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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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What if Austin's Sidewalk System Were Actually Finished?

RECEIVED Tue., April 10, 2012

Dear Editor,
    When I was a child visiting my grandmother in Austin, I had the privilege, for the first time in my life, of walking by myself to the grocery store on the sidewalk. It was really great. I thought of Austin as a magic place where children could go places by themselves.
    It turns out that my experience was rare. Most children in Austin never walk anywhere, whether alone or otherwise. Three-fourths of Austin's curbside miles lack sidewalks. No one in power ever mentions finishing the sidewalk system.
    Why do our leaders insist on building rail systems before building the sidewalks necessary to make public transit work? Why can we afford much more costly biomass plants, dysfunctional rail lines, race-car tracks, and highways, but never a complete sidewalk system?
    A fellow pedestrian says it's because the officials entrusted with city infrastructure are interested mainly in padding their résumés. These aren't imaginative people. They think that a big highway cutting through the city like a wound is a glorious résumé-building tool. And they see sidewalks as insignificant, unworthy of their talents.
    What if we actually finished Austin's sidewalk system in 10 years? (City leaders will say that's impossible; only biomass plants and highways can be built quickly.) If seen and built as a single project instead of two thousand tiny ones, a complete sidewalk system would transform Austin, turning it into the kind of city people want it to be: friendly, peaceful, egalitarian, affordable. A complete sidewalk system would solve so many problems at once. Yet our leaders never even mention it.
    Shall we go on paying people to ruin our city to pad their résumés? Or could we perhaps start insisting that Austin's sidewalk system be finished in 10 years?
Yours Truly,
Amy Babich

Voting Is a Right Reserved for Legal American Citizens

RECEIVED Tue., April 10, 2012

Dear Editor,
    One important principle on which our American democracy was founded is that principle in which voting is a right reserved for legal American citizens. We should protect this principle – this principle should grow some teeth by passing the law requiring ID to vote. A proper identification requirement would reduce or omit voting by non-Americans, unregistered voters, and other voter fraud.
    The argument that a voter ID requirement is a party maneuver to deny voter rights is a misguided notion. And fatuous.
    Most honest voters have state-issued driver's licenses or ID cards. Besides that, we have to use such in almost every area of our lives. If a police officer pulls someone aside for identification, that person could face going to jail if they cannot prove who they are.
    For those who wish to be legal but need help to get identification – there is help available! Churches and other charitable entities will supply vouchers for ID fees, as well as social workers if needed to acquire birth certificates or other documents that are prerequisites to obtaining ID. Charitable agencies are aware that daily life and the law dictate the need for IDs and that the homeless, working poor, and the disabled rely on them to that end.
    For those who need help to get ID – call 211 or Travis County Health & Human Services at 854-3743.
Thank you,
Lisa Fry (Sharpe)

Cars Are Our Primary Means of Transportation

RECEIVED Tue., April 10, 2012

Dear Editor,
    When it comes to "the Guru of Parking" Donald Shoup's ideas of charging more for parking as applied to Downtown Austin ("'Free' Is Much Too Expensive," April 6, 2012), I would argue that this would only make those neighborhoods more insular. As a resident of North Austin, I will be less inclined to venture Downtown on a weeknight to the Violet Crown or to the farmers' market on South Congress on a weekend when I can simply park for free at the Arbor Cinema or the north Whole Foods locations. (And the alternatives are only increasing.) Initially, that may sound great for the Downtown residents who would rather have fewer people around. But how many of those businesses that currently provide tasty treats and cool things to do will still exist Downtown if you reduce the customer base?
    Mr. Shoup's second "policy prescription" – using the revenue for the "immediate commercial or residential neighborhood (as walkable spaces)" – only worsens the situation. If the revenue is not devoted to Austin-wide public transportation, then how does he expect to realize his "major corollary"? Adequate public transportation is necessary for all this to work. To be frank, I am as skeptical of the notion that if you charge for parking, public transportation will come as I am of trickle-down economics.
    The fact is that cars are far and away our primary means of transportation, and public transportation in Austin is not even close to being a competitive alternative for most residents of a city of this geographic size. This is not New York City, or even Portland, Ore., for that matter. If the residents and businesses of Downtown Austin are intent on diminishing the number of in-town visitors, then by all means, raise the parking rates. But just as free is never really free, the demand curve always slopes downward.
Steven Baker

Thanks for the Mosers!

