By "other," we mean "not a City Council member," but Austin ISD trustee Fitzpatrick has the kind of commitment to the city – not just to the schools – that we like to see at all levels of local government. On a board that has for too long not had the kind of vision, power, or influence that it should, Fitzpatrick is the kind of practical progressive that Austin likes – and needs.
The typical acknowledgment of road crews ranges from the classic Bronx cheer (if they're lucky) to the old standby: the one-finger salute. But this is Austin. As the brutally clogged intersection of Sixth & Lamar cleared, local eateries including Rounders Pizza, Z'Tejas, Portabla, Sweetish Hill, and others feted road construction workers with a sit-down lunch as they bid them farewell upon completion of their work. Not that the neighbors weren't glad to see the backsides of those orange vests after months of inconvenience; the proprietors simply appreciated the crews' hard work, factoring in the hostility they faced daily from passing motorists. Sixth & Lamar.
Last spring APD Cmdr. Robert Gross and his command staff were planning how to make the newly created NCAC a success. They knew that this was their chance to do something different – to apply what they'd learned from their experiences in the police department and to chart a new course of action. And that's exactly what they've done. In just one year, the community policing gurus in the NCAC – Gross, Lt. Randy Pasley, Sgt. Will Beechinor, Officers James Hellums, Hank Moreno, Gizette Gaslin, and Dave Cooper – have earned the support of their fellow officers and have embarked on a journey to clean up the NCAC's distressed neighborhoods in an effort to renew the urban core, encourage civic activism and pride, and make the 12.6-square-mile area command a safe and vibrant neighborhood for all residents. And their efforts, dubbed Operation Restore Hope, have earned local, state, national, and international kudos along the way. Naysayers need look no further than the NCAC to see that progressive community policing really does work.
APD North Area Central Command District Representative's Office
1201 Payton Gin
An obscure-sounding backwater? Hardly; the RMC has become the de facto nerve center within city government for Austin's ambitious effort to become an international capital for clean energy – perhaps the most important accomplishment of the Wynn Era. Expertise and vision: exactly what a city board is supposed to offer. The RMC meets the third Tuesday of the month at 6:30pm.
As budget officer, Rudy Garza – City Hall's fastest-rising star – got nicknamed "Dr. Gloom." Despite this ominous moniker, Garza ably earned kudos for his performance under exceptionally adverse fiscal conditions. Now assistant city manager over public safety, Garza has been entrusted with a whole new, different set of daunting challenges. We think he'll do fine. 124 W. Eighth, Rm. 307, 974-7789 firstname.lastname@example.org
Is it possible to transform a corporate big-box dump into entrepreneurial Austin cool? Indeed. In 2002, Andrew Perkel, a 12-year veteran of the Austin Police Department, and friend Bill Talley teamed up to transform the old and vacant Sam's Club on North Lamar into Marketplace Austin, a modern "flea market," with the goal of removing as many barriers as possible for folks who dream of starting their own businesses. Perkel and Talley rent space at affordable rates, eliminating hefty start-up costs, and strive for an eclectic balance of tenants – pulling in an assortment of potential customers whom they might otherwise struggle to reach. In under two years, Marketplace Austin has gone from an empty 100,000-square-foot shell to a vibrant retail center that is currently home to 100 merchants – a majority of which are minority- or women-led ventures. With Marketplace Austin, Perkel and Talley have modeled the Austin dream: harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit and offering it a place to flourish, while reinventing and invigorating Austin's urban core.
When Tom DeLay stuck it to Austin with redistricting, Democrats felt angry but powerless – just as DeLay intended. Despair reigned as no donkeys filed to run in Congressional District 10. But after the primary, a humble UT instructor decided that injustice must be fought, damn the odds, and Lorenzo Sadun filed as a write-in. Make no mistake – this isn't a fella who'll be entering every political race just for the sake of it (no disrespect intended to Leslie or Jennifer Gale). Sadun is serious, and he has been pounding the pavement from here to Houston, convincing Texans that Republican power doesn't have to be a fait accompli. A win would be miraculous, but even if he loses, the math professor will have given a great civics lesson.
Chad Hopper has been putting boxes of art and toys up for grabs around town at various locations like Wheatsville and Waterloo since 2001. Chad and his posse of friends who comprise Palfloat, a small art collective he started in 1997, make the art. With a Santa Claus precision (except he's thinner), this stealth artist emerges under the cover of night to leave "free treats" for all the boys and girls of Austin, naughty or nice. The free boxes are "a new faction in self art distribution," he says. Check out the Palfloat project Science Bear Arcade, where homemade goodies and random fun stuff (such as toothbrush bracelets and records) can be bought for cheap. The arcade is located at the bar on the outside patio of Spider House every first and last Sunday of the month.
