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2008ReadersPolitics & Personalities

Best Activist
Mary Arnold

Take any neighborhood in Austin, and you can probably find the sweet green fingerprints of activist Mary Arnold on it. Where Austin is human-sized and lovely in a homegrown way, Arnold has likely researched, written, and testified mightily for it to be that way. At age 72, she is our living treasure of civic justice. Thank you, Mary, for reminding us of the good things we're capable of.

Mary Arnold, West Austin Neighborhood Group, PO Box 5722, www.deepeddy.com/wang

Best Austin Booster
Eugene Sepulveda

Talk about doing Austin a favor – a really, really big favor – Eugene Sepulveda just seems to give and give and give. As a professor at UT's McCombs School of Business, he prepares his students for the rewards and pitfalls of modern business. As a philanthropist, he teaches Central Texans how to give. As a community activist, he gives us hope and strength. With a high tech background and an innate sense of dedication to others, Sepulveda has conquered virtually every obstacle in his path … and that makes it easier for all of us.

Eugene Sepulveda, www.mccombs.utexas.edu

Best City Official
Mayor Will Wynn

As a member of the City Council, he worked hard enough that we elected him mayor. After his deft handling of the influx of Hurricane Katrina survivors, we elected him again. Smart, insightful, sophisticated, handsome, and successful, this Democrat has sidestepped many partisan issues in favor of leading Austin as a unified city. His development plans, an anathema to some, have raised an accessible, inviting Downtown area, revitalizing the center of our city. Wynn thrives on challenges, and Austin presents many. Did we mention he does a spot-on "Thriller" dance?

Will Wynn, 124 W. Eighth #113, 512/974-2250

Best Council Member
Mike Martinez

This chrome-domed crowd-pleaser comes from the rough and tumble world of the Austin Firefighters Association, but as a council member, Martinez has displayed real political savvy on when to tread lightly and when to bore fully ahead. The result has been consistent, solid leadership on matters like public safety and City Hall reform. Martinez's straightforward, no-BS style makes him an effective council member – and may likely serve him well in larger future pursuits.

Mike Martinez, City Hall, 301 W. Second, 512/974-2264, www.mikemartinezforaustin.com

Best Elected Official
Mayor Will Wynn

As a member of the City Council, he worked hard enough that we elected him mayor. After his deft handling of the influx of Hurricane Katrina survivors, we elected him again. Smart, insightful, sophisticated, handsome, and successful, this Democrat has sidestepped many partisan issues in favor of leading Austin as a unified city. His development plans, an anathema to some, have raised an accessible, inviting Downtown area, revitalizing the center of our city. Wynn thrives on challenges, and Austin presents many. Did we mention he does a spot-on "Thriller" dance?

Will Wynn, 124 W. Eighth #113, 512/974-2250

Best Environmentalist
Brandi Clark

A human switchboard for all things sustainable, Clark earns Austin's respectful adoration for the fertility of her imagination and the durability of her projects. Austin CarShare, Austin EcoNetwork, Citizen Gardener, and the soon-to-exist One Earth Bank are all founded by this supercharged mitochondria of green.

Brandi Clark, Austin EcoNetwork, PO Box 684641, www.austineconetwork.org

Best Grassroots Movement
Texans for Obama

Where were you on Feb. 23, 2007? If you were with 20,000 other Austinites on Auditorium Shores, watching Barack Obama before he was even a serious front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, thank Texans for Obama. These determined activists saw the hunger for change and have fought tirelessly to keep that campaign energy high.

Texans for Obama, www.texansforobama.com

Best Job
Teacher

Every one of us had one that stood out from the rest. The teacher who pushed us harder, made us wonder, and had a very significant hand in making us who we are today. In a mostly thankless profession, with heavy responsibilities and little accolades and pay, these tried-and-true heroes are the keys to unlocking the future of this country and our world. Whether it's first-grade spelling or AP physics, each one of them deserves so much more than this grateful thank you.

