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Politics & Personalities

Best Burr Under the Saddle
JD Gins

Remember that old saying that politics in Texas is a full-contact sport? Seems sometimes that progressives have been beaten so long that they’ve forgotten they can punch back. Let’s just say that JD Gins knows not to bring a knife to a gun fight. The Travis County Democratic Party executive director and beer connoisseur is less concerned about making friends than winning the argument, but with his perennial grin, he keeps managing to do both.

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

Best Display of Hope
Memorial Day Weekend Crisis Pet Adopters

When Austin Pets Alive! staff realized that all animals had to be evacuated from the Town Lake Animal Center due to imminent flooding, they sent out a plea to the community. Within a couple of hours, 200+ people had formed a line in the waterlogged parking lot offering to temporarily house a dog or cat and bringing supplies. Photos of the event quickly went viral, earning kudos from national and international media. This act proved what Austinites are made of, and cemented their commitment to keeping the city's no-kill status alive and well. Compassion wins!

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

Town Lake Animal Center, 1156 W. Cesar Chavez, 512/961-6519,

Best Dressed Council Member
Don Zimmerman

Grouse about his politics (we do!), fine, but any talk show host off the street can throw out bombastic analogies. Where District 6 Council Member Don Zimmerman really sets himself apart is in his slick fedora-suspender combos, forbidding aviator frames, and mildly distracting ties. And the engineer's attention to detail extends beyond city contracts to his shelter dog Shelby, whose outfits frequently eclipse her master's. What's a pit bull without a floral raincoat?

Don Zimmerman, 301 W. Second,

Best First Termer
Celia Israel

The freshman representative from Austin’s 50th district wasted no time digging in during her first legislative session. She took up issues as wide-ranging as the care of pregnant people in jails to congestion on I-35, and even managed to gather the support of none other than Jonathan Stickland for the bills (HB 1140 and 1141) dealing with the former. Her enthusiasm, intelligence, and practicality are a welcome deviation from the Texas legislative norm.

Office of Celia Israel, Rm E1.406, PO Box 2910,

Best Grassroots Justice Seekers
People's Task Force

With the goal of spotlighting injustice, PTF brings together the people of Austin. Coming out of the Black Lives Matter movement and the increased visibility of police shootings, this organization provides a space for people to improve the safety of Austin's communities and work to maintain accountability of government agencies. Their four "Points of Unity" – perhaps a grandchild of the Black Panther's Ten-Point Program – is laser-focused on the criminal justice system's "sharpest edge," the police.

People's Task Force,

Best Immigration Advocates
Grassroots Leadership

While every attempt at immigration reform is stymied by the anti-immigrant portion of the right, Grassroots Leadership has made sure that the people caught in the crossfire aren’t forgotten, organizing protests at detention centers, publishing research, and consistently refuting misinformation. Progress might be slow, but Grassroots and other immigration activists have managed to keep the conversation going, and positive changes, such as a judge’s recent order to release undocumented immigrants in three facilities, have had a real impact on people’s lives.

Grassroots Leadership, 2301 E. Cesar Chavez, 512/499-8111,

Best Justice for Mamas Behind Bars
Texas Jail Project, ACLU of Texas, and MamaSana

For the first time ever, Texas county jails will be required to report on how they care for pregnant inmates – to 'fess up about food, bedding, and medical care. That's thanks to hard work by the Texas Jail Project, the ACLU of Texas, and Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman. The three groups joined forces to protect pregnant mothers in county jails this legislative session by helping get HB 1140 passed. The law requires accountability, transparency, and solid data to improve the lives of mamas behind bars.

Texas Jail Project, 1712 E. Riverside Drive, Box 190, 512/597-8746,

ACLU of Texas Inc., PO Box 12905, 512/478-7309,

Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman, PO Box 301018, Austin, TX 78703, 512/710-5729,

Best Neighborhood Comfort
Florence Ponziano

photo by Todd V. Wolfson

The nonprofit Florence’s Comfort House is just what it sounds like: a place where unmoored children (and occasionally adults) in Ponziano’s Montopolis neighborhood can find friends, assistance, learning, playmates and playscape, a kindly ear — comfort — when life turns tough. It is also a magical living repository of Ponziano’s extraordinary artwork, which she also sells, barters, or just gives away to help children and neighbors. Like her home, she’s a hidden Austin gem, who avoids recognition she greatly deserves. Consider this a token of appreciation.