RECEIVED Mon., April 9, 2012

Dear Editor,
    Thank you for having such wonderful writers as the Mosers on your staff. I treasure their candor, and the artful way they describe events. Thank you.
Lucy Gunter

Doesn't Trust U.S. Census

RECEIVED Mon., April 9, 2012

Dear Editor,
    The U.S. census is taken every 10 years, the last in 2010. I got a long form from them last month. A friend who worked for the Census Bureau in 2005 informed me that Austin is a test market area and random people are selected every month of every year. The third time they called me on the phone, the man said he had "15 minutes" of questions for me. I told him that according to the U.S. Constitution, all they needed was a head count.
    I have received letters and calls from them telling me that according to Title 13 of the U.S. Code, I must answer. I no longer answer the phone. I know the Founding Fathers of our country would never have agreed to this. My civil disobedience is an act of conscience.
    My ex-U.S. census worker friend tells me they will arrest me for not answering the personal questions on the U.S. census form. They already had my address and phone number. I told them one person lives here.
    Hopefully they won't arrest me, but I cannot cooperate with such an invasion of my privacy. The U.S. Constitution grants me privacy. They are trying to get me to comply from fear of arrest.
    I would like to know what Austin Chronicle readers have to say. The U.S. Census Bureau keeps telling me all information I give them will remain confidential. Oh, really? They used the census data in the 1940s to round up Japanese for internment camps – and back then, they claimed it was confidential, too. Maybe now they would share it with corporations. Or FEMA. Or who knows. I don't trust them.
Michele Deradune

Shares Concerns Over Burnt Orange Report

RECEIVED Fri., April 6, 2012

Dear Editor,
    Nick Barbaro's striking description of the Burnt Orange Report as "the political consultancy masquerading as a news source" [“Consider the Source: Boring Into BOR,” News, April 6] resonates with those of us who have watched its continuing practice of endorsing every establishment Democrat who comes down the pike with ties to its staff, past, present, and future, or the small universe of political consultants and operatives who continually shuffle from campaign staffs to public payrolls and back. This breaks the heart of those who recall the youthful exuberance with which it was begun by a handful of UT students. Alas, Eric Hoffer described the route BOR has traveled when he wrote that "Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business and eventually degenerates into a racket."
Dave Shapiro
   [Editor's note: Hoffer's quote is actually, “Up to now, America has not been a good milieu for the rise of a mass movement. What starts out here as a mass movement ends up as a racket, a cult, or a corporation,” but is often misquoted as, "Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket."]

Thank You, Style Avatar

RECEIVED Fri., April 6, 2012

Dear Editor,
    Even though I know and care very little about style and fashion, I’ve long been a fan of Stephen Moser’s delightfully descriptive and sometimes outrageous writing in “After a Fashion.”
    In the last year or so, I have especially appreciated Stephen’s unabashed sharing of his experiences with cancer. If I ever have cancer, I would want to use him as a model for how to deal with it in public. Thank you, Stephen, for continuing to be our Style Avatar in spite of your physical challenges.
Jerry Grigadean

Chem Trails Should Be Examined

RECEIVED Fri., April 6, 2012

Dear Editor,
    Since Michael King brought up chem trails in the same breath as the fluoride issue [“Zoning, Fluoride, and Old Hollywood,” News, April 6], might he risk a few "conspiracy-theorist" or "wing-nut" epithets (the new "reds"?) and take an earnest look at the subject?
    Or try a few laps on your back in Barton Springs on a bright, blue day and watch those jet "con" trails crisscrossing the sky in tic-tac-toe formation. Notice that they don't dissipate for a few hours? This anomaly alone should at least nudge the intellectual curiosity of a true muckraking journalist.
Mike Rieman

Dismayed by Letter on Council Districts

RECEIVED Fri., April 6, 2012

Dear Editor,
    I read the letter by professor L. Scott Walker [“Postmarks,” April 6] about why Austin needs single-member districts so that he can get more attention to striping and other traffic issues on 620 and 2222. Of course, these are state roads and not under city control. Beyond his ignorance of basic governance issues and his expressed derision for Travis Heights and other central neighborhoods, I was dismayed by his notion that he doesn't have representation on the current City Council.
    I'm undecided about the merits of moving to a single-member system. I like the idea that all the council members should be responsive to and care about the concerns of every Austinite. Under a ward system I think that kind of responsiveness will disappear. More importantly, after looking at voting turnout in council elections, it's clear that our biggest problem is a simple lack of voter participation. There may be no better illustration of the potential problems with a ward system than his letter, which reeks of the sentiment "take care of my issues and to hell with everybody else.”
Andy Homer
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