Politics & Personalities
2001 Readers Poll
2001 Critics Picks
Best Activist

Readers like their activism a number of ways: Leslie Cochran, the outrageously dressed downtown denizen, makes his point but entertains, too; Richard Troxell, the hard-working advocate behind House the Homeless, zeroes in on politicians and the press.

Leslie Cochran

Richard Troxell
House the Homeless
PO Box 2312, Austin, TX 78768

Best Austin Celebrity You'd Most Like To See Nude

Gosh. This is a tough one. We had hoped our readers, in true Chronicle fashion, would come up with someone we could really dish on in this brand new category. But Sandy? How can we write something smart-alecky about a gal who once said, "I fell in love with Austin. I've gone there to build my home. My roots. I'm building a home there with family in mind, children, and grandchildren." (InStyle Magazine, May, 1998) Matthew McConaughey got votes, lots of em. But everyone could already envision the Bongo Thing. Sandy's ex-boyfriend, that local musician Bob, got votes, but no one came close to Sandy. What to write? We went back to a most perfect description that esteemed former colleague Sarah Hepola wrote last year on a press junket for Sandy's 28 Days: "Sandra Bullock is better-looking in person than onscreen. ... In person [she] is just simply disarming - the sparkling eyes, the natural, gaping grin, the feathery lashes, the gently cleft chin, the perfect Roman nose. Her slightly husky voice speaks in earnest, open-faced monologues that often collide with a girlish, insistent giggle. She likes to giggle." (Swoooooon.) Okay, you're right. We get it now. We want to see her naked, too.

Sandra Bullock

Best City Service

Home dwellers know that curbside service is a beautiful thing. Add to that a veritable sliding scale of garbage container sizes - customers may choose from the green 30-, gray 60-, or tan 90-gallon bins - and recycling on the same day, and you got an efficient system. Now if we could only figure out a way to collect all those empties from all those smaller West Campus apartments ...

Best Council Member

A study in contrasts? Goodman is the longest-serving council member (more than eight years), has been involved in local politics for decades, and comes from the world of environmentalists and neighborhood advocates. Wynn is one of the newest council members (just over one year), is still a young fresh face on the political scene, and comes out of the downtown business community. Yet both have developed a reputation as centrists looking to preserve quality of life with real nuts-and-bolts solutions to urban problems. They'll probably continue to make a good team.

Jackie Goodman

Will Wynn
Austin City Hall
301 W. Second

Best Eccentric And Most Quintessentially Austin Personality

Apparently, wearing drag and running for mayor is still considered eccentric, even in Austin. One would think that by now, Leslie, downtown's most famous drag queen/homeless advocate wouldn't turn heads. Maybe he still gets the looks because he is one of the most strikingly fashionable fellas on the street? He gets the nod this year as most quintessentially Austin, too, and to that we say, "Nuff sed."

Best Effort to Improve Austin

The people of Austin may get another chance to wield their voting powers if light rail is on the ballot again in 2002. Hopefully, by then voters will understand that roads cost too much and do too little and that light rail is the better bargain. Reliable, fast transportation, decreased emissions, decreased sprawl - many people fought to do the smart thing, and will continue to fight for decent public transportation in a city that badly needs it. On the other hand, we, the people have certainly claimed a major victory with our stately new James D. Pfluger pedestrian bridge - let's face it, before this bridge, it was practically safer to swim across the river during lightning and flash floods than it was to dance with Mr. Death on the narrow automobile bridge sidewalks. Three cheers to all citizens who persisted in this endeavor!

Austin Light Rail
106 E. Eighth

Best Hero/Legend

A world-class athlete whose life was nearly cut short by testicular cancer that spread to his abdomen, lungs, and brain, Armstrong fought his disease through aggressive treatment and survived to go on and become an even greater athlete, winning the Tour de France three years running. His heroism extends as he continues to fight cancer through the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which he created to help people manage and survive cancer.

Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong Foundation
2201 E. Sixth

Best Local Online Personality

There's no trouble with Harry, a cinephile's cinephile who created a global phenomenon with his online swap meet of movie insider dish, reviews, and intensely personal commentary. Knowles unabashedly speaks his mind about all things celluloid, but more importantly, he lets the people speak theirs, sending in scoops, raves, and rants, and that has our readers saying, "Ain't it cool?"

Harry J. Knowles
P.O.Box 180011

Best Local Start-up Survivor

Even though layoffs and shutdowns at high tech companies have become the norm, the hardy start-up Vignette has weathered the tough times and is still going strong. Its September announcement about its newest content management application suite, V6, prompted stock market analysts to call Vignette (Nasdaq: VIGN) a "strong buy" even in today's crappy market. Makes you wish you had a few options, don't it?