Florence's Comfort House, 515 Kemp, 512/385-8672,

Best Neighborhood Revival
Restore Rundberg

No part of town gets a worse rap than Rundberg Lane. So when critics write it off as an insoluble problem, they’re writing off the 5% of Austin’s population that lives and works around that one street. The Restore Rundberg initiative brings together city, law enforcement, schools, colleges, and the neighborhood itself to redeem this often-slandered area. They’re not just trying to sweep away all the problems that have plagued the area for years, but solve the underlying problems, to make the area vital and healthy for the community that’s there already, and that wants to be there.

Restore Rundberg Initiative, 512/974-8199,

Best New Historical Marker
Austin’s Twin Railroad Depots

Back in the days of the great railroad barons, the International & Great Northern Railroad had its handsome yellow-brick depot at the southwest corner of Third and Congress, and they owned the lines heading out of town to the west. The Houston & Texas Central’s newer, more ornate red-brick depot sat on the northeast corner, servicing the H&TC tracks heading out of town to the east. In time, the I&GN merged into the Missouri Pacific (MoPac), and in 1949 they moved operations over to what is now the Amtrak Station. The H&TC became the Southern Pacific, and though they stopped running in 1964, that line coming in from the east is what became the Capital Metro’s Red Line, terminating at Downtown Station. And that’s where we are today: the Amtrak station on the west end of Downtown, and the Cap Metro station on the east end of Downtown. But once, they met in the middle.

Best Political Sideshow
Pressley vs. Casar

The District 4 City Council election contest – defeated candidate Laura Pressley vs. Council Member Greg Casar (as proxy for electronic voting) – was dismissed at state district court, earning hefty “frivolous lawsuit” sanctions for Pressley and her lawyer. Yet bolstered by anti-computer-voting truthers less interested in their plaintiff’s loss by 30 points than in grandiose conspiracy claims, Pressley vows to appeal. Except for the cost to Travis County taxpayers – and unmerited attacks on dedicated public officials, particularly Travis County Clerk and vote maven Dana DeBeauvoir – it’s a laugh-a-minute affair, more suitable to reality TV than a courtroom. If only Flip Wilson were alive to preside ….

Best Radical Personality
scott crow

photo by Celesta Danger

Amidst the surge of an activist renaissance in Austin, ​​scott crow (intentionally uncapitalized) takes the cake. But not literally, because he's a good anarchist and wants bread, not cake, for the people. Equally amicable as his political counterpoint Alex Jones is loud, he's been characterized by NPR as a "living legend among anarchists" for helping found the Common Ground Collective - an anarchist-inspired relief group that delivered crucial aid in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. His recent book, Emergency Hearts, Molotov Dreams: A scott crow Reader, surveys conversations and essays from a lifetime of organizing and grassroots strategy.

scott crow,

Best Standing Activist
Sadie Hernandez

Standing outside the Governor’s Mansion day after day for over a month, Sadie Hernandez braved the sweltering Texas summer heat to protest the Legislature’s politically motivated move to kick Planned Parenthood out of the state's life-saving Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program. What started as a one-woman rally ballooned into a movement garnering national media attention and a surprise visit from women’s health champion and former Senator Wendy Davis. The tenacious young activist hoped Gov. Abbott would veto the measure; while the anti-choice guv failed to do so, the power of the “People’s Veto” reminded us all the fight to block ideological-led attacks on basic reproductive health care ain’t over yet.

Office of Celia Israel, Rm E1.406, PO Box 2910,

Best Way Home
Community First!

photo by Celesta Danger

Had Mobile Loaves & Fishes only delivered meals of nourishment for area homeless out of the back of their trucks, that would have been enough. Had they only developed Genesis Gardens, supplying both food and jobs, that would have been enough. Now, they near completion for Community First! Village (truly deserving of that exclamation point), a holistic facility luxuriously spread out over 27 acres. Homes, yes, but also medical facilities, wi-fi, walking trails, on-site employment initiatives with Bunkhouse and Alamo Drafthouse, and gardens with chickens and bees for Austin's disabled and chronically homeless population. The site also includes a columbarium, insisting on an ineluctable dignity that extends far beyond our plane. We hope that Community First! Village is only a prototype of what communities can do when homelessness is finally recognized as a multi-faceted issue that demands significant resources, innovation, and most of all, heart. We would say that this might very well be enough, but given what we know about Mobile Loaves & Fishes and their tireless CEO Alan Graham, there's always something higher than “enough.”

