Politics & Personalities
2004 Readers Poll
2004 Critics Picks
Best Scandal

Initially cranked out by multiple and seemingly credible sources, then running on the fumes of wishful thinking (well, he is awfully cute), this rumor far outlived its expiration date, keeping pub and watercooler conversations lively – as well as a few news outlets. What was amazing was how fast it spread – across Austin, around Texas, and throughout the country. It ended up offering more insight on those who spread it than it did on the governor, because although it had no basis in fact that anyone could determine, some wanted it to be true so badly they spread it anyway.

Governor's Mansion
1010 Colorado

Best News Story

A story so big it's taken two years to swallow: While the dirty deeds were all done in 2003, the bitter aftertaste has stuck in Austin's mouth (and craw) all through this election cycle. And the Supreme Court hasn't even weighed in yet.

House Redistricting Committee
PO Box 2910

Best Elected Official

After years of being part of the local landscape Doggett really needed to feel your love this year, after redistricting put him at genuine risk for the first time in his House career. And love there was; barring an act of God, Doggett's career representing Austinites will continue into its fourth decade in November.


Best Ex-Elected Official

Ex-electeds in Austin tend to drop out of radar range pretty quickly, but the Kirkster continues to capture attention – currently leading the pro-rail campaign, he'll soon take the helm at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, and then ...

Sen. Kirk Watson
Capitol Extension Room E1.804

Best Citizen

Former White House resident, founder of the National Wildflower Research Center in 1982, an inexhaustible force on Austin's Town Lake Beautification project, and even a "Texas Ex" (she attended the University of Texas during the 1930s), our beloved Lady Bird Johnson has been an Austin fixture for most of her life and an integral part of the development of the landscape of this fair city. As dedicated to flora and fauna as Mother Nature herself, the former first lady has spent much of her life working to preserve and beautify the world around her. For every run around Town Lake, for each majestic yard of Texas xeriscape, and for every delighted squeal of a child who still has butterflies and bluebonnets to behold: Thank you, Lady Bird!

Lady Bird Johnson
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
4801 La Crosse

Best Effort to Improve Austin

More than 10 years on, the Save our Springs Alliance still holds the soul of the city in its hands. And 2004's been a good year for S.O.S., with a courthouse winning streak versus Lowe's and a victory over the EPA with a diazinon ban.

Save Our Springs Alliance
221 E. Ninth #300

Best Activist

See Best Nonprofit Winner, Texas Freedom Network COMBINE THESE TWO!

Samantha Smoot
Texas Freedom Network
PO Box 1624

Best Job

Whether sage on the stage or guide on the side, a teacher's impact is felt for a lifetime. And in a town where there are certainly more lucrative and glamorous options, we're proud that our readers' hearts (and minds) are in the right place! (Or perhaps there are a lot more teachers, or appreciative students, who read the Chronicle and fill out ballots than we thought.) Take a moment and remember the teacher who had the greatest impact on your life. Now go find one of those local sages and give him or her a big hug (or at least an apple).

Texas State Teachers Association
316 W. 12th

Best Nonprofit Group

This award didn't come a moment too soon: Just last week Samantha Smoot announced she is stepping down, after six splendid years as president of the Texas Freedom Network. There are many here in the great state that feel a bit bowled over by the recent surge of religious extremity in politics, both stateside and nationwide. Luckily, Smoot and her gang of dedicated staff and volunteers offer a clear, balanced voice that often rises above the din. Made up of more than 7,500 religious and community leaders, TFN has been fighting the good fight since 1995, getting our collective back on wide-ranging, important issues such as school vouchers, abstinence-only sex ed, and campaign finance reform. The latest thorny cause the TFN has chosen to draw its sword of righteousness against is the strange desire of some to censor school textbooks, weakening the scientific basis of evolution in favor of the slightly more questionable "rib outta Adam" tale. For those who believe that the pesky theory of separation of church and state that ye olde founding fathers dreamt up is a good one, contact TFN and see how you can help.

Texas Freedom Network
PO Box 1624

Best Local Web Site

This self-titled "mama-centric community center" ain't no soccer-ball-on-the-minivan, Tupperware-partying pastel puff piece, it's all about celebrating lives of women with both children and hungry minds: vital, intelligent, interesting people whose contribution to society is more than just the fruit of their loins. Along with community-oriented discussion threads, recipes, restaurant reviews, and listings of locally produced wares, Austin Mama features extensive profiles of interesting local mamas as well as uncompromising editorials by some of Austin's best writers spiced up with art by animal lover Sarah Higdon – not to mention that it provides a perfect relief from cartoons, juice boxes, and Legos.

