Politics & Personalities
2002 Readers Poll
2002 Critics Picks
Best Excuses

-Fred is out of town and somebody has to stay to look after the goats—it was a difficult birth. (Apple Computers)-I’m taking my girlfriend to the doctor. For a test. (Axcess Systems)-I know I took time off yesterday, too, but I need to spend time with my girlfriend right now. (Axcess Systems)-I can’t do Thursday, I’m going to Bryant, for my internet date (answering machine).-I was going to come over for the match on Thursday, but then, well, I got high. (answering machine)-There was a function on at the Fraternity House(Barton Creek Country Club).

Best Fight

Austin may never kick its rep as the safest city in the Wild West, or the cleanest city in the Dirty South, but is the municipal backbone entirely made of tofu? One family proved otherwise during a particularly spicy meal at Baby A’s. Following an argument over grace, a young man received a right hook from his brother-in-law, then several uppercuts from his sisters-in-law. The young man then fled, locking himself into the rest-room. At this point, Baby A’s armed security guard joined the rest of the punters speculating on the future of intergender boxing.

Best Losing Candidate

After losing to Jackie Goodman in May's City Council race, we caught up with Sifuentes at Nuevo Leon, and he was nothing but gracious. He lavished compliments on Goodman, politely reiterated his bones of contention with current council direction, and sincerely made us believe that his reason for running was love for his city, not vendettas. Good show. http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/election/candidate_bsifuentes.htm

Billy Sifuentes
512/775-0781

Best Return to the Club Business

After spending the latter half of the Nineties working for Austin's own music festival, Thomson hung up his SXSW ballcap and returned to this former employer, Emo’s. The club had been undergoing a renaissance of sorts since Frank Hendrix took over, but with Thomson back, the venerable punk joint has both heart and soul. Not to mention the Butthole Surfers.

Dave Thomson
Emo's CLOSED
603 Red River
www.emosaustin.com

Best Scam Artists

Electro hippies in white van. On 183 last November, they hard shoulder the traffic, weaving, waving, begging attention. Stupidly, we follow them up a side-street and all stop. Hairy Chad does the shouting. Dave says “Yeah,” a lot. “We have speakers we didn’t sell and want to give you for free,” shouts Chad. All they ask is a few dollars for gas. Chad flings open the van like a safe. “Sorry, broke.” Six months later, white van screeches into Walgreen’s parking lot. “We have speakers,” says Chad. “Not interested.”“OK,” says Chad. “Hey man, you don’t happen to have a valium prescription on you?”

Best Voice of the Celts

Although KUT's Folkways does a fine job playing Gaelic music along with the folk, Donnelle McKaskle's Celtic Storm show is the perfect way to begin the week. Scottish, Irish, Breton, Welsh, Manx, Cornish ... if it's Celtic, it gets a turn on her show, which serves as the mouthpiece for the Celtic community, too. Fiunder of the newly born Celtic Cultural Center, McKaskle's fierce love of her Scottish heritage shows in every color of the tartans.

David Brendan Hall

Best Canary in the Coal Mine

If it weren't for the Barton Springs Salamanders -- and their cousins, the Eurycea waterlooensis or Austin Blind Salamanders -- the liquid heart of Austin would have stopped beating long ago. But with the money boys determined to pave the Edwards Aquifer, come high water or hell, the salamanders badly need us to return the favor -- or their home and our aqua ambrosia will be no more. This year, illness among the endangered species suggests a final phase of the struggle, and the future of Austin weighs in the balance. These tiny Paul Reveres have sounded the alarm; will the citizenry heed it?

Barton Springs Pool
2201 Barton Springs Rd.
512/867-3080
www.austintexas.gov/department/barton-springs-pool

Best Performance by a City Board

Urban Trans' job is hard enough -- trying to give useful advice on a huge sticky issue where nobody, but nobody, is happy with the status quo. But like many city boards, Urban Trans has assumed the role of City Hall's conscience, staying focused on the city's vision through the thick political fog, which is even murkier where transportation is concerned. The city could do worse than to follow its lead.

Urban Transportation Commission
1501 Toomey
512/457-4850
www.ci.austin.tx.us/planning

Jana Birchum

Most Dedicated Carillonneur

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 12:50pm, 10 minutes of wonderful melodies drift from the University of Texas Tower Bells enchanting everyone within earshot. Most people don't realize there is a man behind the music -- Tom Anderson, UT carilloneur extraordinaire! In addition to a huge repertoire, he also takes requests, the most frequent of these being "Happy Birthday." Tom first played the bells when he was a student at UT, 1952-56. He was invited back in 1967 and has been playing the UT Knicker Carillon ever since. Bringing others joy through his music is a pleasure for this dedicated musician, and he says, "I will [play] until I can't climb the stairs." Let's hope this is still many years down the road.

