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2011ReadersPolitics & Personalities

Best Activist
John Woods

Texas education is neglected in more ways than one, including practical approaches to keeping our students safe. With an amazing perseverance rooted in love and passionate knowledge, John Woods has feverishly pursued the fight to protect colleges from mandates allowing faculty and students to carry concealed handguns on campus. His group, Students for Gun-Free Schools, believes that fighting guns with guns is insane and that the best prevention for campus violence is properly identifying the warning signs of future violence in students. As a transplant from Virginia Tech whose girlfriend was killed on that horrific day, Woods knows firsthand the mindlessness behind the locked-and-loaded approach. Armed only with countless supporters and the findings of the Virginia Tech Review Panel, Woods can be found fighting his fight on the Capitol grounds, online, and talking to anyone who will listen to his reasoned and logical approach to violence prevention on our nation's campuses.

Students for Gun Free Schools, 100-C W. Dean Keeton, 512/850-5824, texas.gunfreeschools.org

Best Activist Organization
Texas Freedom Network

Effectively, the Texas Freedom Network is the granddaughter of former Governor (and legendary fifth Golden Girl) Ann Richards. Founded by Cecile Richards in 1995, the organization in recent years has led fights to keep the Texas State Board of Education as free from ideologues as possible, protect LGBTQ freedoms, and oppose restrictions of women's reproductive rights. In a state as bloodred as Texas, TFN proves that not only can Texan progressives speak out; they will also win a few fights if they approach them with intelligence, productive action, and purpose. Sophia, Blanche, Rose, Dorothy, and especially Ann would be proud.

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

Best Austin Icon
Leslie

Occasionally imitated and always enigmatic, Leslie Cochran remains the embodiment of keeping it weird. Whether he’s bumming a smoke or posing for a photo, he’s always around. If you haven’t seen the man behind the magnet set yet, keep your eyes open and hopes up that you’ll make the acquaintance of this legendary Austin icon.

Best City Official
Police Chief Art Acevedo

Have we ever had a police chief as popular as Art Acevedo? Handsome and eloquent, approachable and easygoing, "Ace" is not just a friend to the average Austin citizen; he also displays serious yet highly entertaining skills as an auctioneer for organizations like Zach Theatre and the Austin Children's Shelter, in addition to exhibiting his red-hot dancing skills at the Center for Child Protection's Dancing With the Stars Austin event. He tried to leave us once, but we would have none of that and kept him right here where he belongs. With his smarts and charisma, he can write his own ticket.

Austin Police Department, 715 E. Eighth, 512/974-5000, www.cityofaustin.org

Best Council Member
Chris Riley

Native Austinite Chris Riley has tirelessly served this fair city for more than a decade through the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association, Planning Commission, and the Austin Parks Foundation to name but a few. The Wooldridge Square chess game? That’s his handiwork, too. His legacy is tied to our success, so it's fitting Austin thanks him for fighting for our potential.

Chris Riley, City Hall, 301 W. Second, 512/974-2260, www.cityofaustin.org

Best Elected Official
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett

He's been our Steady Eddie in Congress for nearly 20 years, always rising to defend the values of Austin, Travis County, and his entire district, no matter how hard the Republicans have tried to take him out of the game. You can't keep a good man down.

Office of Rep. Lloyd Doggett, 300 E. Eighth #763, 512/916-5921, www.doggett.house.gov

Best Environmentalist
Paul Robbins

Spend a few hours watching local government and chances are you'll see Paul Robbins. The self-described “environmental activist and consumer advocate,” clad in large glasses and an ever-present tweed sports coat, is a perennial presence at meetings, offering alternately droll, combative, and informed takes on topics from energy purchases to water conservation. He's also publisher of the periodic Austin Environmental Directory, a comprehensive assemblage of green issues from the hyperlocal to worldwide.

Paul Robbins, Austin Environmental Directory, www.environmentaldirectory.info

Best Grassroots Movement
Students for Gun-Free Schools

Texas education is neglected in more ways than one, including practical approaches to keeping our students safe. With an amazing perseverance rooted in love and passionate knowledge, John Woods has feverishly pursued the fight to protect colleges from mandates allowing faculty and students to carry concealed handguns on campus. His group, Students for Gun-Free Schools, believes that fighting guns with guns is insane and that the best prevention for campus violence is properly identifying the warning signs of future violence in students. As a transplant from Virginia Tech whose girlfriend was killed on that horrific day, Woods knows firsthand the mindlessness behind the locked-and-loaded approach. Armed only with countless supporters and the findings of the Virginia Tech Review Panel, Woods can be found fighting his fight on the Capitol grounds, online, and talking to anyone who will listen to his reasoned and logical approach to violence prevention on our nation's campuses.

