Founded by a group of Benedictine Nuns (lovingly known as the Twisted Sisters), this numbers-crunching think tank might be the best single advocacy group working the Texas Legislature. Their reports - usually advocacy for the poor and working poor - are highly regarded, even by the wiggy right. And the press loves them. Got a question about appropriations and welfare to work, children's health insurance, or the Bush tax break for stripper-well owners? Who you gonna call?
One of the city's best kept secrets, the Southwest correspondent for the Spanish (that's Spain) news agency EFE might be the only U.S. foreign correspondent not living in New York City who doesn't own a car and doesn't even know how to drive. She has not driven to Huntsville, Brownsville, the King Ranch, Amarillo, Sierra Blanca, El Paso, Fort Worth, and Laredo and the border colonia of Cenizo. Yet she has filed terrific dateline stories from each of these places, usually by prevailing on a friend or bystander with wheels and a valid Texas driver's license.
She balances the scales of justice by day as Judge Evelyn McKee and writes romance novels by night as Evelyn Palfrey. How does she do it? We're not sure, but we're certainly intrigued by the idea. As the presiding judge in Austin Municipal Court, McKee's caseload runs the gamut of Class C misdemeanors and traffic violations. Her novels, which focus on African-American characters, range from steamy to steamier, and include a bit of crime and mystery mined from her own experiences on the bench. As for the romance stuff, she insists her personal life is nothing like the lives of her fictional characters. Uh-huh.
Austin Municipal Court
700 E. Seventh
Austin Municipal Court
700 E. Seventh
As the city's point man on its thorniest public-policy issue - affordable housing - Hilgers, the city's community development officer, better be good. He has been. He's taken on the corrupt logrollers (including his predecessor) that, sadly, turn up often on this turf. He's gotten the city to spend its own money, and not just federal sugar, on affordable housing. And he's bodily inserted housing into the city's Smart Growth effort. We are very lucky to have him around.
Radio host Pryor has struggled with alcoholism and other problems, bouncing from station to station, into, out of, and back into radio, and going from liberal to mean, Limbaughesque conservative, and finally to conservative-but-nicer on KVET. His latest incarnation was his most engaging, and was unfortunately cut short by a serious illness which currently has him hospitalized. Here's hoping he will recover and complete a successful comeback.
While many a person has stood outside the Continental looking across the street saying "That's a hell of a setup," it took Liz Lambert to make the dream come true. The ex-prosecuting attorney for the DA in Manhattan returned to roots here in Austin and purchased the besieged fleabag with the intention of turning it into a boutique hotel. The San Jose is the new jewel in the South Congress crown of businesses and the location location location is only part of it. Tastefully decorated rooms, excellent front-desk service, and a staff that is dedicated to the San Jose experience make it a must-visit. Even if you live in town.
Okay, so we covered him in a feature since this category came up, but still, check out a different kind of early show on Thursdays around 8pm or so at Room 710, from a man who growls that he "could kick Ed Hamell's ass any day - but I'll wait till he's recovered from his accident first." Charlie can also found playing on the streets, if he gets tired while walking home. Irreverent, funny stuff from a man with a battered guitar in one hand and a well drink in the other.
Traditionally, our county commissioners have had very short to-do lists, but Sonleitner's is full of big issues where, by design or default, she has taken charge. Whether on SH 130, the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, or the general boom-and-sprawl besieging Northwest Travis County, Sonleitner is one commish under whom grass does not grow. Let's hope, if the Republicans finally take over Precinct 2, they can find someone half as good.
Austin has no shortage of environmental heroes. One of them who's been on the battlefield longer than most our local greens is Mary Arnold, an old-school activist with a genteel tongue. Arnold's institutional memory is one of the enviro community's most valuable resources. Want to brush up on your rules-and-regs history? Talk to Mary. Her civic vitae reads like a who's who of boards and commissions: Let's see, there was the Planning Commission and the Environmental Board, both of which she chaired; and there was the Parks Board and the Water and Wastewater Commission. Until recently, Arnold served as vice chair and later interim chair of the Save Our Springs Alliance. Though she is still an SOS board member, she insists she is "trying" to retire to spend more time with her four grandchildren. We wish her well.
She's not our girlfriend or anything, but come on! Cute, smart, pretty, her own humongous share of disposable income, capable of launching nationally ignored Austin musical acts onto network TV shows in a single bound. As far as keeping a musician happy and healthy, she's probably done more for her better half than the SIMS Foundation and CAA combined could hope to.
Glen Maxey and Elliott Naishtat. The heart of the Travis County House delegation and two of very few members of a 181-member Legislature who have dared to criticize Governor George W. Bush after his presidential campaign started. They also pass a lot of good bills.
While the rest of Texas' media seems determined to boost our governor's drive for the presidency, Ivins and Dubose (the latter of whom just recently left The Texas Observer to become The Austin Chronicle's politics editor) actually bothered to scrutinize W. and see if this guy really has what it takes to be leader of the free world, and put it all down in this page-turner.