Mobile Loaves & Fishes, 9301 Hog Eye, 512/328-7299,

Best Working Class Hero
Cristina Tzintzún, Workers Defense Project

It might seem like Workers Defense Project (founded in 2002) has been around forever. That’s because executive director Cristina Tzintzún and deputy director Emily Timm began at full speed in their mission to defend the lives and living standards of low-wage workers in Austin. They began by fighting for unpaid wages, and have since built a Texas beachhead that has won crucial victories for safety standards, education, the dignity of work – and has set a progressive agenda for city government. Tzintzún will soon be stepping down from WDP, but promises she won’t be a stranger – Austin needs her!

Workers Defense Project, 5604 Manor Rd., 512/391-2305,

Most Gracious
Reji Thomas

The visual artist who played an essential role in the mid-Nineties restoration of the Texas State Capitol building – no one else possessed the skills set to perform the particular antiquated process to replicate all of the mammoth structure's glass – was unceremoniously forced out of her working studio that she'd built up, from nothing on the plot of a crumbling old railroad depot, over two decades ago. Welcome to Austin gratitude, 2015. The historic site also served as Pine Street Station, a local artist and community hub. We're not going to dwell on the bad faith clumsily ramrodded by disingenuous real estate and PR hacks involved in what resulted in her eviction (karma is a bitch, after all). We know an award can't right a wrong, but we offer hats off to the lady who has moved on and is focusing on her visual art. We look forward to her rising from the dust.

Reji Thomas,

Most Moving Silences and Powerful Protests
Vigil for Charleston

The Austin Vigil for Charleston and the Texas Vigil for Sandra Bland were moving, vital community events that spoke volumes with the silence of grief. They also lifted the voices of resistance and refusal to accept our nation's constant killing of black people. Both vigils were organized by a small group of friends working from a shared vision of change: Fatima Mann, Ayana Flewellen, Courtney Arnold, and X'ene Sky Taylor brought people, silence, song, poetry, chants, and testimony together to make two of the most meaningful vigils Austin has ever seen. Participants arrived stricken with grief and left fortified, connected to others, and more dedicated to change.

Austin Justice Coalition, 1420 Anise, 512/921-4933,

Sexiest Culture Shift
UT Voices Against Violence

The UT Gets Consent project uses glitter tattoos, groundbreaking ideas, bold theatre performances, and dazzling graphics to prevent sexual assault and relationship violence on the Forty Acres, making consent the hottest concept around. With so many college-aged people experiencing sexual violence, the skills to get and give consent are way more important than any required course. The VAV program makes it sexy, fun, and irresistible to know if someone really wants your hands on their booty or not. Hey, don't call us tardy to the party, but yes, The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, and Marie Claire have also taken notice.

Voices Against Violence, University of Texas at Austin, Student Services Building, 100 W. Dean Keeton St., 512/471-2255,

Best Civil Rights Activist
Glen Maxey

photo by Devaki Knowles

Maxey has been both a Democratic official and a progressive instigator for so long his two roles have largely merged – apparently the reason that readers anointed him with both of these awards. The former state rep has fought for working people and basic human rights for decades, but most recently he entered the battles for same-sex marital rights by supporting Texas plaintiffs and outing county clerks all over the state – that is, clerks who refused to abide by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that gays and lesbians have the same constitutional right to marriage as their straight neighbors. This double award is as much a community celebration as a well-deserved honor for a longtime leader and political pioneer. Glen, keep on fighting! (We know you will!)