Austin Mama
1005 Michael Dale

Best Local Political Blog

Named (natch) for the 40 Acres' famous colors, the Burnt Orange Report has quickly risen to stand toe-to-toe with some of the Blogosphere's biggest. Its exhaustive list of progressive resources is a blessed boon for those feeling a bit "bushed" from the last four years of Republican stranglehold. Founded a year and a half ago by Byron LaMasters and Jim Dallas, with Andrew Dobbs and Karl Thomas coming onboard later, these UT Dems are a much needed anathema to the Young Conservatives of Texas. LaMasters went on to Boston as our youngest delegate to the DNC, covering the event on the report in the process. Pay attention – don't give up on Texas yet, Yeller Dawgs!

Burnt Orange Report

Best Local Blogger

"With the exception of in my workplace, I live a very out and proud life. I may not go around wearing a 'Transexual Menace' T-shirt (though there is one in my closet) or outing myself to strangers (I generally seem to pass pretty well, at least in straight spaces and to some queers), but all my friends know as well as most of the people I do volunteer work with (of course, the lines between those two groups is usually very small). I'm honest and open with people because I refuse to beg for respect like alms. I am a fucking human being and I will goddam well be treated like one or I will fucking lash out!" So begins the last blog entry of Beth Westbrook. Beth passed away earlier this year and tremors continue to ripple through the various communities she touched. Obviously, she was a "very out and proud" transgender activist; additionally, she was a tireless lesbian activist and supporter of the local music scene. Her blog, "Naked Synapses," fired connective electricity between community and personal nerves. Amidst her own life's trials, journeys, and joys, she always had one eye on the rest of us. Manifesting one of the more positive and hopeful outlooks on the community-building potential of the blogosphere, Beth's entire Web site is packed to the hilt with community resources, lively discussion, and one of the finest photo archives of Austin's frisky lesbian cultural scene in recent memory. Rest well, Beth; we bet there's still work to be done, even up there with the angels.


Best GLBT Leader

Two of the hardest-working activists in the scope of GLBT rights, it is an incredible honor that we can call them our own. For those new to town, meet LGRL's director Randall Ellis and lobbyist Bettie Naylor, two Texas stars from two generations of Lone Star activism. Naylor's fire was lit during the early feminist movement, and she's been flaming ever since. Naylor was the first lobbyist that LGRL ever hired to chat up lawmakers at the Lege, and Lord knows she can tell you some tales about those days. But right now she's too busy working on the future. Ellis joined LGRL two years ago and really hit the ground running. His mobilizing skills have been proven time and again. Of course, he was already wise to the corridors of power after serving a stint as aide to gay-friendly Houston Rep. Garnet Coleman. Though they travel in different circles, this charming, well-coiffed duo has been instrumental in the fight to retain the dignity and stature of the GLBT community in an era when Dubya is trying desperately to revoke rights and send queer folk back into the closet as second-class citizens. With the Ellis and Naylor duo in our corner, that will never happen.

Bettie Naylor
122 Colorado #307
472-3000, 472-3333

Randall Ellis
P.O. Box 2340

Best Unsung Community Hero(es)

This tale of two Charlottes spans the generations and the Austin public service community. Charlotte Hale's name has been associated with Project Transitions for so long that it's impossible to think of one without the other. Together the two represent the sweetest steady anchors for people with HIV and AIDS. Through Hale's compassion and leadership, PT and its many services, from housing, to hospice, to the Top Drawer thrift shop, just keep on keepin' on – with your help. Say, isn't it time to get tix for PT's annual Holiday Swing benefit? Hale, yeah! Check the Web site for details on this most delightful, de-lovely holiday fest for a worthy cause. The Gray Panther's Charlotte Flynn not only started Austin's chapter but was instrumental in saving the national big cat from extinction as well. This go-to, go-forward woman knows how to bring people together for ... oh, just name the cause – public health care, the environment, nursing home care, affordable utility rates. And that's just the half of it. Flynn's tireless service through the years is confusing to some, as she keeps trying to retire but nobody will let her! Who could dare step in to fill those shoes? Wait a minute. Bar the doors. She's not going anywhere.

Charlotte Flynn
3710 Cedar St., Box 15, Room 223

Charlotte Hale

Best Scenester/Mover & Shaker

As the music editor of the Red River district's family publication Rank & Revue, Wendy WWAD keeps the rest of this town apprised of the many goings-on of her rocker cohorts. Anyone who has ever attended a metal show in Austin has seen her, front and center, pumping her fist in the air, singing every word of every song, making eyes at the guys in the band – not necessarily bedroom eyes, mind you, more like "I fuckin' dare you" eyes. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, you can catch a glimpse of her behind the turntables at her weekly DJ gig at Headhunters. She's thin as a rail, tough as a boot, and thoroughly dedicated to rock & roll.


Best Visionary

Austin's most worthy citizen, indeed. Kocurek, who died in March, had a rare knack for bridging this town's political and cultural gaps, and his decades of contributions to Austin's civic consensus – reflected most recently by supporting the efforts to create a hospital district, as well as his work with Envision Central Texas, whose board he chaired – were profound.


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