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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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Appalled at Aquarium

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 18, 2014

Dear Editor,
    As a visitor, I recently went to the new Austin Aquarium. I was really appalled at what I saw. The sea life there is living in very small enclosures that in no way represents life in the wild. Little kids are allowed to put their hands in the tanks with the stingrays and other sea life without being made to wash their hands. There is a sink at the front door of the aquarium, but kids and adults are not told to wash their hands. Very bright spotlights shine on the reptiles, birds, and other animals and I can't help but wonder how hot those lights are.
    There are so many things wrong at this aquarium, I really don't know where to start. The small tanks holding the snakes provide them no room to move. A few snakes were coiled up in their water dishes trying to cool down. A large tortoise was being held in a small child's swimming pool so that children could touch it. The octopus was not on display, and when I inquired as to where it was, I was informed it was in the back while the tank was being acclimated.
    A number of the exhibits were empty, and again I was told the animals were in the back. If this is how the animals are held on display, I would hate to see how they are being held in the "back."
    Do the owners of this aquarium have all necessary permits for the corals and animals being held here? If not, this place should be immediately shut down. I can't imagine any qualified person with a degree in veterinary medicine would approve of the living conditions at the Austin Aquarium.
    The Austin Aquarium looks like nothing more than a pet store display or a cheap petting zoo. It has no business calling itself an aquarium. The fact that it exists in a mall says it all. I hope that city officials or the Humane Society will do what they can to shut this place down.
Gwen McKenna
Sarasota, Fla.

Working Class Betrayed by Council Vote

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 18, 2014

Dear Editor,
    Regarding “Council Set to Tackle 'Stealth Dorms' Next Week,” [News, Feb. 7]: I wish I didn't have to write this. If the Chronicle had taken this issue more seriously, maybe I wouldn't have to write this letter. I am a renter in Central Austin and I was scared, begging for sunshine to be placed on this issue. The Chronicle was largely silent. Why?
    This vote occurred directly because of political considerations this November. Almost never has the Austin City Council agreed in principle to a vote which will essentially cap density for the urban core (which is currently well below Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Fort Worth). It was a betrayal of the shrinking middle-class, the working poor, people of color, and artists the city says it values in rhetoric, but apparently not in principle. This Council's legacy will be a clear policy betrayal of a fledgling Austin Comprehensive Plan just passed in 2012. It will knock the knees out over the upcoming Code Next plan.
    Last night (Feb. 13) was "Bloody Thursday" for the middle-class in Austin. It will live on in infamy because Kathie Tovo and Chris Riley are both running for Central Austin/Downtown Place 9 and Mike Martinez and Laura Morrison are likely running for mayor, and both need the Central Austin "inner core" vote.
    Now, only one thing is certain: Central Austin will likely literally become the San Francisco of Texas, with the McMansion ordinance boundaries becoming its walls. East Austin will become as ivory as Hyde Park. In the Chronicle's silence, it has joined the NIMBYs in saying that renters have no place in Austin, and that we are not equal to homeowners.
    As a result, "Keep Austin Weird" is dead. The Austin City Council killed it. The Austin Neighborhoods Council killed it. The Chronicle now chronicles the "struggles" of an ascendent wealth-class burdened by the shrinking middle and working poor who can't keep up.
    I was fiercely against it, but now I see, 10-1 can't come soon enough and the Chronicle needs a mirror.
Thomas Ates
   [Editor's note: The referenced vote on occupancy limits in single-family residential housing passed Feb. 13 on first reading. It is expected to return to City Council for further consideration on March 20.]

Cisco's Omitted

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 17, 2014

Dear Editor,
    Your enlightening list of excellent local restaurants omitted our favorite Mexican breakfast place: Cisco’s at 1511 E. Sixth [“Five Mexican Breakfasts,” Food, Feb. 14]. The delicious breakfast tacos, limitless cups of coffee, and excellent and friendly service are combined with a real sense of Austin history.
Nancy Neavel

'Chronicle' Has Had Lousy Covers

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 17, 2014

Dear Editor,
    You guys have had some really bad covers in the last few years. I’ve often wondered why. It seems self-defeating. This week’s cover is the worst you have had in a long time. Of all the restaurants in this town, of all the places where food is sold, sampled, and celebrated, I cannot think of a single one that is in harmony with this image. I’ve been associated with you guys in one way or another since the very first issue came out, and I have to say that, in recent years, the graphic image of the paper really seems out of touch, and this one is really the pits.
Jesse Sublett

Move Races to the Track

RECEIVED Sun., Feb. 16, 2014

Dear Editor,
    Regarding marathons: Here's an idea that may satisfy both the runners that love to run, and the rest of us that are getting tired of having half the city shut down every other Sunday until summer. There's a really nice track, built for the Formula One races, that I believe we are subsidizing. There's no need to block traffic, no need to wake people up early on Sunday mornings, no need for overtime police to watch intersections. Just hold the marathons there. I realize this is too simple a solution to a simple problem, and will never fly. But that's my (and I'm sure many others') idea. Have the races out at the F1 track, and let the city breathe. Could that possibly be an answer?
Aaron Shannon

Remember the Chef

RECEIVED Thu., Feb. 13, 2014

Dear Editor,
    Regarding “The New Look of Fine Dining,” [Food, Feb. 14]: I realize this is an odd forum to point out some important details in your story, but here we go. I was the chef of Westwood Country Club in 1984 when I hired Reed Clemons as a prep cook. He was an enthusiastic cook who had attended the Peter Kump Cooking School, and we hit it off and became friends. A few years later, after his success with the Granite Cafe, he recruited me to be the chef of his new venture called Mezzaluna. I was given carte blanche to create the menu, and after our first three months of being on a two-hour wait, it was obvious we had a hit. Reed made me a partner, and Mezzaluna rocked the Austin culinary scene. So please give credit where credit is due. Reed took a chance on me as a chef, but I wrote the recipes and ran the kitchen, putting Mezzaluna on the map. As of today I have been with Siena for over 15 years, and we are still rockin'! So remember, behind every man with a vision is a chef with the ability to deliver the heart and soul of a restaurant. I owe the man as much as he owes me. He gave me the opportunity to shine, and I gave him a very lucrative business.
Harvey Harris
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