Glen Maxey,

Best Disaster Response
Texas Conservation Corps

This brand new category encouraged readers to recognize the many folks who came to aid after the Memorial Weekend floods. Ballots were cast for the Red Cross, Austin Disaster Relief Network, and even the brave Austin emergency workers who rescued the guy stuck on a pole at House Park. The group that earned the most was Texas Conservation Corps, a program of American YouthWorks and supported by AmeriCorps volunteers. TxCC set up – as they have done for many recent Texas disaster recovery events – VRCs, or Volunteer Reception Centers. The Wimberley, Bastrop, and San Marcos centers served as HQ for funneling resources and muscle to the folks who needed it most, and offered opportunities and guidance for volunteers who wished to serve out in the field.

Texas Conservation Corps, 1901 E. Ben White, 512/744-1916,

Best Elected City Official
Greg Casar

photo by Bret Brookshire

The former community organizer promised to represent all of his constituents, not just those who could or did vote for him, and thus far, District 4 Council Member Greg Casar has kept that promise, including making sure that the undocumented immigrants in his district are treated with the same respect by his office as U.S. citizens, and advocating for greater job opportunities for people with criminal records. All this while dealing with the sorest loser this town's seen in a while.

Greg Casar, 301 W. Second, 512/978-2104,

Best Elected State Official
Kirk Watson

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, fought for basics like equitable education and health care in the face of an increasingly hostile, conservative Lege that from the outset nixed their two-thirds rule, lending the GOP even more unchecked power. Delivering passionate rallies on the floor, Watson stood up for the fates of disabled state-supported living center residents in his district; abused, pregnant minors seeking safe abortion; and university students wary of guns on college campuses, making the former Austin mayor a true people’s champ.

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

Best Environmental Activist
Dave Cortez, Sierra Club

photo by David Brendan Hall

This staunch environmental activist and Occupy Austin regular is currently the heart and soul of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign in Central Texas. After successfully coordinating the Texas BlueGreen Alliance, he is now focused on shutting down the coal-fired Fayette Power Project and pushing for the adoption of strong renewable energy policies in Austin, while seeking to incorporate anti-poverty and anti-racist principles and strategies into Austin's environmental activist community. Órale!

Sierra Club, 1202 San Antonio St., 512/477-1729,

Best Event on the Capitol Steps
Big Gay Wedding on July Fourth

photo by Jana Birchum

Folks have been holding symbolic gay weddings all around the capital city for years, but this was a big mass wedding, a big gay mass wedding, held eight days after the U.S. Supreme Court "so ordered" the recognition of same-sex marriages. Austin's Big Gay Wedding event was held on the south steps of the Texas State Capitol on the Fourth of July. Over 40 couples exchanged vows and waved legal marriage certificates for all to see. Many folks deserve kudos for pulling the event off, but the chugging dynamo at its heart was local attorney Lenore Shefman, whose social justice work in this town way back in the Nineties (before she left Texas to earn that law degree) included a bit of activism in front of the Governor's Mansion – a protest in the form of, you guessed it: a big gay wedding.

Lenore Shefman, 1002 West Ave. #301, 512/386-8117,

Best Grassroots Group

Everyone knows Austin’s aura is huge. Now its AURA – formerly Austinites for Urban Rail Action, now just an evocative acronym – wants to make sure our civic vision, creativity, and public spirit stay focused on the core of that violet crown. AURA originally took up the cause of urban rail planning; it has since expanded to organizing around various urbanist issues, from helping rewrite our land development code in connection with CodeNEXT to encouraging affordable urban density via such techniques as limiting historic preservation, making it easier to live car-free, and limiting sprawl by keeping overzealous environmental regulations in check for the urban core. AURA also specializes in public outreach, encouraging Austinites to jump on the planning train as it rolls on.


Best Lege Silver Lining
TIE: Anti-LGBT Bills Blocked; It's Over

In January it seemed like the slew of anti-LGBTQ legislation would ruin any progress made in the name of equality, including bills to protect "religious freedom," the dreaded Pastor Protection Act, Rep. Cecil Bell's discriminatory HB 4105, and bathroom-panic bills. Amazingly, and for a variety of reasons, they all derailed. The voters (at least of our poll!) took notice, recognizing this wholesale discrimination fail to be the silver lining of a crazy session – matched only in votes by the notion that the session finally came to an end: It's over! Yes, friends, it is, so spike up your hair, put on some shiny pants, and wave "bye, bye, bye!"

