This excellent animation from TrueMajority shows in
graphic detail (using Oreo cookies) how ridiculously, large
the military budget is, and how we could solve many domestic
problems with a modest 12% cut. A must-see. (watch
volley of letters to the 'Austin Chronicle' on Austin's light rail
transit (LRT) proposal provide some interesting arguments on
behalf of LRT. The original anti-rail letter is included so
readers will understand what provoked the debate.
I looked through some old files
today and found a copy of The Rag. Dated November 12, 1973, the
headline was: "Vote Against the Nuke on Saturday."
The Rag, a little
university-area newspaper, was the only media voice against the
Nuke. The Rag simply took the high ground and told the truth when
running articles that condemned nuclear power. The truth was there
for all to see.
Mayor Roy Butler, along with
most of the City Council, was a loud cheerleader. City manager and
city government was for it. Austin's heavy hitters were for it.
The media favored it, though time on radio stations and KTBC
television was donated for debates. The Statesman ran article
after article promoting nuclear power. We had to have it, the
Statesman told us. Rumors said a Houston contractor would get the
contract to build it and had donated large amounts of money to
promote it. And even some of the local unions came out for
Only the voters were against
the nuke. We had voted it down previous to this election, but the
issue was brought back again and again, until we were worn
Today, we have a new nuke; it's
called rail. The game is the same with a few new players. Mayor
Watson is a loud cheerleader. City government, and the city
council are for it. Big players are for it. The Statesman can't
get enough; Sunday's edition carried yet another editorial
praising it. The new players, a group of monied techies, just came
out for it. They held meetings and the Statesman carried their
speeches. The Chronicle likes it, and seems to like the techies.
In the latest issue of the Chronicle, Robert Bryce said the
techies had already bought billboards and radio time ["Naked
City," May 26]. Is that what the contest over rail is coming
down to -- a media blitz featuring thousands of dollars spent on
radio jingles and clever billboard and newspaper ads, something to
wear the voters down?
One might think, if these
people cared about Austin they would be spending money on open
forums, town hall meetings where all sides could be heard. Radio
and television programs featuring all viewpoints of this issue are
sorely needed. What harm can be done by having all sides
In last week's letters, Robert
P. Gerstenberg complains that the current light rail proposal for
Austin is nothing but "the new nuke" being forced on a fearful
public by big dollars and heavy hitters in a closed and secret
forum ["Postmarks," June 2]. These claims may make for a
good scare and easy reading, but the straw man that he builds and
then proceeds to knock down is just that: empty straw. There have
been numerous open forums for the public to attend and be heard. I
have attended several. All one has to do is keep an eye on the
local news media or visit Cap Met's website to find out about
these numerous forums. As to the claim that big money big hitters
are foisting rail on an unsuspecting public, I would advise Mr.
Gerstenberg to do a little research. He will find grassroots
organizations forming that support light rail in Austin. No big
money movers and shakers; just concerned citizens who know that
light rail can be a crucial part of our region's overall mobility
lighten load (June
In his letter "Light Rail: The
New Nuke?" ["Postmarks," June 2] Mr. Gerstenberg seems to
suggest that the proposed light rail system is a broad conspiracy
intended to irreparably harm Austin. While I can't speak for the
Mayor, city government, or Austin American-Statesman, I can
represent the "monied-techies" and say that we are extremely
concerned about the traffic crisis emerging in Austin and believe
that it is critical to take action before it's too
The facts tell us that the
traffic problem has only begun to accelerate. Austin's population
was up to 40% from 1990 to 1998. Our labor force grew 1.6 times
faster than that. Traffic increases 2.5 times faster than highway
capacity to handle it. The number of registered vehicles was up
54% during that same period. Commute times doubled, and we have
compromised our clean air and greenery to smog and sprawl. All of
this and Austin's economic engine is just warming up.
If we do nothing, we will end
up following in the exact footsteps that the Silicon Valley,
Atlanta, Houston, and other cities took on their way to traffic
gridlock, skyrocketing housing, and a heavily compromised
environment. Our only choice is to do something. In our
estimation, the only realistic decision is to pursue a
"transportation architecture" that includes improved highways,
light rail, HOV; if we want to positively impact our city during
the next 20 years. Light rail is not a panacea; it is just a part
of the answer, but it's absolutely the right start in the right
direction. Our other choice is to bet on a roads-only strategy
that will destroy thousands of homes and businesses as they cement
a loop around the city and plow an east-west corridor through the
center. This will take decades to complete; and likely increase
our taxes to pay for the 5-10 billion to finish it after they raid
Cap Metro's cookie jar for the first billion. This doesn't sound
like the option I want to live through.
Separately, as it relates to
the "techies'" involvement in this process, Mr. Gerstenberg's
letter is proof that we are achieving our objective. It's likely
that this November's vote on light rail will be one of the most
important issues that Austin will vote on in a generation. The
volume level on the debate needed to be raised, and our intent is
to drive awareness up so that all sides can participate and be
heard. When this vote is all done and over, Austin will hopefully
have had a thoughtful-enough dialogue to want to live with the
As for this group of "techies,"
we believe that the A-Train is the right answer for the times, and
whole-heartedly endorse it.
Regarding Mr. Gerstenberg's
assertion that light rail is "the new nuke," most who voted for
nuclear power thought they were doing the right thing, believing
that nuclear power would be a safe, cost-effective, and cleaner
alternative to fossil fuels.
The main issues in the current
light rail debate seem to be the same: Is light rail (1) safe, (2)
cost-effective, and (3) cleaner than automobile use?
(1) We must assume that any new
rail system will be as safe as possible.
(2) Given that most cars emit
between one and two times their own weight in ozone-depleting
carbon dioxide per year, it seems that rail has much potential to
(3) According to the Web site
offered by Mr. Severin, www.publicpurpose.com, "U.S. Dept. of
Transportation data indicates that the costs per new rider of ...
new U.S. light rail ... systems exceeds the cost of leasing a car
in perpetuity." While this seems a persuasive argument against the
costs of building rail, there is faulty logic here: First, this
doesn't take into account insuring, fueling, maintaining, or
parking those cars. Second, a healthy rail system will constantly
be gaining more new riders, and those riders will be paying a
fare. So while the initial investment in rail can be high, the
costs will be offset by increased use and reduced roadway
To reduce our dependence on
fossil fuels, we must make significant changes to our behavior.
These changes will require patience, sacrifice and money. This
will pay off in the long run by increasing everyone's quality of
life for generations.
Maybe light rail will work in
Austin, maybe it won't; but we must decide if we are willing to
make sacrifices for the future. If we are not, Austin may end up
as yet another spoiled paradise.
I've tried without success to get local groups to add their events to this calendar (Bike Texas, the Yellow Bike Project, City's Bicycle Program, Bike Austin, etc.)
If you'd like to help edit the calendar, or at least add your group's events to it, then please let me know!
Another site by Michael Bluejay...
Saving Electricity. Find out how much juice your stuff uses, and how to save money and energy. As seen in Newsweek.