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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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Sarah Eckhardt Has What It Takes

RECEIVED Wed., Sept. 11, 2013

Dear Editor,
    As a former staffer for Sarah Eckhardt during her service as Travis County Pct. 2 Commissioner, I experienced Sarah’s strong work ethic, preparation, intelligence, humor, and compassion on an almost daily basis [“Brown Lands Watson and Doggett,” News, Sept. 6]. Sarah is inclusive and comprehensive with outreach, she listens, and is unafraid to work through dissent and achieve solutions – all in the interest of sound public policy. She will meet with anyone and listen to all perspectives. That does not guarantee that she will agree. Her strongest qualification is her willingness to put what is right for the people of Travis County ahead of what is politically expedient for her.
    We need a county judge working collaboratively with our other elected leaders to get the people’s work done, one who can stand up firmly for the interests of all Travis County residents. Sarah Eckhardt has what it takes and more to be Travis County judge. We need more women in public office, particularly (as in this case) when they are so clearly the most qualified for the job. Our region needs capable, experienced leaders to grapple with all of the challenges that we face.
Loretta Farb

New Motto, Same Old Game

RECEIVED Mon., Sept. 9, 2013

Dear Editor,
    Although hypocrisy is, I suppose, too strong a word for it, I am surprised that I can still be disappointed in the primacy of insider politics over stated policy. It reminds me of a statement many years ago by a politically astute person: “When it comes to women, the Democrats are just as bad as the Republicans.”
    As a dedicated Democrat, I didn’t want to believe it then. Now, after those intervening years of political experience, I would fine-tune it: When it comes to sharing power with women, Democrats are just as reluctant as Republicans.
    “Stand with Texas Women” is the new rallying cry for Democrats this season. A more honest version would be “Stand with Texas Women Voters.” When it comes to women candidates, however, party politics still calls the shots.
    Here in Travis County, we have a pair of Democratic candidates running to head the county government as county judge [“Brown Lands Watson and Doggett,” News, Sept. 6]. One is a former six-year county commissioner, who also served for eight years as assistant county attorney. The other is a former Democratic Party county chair, who has also volunteered for numerous political candidates, but has never run for office. Can there be any confusion about which one is better qualified to be our county judge? So why do we see party heavies endorsing Sarah Eckhardt’s opponent, Andy Brown, instead of Sarah?
    EmilysList.org and the Texas version, AnniesList.com, exist to help women get elected to public office. But getting rid of the “smoke-filled back rooms,” where king-making and political paybacks are practiced, is no easy task.
    As a woman and informed voter who is paying attention to the race for Travis County judge, I am supporting my (former) commissioner Sarah Eckhardt. I am also feeling a sadly familiar sting of disappointment.
Margot Clarke

Do Not Bomb And Do Not Deploy

RECEIVED Mon., Sept. 9, 2013

Dear Editor,
    Secretary of State John Kerry, member of Yale's Skull & Bones secret society fraternity, has been leading the charge for President Obama (and the Crown) on delivering a shock-and-awe message to Syrian President Assad, regardless of having not proven the case to the U.N. or the American and English people – essential to the discussion, who are loudly and emphatically demanding the U.S. not engage in any aggression against Syria. John McCain dis-graced the cover of the Chronicle as "The Monster: Our Most Terrifying Halloween Mask Ever," [Oct. 31, 2008]. May I point out it's not a holiday. Using vague language, he did hammer out a hellbent plan for us: Ninety days in which bombing is a certainty, and troops on the ground a possibility, with no doubt some casualties. And I say hell no, disobey the orders: Do not bomb and do not deploy. This is the people's red line!
Kenney C. Kennedy

Disappointed In Portrayal

RECEIVED Fri., Sept. 6, 2013

Dear Editor,
    We were disappointed to see an incomplete portrayal of the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders in The Austin Chronicle[“In the Name of Ann Richards,” News, Aug. 30]. Our devoted teachers and staff work diligently to assure the success of our wonderful students, in the spirit and values of Ann Richards. While we cannot comment on the claims made by a former employee, let us set the record straight on our application process, student retention, and teacher satisfaction.
    Our application process is transparent and fair. We are a public institution, accountable to the people of Texas, and any insinuation of favoritism is baseless. We have accepted students from all AISD elementary schools and at least 60% qualify for free or reduced-cost meals. Last year, 100% of our first graduating class was accepted to a four-year college or university. Seventy-three percent of them represent the first generation in their family to go to college.
    Student retention at a new and high-performing school is a priority, especially for one that specializes in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Our counselors and teachers engage students and families regularly, making every effort to help girls who are struggling so they can thrive. Still, some students transfer to other schools because they want more elective choices or their family has moved out of the district or they find the curriculum too challenging. No matter what, we consider every one of them to be part of our sisterhood.
    We are proud of the hard work, dedication, and energy of our teachers. We have one of the highest participation rates and scores in the district on anonymous teacher and staff satisfaction surveys. Indeed, 97% report that the school is a good place to work and learn and 95% report a shared vision with the leadership of the school.
    The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders is an exemplary school. We are pleased with our progress, but will continue to look for ways to improve as we learn and grow along with our extraordinary students.
Jeanne Goka
Principal, Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders
   [Richard Whittaker responds: I am extremely disappointed that Jeanne Goka describes the article as incomplete when AISD refused to let me talk directly to her. I initially requested interviews with her, Associate Superintendent of High Schools Edmund Oropez, and Chief Schools Officer Paul Cruz. I was promised interviews with both her and Cruz, which never materialized. I finally made an offer to the AISD Department of Communications and Community Relations that we would submit questions via email directly to her and Cruz. What we got back, after days of delay, was a mish-mash of answers via AISD Executive Director Alex Sanchez, with no real ability to clarify any points or follow up. I was told explicitly by Sanchez that I would not get direct answers from either Goka or Cruz. In fact, the district seemed far more interested in having me talk to the Ann Richards Foundation – an independent and unaccountable body – than to their own publicly employed and publicly accountable staff. I would be more than happy to talk to Ms. Goka and get her side of the story directly, and tried to do so on multiple occasions. Yet again, if she wants to talk, she can contact me via the Chronicle. I also encourage her and the PTSA – and our readers – to visit the forums on our website about this story. There are a lot of people who support what we published in that story, many with personal experience of the campus.]

Mural Should Be Off Limits

RECEIVED Fri., Sept. 6, 2013

Dear Editor,
    Driving north on Lamar this morning, I noticed something that stunned me, and then it made me furious. The mural on the pillar of the bridge just south of Fifth Street had been painted over. Am I the only one who thinks that some things are off-limits? With the growing street art culture here in Austin, of which I am a fan, where are the boundaries? That mural was from a family who lost one of their own, to keep their son in memory for many. I have seen this piece get tagged over, art glued on it twice now, and finally painted over with gray paint, presumably by the city. Since I moved here (more than 15 years ago), every time I passed that mural, it made me think. They really miss their son, as I would if I lost mine. It makes me sick that someone has defaced it enough that the city would paint over it. C'mon, Austin, have some respect.
Aaron Blair
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