Equality Texas, Equality Texas, 512/474-5475,

Best Local Controversy
Anything Don Zimmerman

When District 6 elected the guy famous for blowing a rape whistle on local news to protest an affordable housing bond, well, amazing things had to be in the works. Since then, Don Zimmerman has sued a teeny online publication, suggested the city strike rules about wheelchair accessibility, compared gay marriage to pedophilia, and sued the city to get rid of campaign finance rules. Invader Zim doesn't disappoint.

Don Zimmerman, 301 W. Second,

Best Local Politics Blog
Burnt Orange Report

Calling themselves the Democrats' biggest supporters and harshest critics, these political hounds know how to report hard facts and push hard opinions. Policymakers in the Capitol pay attention too. The site boasts 60,000-100,000 daily views and regularly receives contributing articles from institutional leaders, political consultants, elected officials, lobbyists, and concerned Texans. Orange for UT. Blue for Texas. And burnt for the torch they carry among progressives across the city and state.

Burnt Orange Report,

Best March or Rally

Each June, in memory of Stonewall, Queerbomb hosts a march and rally, inviting every member of the LGBTQIA community to come together and embrace diversity, sexuality, art, music, and individuality. If you've ever been to a Queerbomb march, it's likely you woke up the next morning covered in glitter, dressed in only your rainbow underwear, with sore muscles (a lady does not tell which), no voice, and the taste of vodka and/or Red Bull still in your mouth… oh, and a smile that won't quit.


Best Neighborhood Activist
Teresa Griffin, Friends of Hyde Park

What kind of message does a school named after Robert E. Lee send to incoming residents? The wrong kind, says Teresa Griffin. She's the leading voice in the charge by the Friends of Hyde Park, a free online neighborhood association, to change a local school's name. A resident since 1969, Griffin has fought for benefits and wages of UT staff, higher living standards, and more inclusive representation of neighborhoods. Can we get an "Amen"?

Friends of Hyde Park,

Best News Story
Marriage Equality

photo by Jana Birchum

What a year of grabby headlines: Central Texas floods, the 10-1 election, the "Austin Cobra," Jumpolin, the list goes on. But overwhelmingly, our readers – like so many local revelers on that day – chose the news of Friday, June 26, 2015, the day that the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged that LGBTQ people wishing to marry had the same constitutional rights as everyone else. There were many ways to articulate this, and many of our readers voted with the very same message that President Obama tweeted on that historic day: #LoveWins. It is so ordered.

Equality Texas, Equality Texas, 512/474-5475,

Best Nonprofit
Austin Pets Alive!

What's better than doggies and kitties? Not much, except maybe people who save doggies and kitties. Austin Pets Alive! – a crucial link in Austin's No-Kill City chain – is a nonprofit organization made up of these kind of wonderfully selfless humans that commit volunteer energy and time into making sure Austin's animals stay alive, well, and matched with loving families to call home (over 25,000 adoptions since mid-2008). If everyone was as kind and philanthropic as the people at APA!, the world would be a better place.

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

Best Political Gadfly
Glen Maxey

photo by Devaki Knowles

Maxey has been both a Democratic official and a progressive instigator for so long his two roles have largely merged – apparently the reason that readers anointed him with both of these awards. The former state rep has fought for working people and basic human rights for decades, but most recently he entered the battles for same-sex marital rights by supporting Texas plaintiffs and outing county clerks all over the state – that is, clerks who refused to abide by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that gays and lesbians have the same constitutional right to marriage as their straight neighbors. This double award is as much a community celebration as a well-deserved honor for a longtime leader and political pioneer. Glen, keep on fighting! (We know you will!)

Glen Maxey,

Best Political Scandal
TIE: Indictment of Rick Perry and Investigation of Ken Paxton

Former governor and future two-time failed presidential nomination seeker Rick Perry had two pieces of good news this year: One, that he only faces one felony charge for trying to force Travis County D.A. Rosemary Lehmberg to quit, after the Court of Appeals threw one lesser charge out. Two, that Attorney General Ken Paxton distracted the media with three charges related to securities fraud. To misquote Oscar Wilde: To have one Texas politician under indictment may be regarded as a misfortune; to have two facing jail time looks like carelessness. Our ballot happened to be running during the Paxton fracas, and some readers jumped the gun voting for an indictment that had not yet happened. But combined with votes for "Paxton investigation," "Paxton securities fraud," and "Anything Paxton," we had a handy tie.

