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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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It Isn't Funny

RECEIVED Tue., Oct. 23, 2018

Dear Editors,
    I love reading The Austin Chronicle.
    So I just had to say something when I read your statement about Austin City Council Member Ora Houston – sounding to the effect that her office doesn't answer the phone ["Chronicle Endorsements: City Council," Oct. 19]. In my experience, calling Ms. Houston at least 5-6 times over the course of these few years, my call was answered each time within two or three rings. I'm not sure why your phone calls would not have been answered, or if you're just playfully exaggerating. But if that's the case, your joke falls flat – it isn't funny. Because what you're effectively implying is that Ms. Houston was not or has not been available to her constituents. In my mind, she was out in the community many times and made herself available for folks to meet with her. I didn't hear about too many other council members who held town hall meetings to discuss relevant issues, but Ora Houston did. In all fairness, unless you're planning to use the same irreverent sentence for all the council members, I think you should retract your statement.
    Thanks for your consideration!
Jennifer Graf

Ora Support

RECEIVED Tue., Oct. 23, 2018

Dear Editor,
    My experience with Council Member Ora Houston's office for the past four years has been very positive. Ms. Houston and her staff have always been quick to respond to my concerns/complaints. I will miss her voice in support of District 1's needs.
Jane Rivera

History Lesson

RECEIVED Tue., Oct. 23, 2018

Dear Editor,
    In the Oct. 19 issue there was a letter called "But Wait …" The author said that it was good to change the Confederate-named schools because they were named for slave-supporting traitors. He then went on to say that José Antonio Menchaca was also a traitor (to Mexico by fighting against the dictatorship of Santa Anna) and further, that Menchaca fought to maintain slavery.
    He's correct that Menchaca was a traitor to Mexico as are ALL revolutionaries traitors to their original governments – the barons who revolted against King John in 1215 winning the first rights of the people against the King (Magna Carta – 6/15/1215 at Runnymede); Oliver Cromwell and the Roundheads winning more rights for Englishmen in the 1600s; our own Revolution against the British because they would not respect those rights; Hidalgo who revolted against Spain in 1810, to name a few. Menchaca was joined by many Tejanos (Hispanics born in Texas) like Juan Seguín, Plácido Benavides, Fernando De León, who came from every Hispanic population center in Texas (San Antonio, Goliad, and Nacogdoches).
    The letter writer is incorrect in saying that Menchaca fought to maintain slavery. Menchaca opposed slavery, opposed secession, and never took the oath to support the Confederacy (which is one reason why he was allowed to register to vote during Reconstruction). In addition, in either 1851 or 1852, Menchaca testified in court in favor of a former slave who had been set free but whose alleged owner was seeking to have her re-enslaved. The court, after hearing the evidence, decided in favor of her freedom in part based on Menchaca's testimony (See Volume XL, p. 97 of the Southwestern Historical Quarterly). 
Bob Perkins

Bald-Faced Lie

RECEIVED Mon., Oct. 22, 2018

Dear Editors,
    "After four years of phones ringing unanswered at the District 1 office under the tenure of retiring CM Ora Houston …" ["Chronicle Endorsements: City Council," Oct. 19].
     In the words of my late father, O.H. Elliott, "That is a bald-faced lie!" It is unfortunate that you picked up on a comment made during a candidate forum and did not bother to verify the accuracy of the assertion. As I leave office I know the constituents of D1 also know that your opening statement to the endorsement is blatantly untrue. 
    One of my primary intentions when I offered myself for public service was to engage constituents throughout the 46 square miles of the district. Constituents who had been marginalized, neglected and ignored for years by the at-large system of governance. The dedicated staff of the district office and I have been intentional, since day one, about being present and available to the "blended family" that is the district and also throughout the city, when contacted. We have been and continue to be responsive to calls, emails, letters, and personal contacts.
    In addition, for the first two years, we hosted quarterly district town hall meetings in different parts of the very large geographical area. We also hosted "coffee and chats" at Huston-Tillotson University, McDonald’s, and Whataburgers in the district. We attended neighborhood/homeowners association meetings and events at the request of the members of the community, who called the office. I personally worshiped at different communities of faith, in the diverse languages found in the district, from Arabic to Vietnamese. It is and has always been important to me that we go to the people and make sure they know who their representative is on the 10-1 Council. Everyone is encouraged to contact the office if they have a suggestion, question, issue, concern or idea. These contacts were primarily made via phone or email.
    While I am very aware that I have not been a "favorite" elected official of the Chronicle, what, pray tell, is the benefit of printing something that is so blatantly untrue in an article about the 2018 endorsements?
    The irony is, that candidate contacted me prior to making a formal announcement. I responded to their request, we met, talked about the "work"; I shared the reality of the work and provided general guidance about the operation of a Council office. Two other individuals who were also interested in running asked for meetings and I responded in the same manner. Those requests would have gone unanswered if your assertion was true.
    I would be happy to provide the Editorial Board with documentation that the phone has been and will continue to be answered as long as I am in office. I am proud to say that constituent services is a hallmark of the D1 office. 
    My intention of rebuilding trust in the system through contact, the importance of being engaged, and assisting constituents navigate the policies and practices of city government set the foundation for the future. It is my hope that you will retract the inaccurate statement.
In Peace,
Ora Houston
District 1, Austin City Council
   The editorial board responds: Many readers wrote us all at once to differ with the figure of speech we used to assess the incumbent's performance. We should have been more clear; all of the candidates in the D1 race have, to varying degrees, cited a lack of attention from the current office and committed to a different approach if elected. Whether it's a fair perception or not, it's an election issue, which is why we mentioned it at all.

