Politics & Personalities
2006 Readers Poll
2006 Critics Picks
Best AIDS NGO Stalwarts

Project Transitions and AIDS Services of Austin both provide invaluable resources and support for Central Texans living with AIDS. And they both count on major fundraising opportunities to stay afloat. PT's mainstay is the wonderful and newly renovated Top Drawer Thrift store on the Burnet thrift strip, selling quality, gently used merchandise. ASA has their fabulous Dining for Life event every year during which select restaurants donate a portion of the proceeds on a given night to ASA. Along with various other fundraising efforts and events, PT and ASA are perfect examples of how big Austin's heart is, and how giving Austin's population is.

Vivent Health
104 E. Highland Mall Blvd. #100

Top Drawer Thrift
PO Box 4826, Austin, TX 78765

Best Barely Legal Statewide Queer People of Color Group

You've heard us sing the praises for Austin's local group for gay and lesbian (etc., etc.) people of color. And guess what? Their scope is no longer limited to our immediate area as this year they became the first statewide group of their sort in the whole dang U.S. of A. And that's all well and good, but can you believe it? Our little mija/os are turning 21! We'd like to be the first to buy them a drink!

701 Tillery Ste. A-1

Best Bartender and Community Servant

Handsome, popular, and community-oriented, Steve Higginbotham, the bartender with a 16-year tenure at Oilcan Harry's, is a force to be reckoned with. In addition to wielding a mean soda-gun, he is the founder of the annual Red Hot benefit that has raised more than $160,000 for Project Transitions. His dedicated following is in no small part responsible for OCH having made September the best month in its 17-year history.

Steve Higginbotham
211 W. Fourth

Best Blues Man

He didn’t howl like Wolf, nor honk like Little Walter. As a bassist he posed no threat to Willie Dixon. And yet, the late, great Clifford Antone (1949-2006) now sits like royalty among the hallowed six-stringers, sidemen, and big brassy belters crowding 'round Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters at eternity’s music festival. Without Antone’s undying enthusiasm, generosity, and namesake club, Austin wouldn’t have become a Southwestern capital of the blues, birthing the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and now Gary Clark, Jr. Cliffy’s back home now, but Susan Antone keeps the flame alive. Save us a seat.

Clifford Antone
Antone's CLOSED
2015 E. Riverside

Best Bus Driver, Again

To be invited to the International Bus Roadeo, drivers must have a perfect record of manuvering a 35-foot bus and its passengers through city traffic. And then they have to take the driving test. Murillo, 46, won top honors at the international event in 2002, and a second time last fall. The 22-year veteran has represented Cap Metro at the tournament 11 of the last 17 years. Although he has maintained his perfect record on the streets of Austin, he was narrowly defeated for the trip to the competition in 2006.

Arthur Murillo
Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority
2910 E. Fifth

Best Card-Carrying Canaries in the Political Coal Mine

The pro bono defenders of democracy are often forgotten when the times are friendly. But in an era when the Bush administration is treating the Bill of Rights as a "quaint" anachronism, state government is asleep at the switch, and human rights are an endangered species at home and abroad, the American Civil Liberties Union remains at the forefront of the unending struggle for civil liberties. Joining with chapters across the country, the ACLU of Texas is in the middle of the legal fight against warrantless wiretapping of private phone calls, and the Austin chapter maintains its projects against censorship in schools, opposing the oppressive and pointless drug wars, monitoring police and jail accountability, and opening up government documents to community scrutiny. As nonpartisan defenders of the little guy, in good times and bad, against public and private tyrannies of all kind, we applaud the ACLU for another year of fighting the toughest fights.

ACLU of Texas Inc.
PO Box 12905

Best Champion for Her People

TRLA had their hands full doing free-of-charge legal cases for migrant farm workers, domestic-violence victims, and other people at or below 125% of federal poverty guidelines – when Hurricane Katrina happened. Enter a whirlwind of another kind: attorney Heather Godwin. She came to Austin because she was traveling with four cats and a dog, and Austin was the first place where a hotel would take her. Upon arriving here, she set aside her own disorientation and leapt full time into defending the poorest people of New Orleans. Now, she's the woman that everyone dealing with a FEMA legal battle turns to first. Her compassion and sense of mission are second to none. "I miss New Orleans," she says, "but Austin is second best." Well, we're glad to be second best for you, Heather.

Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid
611 S. Congress #130

Best Consumer Protector

Since Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott took office in December 2002, his Office of Consumer Protection has been kickin' ass and takin' names. Indeed, under Abbott, the office's consumer watchdogs have chased some big names and scored some major victories: In June, they cinched a $10 million judgement against former UT student-turned-super-spammer Ryan Pitylak; last fall, the office filed a first-ever lawsuit against recording giant Sony BMG for stashing gnarly spyware on the CD releases of a host of popular artists; and in May the office filed suit, seeking to exterminate Irving-based BioPerformance, pyramid-style scheme purveyors of a "top secret gas pill" that is supposed to enhance vehicle fuel economy but, in fact, is nothing more than an environmentally harzardous mothball-type pill of nothingness. In a get-rich-quick and lose-weight-while-sitting-on-yer-ass-eatin'-chocolate-cake world, it's nice to know someone's got your back.

Office of the Attorney General

Best Death Row Documentary

Looking for a new project, these two filmmakers couldn't have imagined the attention their award-winning documentary would garner, nor the focus it placed on its star, Rodney Reed. State vs. Reed lays out the the shaky circumstances surrounding Reed's death-row conviction nine years ago, creating momentum for a new trial. The film will air locally next month, Tues., Nov. 7 and Sun., Nov. 12 on KLRU.

State vs. Reed

A Hand Made Production
2505 E. Kent St.

Digital Light and Sound
4700 Staggerbush Rd #428

Oso Negro Productions
907 E. 49th St.

6101 Highland Campus Drive, Building 3000

Best Entertainment Attorney

Who's the pro the pros turn to? Where do you go when you're mired in the muck of ever-changing copyright laws and the implications of the digital age? In the world of entertainment law, Armadillo World HQ co-founder and State Bar of Texas' Entertainment Law Institute founder (among other impressive Austin and Texas accolades) Mike Tolleson is the man. But don't take it from us. Check his Web site, first for his specialities and credentials, and then his list of clients, from Willie and Kinky to the Buttholes and Mr. Sinus and then some.

The Office of Mike Tolleson
2106 E. MLK

Best Faces in New Places

City Council's Place 2 and Place 6 seats – have each traditionally been held by a Latino and African-American candidate, respectively, in an archaic "gentleman's agreement" preventing single-member districts. But in today's multifaceted municipal arena, their current occupants, Mike Martinez and Sheryl Cole, are positioned to lead all of Austin and balance the concerns of Austin's oft-neglected minorities. Martinez busted the paradigm as president of the Austin Firefighters Association and has continued to make waves. Cole, the first black female council member, won funding to combat sickle-cell anemia and was the most reasoned voice of moderation in setting our city budget.

The Office of Mike Martinez
PO Box 1088

The Office of Sheryl Cole
PO Box 1088

Best Fast-Food Superstar

Junior, well-known on the UT campus as the "Wendy's Guy," has been making fast food a literal thing since he's been working at the Wendy's in the Texas Union. He's so charming, hardworking, and hilarious that he was actually recruited by a Wendy's franchise owner more than eight years ago. Junior does the work of 20 men, taking orders from every customer in line and then running back to the kitchen to help make all the food. We get tired just watching him, but we also can't get enough.

Junior Wendy's guy
PO Box 7338

Best Man on a Mission

Having already raised $70.8 million of the $77 million needed for Central Texas' premier performing arts venue, executive director Cliff Redd has made a huge splash in Austin over the past two years. Born and raised in Austin, Redd left Dallas to take on this daunting position, but with his extensive background in fundraising and arts administration, he was clearly the best man for the job. He has enlisted the involvement of the big-money individuals and corporations, as well as the grassroots community groups of every stripe, insuring that the Long Center will truly be for all Texans. A diplomat and a courtier, a visionary and a soothsayer, a leader and a laborer, Cliff Redd is a missionary bringing the word of a world-class arts arena to Austin.

