A brief look back from your City Council columnist
By Wells Dunbar, 11:31AM, Thu. Dec. 22, 2011
Thursday is a deceptively quiet time at the Chronicle: Despite having just put another issue to bed, the editorial team's already started on the next one. But the Hustle is a little less busy – mainly because his work here is coming to an end.
In a few days, my run here at the Austin Chronicle will be coming to a close, as I’m stepping down to pursue new opportunities. So, on a note of personal privilege – and because I still have the keys to the blog – I’m closing out with a look back.
When I came aboard the Chronicle as an intern in 2003, it was with a vaguely defined notion I’d write about film, or music, or something more decidedly “cool” than city government or politics. I’d always been interested in the subject on the national level – but like the mind-numbingly vast majority of this city, I didn’t follow things locally much at all. Sure, I had heard something about a failed light rail vote, and was generally amused by the existence of a politician named Will Wynn, but that was about it.
When News editor Michael King effectively offered me the city beat a few years later, in 2005 – after a few dozen freelance pieces, one session at the Lege, and, if memory serves, his suspicion my writing held “an inkling” of a voice that might grow one day – I worried my outsider status would be a detriment. And while it took a little while to find my way around Austin’s newly-built City Hall, I quickly came to see my background (or lack thereof) in municipal governance as a plus, not a minus. Because maybe if I was learning something for the first time, just maybe I could instill that sense of discovery in others, and concretely illustrate how actions at City Hall affect their lives. It’s almost cliché to note that, far and away, local government effects people more on a day-to-day basis than any tribal match at the federal level. Which is why Austin’s stubborn civic shrug – from a city that allegedly prides itself on its own intelligence and enlightenment – is so perennially maddening.
The Hustle attempted to fight the Great Shirk each week, hopefully with a couple laughs along the way. (It's a fight I'll be continuing in my new endeavors as well.) But ultimately, I’ll leave any assessment of my success to the readers, because what would this whole thing have been without them? While many appreciations and acknowledgments will be forthcoming in my final column next week, let me just begin by thanking everyone who’s read, skimmed, linked, “liked,” Tumblr'd or re-Tweeted the Hustle over the last six and a half years – or, by golly, actually written in response to something I’ve penned. Y’all have helped keep the conversation alive.