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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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Opposed to Offsetting Rates

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 17, 2016

Dear Editor,
    Yet again, there is word that one of the frequently disgruntled conservative City Council members is kvetching about the water utility rates, and wants them reduced so some of the more fortunate members of his district can less expensively consume mass quantities of water for their golf course lawns or swimming pools.
    I'm all for lower water rates, too. Even for my non-city-subsidized xeriscape. But, it might be a useful exercise to pause for a moment in this emotionally charged atmosphere, and reflect on why the water rates are so high in the first place.
    Well, I believe the answer to that question is fairly clear: The reason why our water rates are higher than they should be is because a previous city council elected to build Water Treatment Plant 4, which may in fact be located in the disgruntled council member's district.
    Unfortunately, because that $1 billion albatross was built, it has to be paid for, due to laws of economics and the legal and financial obligations of the city of Austin. And, I think the City Council is prudent to continue to finance this unneeded and expensive piece of infrastructure through water rates, as has been the case.
    Thus, I am opposed to offsetting our high water rates with money from the General Fund. The time to prevent the escalation in water rates ended the day WTP4 was approved for construction. Where was Mr. Zimmerman at the time an earlier city council was approving WTP4?
    Unless any council members have any ideas on how to squeeze more revenue out of WTP4 or how to cut its costs now that it has been built, I would urge the City Council to focus its attention on other problems for which it can actually provide a practical and constructive solution, and which could result in improvements to our city.
Stuart Werbner

Youthful Enthusiasm Not Enough

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 17, 2016

Dear Editor,
    I am in my 70s. I was an Obama delegate to the 2008 Texas State Democratic Convention. I am a lifelong Democrat. I believe in virtually everything Sanders says. I also watched George McGovern lose 47 states, and that was before Citizens United. Nixon's victory cost the lives of tens of thousands of innocent young Americans, not to mention Vietnamese. Republicans are hitting Hillary hard and ignoring Sanders. Why? Because they are drooling at the prospect of running against him. Even without the billions the banking/drug/insurance/energy et. al. companies will spend to defeat him, McGovern taught us youthful enthusiasm simply is not enough. And we were motivated by the Vietnam War, life and death with the draft, not more ethereal issues of income inequality. All Sanders supporters should realize that while a vote for Sanders may feel good for a while, a vote for Sanders is a vote for Trump. The millions of naive enthusiasts for Ralph Nader in 2000 gave us George Bush, 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, financial collapse, etc. Sanders supporters, including the Chronicle ["Chronicle Endorsements," News, Feb. 12], pay attention to history, put aside your idealism for the greater good: Imagine President Trump.
Ken Rygler

Unfit for Service

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 15, 2016

Dear Editor,
    The Chronicle's endorsement [News, Feb. 12] for the 450th Judicial District is almost a word-for-word reprint of Attorney Urrutia's deceitful door hanger. To paraphrase his defense in a murder trial he played second fiddle (not lead attorney as he would have us believe), "He isn't lying to you. He's just trying to hide the truth."
    Who is Urrutia? The Chronicle makes much of his ethnic identity. More important is his identity as a political insider, the go-along, get-along Establishment Candidate. His top qualification? Making a fortune in public defender work. But he's benefited from a practice deemed unethical by American Bar Association guidelines. With it, judges can funnel cases to go-along, get-along attorneys who provide a lackluster defense. When questioned by the Austin American-Statesman, Urrutia said he's earned all that taxpayer money. "It is easy to say that these attorneys are greedy, that they are making all the money, but that money directly correlates with the hard work that goes into those cases."
    But that "hard work" has apparently become too hard for Urrutia now that reforms and accountability have killed this unethical cash cow. He's decided to move on to greener pastures. Unfortunately, his conduct in the judicial race shows he's unfit for such service.
    Last year, the Supreme Court got tough about fundraising in judicial races. "Judges, charged with exercising strict neutrality and independence, cannot supplicate campaign donors without diminishing public confidence in judicial integrity," Chief Justice Roberts ruled. How has Urrutia responded? His donor list looks like a who's who of those doing business in the 450th lining up to buy influence.
    Chantal Eldridge, Urrutia's opponent, offers a sharp contrast. She's scrupulously avoided these corrosive conflicts of interest in keeping with her personal and professional integrity. Voters seeking an honest, forthright, experienced, and independent judge have a clear choice.
Carl Lindemann