Cliff Redd
Long Center for the Performing Arts
701 W. Riverside

Best Man to Turn to at 2am

Oh what the cabbie knows. The cabbie not only knows the nooks and crannies of every byway in this town and beyond but the cabbie also knows every nook and cranny probed in the back seat on the way there. So find a cabbie you can trust. We trust our lust to our fave, Peter Elliott of Yellow Cab, who knows so well the nightcrawl of the Austin hedonist – mostly because he is one. When not seen behind the wheel (and we tip our brim to the many safe post-Chronicle-party journeys he has delivered to many an inebriated editor), he can be seen behind a flying V, some ridiculous eyewear, and his beautiful cue-ball head in Peter Elliott & the Sellouts and the monstrous Karaoke Apocalypse.

Peter Elliott

Best New and Potentially Sexy Zoning Ordinance in Austin

What's seven pages long and written in hieroglyphics? Most city ordinances. But this one is different. In clear language, it actually protects the little guy, the humble home dweller, you and me! It even uses the words "declaring an emergency," about burgeoning yuppie monstrosities and massive McMansions ruining our old neighborhoods. Why is it sexy, you ask? Well, now you can lounge naked in your back yard with your boy toys or gal pals, and not worry that your neighbors in the five-story glass and steel "addition" next door will see all the fun. No Hummers, vertical parking garages, or condos hanging over your head. It can be just the two of you and the salamanders and crickets and that warm bottle of wine, under the gently blossoming crape myrtles.

Anti-McMansion Ordinance (No. 20060309-058)

City of Austin Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department
505 Barton Springs Rd., PO Box 1088

Best New Coalition of the Willing

Believe it or not, there are still a few elected offices in Travis County that are not held by Democrats. True Blue Travis – aka the Travis County Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign – wants to fix that, and make sure our little blue island in the red Texas ocean stays as deep a shade of blue as possible.

True Blue Travis
505 Willow

Best New Orleans Import

What Hurricane Katrina didn't destroy, she blew our way. Austin was lucky enough to acquire the talents of legendary musicians like Cyril Neville. We also inherited the Flaming Arrows Mardi Gras Indian tribe. Big Chief Kevin Goodman lost much of his family's history but decided to stay in Texas. Since then, he's re-formed the tribe, leading family and friends in the sewing tradition of costume-making and irresistible performances. If you get the chance to see him and the tribe in full regalia, do not miss it!

Best New Out Reach Efforts

It's top down from the national office: The Human Rights Campaign (think blue with yellow equal signs) is officially making headway in changing their previous image as a high-end, predominately white male group to one that more effectively represents the many faces in the struggle for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender equality. The local office (a loose-knit group of eager and energetic volunteers, actually) has been throwing weekday happy hours at a variety of locations to follow suit. We applaud any effort that recognizes that civil rights begin at home – and more importantly, from within.


Best Place to Protest a KKK Rally

The only pointy thing at City Hall on Nov. 5, 2005 was the horizontal copper spire on the north end of the building’s roof. Gone were the pointed Klan hoods of yore for this new crop of KKK members. There were no crosses afire, but there was a fire-breathing “Grand Dragon” to lead the 12, count 'em 12 Klansmen rallying behind Proposition 2, the Texas Constitutional Amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage: "We're here, we're queer … haters!" The South First Street Bridge, with its luxurious views of Town Lake, the Downtown skyline, and 2,000 fellow counter-protesters, to be the best vantage point by which to purify our supremacist brethren.

Best Post-Council Crusade

With his bambino enrolled in Escuelita, Downtown's only day care, the former council member returned to his old chambers to ask council to extend the center's lease; Alvarez has used his post-council juice to advocate extending the lease on the site until the end of the school year.

