Prentiss Riddle: Causes

aprendiz de todo, maestro de nada

Prentiss Riddle

home art austin books
causes chuckles garden
kids language movies
music time toys travel
Search this site

Archive by date
Archive by title
Just 'cause

Bad news in the Mueller HOA

Thanks to Marcus Sanford, I now have copies of two of the Mueller Homeowners' Association documents and they're not a pretty sight. Supposedly they're available through the Travis County Clerk Public Records site (search for instrument # 2004238007) but I don't see a link to downloadable copies, so I've mirrored them.

I've only looked through them briefly, but so far I've found the following probably contentious points in Exhibit X:

Section 2.11 Signs (PDF p. 14)
"No sign of any kind may be displayed to the public view on any Unit without the prior written approval of the New Construction Council" except for legal notices, for sale and for rent signs, and a "No Soliciting" sign no larger than 25 square inches. There is no exception for political signs, religious signs, or even yard sale signs.
Section 2.07: Maintenance (PDF pp. 11-12)
Requires "keeping lawn and garden areas alive, free of weeds, and in an attractive condition," a matter which is in the eye of the beholder, but which as interpreted by most suburban HOAs effectively bans wildflower meadows and a lot of vegetable gardening and xeriscaping techniques. Section 2.06 could easily be interpreted to prohibit composting as well.
Section 2.05 Animals (PDF p. 11)
Effectively bans outdoor cats.

I suspect there are many more. Matters like paint colors seem to be deferred to the "Design Guidelines". I can't tell whether that is the same as the Mueller Design Book prepared by Roma and dated November, 2004. The Mueller Design Book doesn't read like a set of hard rules (see disclaimers on its PDF p. 4) and defers specific choices about materials and treatments to the New Construction Committee (see PDF pp. 52-53). Does that mean that residents would get a list of approved paint colors from the NCC which would carry the force of law?

Beside the banning of signage and the vague language throughout Exhibit X requiring an "attractive condition", I don't see any references to other forms of expression such as art and flags. (A friend in Katy tells me that people there are circulating a petition door to door banning rainbow flags. I thought that couldn't possibly fly until I realized that perhaps they're asking the HOA to classify them as "signs".)

I couldn't find any reference to unmarried non-relatives living together (which would ban gay couples as well as straight people living in sin). I wouldn't be surprised if it's in there somewhere.

Jim Walker has made the point that how this all plays out will depend on what the community makes of it. Nevertheless, I'd be wary of building in harsh rules and trusting the community not to enforce them.

Where to go from here? Obviously we need to get these documents reviewed by as many people as possible as soon as possible. Then we need to figure out how to get Catellus to put them on hold while prospective residents can get organized to propose changes. The only forum I see for discussing this (other than the comments in my little blog!) is the Mueller Redevelopment group at Yahoo. I encourage anyone with an interest these issues or in Mueller in general to join that list.

Does anyone know a good dirt lawyer interested in pro bono neighborhood work? Or a city council member who might raise a fuss?

causes 2007.03.13 / link / 8 comments

My Mueller HOAphobia

As part of my Mueller research I've also asked about the homeowner's association. The very nice person at Mueller Central was quick to be reassuring about most people's big worry, the dues (TBD, but about $40/month) and then said exactly what I didn't want to hear:

"Its purpose is to make sure people mow their yards and don't paint their houses crazy colors."

Noooo! (Cue the theme from Psycho.) This while we were standing by an oversized Keep Austin Weird t-shirt in the marketing display. I don't think she got the irony.

I understand the need in the new urbanist model for establishing a design which encourages neighborliness and protects the commons. That's one of the great appeals of Mueller. But I believe the right approach, especially the right Austin approach, is to create a careful initial design and then let it evolve naturally. Nationally, HOAs have become a nightmare of petty Stepford Wives-ism, recently ruled unaccountable to the usual checks and balances on government. If you sign your standard suburban HOA, you have literally signed away your first-amendment rights.

I pressed a couple of other Catellus people on this and was told that the HOA rules were already determined as part of the original Mueller plan. They are not, however, published -- that should happen "soon". They consist of two parts, a section set in stone which canot be overturned "without lawyers" and another section which can be amended by the HOA board, once people have moved in and elected one. This is depressing, although I suppose that theoretically if the agreement is totally outrageous, there's still a window in which an RG4N-style rebellion could get it changed by the City Council and Catellus -- up until the day when homebuyers start signing the thing.