Two joyous nights. Nowhere else but Austin. Were you not there? Shall we evoke? First night, April 23: Women & Their Work recruited Austin's H2Hos synchronized swim team to perform at their April fundraiser in a mansion in West Lake Hills with an "invisible-edge" pool. Seasoned arts patrons lined the upper-story balcony to catch a glimpse of these junior Esther Williamses in action. The show itself was a delightful injection of Austin quirk into the serious business of arts fundraising. The generous midcentury modern digs of Karen Fabbio and Rick Hawkin provided one of the most surreal and naturally elegant settings the Hos will ever have as a stage. The second night, July 9: A typical drag king venue Emo's was the spot for one of the Kings' greatest nights ever. This fundraiser, answering the call of the financially beleaguered Out Youth, presented not only new set-pieces which raised the performance-art bar for the mustachioed crew, but new members as well, including some of the OY kids. Both evenings speak to the joy and passion so many Austinites embrace when helpin' out their brotherman ... sister.
Kings N Things
It's hard not to like the cause – clean energy is such a natural fit for Austin, both practically and philosophically. But we can say that very same thing about a lot of causes. The Solar Austin Campaign has done an exceptional job maintaining focus and discipline, working both inside and outside the system to bring together stakeholders that need to spend time together, and giving credit where it's due for successes while still challenging the community toward its greater aspirations. Largely because of its efforts, Austin Energy now has ambitious goals to add solar energy to its portfolio, and City Hall has intensified its efforts to bring clean-energy industries to Austin. Much more needs to be done – and surely it will be.
Snapshot, Austin: 2004. Where were you? What was life like? What was life like before this ... that led us to this? In 2003, the UT Humanities Institute sent squads of talented, local writers to collect the stories of Austinites from all over Travis County. From community groups, independent bookstores, and social clubs they came: Austin folk of all stripes, to attend WAL workshops and begin unraveling the thread to tell the tales of personal struggle and triumph. The local writers acted not as writers in this case. These stories are not ghostwritten: These writers acted as guides on the side, directing the flow of memories and urging stories forth. The result is the touching volume Writing Austin's Lives: A Community Portrait. Our town: Snapshot, Austin: 2004. Now we know where we are.
Tireless champion of community causes and hero to Austin nonprofits, this tireless do-gooder (Shivers Cancer Center Foundation, United Way Capital Area, Travis County Hospital District, to name just a few) leaps tall buildings with a single bound, and he never even takes his glasses off!
It’s an old story: Impoverished creative classers slip into neglected neighborhoods, blend as best they can, and for a small moment everything’s a nirvana of established families and hospitable, arty energy. While we’re skeptical about declarations of neighborhood hotness, Govalle does seem to be at a tipping point. The sweet spot is 701 Tillery, home to galleries, nonprofits, ALLGO’s theatre, even art therapy. Low-key funkiness radiates into wide, shady streets full of affordable housing, green space, art studios, and inspired renovations, all the way to Airport (add Bolm Road if you want to cheat a little) and Springdale (where we find the Blue Theater/Blue Genie complex) to Webberville Road, past ACC and up to the pastoral Boggy Creek Greenbelt. Something about the small lots, extant light industry, and airport proximity gives hope that the area can hang on to its unpretentious, eclectic ways, at least for a while.
Relationships are hard work. But with compromise and understanding of your partner's concerns, you can work it out. Texas Campaign for the Environment and Dell started as adversaries of sorts, with TCE pressuring Dell to increase recycling of electronic waste. But Dell insisted it really cared about the environment, and when Round Rock's personal computer market leader put its money where its mouth is, protest turned into pats on the back from activists. TCE is still pushing for more, but at least Venus knows that Mars is actually listening.
Michael & Susan Dell Foundation
You can count on the elderly for two things: getting out the vote and getting in the dinner line before 5:30pm. The local nexus of the two lies at Austin's hallowed Marimont Cafeteria. Like a tubby kid ogling the pie cart, the newly Repub majority Lege of 2003 decided to carve up Texas' congressional districts like so much roast beef as to neuter yellow dog Lloyd Doggett, entrench Tom "Bug Man" DeLay's dominion over his district, and Perrymander themselves extra seats in the process. Therefore, Austin got Ronco'd, with Marimont Cafeteria on 38th and Guadalupe serving as the new meeting point for districts 10, 21, and 25, with none drawn in a way to truly represent the capital city. So as you enjoy their from-scratch specials, remember: The best thing about a cafeteria is the lack of DeLay.
