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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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Do the Work, Gov

RECEIVED Mon., June 15, 2020

Dear Editor,
    Governor Abbott recently stated that, “George Floyd has not died in vain."
    As a constituent of Texas, I hope this means the governor will also recognize the deaths of the 117 people killed by TX officers last year and work to ensure that the number of lives lost for this reason is as close to zero as is humanly possible.
    Gov. Abbott can do this by defunding and demilitarizing the police force in Texas and funding more social workers, educators, community liaisons, housing programs, universal health care, and some form of universal income. We need equity now. We need to ensure everyone has an adequate path to middle class wealth in Texas.
    We absolutely need to ensure that the government of Texas is anti-racist. Racism and bias against other protected classes including the LGTBQIA community should be punishable in way that forces the actor to become anti-racist themselves and accept the truth that racism is inherently wrong in every form.
Naiman Rigby

Rates Hike Irregularity

RECEIVED Fri., June 12, 2020

Dear Editor,
    On June 2, the city of Austin agreed to raise regional natural gas utility rates by about $10.3 million annually, a total of over $51 million over the next 5 years. This took place at a virtual settlement hearing of a gas rate case before the Texas Railroad Commission.
    With the roiled confusion of the pandemic, the economic hardship caused by the pandemic, and the recent demonstrations on civil rights, few people have noticed that Texas Gas Service, the main natural gas provider in the region, asked for a huge rate increase. Between 2007 and 2019, the gas company’s increase in residential rates has totaled 80%, while inflation was just 27% in the same time period. The June 2 settlement will raise rates 13% more!
    On April 30, nine environmental and consumer organizations wrote a letter asking the Austin City Council to implement strategies that would lower gas rates, encourage conservation, fund low-income bill assistance, and fund renewable energy research. On May 7, Council voted against the gas rate increase and asked that the activists’ strategies be considered as part of any further negotiations with the gas company.
    However, city staff assigned to this rate case largely ignored the requests of activists. Instead, they made the final deal without Council’s consent.
    This is highly irregular. It is customary for settlements such as this to be brought back to Council for approval. Staff turned democracy on its ear for the sake of convenience.
    When this pandemic is finally over, it is going to take some time for our economy to recover. Having this $51 million handicap is not going to help this any.
Paul Robbins, Environmental Activist and Consumer Advocate

Bigger, Maybe Not Better

RECEIVED Fri., June 12, 2020

Dear Editor,
    “Everything's bigger in Texas!” I, like many other Texans, affectionately toss this slogan around to express my pride in the state. But tragically, our iconic blue skies and pastoral landscapes are being threatened by unmatched methane emissions and enormous amounts of pollution from the oil and gas industry. That’s not the type of “bigger” anyone wants, but a new report from Environment Texas Research and Policy Center gives me hope for our future.
    The report urges the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) to curtail natural gas flaring. This is vital for a cleaner Texas because, every year, flaring in the Permian Basin emits nearly as much toxic nitrogen oxide as three mid-size coal-fired power plants. When put into these terms, it becomes clear that we must act soon.
    I’d like the RRC to take unabashed, concrete action to reduce flaring because a strong response now means a better life ahead.
John Beaubouef

Asking the Questions

RECEIVED Thu., June 11, 2020

Dear Editor,
    Have you asked the Austin Police Department who shot Brad Levi Ayala in the face? Have you asked the Austin Police Department if charges are being brought against the APD officer who shot Brad Levi Ayala in the head? Have you sued or threatened to sue for information from Austin Police Department on the attempted homicide of Brad Levi Ayala? Have you questioned why no APD officer has been fired, detained or charged with the shooting of Brad Levi Ayala? If the answer to any of these is no, then why hasn’t The Austin Chronicle taken these steps? Why is The Austin Chronicle abdicating it’s ability and duty to properly investigate the Austin Police Department’s actions and apply public pressure to bring charges against the officer responsible? The Austin Chronicle describes itself as “bold and uncensored” yet the reporting on the crimes committed by the Austin Police Department and lack of accountability from the mayor’s office and City Council say otherwise. It’s been 11 days since the attempted homicide of Brad Levi Ayala by a member of the Austin Police Dept. There’s video evidence of this criminal act as well as witness to it. There should be a Use of Force report filed on it as well. There is no conceivable reason for the investigation to be ongoing or for the reports and the facts of the crime to be concealed. The Austin Police Department will gaslight you and it’s your job to publicly call it out and fight for the truth. Your last piece on the shooting of Brad Levi Ayala didn’t state that The Austin Chronicle has asked the question. If you’re playing it out for an inside source then you need to wake up. Do better. Fight harder. ASK QUESTIONS. DEMAND ANSWERS. INVESTIGATE THE AUSTIN POLICE DEPARTMENT.
Tyson Heder
   News Editor Mike Clark-Madison responds: Yes, we have asked these questions, as have many others; see p.XX for our latest reporting. We appreciate readers' faith in us, but our commitment here is to find and tell the truth, which often requires patience, skepticism and confirmation, as well as an awareness of our own impact on survivors and their families.

A Hollow Letter

RECEIVED Thu., June 11, 2020

Dear Editor,
    The letter from Craig Casaday with the Austin Police Association calling for a delay of defunding vote (6/8/20) is riddled with moral issues. To accept this letter as reasonable will show complicity on the part of City Council Members.
    Casaday is correct that George Floyd was killed by Derek Chauvin and the officers that stood by. Past that, his words show the moral depravity of police being above the law and hiding behind the badge. If he was serious about institutional racism, then he would have addressed many issues before now. The police union contract wouldn't provide so much immunity to their members. Body cam video would be released immediately from shootings like that of Mike Ramos. Police actions would be available to public scrutiny and not hidden behind a blue wall of silence. So, yeah, we all get that Chauvin is a bad guy. That's the easy thing to say. Holding a police force whose silence is betrayal of public trust is the next step.
    "Several of the officers fired bean bags into the crowd.” The video of Brad Levi Ayala being shot in the head further shows Casady's words are a flimsy self serving half truth. He's hiding his department behind the blue wall. To accept his letter makes you complicit in his half truths. Your silence is betrayal. You’re part of institutional racism.
    It's precisely because defunding the police department is on everyone's minds that he has written this hollow letter. "Defunding" the police department doesn't mean no police- no one is that naïve. However, if this is what it takes to make a police department that hides behind its badges enact meaningful changes, then they've brought it on themselves.
    Please defund/reduce funds to the Austin Police Department and use that money for a safer Austin.
Frank Schaefer
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