I would love to know that I'm wrong and that this HOA is different from the usual suburba-nazi model. If anyone out there has a copy, or knows by whom and by what process it was written, please let me know. If it's not posted on the Catellus site soon I may start making a few phone calls.

causes 2007.03.10 / link / 3 comments

Cookies for immigration reform

On the day of the immigration protests in downtown Austin, these cookies appeared at the Bakerman Bakery right around the corner.

peacenik cookie
Vote for Pedro cookie

Coincidence? I think not.

causes 2006.04.30 / link / 1 comment

Is anybody moblogging today's protests?

Is anybody liveblogging/moblogging/phlogging today's immigration protests in Austin? I'm downtown and just spent my lunch hour mingling with several hundred enthusiastic and mostly very young protesters at the Capitol. As I understand it the mid-day rally was to be held at UT and the main show downtown doesn't start till 4:00 today, so what I saw was just a little unplanned side event. It seemed to be moving around by swarm dynamics -- at first the crowd was all at 12th and Congress, then it moved up to the Capitol steps for some speeches (without amplification so only people huddled in the middle could hear), then a cheer went up and the crowd moved back down the mall. I asked a couple of passersby where everybody was headed and got the answers "just follow the crowd" and "we're going to the UT" -- only the crowd was moving south and UT was to the north.

Grabbing a bite on my way to the festivities I overheard some diners of my own age and ethnicity criticizing these rallies as signs of "bad parenting". I wanted to step into the conversation and ask just what they thought it was that the kids would be learning in school today that was more important than what they were learning in the rallies? Texas schoolkids kids get drilled every February in the legacy of Rosa Parks and MLK, but let them try their hand at applying those lessons and suddenly everybody's a truant officer.

Now I'm thinking about whether to disrupt my daughters' busy and overscheduled week to bring them downtown after work to see what democracy feels like in person.

Oh, and as to my original question: supposedly the school-age leaders of the protests are very digital, organizing by IM and MySpace and whatnot. If so, are any of my readers plugged into that network? So far I've found the Latinos for Texas blog and my friend Seyd's photos from Dallas on Sunday. A Flickr search for "austin immigration" turns up photos that are a week old. Anybody know of anything more real-time?

causes 2006.04.10 / link / 5 comments

If we pretend kids don't have bodies maybe they won't use them

The latest news about Texas "health" textbooks reminds me of a project I've been meaning to get to for years:

I want to start postering around middle and high schools for Scarleteen, Planned Parenthood and OutYouth.




Anybody with me?

causes 2004.11.06 / link / 5 comments

Seeking Sadun's score

I'm looking and can't seem to find the election results for Lorenzo Sadun's write-in campaign for District 10. I want to know how much of a dent he made in McCaul and how it compares to other write-in campaigns in recent history.

So far all I can find is a report of 83.7% for Republican McCaul and 16.3% for Libertarian Fritsche. Surely Sadun should have at least a small piece of that. The Statesman and Houston Chronicle results don't show write-ins at all. Is that because they're clueless or does it mean that the official results don't include write-in votes yet?

Hey -- maybe Sadun won and we won't know it until a manual write-in count is finished! :-)

causes 2004.11.03 / link / 7 comments

How to write in Lorenzo Sadun for District 10

If you live in Austin or anywhere between Austin and Houston, double-check your voter registration card to see what congressional district you are in. Surprise! All the Doggett signs in your neighborhood may have lulled you into thinking that you were still in district 25, but you could easily be in district 10, one of the ones so badly gerrymandered by Tom DeLay that the Democrats didn't even bother to run a candidate in the spring primaries. (Don't have your card handy? You can also find out what district you are in from the Texas Who represents me? site.)

Texas District 10 voter registration card

Not all Democrats want to roll over and play dead for Tom DeLay, though. Lorenzo Sadun, a UT prof and long-time progressive activist, is running an underdog campaign as a write-in candidate for district 10. You can tell Tom DeLay (and the Democratic Party hierarchy) that you don't want Texas to be a banana-republic single-party state by writing in his name on November 2nd.

Unfortunately, thanks to the lovely e-Slate voting machines in use in Travis and Harris counties, write-in voting is not entirely straightforward. Here are the write-in instructions from Sadun's website:

1. Click on "write in candidate." You will be taken to a screen where the alphabet is laid out.
2. Turn the wheel to spell out SADUN, one letter at a time, and then click on "accept."