Tom Anderson
512/475-6636
www.utexas.edu/tours/mainbuilding/carillon

Best City Bureaucrat

When your city has grown 40% or so in the past decade, you need a good city demographer, and we've got one. Plus, whatever you think of single-member districts, Robinson pulled off the near-impossible -- producing all the data and the map, actually several maps, showing how (and why) to divide Austin into sensible chunks, under extraordinary logistical and political pressure. Few people have done a better job for City Hall in the past year.

Ryan Robinson
1011 San Jacinto

Most Relentless Health Care Advocate

It's no surprise that the Texas Lege isn't the most welcoming venue for progress in social services, when the reflexive responses are: (1) We don't have enough money, and (2) We need to spend it on highways and prisons. Very surprising is that even in that climate, year in and year out, Austin's State Rep. Elliott Naishtat manages to cobble together effective alliances for real improvement in mental health care, nursing home care, indigent care, children's health insurance. These small steps forward mean a few more people won't drop through the safety net. After redistricting, that road may get even rougher and more solitary -- and we know that the soft-spoken rep from Austin will continue to find ways to get his indispensable work done.

Elliott Naishtat
PO Box 2910
512/463-0668

Best Local Elected Official (Not on Austin City Council)

Davis first attracted citywide attention as a leader on environmental justice issues, and he's stayed on top of those issues, which is a good thing given how easily distracted city and county leaders can get. First with SH 130, and most recently with the Northeast landfills, Davis has helped both his precinct and the whole county at the same time -- which is how it's supposed to work.

Ron Davis
314 W. 11th St. Ste. #510

Best Performance by a Neighborhood Association

We saw good work by neighbors on the Villas on Guadalupe and around the Northeast landfills. Special praise, however, goes to the three non-Bradley-ized Southwest neighbor groups who jumped into the Stratus fray -- Cherry Creek Neighborhood Association, Circle C Neighborhood Association, and the Village at Western Oaks Homeowners Association -- despite being stereotyped, for years, by both sides, as part of the problem and not the solution. Standing up for the rights and needs of citizens, whatever and wherever they are, is what community activism is all about.

Austin Neighborhoods Council
PO Box 176
512/499-0526
www.ancweb.org

Best-Dressed Bailiff

Move over Regis Philbin, there's a new fashion maverick in town. Sal Hernandez, bailiff for Travis County District Judge Mike Lynch's 167th court, has the classic style that makes us think of courthouses of old -- or at least the ones in the movies, sans the white powdered wig stuff, that is. Indeed, not a weekday goes by that Hernandez forgets his cuff links, collar pin, or his neatly folded handkerchief. On his bolder days, Hernandez is just about the only guy we know who can wear army green pants, a lime green shirt, and a purple tie without finding himself in contempt of court. "I dress old-fashioned," he says, "but I've always loved color." No wonder the jurors love him.

Sal Hernandez
Criminal Justice Complex, 8th Floor, Judge Mike Lynch's office
854-9310

Jana Birchum

Best Role Model for Aspiring Politicians

The Mr. Deeds myth is a powerful one, but political success comes not from naive innocence but from hard work and a clear vision. Starting with absolutely no advantages -- a flat-broke gay progressive white man in a Hispanic district in a conservative statehouse -- Glen Maxey left the Lege after a decade of tireless effort with the respect of his colleagues, an impressive record, and the admiration of constituents of all colors, shapes, and sizes. Even after having his seat redistricted out from under him, Maxey still deserves his Hollywood ending.

Glen Maxey
www.fb.com/glen.maxey

Highest Austinite

Since Commander Kenneth Cockrell was born an Austinite and came back to attend UT (BS, Mechanical Engineering, 1972), we are claiming him as our own. He's been at NASA in a variety of engineering, research, and administrative positions since 1987, and became an astronaut proper in 1991. His flight time has included five space shuttle missions since 1995, including the latest, this past June (STS-111 Endeavour, June 5-19, 2002) to deliver a new resident crew and mobile base unit to the International Space Station. The second part of the mission was to return the Expedition-Four crew from their six-and-a-half-month stay in space. How cool is that? The stars at night are just a bit bigger and brighter when this Texan takes to the sky.