Students for Gun Free Schools, 100-C W. Dean Keeton, 512/850-5824, texas.gunfreeschools.org

Best Green Program
Ecology Action of Texas

Austin's Ecology Action of Texas by the numbers:
232,000: kilowatt-hours of electricity saved by aluminum recycling
16,924: trees saved by recycling paper
4,432: gallons of fuel oil saved by recycling glass
3,285: cubic yards of landfill space saved by recycling paper
2000: the year EA became a worker-run coop
1979: the year EA of Texas was founded
650: EA's Industrial Workers of the World Local Industrial Union number
501(c)(3): the type of nonprofit EA is
24-7: hours each day/days each week that certain recyclable materials are accepted at the Ninth Street drop spot
10%: the amount of the city's volume in recycling covered by its efforts in 2007
1: Anyone. Even you. Even if you don't live in a house. You can recycle. With the help of the local heroes at EA, you can change the world.

Ecology Action Recycling Depot, 707 E. Ninth, 512/322-0000, www.ecology-action.org

Best Legislative Moment
Wendy David Filibuster, Sine Die

"Worst. Session. Ever." That was the consensus about the budget-slashing, tea party-driven 82nd Legislature, and the only saving grace was how it ended. Wendy Davis, the first-term senator from Fort Worth, unleashed a measured and thoughtful filibuster that derailed GOP plans for an early summer and blasted their iniquitous school finance schemes.

Office of Sen. Wendy Davis, PO Box 12068, Capitol Station, 512/463-0110, www.davis.senate.state.tx.us

Texas Legislature, www.legis.state.tx.us

Best Local Politics Blog
Burnt Orange Report

Spanning local, state, and national politics, the impetus behind Burnt Orange Report is capital-D Democratic politics, but as a conversational hub for progressive affairs, it also speaks to democracy of the little-d ilk. While some of BOR's original team has left the site to pursue other opportunities, co-founder and publisher Karl-Thomas Musselman has kept the blog as tenacious as ever, overseeing an infusion of new blood. Hook ’em, BOR!

Burnt Orange Report, www.burntorangereport.com

Best March or Rally
QueerBomb

QueerBomb is Austin's response to the tendency toward commercialization and assimilation in corporate-backed Pride celebrations. It's a march and a rally that begs its audience to join the fun, and true to its intention of celebrating the "radical, carnal, and transgressive lineage" of queerness, it feels more like a flash mob or a party than a traditional parade. QueerBomb seeks to celebrate diversity, lingering in the latter four letters in LGBTQIA (trans, queer, intersex, and allies.) It's the opportunity to put on your sparkliest unitard and take to the streets.

QueerBomb, www.queerbomb.org

Best Neighborhood/Place To Live
Hyde Park

She's the mama grizzly of Austin neighborhood politics. Whether it's fighting back developers, fighting to keep the Shipe Park Pool open, or advocating to reopen the Baker Center as a neighborhood school, Austin's first suburb is now its activist heart.

Hyde Park Neighborhood Association, PO Box 49427, www.austinhydepark.org

Best News Story
Formula One

Ecological menace or technological boon? Economic blessing or boondoggle? No matter what you think about the Circuit of the Americas, for the next decade, Austin will host Formula One races. With the first event set for Nov. 18, 2012, the live music capital of the world becomes the official home of F1 in the U.S.

Formula One, www.formula1unitedstates.com

Best Nonprofit
Austin Pets Alive!

The efforts of this relentless group, which is largely made up of volunteers, have been crucial in making Austin a "no-kill" city, and that has never been more apparent than it was during the recent wildfires. They worked dusk 'til dawn, ventured into danger zones to help find and give medical attention to evacuees' beloved pets, and adopted out hundreds of animals scheduled to die at Town Lake Animal Center and shelters in surrounding counties. Actions do speak louder than words.

Austin Pets Alive!, 1156 W. Cesar Chavez, 512/961-6519, www.austinpetsalive.org

Best Scandal
Rick Perry Anything

When it comes to scandal, you are everything and everything is you, Governor. Your hair, your cronies, your cash, your connections, your disconnections, your threats, your howdy, your prayer rally, your death tally, your boots, your rascally good looks, your Texas-sized ego, and oh, those pesky rumors. And those are but a few of your scandals our readers weighed in on. There really is no better candidate for president than you, sir. And we say that with all sincerity.

Rick Perry, www.rickperry.org

Best Unsung Behind-the-Scenester
MariBen Ramsey

Back in 1997, you voted this ubiquitous activist-attorney Best Nonprofit Volunteer for her dedication to local charities. Volunteer no more: As counsel, interim president, and CEO of the Austin Community Foundation, she has dedicated her life and career to one of the area's biggest charitable trusts.

MariBen Ramsey, Austin Community Foundation, 4315 Guadalupe #300, www.austincf.org

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