Rick Perry,

Ken Paxton, 300 W. 15th, 512/463-2100,

Best Use of Tax Dollars
City Parks

Remember that last scene in Slacker, where everyone hops in the hooptie to the tune of South African drinking song "Skokiaan," and they drive out of town, camera in hand, land at Mount Bonnell, climb up to the top, and toss the camera over the edge? That pretty much sums up the wild abandon and adoration we Austinites feel for our green spaces. There are a lot of priorities our readers would love for city dollars to fund: education initiatives, sidewalks, transportation options, but the majority of votes in this category went to items that fall under the purview of Austin Parks and Rec or have benefited greatly from the hard work and dedication of the Austin Parks Foundation. From Eeyore's Birthday to Philosophers' Rock, dang, we like to lie around and think about how great our city is. Long may she slack!

Austin PARD, 200 S. Lamar, 512/974-6700,

Austin Parks Foundation, 507 Calles #116, 512/477-1566,

Best Big-Box Widespread Energy Conservation

Between 3 and 6pm, during the summer months, Austin-area Target stores voluntarily cut half their lights and run their air-conditioning units at half output. Is it uncomfortable to shop under these conditions? Not at all. Does this conservation effort make a difference to the pressure on Austin’s energy grid? Undoubtedly. Could we all take a page out of their book and help reduce the energy strain during the long, cruel summer? Absolutely.

Target, 2300 W. Ben White, 512/445-2266,

Target, 5621 N. I-35, 512/651-0202,

Target, 5300 S. MoPac, 512/892-5535,

Target, 8601 Research, 512/837-5163,

Best Grassroots Campaign to Hit Home
Real Values for Texas

The statewide movement to reform Texas' property tax system arrived in Austin this year in a big way. Town hall meetings across the city served to both inform and fire up homeowners about the state's broken appraisal system. Thanks to the system's well-crafted loopholes approved by our fearless leaders at the Lege, many large commercial properties end up with undervalued assessments and a disproportionately lower tax bill than residential taxpayers. As in Austin, city and county officials across Texas are taking steps to tame the property tax beast, and that includes putting pressure on the source of our tax woes – the Legislature.

Real Values for Texas, 281/849-4311,

Best Grassroots Movement to Curb Drunk Driving
ATX Safer Streets

A former Downtown bartender, Sara LeVine had long heard complaints from entertainment industry workers about the difficulties of finding parking or late-night transportation for themselves, or ways to protect themselves from drunk drivers by keeping them off the roads. After the deaths and injuries inflicted by a drunk driver at SXSW 2014, she'd had enough talk. She sprang to action, and with astonishing speed founded ATX Safer Streets, created a specific set of goals on multiple fronts, and had the ears of city and transportation leaders. With new volunteer Director of Business Development Neil Diaz, the group continues apace, attacking a complicated and serious civic problem with passion and sense.

ATX Safer Streets, 512/905-3597,

Best Home Is Where the Hearts Are
Bastrop County Long Term Recovery Team

The 2011 wildfires destroyed 1,645 homes, leaving hundreds of uninsured or not adequately insured residents homeless. In its wake, the Bastrop County Long Term Recovery Team formed to manage the rebuilding, helping their neighbors with the most anxiety-producing parts of recovering a home: pulling deeds, obtaining permits, scheduling inspections, lining up builders and construction accounts, and securing funding. The task at hand, the sheer number of folks affected who were slipping into bureaucratic cracks seemed impossible. The supporting community groups working alongside the wild women of BCLTRT – shout-outs to big hearts Tami Atkins, Janice Butler, Kate Johnston, and Chris Files – remained undaunted and steadfast, so much so that other communities now look to them to learn about a layer of disaster relief no one can fully anticipate. Three years after the disaster, Bastrop has still not completely recovered, but every new home is one step closer.