Escuelita del Alma
213 Congress

Best Post-Katrina-Evacuee Service Providers

Long after the terrible aftermath of Hurricane Katrina – and, to a much lesser extent, Rita – faded from media headlines, several organizations in Austin continued working to provide social services to the area’s thousands of evacuees in need. The following is a by-no-means-exhaustive list of organizations still serving area evacuees. Advocacy Inc. provides information, referral, and some case-management services to hurricane evacuees with disabilities. Austin Area Urban League offers help with job placement, computer classes, obtaining personal documents, the FEMA’s housing program recertification process, medical referrals, and transportation to and from interviews, business errands, and doctor appointments. Caritas of Austin focuses on helping Katrina and Rita survivors with “stability planning” through financial assistance and case management services. Community Action Development and Assistance provides up-in-the-air evacuees with housing relocation and placement assistance. CADA also offers referral services to evacuees with special needs. Foundation Communities provides approximately 170 hurricane-evacuee households with information, referral, and case-management services, as well as financial assistance. Samaritan Counseling Center provides individual, group, and couples counseling for hurricane evacuees and their caretakers. Texas Interagency Interfaith Disaster Response provides case-management and referral services to evacuees, as well as acts as a services coordinator and communications hub for various local social-service providers. Texas RioGrande Legal Aid: “We are still establishing FEMA eligibility. We are now fighting evictions with our housing team, getting social security benefits, handling family law issues, and fighting recoupments of FEMA funds,” said attorney Heather Godwin. Texas Workforce Commission provides assistance in job-searching, career counseling/assessment, and résumé prep, as well as guidance with unemployment insurance.

Advocacy, Inc.

Austin Area Urban League
8011-A Cameron #100

Caritas of Austin
611 Neches

Community Action Development and Assistance

Foundation Communities
3036 S. First #200

Samaritan Counseling Center
5425-A Burnet Rd.

Texas Interagency Interfaith Disaster Response

Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid
611 S. Congress #130

Texas Workforce Commission

Best Straight People

While the radical right's misguided control freaks are all hopped up on gay-marriage banning, the rest of us are getting really, really angry. Why shouldn't a lesbian have next-of-kin visitation rights when her partner is in the hospital? Why shouldn't she be entitled to bereavement leave when her partner has died? These, and a host of other sacred rights, are at stake in the marriage debate, and that's why it's so important to finally have an organization like Atticus Circle on the scene, giving a voice to straight support for gay and lesbian causes. Atticus stands as testament to what we all know is true: Discrimination against anyone hurts everyone.

Atticus Circle
515 Congress #1320

Most Dedicated Fundraiser for the GLBT Community

As founder of the Octopus Club, Lew Aldridge is in charge of the amazing Art Erotica parties and the legendary Octo Tea Dances and a host of other events. His grassroots efforts over the years have inspired hundreds of enthusiastic young, gay volunteers to raise funds and awareness for AIDS relief in Austin. He has a powerful gift to be able to inspire others to take a stand and act for the common good, often for the first time in their lives. Lew is a quiet but strong leader of Austin's gay civil rights movement, and he's always in the center of the action for Austin's gay community-building efforts. He has been able to motivate so many to take positive action on issues that affect us all.


Most Influential Arts Patron

In a recent profile on this local arts volunteer and philanthropist, KLRU said, "For Anne Elizabeth, art is that holy breath that revives, restores, and renews." No doubt that's what has inspired her energetic efforts in so many artistic fronts. Thanks to her leadership, dozens of local artists have their work exhibited year-round in City Hall, and New year's Eve now boasts a major festival of the performing and visual arts, First Night Austin. Plus, she's provided invaluable support to cultural organizations such as the Texas Book Festival, the Blanton Museum of Art, Arthouse, Austin Film Society, Texas Film Hall of Fame, Ballet Austin, Blue Lapis Light, Salvage Vanguard Theater, and the Umlauf Sculpture Garden. The woman certainly gives as much of that "holy breath" as she takes in.

Anne Elizabeth Wynn
First Night Austin
515 Congress #2050

Most Jubilant Unification Through Song

For sure, music is among the world's greatest uniting forces – and, regardless of religious affiliation, to hear the voices of the David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church choir rise in song is to know that there is far more that unites us than divides us. Under the direction of Ruth Sauls, the David Chapel choir is jubilant and hopeful – the kind of music that makes your skin tingle and your soul smile.

David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church
2211 E. MLK

Critics: Outdoors & Recreation
Critics: Services

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