Education Austin, 316 W. 12th #202, 512/472-1124, www.educationaustin.org

Texas State Teachers Association, 316 W. 12th, 877/275-8782, www.tsta.org

Best Local Issue
Traffic, Transportation

Is that best pronounced “most intractable”? Want soaring gas prices or underfunded public transport? Is that an essential rail-link or a white elephant boondoggle? Meanwhile, the pro- and anti-toll-road forces draw more blood, and developers argue that mixed-use is the future. The Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is attempting to get all the region' cities and counties to sign on to a long-range plan to beat sprawl. The stick: You can't get roads or rail transit unless you grow densely and sustainably.

Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Transit Working Group, 505 Barton Springs Rd. #700, 512/974-2275, www.campotexas.org

Best Local Politics Blog
Burnt Orange Report

If political blogs aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on (think about it), then why do so many politicians keep refreshing the page at BOR? Proudly partisan, fiercely combative, and well-connected enough to beat a lot of "real" journalists to the punch.

Burnt Orange Report, www.burntorangereport.com

Best Local Politics Blogger
Eileen Smith

What happens when a blogger joins the accursed mainstream media? In the case of Eileen Smith, InthePinkTexas.com's own delightfully dissolute Pink Lady turned TexasMonthly.com editor, it just means more outlets to let that gloriously acid tongue lash incoherent vice presidential candidates and illiterate baristas with equal relish.

Eileen Smith, Texas Monthly, 701 Brazos #1600, www.texasmonthly.com

Best News Story
Governor's Mansion Fire

No, Rick Perry didn't lean his shiny coif too close to the tanning lamp. A broken motion sensor, only one trooper on duty, and a Molotov cocktail. Alone, these don't amount to much. Together, they resulted in catastrophic damage to a 152-year-old state treasure. This blaze was the result of a lone arsonist, someone who authorities believe was "angry" with the government. Someone really should have told that guy Dubya moved out eight years ago.

Governor's Mansion, 1010 Colorado, 512/463-0063, www.txfgm.org

Best Nonprofit Group
Texas Freedom Network

It seems pretty simple. Church? You go over here. State? You stay over there. While the religious right tries to bundle them together, the Texas Freedom Network fights back to protect each from the other because it (and its many pious and nonbelieving members) values the independence of thought in the classroom and the state House.

Texas Freedom Network, PO Box 1624, 512/322-0545, www.tfn.org

Best Public Service
Travis County Democratic Party

None of this “blue dot in a red sea” nonsense. The Travis County Democratic Party has seen a state that is going from purple to crimson, and the party is spreading out across Central Texas to help other county parties perform what many Democrats see as the biggest public service: taking back the House.

Travis County Democratic Party, 1311 E. Sixth, 512/477-7500, www.traviscountydemocrats.org

Best Scandal
Governor's Mansion Fire

No, Rick Perry didn't lean his shiny coif too close to the tanning lamp. A broken motion sensor, only one trooper on duty, and a Molotov cocktail. Alone, these don't amount to much. Together, they resulted in catastrophic damage to a 152-year-old state treasure. This blaze was the result of a lone arsonist, someone who authorities believe was "angry" with the government. Someone really should have told that guy Dubya moved out eight years ago.

Governor's Mansion, 1010 Colorado, 512/463-0063, www.txfgm.org

Best State Legislator
Kirk Watson

It could have become Watsongate, but the laconic former mayor laughed off his little slipup on MSNBC's Hardball With Chris Matthews to become the Tito's Vodka-sippin' hero of the Texas Democratic Convention. But beneath the bonhomie is the sharp political mind that is already making a mark in the Texas Senate.

Sen. Kirk Watson, Capitol Extension Room E1.804, 512/463-0114, www.kirkwatson.com

Best Unsung Behind-the-Scenester
James Harrington, Texas Civil Rights Project

Why is TCRP's director so unsung? Because he's usually too busy representing clients and causes to beat his own drum. Fighting back against corporate interests and government abuses, he proves that civil rights, due process, legal representation, and that strange old concept of justice aren’t just for people who can afford it.

James Harrington, www.texascivilrightsproject.org

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