level, call me crazy, but it should be changed.
    Happy New Year to everyone. Thankfully we made it home OK.
Jeremy Johnson
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