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 Thanks for your patience.
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Control and Maintain

RECEIVED Wed., Sept. 5, 2012

Dear Editor,
    The people from Peaceful Streets Project [“Peaceful Streets Founder Arrested,” News, Aug. 31] don't seem to understand that the motto of the police is to control and maintain (serve and protect is just a PR campaign). Control the population, maintain the status quo. So anytime citizens do something that a cop believes runs counter to that motto, it means they are likely to become victims of police aggression themselves. Oftentimes this happens because the officer has a strong, macho attitude and is upset that someone would have the audacity to stand up to him. Because of this, using biting sarcasm (Oh, does this minicamera seem dangerous to you?, etc.) will prove pointless. Remember, "resisting arrest" is one of the most common arrests in the police blotter and is just your word vs. his. Therefore the best defense is to keep filming, but step far enough away so that it is very clear to an outside viewer that you really did not interfere. That’s what telephoto lenses are for after all. Oh, it won't save you from police aggression, but might help in court later. Of course, reflecting back on the Rodney King tape – in which the cops brutally attacked an unarmed citizen and got away with it – makes me think that chance may only be 50/50.
Jay Williams
   p.s. Think police violence is new? Here’s an excerpt from a book I was working on in the '90s about police killing citizens, published by Michael Bluejay.

'Planning' but No Sense of Place

RECEIVED Wed., Sept. 5, 2012

Dear Austin Chronicle,
    Once upon a time (just a couple of years ago) there was a great stretching area off the trail under the MoPac overpass (aka the Johnson Creek trailhead). Nothing special, just a concrete circle containing a springy surface, simple metal bars to assist in stretching, and some places to sit. Next to this area, tables with cold water coolers would be set up. Nearby there was an open-air shower. Surely no city planner foresaw the miracle of feng shui that made this humble little area a perfect gathering spot, a pleasant place to talk or simply hang out, to shower off during a long run, to have a cold drink, to stretch and warm up, to see and be seen.
    Now the stretching area has been razed and replaced by a truly hideous "improvement" that epitomizes the very worst aspects of self-important, short-sighted "urban planners." We can thank the Trail Foundation for "fixing" this area by removing everything that was useful and in its stead erecting a row of ugly granite blocks that serve no purpose except to advertise the engraved names of those who abetted this act of urban destruction. There is copious evidence of "planning," but no sense of place. Trail users no longer hang out there, they just pass through. It's sad to think how many hundreds of thousands of dollars were wasted on this folly, which succeeds only in destroying what used to be a special place.
    Now we hold our breath, wondering if a different set of planners and another round of "improvements" will succeed in accomplishing the same destruction on the south side of Barton Springs, under the guise of "fixing" it [“Then There's This: Pool Plan Panned and Lauded,” News, Aug. 31].
Steven Saylor

A Worthy Event

RECEIVED Tue., Sept. 4, 2012

Dear Editor,
    I recently voted in the Chronicle's "Best of Austin" competition. My vote was for the organization Hoops for Hope in the Wild Card category. I voted for them because 1) it was the most fun Austin event I participated in all year; and 2) I so believe in their cause.
    Hoops for Hope is run by my friend Bill, founder of The Smile Never Fades, an organization dedicated to fighting breast cancer, on behalf of his late wife, Michelle. Bill continues her legacy with valor and respect.
    I attended Hoops for Hope with my 17-year-old daughter. I had lost my own mother to breast cancer before she was born. Having come out of a huge family change, Hanna and I needed time to connect. And this was it.
    She was my partner from the moment we arrived. The energy at Hoops for Hope was contagious. From professional hoopers to live bands and comedic acts, we were thoroughly entertained and inspired. And then we joined in to learn the routine. More than 100 participants, from every walk of life and age group, joined together to participate in a fun, physically rewarding, and oh so Austintatious event!
    Who knew that I could hula hoop?
    Or that my daughter and I have so much in common, after all.
    Thank you Hoops for Hope, and bless you, Michelle.
Cindy Holt

For the Love of Springs

RECEIVED Tue., Sept. 4, 2012

Dear Editor,
    Imagine that you roll out your towel onto soft, green grass on a spot that was previously a patch of bald, hard-packed dirt [“Then There's This: Pool Plan Panned and Lauded,” News, Aug. 31]. You look around and see hundreds of newly planted native plants and younger trees alongside the older ones. All of this flora is nourished by the sacred life-giving spring water delivered by an expanded irrigation system and a newly installed pump. The pump would also be used to provide additional pressure to clean the pool and salamander habitat after floods, resulting in cleaner, clearer water for man and beast alike. You see smiling people in wheelchairs slowly moving down a trail in a whole new area of Barton Springs, the South Woods, seeing Barton Springs from an angle they have never seen it before. They pause beside ponds which prevent urban runoff from contaminating the salamander habitat. This vision can become real, if opponents to the grounds improvement plan do not succeed in completely stopping it, which is their stated goal. They would rather see the money used for watershed protection. Members of Friends of Barton Springs Pool unanimously agree that watershed protection is a priority. However, we believe that you can have your cake and eat it too. Barton Springs needs some TLC, which is long overdue. We do not believe that if you do nothing, everything will be OK, the holes in the bypass tunnel and the cracks in the dam will heal themselves, and new grass and trees will grow. Please email the Austin City Council and ask them to support the grounds improvement plan. Thank you for your support.
Gary Beyer, President
Friends of Barton Springs Pool