901 S. MoPac

Best Mover & Shaker And Best Visionary

For the first anniversary celebration of Girlstart (a nonprofit technology center for school-age girls) this spring, organizers devised a pretty great promotion: Have costumed Powerpuff Girls make an appearance, courtesy of Time Warner. But, as any "PPG" devotee knows, it would be silly if Blossom, Buttercup, and Bubbles showed up without their sponsor, the Mayor of Townsville. So, resplendent in a purple suit, a top hat, and a fake white mustache that wouldn't quite stay on, Hizzonor, Kirk Watson, cheerfully rose to the occasion, officially congratulating Girlstart and jokingly naming Austin "Townsville for a Day." Which proves, if nothing else, Watson is a good sport. He'll need that sense of humor in his future endeavors, as he pursues the Sisyphean task of keeping Texas safe for Democrats.

Sen. Kirk Watson
Capitol Extension Room E1.804

Best News Story And Best Scandal

The purportedly wilder half of the Mary-Kate & Ashley of the Beltway set, wonder twin Jenna Bush has been a one-woman press agent, helping to insure that President Da-Da's public image doesn't become too inaccessibly sophisticated in his transition to superpower. Jenna, an Austin High grad, enrolled at UT-Austin for her freshman year (2001-02), repeatedly making news with her clashes with alcohol and the law. For better or for worse, she's ours and she's kept us on the national map, and our readers love it.

Best Nonprofit Group

Texas Freedom Network believes in God but not in the Christian Right. In fact, they have become a nationwide organization that includes more than 7,500 religious and community leaders, of all faiths, who are working to keep the religious right from unduly influencing politics in America. Issues the Texas Freedom Network have dealt with include prayer in schools, same-sex civil unions, and hate crimes. The TFN works to counter and monitor the initiatives of the Religious Right.

Texas Freedom Network
PO Box 1624

Best Scandal And Best News Story

The purportedly wilder half of the Mary-Kate & Ashley of the Beltway set, wonder twin Jenna Bush has been a one-woman press agent, helping to insure that President Da-Da's public image doesn't become too inaccessibly sophisticated in his transition to superpower. Jenna, an Austin High grad, enrolled at UT-Austin for her freshman year (2001-02), repeatedly making news with her clashes with alcohol and the law. For better or for worse, she's ours and she's kept us on the national map, and our readers love it.

Best State Department

Yay, jobs! Well, the former Highway Department certainly is good at providing the services they are responsible for providing: building roads. It is also part of their mission nowadays to consider the impacts of such ubiquitous infrastructure, as decreed by federal acts such as TEA-21 and ISTEA. TxDOT, we want you to know, the people of Texas (or at least our readers here at the Chronicle) are behind your efforts to pave the way for our state to ditch its currently shameful record on maintenance of roadways. With TxDOT's budget, anything can happen!

125 E. 11th

Best State Legislator

This perennial favorite of readers has come a long way since the days when he was openly shunned by his fellow legislators for being the only openly gay representative under the Dome. Today, the still only openly gay rep is counted among the elite corps of mover-and-shaker lawmakers in the seniority-driven House. Even the most conservative legislators sidle up to Maxey and ask sweetly, "Can ah count on yew to hep me on my bill, Glen?" As Maxey ponders whether he should leave office or run for re-election, let's hope the rep will consider this here readers' poll when he makes his decision.

Glen Maxey

Best Unsung Heroes

Teachers are the overwhelming choice of our readers for this category, and several nominations were supplemented by specific names of area teachers. Indeed, the influence of even one good teacher can undo all kinds of damage. They do it even when their colleagues are not as conscientious as they are, and they do it even when they have harebrained, scheming-for-a-leg-up principals for bosses. Teachers get more criticism than kudos, they get more responsibilities heaped on them than respect. But even to recognize this is to equate teaching with missionary work. That's wrong. It's high time to have a national discussion about why we don't accord teachers more professional status, and save the breathless words for Mother Teresa. It's time to make years of experience in the profession pay off. When compared with other professions in the U.S., current teacher pay scales actually offer a disincentive to bother staying on the job. In Austin, we have lost many good teachers who don't care about attaining saint status, but who have bills to pay. That's outrageous, and shouldn't happen in a city where the per capita education level exceeds that of many other U.S. cities. Until we actually work on these issues, though, all we ask you to do is: Thank a teacher.

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