Bastrop County Long Term Recovery Team, 1106-C College St., Bastrop, Bastrop, 512/521-3001,

Best Intentional Community Potential
Community First!

Harry McClintock's 1928 folk classic, "Big Rock Candy Mountains" was not intended as a children's' song. It originally sang of "cigarette trees," "streams of alcohol," and hens laying "soft­-boiled eggs," among other things, and painted the idyllic scene of a hobo's heaven on earth. At Mobile Loaves & Fishes' new initiative to create a viable and sustainable housing solution for Austin's homeless, Community First!, the song title decorates the side of a storage shed. While the sentiment is not sanitized, it leans more toward the sweet and realistic here at this brave, new attempt at validating the inherent value of a neglected class. MLF broke ground on the project August 27, 2014. Welcome home.

Mobile Loaves & Fishes, 9301 Hog Eye, 512/328-7299,

Best Life Preserver
Lisa Scheps

Whether she's relating her own story of workplace discrimination for a mainstream news outlet, cheerleading for the local theatre or LGBTQ scenes on community radio KOOP 91.7FM, promoting equality with a capital-E at Equality Texas, founding a network for educating folks about trans issues, or holding workshops for businesses, schools, or nonprofits to crack society's blocks regarding trans acceptance, Lisa Scheps is a beloved Austin powerhouse, baby. In demonstrating that issues of justice and kindness intersect across all boundaries, her work saves lives.

Off Stage and on the Air, KOOP 91.7FM,

Best New Eastside Condo
Dumpster Project

The coolest new living space on Huston-Tillotson’s East Austin campus isn’t a dorm – it’s a Dumpster. Indefatigable HT dean and biological sciences professor Jeffrey Wilson moved into the six-by-six-foot space last February and will remain there a year. Of course, it’s not just any Dumpster. It’s been cleaned, for one thing. Plus it’s an interactive teaching lab and sustainable design experiment engineered to empirically test the bounds of living on less. What it lacks in space, water, waste, and energy, it recoups in data and dreams – dreams of solar panels, telescoping balconies, and the unencumbered life. Hourly Dumpster conditions are available online. Watch the transformation yourself.

Dumpster Project, Professor Dumpster, Huston-Tillotson, 900-D Chicon,

Best Play on the Word "Green"
Green Is the New Black

This new student organization at Huston-Tillotson University is bringing a much-needed focus on race, culture, and community to environmental action. As it helps make the HT campus more environmentally friendly, it is also working with fellow Eastside organizations to open up a broader dialogue about sustainability, affordability, and environmental justice. In recognizing that communities of color are too often left out of the green conversation, GITNB is not only making Austin more eco-friendly but making it more everybody-friendly.

Green Is the New Black, Huston-Tillotson University, 900 Chicon, 512/505-3000,

Best Post-HB 2 Pro-Choice Activist Group
Fight Back Texas

photo by John Anderson

For Fight Back Texas, the 2013 filibuster was just the beginning. Reigniting the fervor from last summer’s historic outpouring of orange-clad citizen activism against draconian anti-choice legislation, a coalition of dedicated progressive advocacy groups – the ACLU of Texas, Whole Woman’s Health, the Texas Freedom Network, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, and the Texas Research Institute – have created a new campaign that keeps the momentum going. “A year later, we are louder, stronger, and more determined than ever,” write fierce pro-choice advocates, giving us all hope, as the fight for reproductive justice is far from over.

Fight Back Texas,

Best Power Couple
Celeste & Adrian Quesada

photo by John Leach

Power couples ground Austin music history throughout its proudly checkered past, from siblings (Bobbie and Willie Nelson) and live music capitalists (Liberty Lunch parents J-Net Ward and Mark Pratz) to superstars both international and local (Sandra Bullock and Bob Schnieder). Celeste and Adrian Quesada rate as an equally grand bandstand couple. She wields event planners Craftbox Agency; he strings the soul of half a dozen bands. She stages the Austin Film Society’s annual Texas Film Hall of Fame to Oscar-style heights; his axe grinds out smooth Latin rock in Spanish Gold and Sabbath-loving funk in Grupo Fantasma spin-off, Brownout. Who better than the guitarist, then, to lead a rock & roll orchestra for the clipboard-wielding producer’s HOF extravaganza (and unofficial SXSW kickoff)? Adrian: Peruvian cumbia preservationist for Money Chicha, desert psychedelia dropper in the Echocentrics, Afro roots grower via Ocote Soul Sounds. Celeste: readying yet another huge SXSW-centric awards ceremony to be named later? (We hear an ask is out!) Together, they corral two daughters, a home menagerie of chickens, parakeets, and Chihuahua, and a hectic career pace – all the while looking super fly. Mega-watt.