Best Photo Op

Primary night at the Crockett Center was, um, cozy -- about 10 feet of space for hundreds of supporters doing the traditional TV-time victory lap -- and there, bobbing among masses, was a giant bulldog head. Underneath it was Eastside activist Lori C-Renteria (clad beneath the collar in a star-spangled bathing suit, a la Miss America), dramatizing Eddie Rodriguez's commitment to "be a bulldog in the House" for District 51. It was a good dose of political theatre in a town that's quickly forgetting how it's done.

Best Display of Noblesse Oblige

We endorsed Griffith, and we think she could have won a run-off with Betty Dunkerley, and Griffith probably thinks so too. To bail out of a race you will almost certainly lose -- as Ronney Reynolds did in 1997 -- is worthy enough. But to withdraw for no other reason than to spare the city a bitter and unfruitful campaign, even if you could prevail, shows a commitment to the quality of Austin public life all too uncommon among those in political life. Which is why we backed Bev in the first place.

Beverly Griffith
Griffith Properties
1206 W. Sixth

Best President With Whom to Share a Birthday

If you work for the state and were born on Aug. 27, guess what? You get your birthday off as a holiday. And even if you aren't a state employee but still share this fabulous day of debut, you can join the lovely volunteer docents at the LBJ Library & Museum for a sweet slab of birthday cake offered as part of the celebration to commemorate the first wail of our 36th president.

Lyndon Baines Johnson
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum
2313 Red River
www.lbjlib.utexas.edu

Best Manifestation of Bravery and Righteousness and Good in the Face of Right-Wing Terror

Pregnant teens in Texas seeking an abortion must either notify their parents or obtain judicial bypass. Neither is easy from an emotional standpoint. From a legal standpoint, the latter can be so intimidating as to be avoided. Enter Jane's Due Process, with a toll-free hotline to give straight info to teen girls in crisis. JDP has woven a safety net of health care providers, attorneys, and crisis specialists to help make a traumatic experience less so. And they have done it in the face of constant pressure from the religious right to deny the constitutional right to choose.

Jane's Due Process
PO Box 3478
866/999-5263
www.janesdueprocess.org

Jana Birchum

Best New Waterheads

One of the city's most popular summer refuges, the increasingly down-at-heels Deep Eddy Pool was badly in need of some friends. Presto! The devoted swimmers of FODE are trumpeting the pool's history, raising money for renovation, and have begun a new adult swimming championship as a way to promote swimming and one of Austin's gems. They're saving for a restored bathhouse in honor of Deep Eddy's 100th birthday. Throw them a line, and a donation! ljbinaus@aol.com

Friends of Deep Eddy
401 Deep Eddy
512/472-8546
www.deepeddy.org

Best Unsuccessful City Council Candidates

"Unsuccessful" may be the wrong word for McCracken, who did well enough in his first political foray to be the favorite for any open seat next spring. "Unsuccessful" may also not be apt for Sifuentes, who brought much-appreciated decorum, honesty, and common sense into the campaign. He earned our respect and demanded little more. Neither is on the City Council, but both were and are assets to the city.

Billy Sifuentes
512/775-0781

Brewster McCracken
PO Box 50525

Best Reason to Grow Old

The Black Panthers are a heroic memory -- their elderly namesakes still stalk the political jungle, determined as ever to strike fear into the hearts of backward bureaucrats and plutocrats everywhere. The local pride, led by co-conveners Charlotte Flynn and Clinton Smith, is currently focused on health care reform and the city's obscure budget process -- and leading the charge for a county health care district. Remember to respect and thank your wise elders; with any luck, one day they'll pass you the torch.

Gray Panthers
3710 Cedar, Box 15 Rm. 223
512/458-3738
www.gp-austin.org

Best International Activist

UT graduate student Mahajan is well-known about town for his indefatigable anti-war activism, especially against the devastating economic sanctions imposed on Iraq, as well as U.S. and "allied" plans for renewed war on that country. Now he's getting nationally known as the Green Party candidate for governor and the author of a book, The New Crusade: America's War on Terrorism, that swims against the prevailing stream of militarism and high-tech weaponry as the answer to all our problems. He may be shouting in the wilderness -- but perhaps only the lonely voices can reach beyond our borders and save us from ourselves.

Rahul Mahajan
UT
477-5902
www.rahulmahajan.com

Best UT Gadfly

This one might also be called the "Majority of One Award," because Professor Jensen shares with Thoreau the very risky virtue of fighting injustice no matter the consequences. He's best known for opposing U.S. militarism abroad, but he also stoutly defends faculty and student rights. His students and readers know him as a champion of independent and critical thinking, in journalism and in life. It might be a shock to learn that a university could exist without a football team -- without a few men and women like Bob Jensen, it would be no university at all.