If voting a straight Democratic ticket, you must ALSO go to "Congressional District 10" and follow these directions in order to cast a vote for Sadun. (Writing in Sadun will NOT cancel the rest of your straight-party vote.)

No one expects Sadun to win in a district tailor-made by Tom DeLay to be safe for Republicans, but at least a strong showing by Sadun may convince the Democrats to field a candidate next time.

By the way, my Green Party friends tell me there's some confusion about how to write in their candidates for President and Vice President. The official list of write-in candidates in the voting booth shows them as "DAVID KEITH COBB/PATRICIA LAMARCHE" even though the e-Slate machine (1) doesn't have a slash character and (2) doesn't have room for both of their names. I called the Travis County voting office and confirmed that, as with Lorenzo Sadun, a single last name is enough: if you write in "COBB" it will count for David Cobb and Patricia LaMarche.

And in other e-Slate news, "user error" caused by e-Slate's poor design resulted in some early voters voting for Bush yesterday when they meant to vote a straight Democratic ticket. E-mail and KUT's John Aielli quickly spread rumors about the problem; your mailbox is probably filling up with them as I type this. Election officials were quick to blame the voters and assure us that the problem was not due to tampering. Reportedly the problem is caused by the fact that straight-party voters have to go through extra gyrations to also vote on the commuter rail referendum (how do I love thee, e-Slate? let me count the ways). Here is the News 8 and Statesman coverage (use BugMeNot to get into the latter). I'm sure there'll be more info at Burnt Orange Report and the Chronicle soon.

causes 2004.10.23 / link / 6 comments

Michael Moore is an optimist

I saw F911 and it's the feel-good movie of the summer. Don't believe the lukewarm critics who half agree with it but imply that it's a hatchet job.

Compared to the chimp jokes and conspiracy theories that abound in anti-Bush circles, Fahrenheit 9/11 is restrained. Compared to the meandering and inconclusive arc of Bowling for Columbine, it's clear and pointed. Compared to the camera ambushes of Roger & Me, Moore's street antics (reading the Patriot Act over an ice-cream truck loudspeaker, inviting members of Congress to enlist their kids in the war) are gentle. And compared to everyday if-it-bleeds-it-leads TV news, his letting soldiers and grieving relatives speak for themselves is the opposite of exploitation.

Although Moore has been known to say a few unkind things about the intelligence and gullibility of Americans (frankly, who can blame him?), compared to most art-house political documentaries Fahrenheit 9/11 is a gust of red-white-and-blue optimism. We may have been duped into another cruel and unnecessary war, but it's pretty clear what the first step out of the mess is.

If only I felt that confident about the second step.

causes 2004.06.26 / link / 11 comments


So Ronald Reagan is finally gone and I'm trying to figure out how he turned into Lady Di. Even the NPR coverage is a nauseating pile of collective amnesia.

My disgust with Ronnie Raygun goes back to my formative political years, when I was a college peacenik and he was president. Where to begin? As if it weren't enough that he put an anti-environmental radical in charge of the EPA and an anti-justice radical in charge of Justice, tried to escalate the arms race with Star Wars, broke the bank on military spending while claiming to be for smaller government, dumped the mentally ill to fend for themselves on our city streets, slept through cabinet meetings, lied, cheated, and stole -- as if all that weren't enough, he funded two brutal and pointless wars in Central America, siding in each case with the least morally defensible faction. To find a worse president one has to go back to 19th-century genocidalists -- or forward to George W. Bush.

Ronald Reagan = muerte

I don't gloat over the death of anyone, but I'll be damned if I'll respect in death someone who didn't deserve it in life. So I'll answer the idiocy of the eulogies with the low humor of the Austin Lounge Lizards. You can try this buggy bit of audio or if that doesn't work you'll just have to imagine it accompanied by banjo music and cracks of the Rawhide whip.