Celeste Quesada, Craftbox Agency,

Adrian Quesada, Level One Studios,

Best Presidential Fist Bumper
Daniel Rugg Webb

photo by Amy Gentry

Not one to waste an opportunity to bedazzle, this artist and Franklin Barbecue front-of-the-houser had to preach when confronted with a brisket-seeking President Barack H. Obama. The sermon of the day? Gay rights, of course. And true to his avocation as comedian, he followed up the prez's query as to the state of his … ahem, affairs ("Are you gay?) with a joke ("Only when I'm having sex.") that earned a guffaw and a first bump from Obama that ping-ponged across social media, aka the universe. Webb says it best: “It was just a lucky day to be the register girl."

Best Rainbow Pride Spirit
Silvia Sandoval

photo by Devaki Knowles

If LGBTQ Pride had a spirit animal, San Marcos' Silvia Sandoval would be it. Whether she’s planning the small college town's monthly Rainbow Night, or securing a space for the Square's first, long-awaited gay bar (it never opened, but paved the way for the new Stonewall Warehouse out on Hopkins slated to open in October), or – the cake topper – pulling off the town's first-ever community Pride celebration (it happened right before this issue came out), this lady isn't one to sit back and wait. Sandoval's got enough gay spirit to burst open all the closets in San Marcos.

Silvia Sandoval,

Best Service Providers
AmeriCorps Texas

photo by Jana Birchum

What's red and white and helps Texans all over? No, not a can of Lone Star – we're talking about AmeriCorps Texas, the state branch of the federal AmeriCorps program that is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Launched by aide to Governor Ann Richards (and later, Austin City Council member) Randi Shade and now administered by OneStar Foundation, AmeriCorps Texas does everything from coordinating literacy services to taking care of the homeless in Austin. In 2011 and '12, they joined forces with local nonprofits and communities in Bastrop to help reopen the State Park there after the worst wildfires in Texas history shut it down. To put it simply, these guys are animals for civic service. Since 1994, more than 800,000 mostly young individuals have served as AmeriCorps members and have dedicated more than 1 billion hours of service (so much for generation "me"). In Texas, 45,000 have served a total of 59 million hours. Feel like doing a little New Deal-style public work? Give these guys a ring. We're sure they'll find something for you.


One Star Foundation, 9011 Mountain Ridge #100, 512/287-2000,

Best Statewide Campaign Races to Watch
Sen. Wendy Davis and Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

photo by Jana Birchum

It’s tough to remember the last time Texas Democrats and progressives felt this energized and excited about a statewide race. Galvanizing the grassroots with her epic 11-hour filibuster to defeat a draconian abortion bill, Fort Worth state Sen. Wendy Davis catapulted to fame and parlayed the national notoriety into bid for governor against hard-right Attorney General Greg Abbott. Davis unofficially joins forces with fierce state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, a longtime legislator not afraid to take the gloves off when battling her extremist Tea Party challenger, Sen. Dan Patrick. They've been epic political slugfests so far – and we can't wait to see what happens next. Don't forget to vote!

Sen. Wendy Davis, Fort Worth, 817/886-8863,

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, San Antonio, 210/737-2626,

Best Superior Mothers
Weird City Sisters

Surely, you've seen them, those bearded beauties in bad habits. These genderbent ladies and gents are the Austin component of the Order of Perpetual Indulgence, a community activism group which started in 1979 in the Castro area of San Francisco. This charitable group has spread all over the world, and we have our own special order keeping Austin weird, spreading the safe-sex gospel, and making the city a better place. When you see these fabulous philanthropists give an "Amen" to these women and gay men.

Austin Weird City Sisters,

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