Subcommittee's Assumptions Wrong

RECEIVED Tue., Sept. 4, 2012

Dear Editor,
    Re: “Then There's This: Pool Plan Panned and Lauded,” [News, Aug. 31]: The members of the joint subcommittee thought that they were required to vote for some version of the Larson Burns & Smith south grounds plan because there was bond money that had to be spent. A thorough examination of all the public records available to me on the subject fail to support this assumption on which the subcommittee made their decision, that a specific pot of money had been funded for each part of the Barton Springs Pool Master Plan that had to be spent.
    Furthermore, all money spent, whether borrowed through bond issues or diverted from current revenue, all comes from taxpayer funding one way or another, and each dime spent for the benefit of Paul leaves Peter a dime short - i.e, lavishing money on Barton Springs' unpopular architectural enhancements can close Dick Nichols Pool to winter swimming and training. This much anyone can figure out on their own, but for those interested in winding their way through the smoke and mirrors of bureaucratic budgeting I have the longer version including the four city council resolutions of 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2011.
Dan Crow

What About Potatoes?

RECEIVED Tue., Sept. 4, 2012

Dear MM Pack,
    Re: “Chile and Tomato Diaspora” [Food, Aug. 24]: How could you forget potatoes, which came from the Andes?
Susan Aulds
   [Dear Susan, thanks for taking the time to comment on "Chile and Tomato Diaspora." You are right – along with tomatoes and chiles, potatoes (as well as corn, cacao, pecans, and many other foods) were an important part of the Columbian Exchange. Other important aspects, moving in the opposite direction, were the foods that traveled from Europe and Asia to the Western Hemisphere, such as sugar, peaches, citrus, rice, and wheat. But my article was in the context of the Chronicle's annual Hot Sauce Festival issue, so the scope encompassed only the salsa-centric New World foods: tomatoes and chiles.]

Why Infiltrate Occupy Austin?

RECEIVED Tue., Sept. 4, 2012

Dear Editor,
    I see where the Austin Police Department officials assigned at least three undercover officers to infiltrate Occupy Austin to gather intelligence on any plan that might have involved actual law breaking [“APD Infiltrates Occupy," Newsdesk blog, Aug. 30]. The undercover officers appear to have themselves engaged in breaking the law. What up with that?
    Police Chief Art Acevedo should explain whether he sent three or more undercover officers to infiltrate the Tea Party, and if not, why not? And if there were undercover officers sent to infiltrate the Tea Party, did they similarly violate the law?
    Would you feel safer if the Austin police officials would send undercover officers to J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman-Sachs, et al. to gather intelligence on any plan that might involve law breaking? I sure would. Or maybe go ahead and "Just Do It" and arrest the local managers of the big banksters?
    Chief Acevedo: As the parishioner said one Sunday to the pastor, "Now you've went from preaching and gone to meddling.”
    Are we in a KGB/Stasi/SAVAK/Gestapo police state yet? Is America still America? Is Austin still Austin?
Thom Prentice

UT Football Too Expensive

RECEIVED Tue., Sept. 4, 2012

Dear Editor,
    Concerning the Longhorn Network [“Partying on ESPN's Dime: Priceless,” The Score Sports blog, Sept. 2]. All good that the square in Austin had a freebie, it's the least they can do. I have been a Longhorn fan all my life, but cannot afford season tickets or the LHN, and spend a good portion of my check on Longhorn merchandise. I also do not live in Austin and "watched" the last game on ESPN's Gamecast. Dedication to the fullest. No sound, except for my screams on the 30-second delay plays I was "watching." I feel for the working class, family-oriented people who, like myself, appear to be destined to this rut all season. We choose to be responsible enough to work, pay our bills, and feed our families. Not much left to blow hundreds of dollars to make it to a game or sports bar in Austin. Somehow, buying a six-pack and watching a soundless game is what we get in return for our dedication and hard-earned dollars toward supporting the university. A sad, sad situation.
Melissa Freeman