Remember 1999? IPO fever had hit Austin in a big way, and dot-coms were the darlings of the day - until their bank accounts ran dry. Of the slew of companies that went public last year amid great fanfare, only one company - Vignette Corp. - has proved the survivor of the bunch. One of the first out of the IPO chute in 1999, Vignette, which develops software for e-commerce sites, is still getting some impressive writeups in the national press. Business Week, for example, ranked them the No. 2 fastest-growing tech company in the U.S. What's the secret behind Vignette's success? Two words: business plan.
901 S. MoPac
When the 11,000-member Hyde Park Baptist Church tried to bully its neighbors into moving aside for a planned five-story expansion to its existing 500-space parking garage, one by one, everyone caved. Everyone, that is, except Lyova Rosanoff, the 32-year Hyde Park resident whose house sits on the last remaining corner of the block slated for the garage expansion. Now the church is planning to build the garage around her house, a move which would put a sheer 50-foot wall directly behind Rosanoff's back yard. Neighbors are fighting to make sure this Hyde Park hero doesn't become another martyr for the cause.
Alliance to Save Hyde Park
Not everyone will stand up and tell his friends and colleagues that they're selfish pigs. But even rarer is the man who, after having lobbed that bomb, will work to repair the damage and change the community's wayward ways. High tech Poo-Bah Zandan, the brains behind the two 360 Summits, seems to be that guy, having made it hip and trendy for techies to invest their power and money in the common good.
When the Millennium March on Washington hit a serious snag just six months before the national event was scheduled to take place, organizers of the gay and lesbian march picked up the phone and summoned Dianne Hardy-Garcia to Washington, D.C. They knew that if anybody could save the day it was Hardy-Garcia, the executive director of the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas. So Hardy-Garcia packed her bags, flew to D.C., and rose to the challenge. Living out of a suitcase for six months paid off in the end. The march went off without a hitch, thanks to Hardy-Garcia's deft organizing skills and her ability to rally the troops - thousands and thousands and thousands of them.
At 80 years young, Liz Carpenter may support herself as a speaker, but her tales and speeches are priceless. Here's a woman from Salado, Texas who went from being the first female vice-president of the UT student body to Press Secretary for Lady Bird Johnson, not to mention author of four books. Media advisor, speechwriter, political humorist, reporter, Carpenter stood at the forefront of the Women's Movement when it began and has never wavered from her platform. Her projects and causes from supporting high tech to fighting cancer makes her a sought-after voice on the podium, and from all appearances, Carpenter does not intend to slow her pace. And who was that red, white, & blue ball of fire at the Democratic convention? Why, that was Miz Liz!
When the economy's all a-go-go, those who stand in the way of projects often get run over. But the once-irrelevant Design Commission - which just, and finally, produced a set of official design guidelines for downtown - stood, arms akimbo, in front of the bloated corpus of the controversial Gotham condo tower on Town Lake, and in doing so sealed the Gotham's ignominious fate.
No, not its stock performance (we won't go there), but its community reinvestment. The old ButterKrust bakery on Airport has been vacant for years. Dot-coms have been bustin' out all over Austin looking for space. But it apparently took Hoover's to put two and two together. They remind us that, unless employers start reusing urban-core properties and quit cramming themselves into downtown and Loop 360 space, we will not get the city we officially, supposedly, want.
When thousands of ordinary Round Rockers showed up and made noise, they became SH 130 backers' worst nightmare. The people for whom the highway was, ultimately, being built made loud and clear they didn't want it unless the Texas Turnpike Authority abandoned its controversial preferred alignment. They deserve much of the credit for the TTA's surrender.
With the spin machines working full-tilt boogie, political rhetoric often gets duller than dishwater. But on occasion, a few memorable zingers shine through the muck. Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman let fly a memorable one on August 29 when he hit George W. Bush with a cartoon analogy. "It's just this simple," Lieberman told a crowd in Anaheim, Calif. "We as a nation cannot afford to make Barney Rubble investments in a George Jetson world."
When famed atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair disappeared in 1995, along with her son Jon Garth Murray and granddaughter Robin Murray-O'Hair, few people cared. Some even cheered. But MacCormack, a reporter with the San Antonio Express-News, Young, a private investigator, Martin, an IRS agent, and Cowling, an FBI agent, wouldn't let the matter die. The four kept the faith and eventually put together enough circumstantial evidence to indict and convict Gary Karr for crimes related to the alleged kidnapping and murder of the atheists. The quartet also managed to put David Waters, the apparent ringleader of the conspiracy to rob, kill, and dismember the atheists, behind bars for a couple decades on weapons violations. If only Madalyn knew how much people cared, it might have restored her faith. Hey, miracles happen.