Deeply Concerned

RECEIVED Mon., Oct. 22, 2018

Dear Editors,
    I am deeply concerned about the article in the Chronicle endorsement of the District 1 Council seat ["Chronicle Endorsements: City Council," Oct. 19]. I have no issue with the persons you endorsed that is your choice. I do have an issue with the statement "After four years of phones ringing unanswered at the District 1 office under the tenure of retiring CM Ora Houston, voters are fortunate to have a tough decision about who will represent them through the next Council term." I live in District 1, and represent the Colony Park Neighborhood Association Inc. I have never called Council Member Houston's office and the phones gone unanswered. Not only has her staff been very responsive, Mrs. Houston has contacted me personally when the issue warranted it. We must remember Mrs. Houston is one vote with nine other districts being represented. If we are honest we must recognize that all persons representing these districts don't want to see improvements in District 1. Mrs. Houston has had to fight just to get sidewalks where other districts receive what is needed and more.
Thank You,
Barbara Scott
President, Colony Park Neighborhood Association Inc.

Tacky and Offensive

RECEIVED Mon., Oct. 22, 2018

Dear Editors,
    I found the opening sentence in your District 1 endorsement blurb unnecessary, tacky and offensive. ["Chronicle Endorsements: City Council," Oct. 19.]
    I have called Council Member Houston's office many times and the phone has always been answered.
    I would appreciate it if you would print an apology to Council Member Houston in your next edition.
    She deserves one.
Sincerely,
Pat Valls-Trelles

A New Dynamic

RECEIVED Mon., Oct. 22, 2018

Dear Editors,
    The Board’s position against Proposition J contradicts itself. You want to "deal with the clearly broken code in pieces small enough to build, if not consensus, at least a common understanding of the issues" ["Chronicle Endorsements: City Propositions," Oct. 19] but you oppose the mechanism most likely to make that happen. Building community consensus piece by piece is more likely if Proposition J passes because it will incentivize the city to do just that. That approach entails absolutely no delays. Frankly, it should have been done already.
     We know what happened when the staff and the Council were left unchecked. After five years and $8.5 million, we were saddled with a product that was so widely reviled that as the election approached the mayor and a majority of the Council could not run fast enough to get away from it. We need a different approach when after the election they run right back.
     Proposition J introduces a new dynamic – accountability. Proposition J will drive the Council out of Council chambers and back to the community because now the community will have a say. A vote for Proposition J is a vote for consensus building. A vote for Proposition J is a vote for the right to vote. The Board should not be “taking a pass” on that.
Michael Curry and Mike Hebert

D1 Deserves Better

RECEIVED Mon., Oct. 22, 2018

Dear Editors,
    After reading your endorsement article for City Council races, it is disappointing that your editorial staff would choose to omit candidates from the District 1 discussion and diminish their candidacy.
    The D1 endorsement was inadequate to give your readers information about the entire field. It lacks the analysis you provided of other races and does the constituents of D1 a disservice.
    Your thinly veiled research of your preferred candidate’s experience seems based on a candidate’s self description and establishment titles, not tangible results. D1 is a complex, diverse district that requires complex, diverse analysis.
    In every other local race you highlight a preferred candidate, but included a brief mention of other non-endorsed candidates, except District 1. Since D1 has the most candidates it would have required the most effort to analyze. But you chose not to provide a complete analysis.
    You failed to mention that several candidates have more than a decade of proven public service with legitimate government and service organizations. Several have raised substantial campaign contributions and received legitimate community support.
    The D1 residents deserve better coverage of the candidates for City Council. Your decision to omit discussion of other candidates in D1 was a calculated decision to report on D1 differently than other races and diminish other legitimate candidates.
    The most telling line of your District 1 endorsement is: “We could not fully agree here on what would be best for the voters in this district.” If true, a more thorough analysis of all candidates is required. Attendance by The Austin Chronicle of only two of more than a dozen forums that have been held and an interview is not adequate journalism to make an endorsement decision or cover a race.
    With boots on the ground in the district, you would learn each candidate has name recognition within the district and neither is better known. You would learn each had made an impression with voters.
    Be fair and treat all the candidates the same. You can choose who to endorse, but you can’t be selective with facts and presentation.
Reedy Spigner + Mariana Salazar
Candidates for the Austin City Council District 1 Race