Master Plan Provides for the Next Generation

RECEIVED Mon., Sept. 3, 2012

Dear Editor,
    I see that Amy Smith has an opinion about the grounds improvements at Barton Springs Pool [“Then There's This: Pool Plan Panned and Lauded,” News, Aug. 31]. And I can see where she got the opinion, because she quotes the same paragraph from the Barton Springs Pool Master Plan that is frequently quoted by a local professional provocateur. It’s all about maintaining the fill dirt and carpet grass on the south side.
    Amy isn’t concerned about most of the grounds improvements, because they aren’t “contentious.” They include: utilities to facilitate better pool cleaning, clearing the sky above the pool of overhead wires, and giving southern access to the mobility-impaired, to name a few.
    Amy does try to imagine what might have motivated those of us working on the master plan. I guess it didn’t occur to her to pick up the phone and ask. That used to be a standard in journalism.
    In fact, the master plan is the product of grappling with serious issues. The last major investment in the pool was made generations ago. Facilities are outgrown and decrepit. Pool operations are now subject to tight federal regulations. Attendance has soared to about 750,000 people per year and growing. The pool is an international attraction.
    Maintaining the fill dirt and carpet grass can’t be done by leaving it alone. High use is destroying the carpet grass, compacting the dirt, and suffocating tree roots. Increasingly, we have to re-sod, aerate, and cordon off areas. Adding ground space will relieve pressure on the stressed-out flora.
    At the pool, people want to bask in the now. Of course. But some people are willing to think about the future, solve problems, and while we’re at it, try to make it beautiful.
Robin Cravey
Past president
Friends of Barton Springs Pool

Help Barton Springs

RECEIVED Sun., Sept. 2, 2012

Dear Editor,
    Re: “Then There's This: Pool Plan Panned and Lauded” [News, Aug. 31]: Barton Springs Pool suffers from deteriorating buildings, a bypass tunnel about to implode, and dying, dangerous trees. The city agreed to fix problems, but, before spending considerable money, they asked for a public process to carefully evaluate the extent of the problems and the possibilities for improvement. I served on a Joint Parks and Environmental Board Subcommittee for the first four years to do this; we met monthly in posted public sessions to consider the alternatives and much progress has occurred. Not surprisingly, several people showed up every now and then to angrily denounce everyone in favor of improvements and every suggested repair. The credit for helping Barton Springs belongs to many people, including those who came to shout at us, but especially the Friends of Barton Springs Pool.
Jon Beall

Parallel Covers

RECEIVED Fri., Aug. 31, 2012

Dear Editor,
    My, that Aug. 31 cover has a familiar look about it.
John Nelson

Unasked Questions

RECEIVED Fri., Aug. 31, 2012

Dear Editor,
    Spending money on the Barton Springs Master Plan leaves the city pools dry [“Then There's This,” News, Aug. 31].
    The decision of the Parks Board to pass the plan on to the City Council was an easy way to go forward. Questions were never asked that should have been asked.
    None of the board asked the important questions:
    Where will we get the water to irrigate 32 new trees and 2,000 new shrubs?
    Why are we spending money when we have pools around the city closed because of lack of budget funds?
    How can we buy more facility when maintenance is being abandoned in so many areas of the Parks and Recreation Department?
    Why spend $100,000-plus on a fence when we already have one that does the job?
    PARD should keep its commitments regarding current facilities, before spending money on amenities that are not needed. Why has Dick Nichols Pool been closed two years in a row after tens of thousands of private money was spent to put in heating so the pool would be usable all year round?
    There is something wrong when legitimate questions are ignored and petitions of 600 citizens are never recognized. Where are the ethics of PARD going? We are renting Republic Park for a "beer bash"?
    Somebody please pull the plug on this agenda and replace it with management that is in touch with the PARD mandate.
Peter Steinhardt

More Opinion Than Critical Review

RECEIVED Fri., Aug. 31, 2012

    Just read the review of 2016: Obama's America by Marge Baumgarten [Film Listings, Aug. 31]. You're actually whining about having to pay for something? Welcome to the real world. I am sure it can be a write-off though. And writing “theatre”? Seriously. What is this? How continental, that Euro-spelling. So intellectual and edgy. Do you hang out on the Eastside drinking Pabst?
    As for any challenges to the film … please supply links to back up your personal disdain. This seemed an opinion piece rather than a review.
Elaine Witkowski

APD's Statements Inaccurate

RECEIVED Thu., Aug. 30, 2012

Dear Editor,
    Re: “APD Infiltrates Occupy" [Newsdesk blog, Aug. 30]: “According to [APD Assistant Chief Sean] Mannix, Dowell and the other two undercover officers had attended General Assembly meetings where the use of lockboxes as acts of civil disobedience were discussed and approved." This is an inaccurate statement. Use of lockboxes was never “approved;” on the other hand, nonviolent civil disobedience was. No different than the actions taken by the striking janitors in Houston.
    To the readers of this article: Just read these two comments side by side and judge for yourself.
    "Mannix confirmed testimony Dowell provided in court this week, that the APD actually had three undercover detectives, including Dowell, working inside the movement last year – but the point wasn't to disrupt activities, claims Mannix, rather to ensure that any person in Austin wanting to engage in 'protected free speech' would be free to do so."
    "There are no written police reports, [Dowell] said; since there was no criminal investigation ongoing, there was no reason to write an official report for the APD system, he testified."
    Stupid is as stupid does.
    Pair this with a previous argument from Police Chief Art Acevedo and Assistant City Manager Michael McDonald that the cost of police presence at Occupy Austin was bleeding the APD budget. Now Google Dowell's annual salary. Paid for by our tax dollars. Enough said.
Dave Cortez
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