Monday, November 24, 2003

Of little importance?

The transcript for the city council meeting taking up proposed rezoning of a certain parcel of land in South Austin at the headwaters of Blunn Creek inspired the following correspondence:

The transcript of the November 6 council meeting highlights the repeated use of vocabulary to belittle and try to render insignificant the importance of the land in question. The word used over and over again is “sliver.” Secondary or tertiary meanings of this word are “scrap” and “particle.” In addition to calling the parcel in question “little triangle,” “little tract,” “little 1.3 acre tract,” “little piece,” and “remnant,” the Wal-Mart representative calls it a “sliver” 11 times, including “little sliver” 3 times and “little bitty sliver” once.

So pervasive is the use of the word “sliver” and so successful as a rhetorical device that, once it was introduced into the public discourse, two members of the council were each inspired to echo the word 3 times. Of the 6 uses other than by the Wal-Mart representative, one was “just a sliver.”

The Wal-Mart representative explicitly stated that there will be a Wal-Mart with the sliver or a Wal-Mart without the sliver. Certainly you must have read recent extensive and unflattering coverage of Wal-Mart business practices and their effects on our economy and on society in general. The spotlight has been bright and unrelenting, beginning with the Business Week cover story and encompassing lengthy articles in Forbes, Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. There is no need to smooth the way for the behemoth of Bentonville. Wal-Mart can take care of itself. So if there is to be a Wal-Mart at Ben White and the Interregional, let it be without the “sliver.”

Blunn Creek” is the nature preserve, Big Stacy Park, Little Stacy Park, and drinking water drawn from Town Lake. Blunn Creek and the public lands through which it flows represent the gift 90 years ago of the parkland and the investment every year since then of community labor dedicated to such projects as a children’s playscape and the cleaning and maintenance of the waterway and its banks and native vegetation, donations by and for the benefit of people from all over Austin.

Before you vote, please visit the nature preserve and walk the length of Big Stacy and Little Stacy parks. Please read in its entirety the engineer’s report paid for by the neighborhood through whose heart Blunn Creek flows.

As a body the city council has shown itself willing to preserve what is in fact a “tiny sliver” of the Edwards aquifer; surely it can and will protect and preserve for the future this “tiny sliver” for the sake of what it is in truth: a large, substantial, and crucial portion and percentage of the headwaters and recharge zones of Blunn Creek, a treasure in the heart of Austin.


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