Robert Jensen
512/471-1990

Best Electoral Matchup

The Three B's -- Betty, Bev, and Brewster -- made for a hard City Council choice, but not as hard as picking who should succeed Glen Maxey at the Lege. We backed Rodriguez, and he won, but we applaud the fact that a traditionally marginalized community had such capable candidates ready to put themselves at D. 51's service.

Eddie Rodriguez
Eddie Rodriguez Campaign
PO Box 2436

Lulu Flores
Lulu Flores Campaign
3115 S. First Ste. 1A
www.volunteersolutions.org

Jana Birchum

Most Friendly Postman

Luis Navarro?s smile is wonderful enough to make us happy when we run out of stamps. We?ve heard that we can buy stamps online, but we don?t care. We ignore the stamp machine by the door at the North Austin Station at 4300 Speedway, even wait in line if we have to. It?s worth it. Luis (and actually the rest of this staff of one of our favorite POs) is unfailingly friendly, and reminds us why we live in a place like Austin, a city that feels like a friendly hometown.

North Austin Post Office
4300 Speedway
512/453-2785

Best Taskmistress

Let us now discuss thankless jobs. Think about coordinating the hundreds of volunteers with the thousands of tasks required to pull off any one day and night of SXSW. Now, multiply that by five for the music conference and festival, and factor in the media conference and film fest and ... well, you’d need someone with the patience of a saint. Peggy Ellithorpe forgos the heavenly comparisons for simply getting the job done with the help of her intrepid staff, making her a good candidate for wings and a halo anyway.

Peggy Ellithorpe
South by Southwest
400 Bowie
www.sxsw.com

Best New Arrival From California

Not that Austin is -- ahem -- short of Bay Area transplants, but if Austin is to really get smart about growth politics, it will need imported expertise from places where our "difficult" and "daunting" ways would be child's play. By inviting out-of-towners to oversee the new Mueller, Austin has thought outside its usual box, and in doing so has taken a giant step toward growing up as a city. And Catellus has, so far, stayed committed to a deal that will meet both its needs and the community's, now and for the future.

Catellus Development Corp.
201 Mission, 2nd Floor
San Francisco
www.catellus.com

Best Response to the September 11 Response

An organization that has no central governing body and is as mysterious as ancient Egypt, Our Lies sponsored a series of hyper-creative guerilla events that sought to inspire and illuminate in the emotional aftermath of last year's terrorist attacks. The events included marching band peace parades and organized public acts of art rebellion against the bombing in Afghanistan, such as a Cape-In -- in which one super local heroine made a vow to make a fancy cape for every day there was no peace, to remind us that we are all superheroes.

Our Lies Dot Com
www.ourlies.com

Best Friend of Smart Growth

It's supposed to be Austin's consensus vision, but at times the DAA seems like the only friend of Smart Growth in all its manifestations -- affordable housing, walkable streets, better transit, not just the "pro-business" stuff. Despite being a group of big landlords, the DAA equates its own self-interest with the greatest good for the greatest number, and it understands that tomorrow's Austin not only can't but won't (even if it wanted to) play by the rules of the past. Real-estate types who embrace change. Who'da thunk it?

Downtown Austin Alliance
211 E. Seventh Ste. 100-L, 512/469-1766
211 East 7th, Suite 100-L, 512/469-1766

Most Missed Austinite

"It was like I had to find someone to know me before I could begin my journey." -- Albert "Huff" Huffstickler, 1998 Hyde Park's beloved poet laureate, "Huff," departed this life February 25, 2002. For years, Austinites kept Huff in free coffee and his favorite cigarettes -- and Huff kept Austin in beautiful words and new ways to see ourselves. The 74-year-old poet was revered by all who knew him -- and some who knew only his words. His profound vision touched us all, and he is sorely missed. Long live Huff.

Best Post-9/11 Flourish of Patriotism

Sending out giant, inflatable “Fly Guys,” -- colorful blow-up figures for different occasions -- used to mark everything from open houses to beer-drinking contests. Before last fall, floppy orange balloon men or cuddly, inflatable teddy bears were considered up to the job. These days, however, Fly Guys" being made of sterner stuff, invariably wear a different sort of uniform. Previously, reserved for such American holidays as Fourth of July, the inflatable the Uncle Sam Fly Guy became a popular choice among post-9/11 Austin party throwers. Now their patriotic color scheme festoons such events as the Pecan Street Festival with the requisite red, white, and blue.

Three Ring Service
2305-A Bluebonnet
512/448-4447

 
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