Houston Does Answer Phone

RECEIVED Mon., Oct. 22, 2018

Dear Editor,
    What are you talking about “… phones ringing unanswered” in Council Member Houston’s District 1 office? ["Chronicle Endorsements: City Council," Oct. 19.]
    I have found CM Houston to be one of the most caring and responsive and informed council members that Austin has elected. In my books, she is right up there with Kathie Tovo.
    When I called CM Houston’s office regarding flooding around schools in her district, I received a call back, asking if I could meet her in her district over tacos one evening soon. I was soon face to face with Ms. Houston discussing how Watershed Protection engineers have been working as hard as they can to allow building densely in the creek beds of Southeast Austin and causing dangerous, life-threatening conditions for the residents and their children. She said that we should also contact CM Renteria, because he had similar situations in his district.
    CM Houston has supported Austin Civic Wind Ensemble, one of Austin’s oldest community bands, for rental fee waivers in Austin venues where we play free concerts. She specifically asked that we play more concerts in her district due to the transportation constraints on her residents. When I noted that ACWE had abandoned Carver and the Armory stages because we were falling over the edges, she told us about two new venues in local churches. We are exploring them for our spring concerts and are very thankful for her helpful tips.
    In fact, I am sad to see CM Houston retiring, but support her decision to spend time on other missions that may be more satisfying. I wish her well and look forward to working with CM Harding.
    I live in District 7 and primarily communicate with CM Pool and sometimes with CM Alter, whom I’ve also supported.
Sincerely,
Caroline Reynolds P.E.

Lone Dissenter

RECEIVED Mon., Oct. 22, 2018

Dear Editor,
    Regarding your Austin ISD board Place 9 recommendation ["Chronicle Endorsements," Oct. 19]:
    I find it interesting that you've opted to ignore the endorsements of Education Austin (the teachers' union), the Greater Austin National Women's Political Caucus, and nearly 20 other local progressive endorsements (Austin Tejano Democrats, South Austin Democrats, University Democrats, Austin Progressive Coalition, and so many more) for Arati Singh in your own Place 9 endorsement.
    To put it simply: I'm sure the candidate you endorsed is a good person and a capable candidate. That said:
   – Mrs. Singh has served as an Austin ISD PTA president at a large Title I school. Mrs. Tilton has not.
   – Mrs. Singh has worked as a public school teacher in an underfunded area. Mrs. Tilton has not.
   – Mrs. Singh is a current Austin ISD parent of a high school and middle school student. Mrs. Tilton has not (yet) had a child attend Austin ISD. (She has a toddler, in fairness.)
   – Mrs. Singh has spent years working with the Texas PTA at the state level and with the vertical team (elementary to high school coordination) for Austin High School. Mrs. Tilton does not have this experience.
   – Mrs. Singh has experience designing and evaluating school curriculum. Mrs. Tilton has worked on this from a funding/policy standpoint only.
    Given all that, it's no wonder that every major progressive group in Austin backed Mrs. Singh – both are smart, capable public servants, but Mrs. Singh has much more relevant and rounded experience for the job. We're extremely lucky to have someone with empathy for teachers, parents, administrators, curriculum developers, and the PTA willing to take this job.
    To find the AC as the lone dissenter on this point is disappointing, and makes me feel that your focus on school funding (a critical topic, to be sure, and one I saw Mrs. Singh give a smart lecture about in our local school's cafeteria four years ago) was so narrow that the AC board didn't properly assess the larger picture here. Thanks for your continued advocacy for Texas progressives – but I'll be voting for Mrs. Singh.
All the best,
Tom Thornton

Don't Forget Me

RECEIVED Fri., Oct. 19, 2018

Dear Editor,
    I am also running in District 9. I don't want to be a bother, but I am bothered by the fact that The Austin Chronicle, perhaps, forgot that I was running? Was it the lack of money that I raised? Or is it because I haven't been able to campaign full time because I am a full-time teacher. I work 60 hours a week and I campaign 20 hours a week. I have been endorsed by Planet K. I have bought four Chronicle ads and I have donated money to help keep you running, not much, but I do what I can. So pretty please, if it is not too much trouble, when you are endorsing Kathie and praising Skidmore, could you, my love, acknowledge me, a hardworking and humble educator. I do exist and I am worth a mention.
Best,
Linda O'Neal
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