The Ballad of Ronald Reagan

They tell me that he came from Illinois
They say he was the All-American boy
Then he went out to Hollywood to make himself a name
And he went on to minor motion picture fame

He starred in movies with a chimpanzee
And in a western series on TV
He spoke for Goldwater with rhetorical zip
And he coasted to the California governorship

They call him Ron
Ronald Reagan

Taxes got entirely out of hand
But he was held over by popular demand
If it took a bloodbath to stop student unrest
Then that's what the ungrateful little bastards would get

'Cause he was Ron
Ronald Reagan

   The Democrats had them a candidate
   Destined to go down in flames
   He said that Ronald would drop the bomb
   While imitating John Wayne
   ("Mine's bigger than yours, Rusty")
   He wanted to be LBJ
   Or Harry Truman at least
   But with his partner Mondale
   Jimmy Carter suffered defeat

The military budget grew obese
And justice was entrusted to Ed Meese
He supported South Africa, sold missiles to Iran
A strategic initiative to kill his fellow man

He was Ron
Ronald Reagan

The lobbysists are counting their loot
From the man with the died hair and the teflon suit
He's our good old president and I am so pleased
'Cause he knows that pollution comes mainly from trees

He's our good old president
He's star of the show
He'll balance the budget
In a million years or so

He's our good old president
I think he's really swell
But if he wants me in Nicaragua
Then he can go to hell

He's our gun-running president
He's slippery as a squid
He's stupid if he didn't know,
Dishonest if he did

He's our good old president
His policies I curse
But at least he's not Nixon
He's even worse

Yes he's Ron
Ronald Reagan
Big Ron

causes 2004.06.08 / link / comment?

"Caetano Veloso equates Bin Laden with Condoleezza Rice"

Caetano Veloso, the Brazilian singer with a mind like a steel trap and a voice like a velvet glove, is accused of the blood libel of false moral equivalency in an article from today's Folha de São Paulo. "Nos EUA, Caetano Veloso iguala Bin Laden e Rice" shouts the headline, but it's based on one line from a song:

Diferentemente de Osama e Condoleezza, eu não acredito em Deus

Unlike Osama and Condoleeza, I don't believe in God

Sounds like a legitimate comparison to me, as far as it goes, and quite a bit short of an "equation". After the inflammatory lead, the article is more nuanced:

A letra fala da impossibilidade de uma identidade individual completa, fechada, definitiva, tema caro ao tropicalista Caetano, mas estrangeiro a muitos ouvidos norte-americanos --para os quais, como ele já disse, branco é branco, preto é preto, e a mulata não é a tal--, bem representados na Casa Branca de George W. Bush pós-11 de Setembro.

The lyrics speak of the impossibility of an individual identity which is complete, closed, definitive, a theme dear to the tropicalist Caetano, but strange to many North American ears -- for whom, as he has said, white is white, black is black, and the mulatto doesn't exist -- ears well represented in the White House of George W. Bush since September 11th.

Caetano delivered the line, notably without the careful explanation he usually gives his gringo audiences, in New York. He is touring behind A Foreign Sound, an album of songs in English, and so thinking about language and politics:

"Com 'Fina Estampa' [disco de músicas latinas], estava enfrentando essa questão de poder da língua", afirmou. "E, quando você pensa na língua inglesa, você realmente pensa em poder." Os instrumentos para resolver esse problema político --que se agrava pelo fato de o português ser, como disse, "uma língua de gueto"-- foram a "sofisticação" da bossa nova e a mistura de "sagacidade" e "ironia" do tropicalismo.

"With 'Fina Estampa' [an album of songs in Spanish], I was confronting this question of power and language," he said. "And when you think of the English language, you really think of power." The instruments to resolve this political problem -- which becomes serious in the light of the fact that Portuguese is, as they say, a "ghetto language" -- were the sophistication of bossa nova and the mixture of shrewdness and irony of tropicalismo.

So now I'm eager to hear this mysterious unnamed song in full. Maybe if there's a diplomatic incident he'll get around to recording it.

causes 2004.04.18 / link / comment?

David Dill on accountable voting systems

One of the oddities about my job is that I, aprendiz de todo that I am, have been writing most of the blurbs for my employer's webcast archive for the past seven years. We've racked up over 150 archived talks in that time -- not too shabby, given the limited resources available, even if the production values haven't always been what we wish they were (and the website is looking every bit of its age!)

I haven't mentioned many of the webcasts here, in part because I don't blog much about work (this isn't a kiss-and-tell blog that way, either) and in part because the webcasts haven't always been all that compelling from my point of view. In particular the political ones lead me to follow the rule about not saying anything if I can't say something nice.