The Real Issue

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 15, 2016

Dear Editor,
    The issue for Uber and Lyft concerns whether drivers could, under employment law, not meet the criteria for independent contractors. If Uber and Lyft require fingerprinting, this would add to the arrangement looking like an employer and an employee. Employees have rights and benefits that independent contractors do not. Recent legal actions against the companies in California relate to this issue.
Kay McAllister

Play by the Rules

RECEIVED Mon., Feb. 15, 2016

Dear Editor,
    It appears that Uber and the ridesharing cohort just can't take "Yes" for an answer; they want to run the whole show. First they objected to fingerprinting, so Mayor Compromise promoted one which made fingerprinting optional, with incentives to get drivers to get fingerprinted. Uber's response was to buy a petition election to replace the council's regulations with "regulations" written by Uber, making the Austin City Council a subsidiary of Uber ["Uber Says 'Thumbs Down,'" News, Jan. 29].
    I've already seen the signs, (bought, paid for, and installed by affiliates of Uber, no doubt), "Support Ridesharing," which all sounds so wonderful until you think about what Uber means by "support," which is defined by the people who are supposed to be regulated. Boy, I'd like to be regulated in a deal like that! First you buy a petition, then you buy an election. Is this America, or what? How about "Support Safe Ridesharing"?
    Uber says they will leave if the council insists on fingerprinting, but when printing passes, they attempt to bypass the council. How about they just live up to their original word and leave, now? We don't need Uber, and we don't owe them a single thing. If they don't like Austin's rules, they don't have to play here. We don't like bullies here.
Andy Rogers

Not Prepared

RECEIVED Fri., Feb. 12, 2016

Dear Editor,
    Regarding the Chronicle endorsing Todd Radford for Sheriff of Travis County [“Chronicle Endorsements,” News, Feb. 12]: Research on Lakeway and Travis County makes me ask the question about your endorsement of Mr. Radford for Sheriff of Travis County.
    How does Mr. Radford's six years as Chief of Police in Lakeway make him, in any way, prepared to run the Travis County Sheriff Office?
    Lakeway: population 14,000; 92% white; jurisdiction 10 sq. miles; median household income: $108,182. Police dept. budget: $3.8 million; 43 total employees (not all officers); 3 departments. Crime stats for the period Jan. 1, 2016 through Feb. 11, 2016: 15 incidents: 8 thefts; 6 traffic: 1 property.
    Travis County: population 1.5 million; very diverse population; jurisdiction 1066 sq. mi.; median household income $60,464. Sheriff dept. budget: $162 million, total employees 1,064; several large departments. Crime stats for the period Jan. 1, 2016 through Feb. 11, 2016: 3,478 incidents reported.
    Mr. Radford did manage to equip some of his officers with body cameras, which we understand were donated by a Lakeway resident. Given the crime stats, these cameras are sorely needed in Lakeway. Incidents reported since Jan. 1, 2016 did not seem to involve people who have mental health care issues.
    No matter how articulate and able to answer tough questions Mr. Radford is, I do not see those two factors as decisive in evaluating experience and preparedness necessary to be Sheriff of Travis County.
Mary Patrick

More Than One

RECEIVED Thu., Feb. 11, 2016

Dear Editor,
    I appreciate your prefacing your endorsement in the 427th District Court ["Chronicle Endorsements," News, Feb. 12] by claiming it was not an easy task – however you followed by contrasting (Judge) Coronado’s seeming resignation to the barriers of bureaucracy. What exactly was that “seeming resignation” based on? His proactive work in the 427th District Court and moving the docket and making sure people are receiving the justice they are entitled to as quickly as possible? Is his distinguished community service an indication that he has resigned himself to the status quo?
    In your accurate support of Brad Urrutia, which he deserves as a distinguished criminal defense attorney, you cite him as being only the second Latino criminal district judge – when you just finished supporting ousting the first Latino criminal district judge. Does the Chronicle believe there should not be more than one Latino criminal district judge on the bench at a time? As Latinos, we are so used to the typical statement, “If only they had more qualified candidates” – now I believe your message is, “They are not entitled to more than one.” What a shame that in Travis County, Texas – where the population is approximately 34% Hispanic, the Chronicle believes we are only entitled to 11% representation on the Criminal District Court bench.
    Judge Jim Coronado has served Travis County with distinction and is more than qualified and experienced to serve another term as district judge in the 427th District Court.
Sandra Tenorio
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