Austin has a lot of power couples, of diverse vocations, ethnicities, ages, and orientations, but Fitzpatrick (Chamber of Commerce exec and Austin ISD trustee) and Vassallo (city public information officer and former chief-of-staff to Kirk Watson) probably sit closer than any other married couple to the top of the local political food chain. And as far as we're concerned, all constructive dialogue – even pillow talk – between City Hall and AISD is to be encouraged. John Fitzpatrick, AISD board, 414-2413; Kristen Vassallo, communications and city information officer, city of Austin, 974-2220
It's been a good year for Jesse Sublett. After reading his latest book, Never the Same Again: A Rock 'N' Roll Gothic, you'll think he's entitled to a couple. The scorching memoir details his early days as one of Austin's punk pioneers, before his life was derailed by the murder of his longtime girlfriend. Suspected of the crime, he then proves instrumental in uncovering her killer's identity. Picking up the pieces, he rises to prominence as one-third of the Skunks, Austin's premier punk band, and pens a series of rock murder mysteries before being diagnosed with a normally terminal form of cancer. Thank God, as evidenced by our opening line, Sublett beat this too, and turned all this turmoil into one hell of a read. Delving into the past must have awoken long-dormant memories, as a reunited Skunks can be seen gigging around town, and 2004's Austin Music Awards featured longtime Chronicle family member Sublett,with his throbbing bass backing the Class of '78, a supergroup of survivors from Austin's punk heyday.
As a kid in Mississippi, Troy Kimmel feared the weather. Now he's a well-known weatherman with more than 13 years of experience teaching meteorology at UT under his umbrella. This is but one of the things that makes him one of our favorite cloud jockeys. Reportedly, a dispute back in 1997 over vacation time factored into his unfortunate release from his home in front of the green screen on Austin's local Fox 7. Too bad for them. Nowadays, you can find Troy's cheery forecasts heating the radio waves on KASE 101 or a number of other stations on the dial. This, combined with serious dedication to his students, guarantees that Troy's chaotic schedule won't even leave a 20% chance for a return to the tube anytime soon. Our prediction? He'll be enjoying his annual teaching hiatuses (i.e., summer vacations!) with no dispute, under sunny skies, for years to come!
Without fuss or fanfare, Kruger's Diamond Jewelers have set up a water cooler and cups in the outdoor foyer of their longtime downtown Austin store. The cooler comes out as soon as the sun begins its relentless beat-down, free to anyone, man or beast. Owner David Kruger says the water cooler has gone up for six years. So far, no one has taken unfair advantage of the situation, though he does wonder where a dog dish he set out went to. No matter, the cooler still stands, and during the worst months, he loads up to five bottles a day. Providing a cool drink of water without charging an arm and a leg for it is about the simplest act of kindness one can offer during the dog days. We hope they don't mind our fuss and fanfare.
Kruger's Diamond Jewelers
Eighth & Congress
Founded in 1999, the Inside Books Project sends free literature and educational material to Texas' incarcerated population. IBP is run by a core of eight unpaid collective members who oversee the day-to-day administrative operations along with a base of more than 40 volunteers who prepare the bulk of thousands of packages sent to prisoners each year. Last year alone, IBP delivered more than 19,500 books to more than 6,500 prisoners. From pulp fiction and woo-woo to more daunting titles, such as Formulation, Implementation, and Control of Competitive Strategy, IBP's library of donated books reflects the diverse interests of Texas prisoners. Your money, books, and time are always welcome.
That's right: The Austin Police Department provides the liquor; you provide the liver. The APD Training Academy conducts three seminars a year to train cadets in the "intricacies" of field sobriety test administration. To accomplish this, a pool of willing guinea pigs skilled in the fine art of tippling is required. And all of this consumption is monitored under the watchful eyes of ... well an entirely different kind of "pig" altogether (and we mean that in the most affectionate sense). After all, the hooch comes courtesy of the girls and boys in blue. So what is the Po-Po's target population? UT students, of course. (Obviously, they've never been to a Chronicle party ... ) Hey, it's all good: The cops get their training, and willing subjects get to challenge the dreaded field sobriety test. Volunteers must be 21 and have a designated driver present.
Veteran Austin Police Department Detective Jeff White has gone where no APD officer has gone before: He filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against the department in connection with the infamous mid-Nineties Mala Sangre scandal and has stuck with it – through all of the stress and future career uncertainty that comes with it. Still, he's hanging in there. White's fellow officers admire his stamina and, quite frankly, his balls for trying to force the city and the police department to acknowledge and confront its skeletons. Whether city leaders will actually face the elephant and call it out remains to be seen. If they don't they'll lose the opportunity White offered and have only themselves to blame.
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