But the one I archived today brings too many worlds in collision for me to ignore it. The Battle for Accountable Voting Systems is a lecture that e-voting activist and Stanford CS prof David Dill gave a couple of weeks ago. His talk strikes a balance between lay accessibility and geek rigor and it's followed by a lively panel discussion (there's some actual interaction among the participants!) that includes Adina Levin of EFF-Austin/ACLU/Austinbloggers fame.

Bottom line: if you don't want the next election to be stolen by forces even more insidious than hanging chads, let your county commissioners and state legislators know that all election systems must include a voter-verifiable audit trail (which in 2004 technology means a paper trail). Listen to the webcast for more info.

causes 2004.03.15 / link / comment?

A scripture-based compromise on gay marriage

Whenever I hear talk of the "sanctity" of the "sacred institution" of marriage, I think: render unto Caesar (Matt 22:21).

If marriage is blessed by God, then why should the government be in the marriage business? Let the religious take marriage to their churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and sweat lodges -- or beaches and rented halls for the secular. And let the state provide civil unions to everybody, gay or straight.

If conservatives can't accept the Solomonic idea of splitting the baby (1 Kings 3:16-27), then perhaps they'll act like the virtuous mother and offer it up to their opponents.

causes 2004.03.13 / link / 1 comment

The Dean beat-down

The Black Commentator on what happened to Howard Dean.

If a mildly progressive, Internet-driven, young white middle class-centered, movement-like campaign such as Dean's -- flush with money derived from unconventional sources, backed by significant sections of labor, reinforced by big name endorsements and surging with upward momentum -- can be derailed in a matter of weeks at the whim of corporate media, then all of us are in deep trouble. The Dean beat-down should signal an intense reassessment of media's role in the American power structure. The African American historical experience has much to offer in that regard, since the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements were born in a wrestling match with an essentially hostile corporate (white) media. However, there can be no meaningful discussion of the options available to progressive forces in the United States unless it is first recognized that the corporate media in the current era is the enemy, and must be treated that way...
It is important to note that in mid-December, according to Newsweek's poll, Dean, Kerry and Clark were doing equally in a match-up with George Bush, at 40, 41, and 41 percent, respectively. There was no statistical basis to single out Dean as unelectable... No matter. The corporate media has the power of self-fulfilling prophesy, and they know it... Dean was tagged by the media as a loser to Bush well before he let out "The Scream" -- an innocuous, non-event, on the night of his Iowa defeat.
Dean understands what was done to him, although there's nothing much he can do about it. In an interview with CNN's repugnant Wolf Blitzer, the candidate said: "You report the news and you create the news... You chose to play it [`The Scream'] 673 times."

(Via RandomWalks.)

causes 2004.02.01 / link / 3 comments

Dean yaah, Kerry blah

"I was on the scene in Iowa during this campaign's defining moment, the Dean Scream, and I didn't even notice it." Exactly. What did anyone expect at a pep rally? This non-event was an artifact of the TV cameras and bogus "news" coverage.

Meanwhile, if you want a cheap shot (via Supah):

John Kerry Blah Blah Blah

causes 2004.01.26 / link / 1 comment

Surprise, surprise, surprise

"Blacks bear the brunt when police use force." The Austin American-Statesman analyzed 6,447 APD incident reports over six years and found that:

Austin police used force against African Americans and Hispanics at significantly higher rates than they did against whites... For Hispanics, the likelihood was 25 percent greater. For African Americans, it was 100 percent.
Downtown -- the most likely place for anyone, regardless of race, to become involved in a violent encounter with police -- officers used force against one of about every 14 blacks involved in an incident. That is based on a rate of 72.6 violent encounters for every 1,000 blacks involved in an incident. For whites, the rate was 34.6 per 1,000, about one in 29; for Hispanics, 43.7, or about one in 23.
There's a bit of good news:
Justice Department statistics showed that the national use of force rate was 11.5 for every 1,000 police contacts. Austin's rate that year was 2.1 per thousand. Overall in the past six years, the Austin rate was 4.9 per thousand.

So the bottom line seems to be that Austin police make less use of force than those in other cities, but there's still a significant risk to being DWB (Downtown While Black).

Kudos to the Statesman for doing some unusually forthright investigation and splashing it across the front page. (And a rude gesture to the Statesman for imposing a new multi-step registration procedure in order to read their content online, even today's top stories!)

causes 2004.01.25 / link / 1 comment
page 1 of 5 • next >