While the Democratic Party keeps looking more and more like the GOP, Molly Ivins remains a true believer - she's liberal, she's unapologetic, and she's ours. And we'd like to keep her, so we wish the Austin-based Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist a speedy recovery from breast cancer. Take her advice: Don't be stubborn or lazy and go get that darned mammogram!
Local politicians come and go, but only a few remain memorable for making good on their promises. Gus Garcia, who this year retired from the City Council after nine years (that's three campaigns and three rounds of promises), is one of those people you don't forget easily. Long before he ran for council, Garcia worked for racial equality and fair housing. He continued championing those issues and other worthwhile causes until his final days in office. He never sought glory for his accomplishments, yet he left office on a high note, with friends and supporters turning out for a citywide sendoff at Fiesta Gardens. Viva Gus!
As little girls, we needed to look up to someone other than Mom. We gazed with starry eyes upon the cousins, babysitters, and camp counselors whose style and opinions and musical tastes quickly became our own, who showed by example how to handle those boys who made us feel so squirmy. Now that our cousins have gone on to shotgun weddings and a life of dope smoking in the family room, we wonder if that was such a good idea. Thank heavens, then, for Rachel Muir, the founder of Girlstart, a company that encourages girls in math, science, technology (and the occasional pillow fight). Girlstart offers classes in Web site design, desktop publishing, and the opportunity to meet all sorts of brave, successful women - the kind of women we might grow up to be like. With her ambition and grace, Muir is a role model any parent can feel confident about; but with her glam and good humor, she hardly even seems like your typical "role model." But she is, and having been featured in national media outlets like USA Today and CNN, Rachel Muir is not just a role model for what girls can be but also for the kind of conscientious technology community Austin should strive to become.
Howe did something most "minor candidates" for City Council don't do: He made sense. Unlike the hordes who run for office in Austin for the wrong reasons, Howe distinguished himself by making sensible and specific proposals regarding neighborhood participation in council business, light rail, and limiting the length of council meetings. He forced attentive and responsible voters to take him seriously, which was no mean trick running against three high-profile candidates and thousands of dollars of campaign cash in Place 5. We congratulate him for showing us that average guys can be credible leaders.
While they've had a more public hand guiding the State Theater through a number of transitions - not to mention creating the Harvest Festival of new plays - this husband-and-wife team has poured valuable time and money into the local theatre scene at all levels. Especially fortunate are many smaller companies that have been beneficiaries of this dynamic duo, who work most of their magic behind the scenes.
What does it take to be the Best Volunteer Chairman? The fact that this year's festival was a resounding success is part of it. Furthermore, his cohorts tell us he runs an efficient meeting; all business, to the point, no time wasted. Knowledge, skill, and expertise are pieces of the puzzle. We are most impressed, though, with the amount of time he worked on the festival, despite putting in long hours getting his new restaurant (Asti) financed and opened. His unselfish generosity with his time was the frosting on the cake.
Next time you're at a live music show that features a female performer, check the audience - look for a guy with glasses and a grin from ear to ear. Chances are that's Greg Sells, chatting with the musicians or scoping a great angle with his trusty camera from the front row. Sells is positively academic in his knowledge of music made by women in this town and has a firm grasp on what's happening outside the city limits as well. His total recall of certain events (in some cases, ones some musicians wish everybody would just forget) is jarring and merely hints at how much he loves this music scene. Next time you see him, pat him on the back and tell him we said "Hi."
With the love of the fashion game in her blood, and a taste for quality and high style, not to mention practically endless financial resources, she has all the marbles. Her Davenport Hills boutique is a temple of chic in this arid desert, showcasing Mrs. Dell's couture sensibility, as well as her ability to produce exquisitely made garments. Her national coverage is escalating, and the annual Art Ball is her own private runway show. Who could ask for more?
As it turns out, Oden was right to suspect that the Austin Independent School District was leaking a lot more dropouts than it reported. And as a court ruled recently, Oden had full purview to pursue indictments of criminal negligence against the district. But last October, Oden agreed to let the high-profile case go if the district would just get its house in order. What resulted was a citizen dropout prevention task force and new attention on a festering problem. It was a laudable example of serving the public instead of advancing a career.
Not everyone likes it, but boy, is this not your grandmother's Heritage Society. By putting preservation on the public agenda - not just as a cute thing rich folks do, but as an environmental, affordability, and social-equity issue - the HSA is washing that blue rinse right out of its hair and becoming a community interest group to be reckoned with.
In March, Henderson became the most famous person to win the Texas Lottery. The winning ticket was purchased at Nau's Enfield Drug Store in Austin. Back in his pigskin heyday, the former Dallas Cowboys star fell from grace after being convicted of a felony and sentenced to 28 months in a California prison. Since returning to his hometown, Henderson has thrown himself into community service and been a strong advocate for East Austin. In 1997, he raised $250,000 for Yellow Jacket Track & Field in East Austin.
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