Politics & Personalities
2014 Readers Poll
2014 Critics Picks
Best Activist

Natalia Lundstedt was so moved by the documentary Blackfish that she mounted a persuasive campaign to end her school's annual field trip to Sea World. Oh, and she was in fourth grade at the time. Remember the Petland puppy mill protests in Austin a few years ago? According to her dad's Facebook campaign, Natalia was active in those, too. When most kids are consumed by loom bands and whom they will sit next to on the aforementioned field trips, this shining star was discovering the power of being active. Big change can come in the smallest of packages, and we are proud to recognize this budding activist’s achievement.

Best Campaign Issue

It was the filibuster that launched a thousand protests. On June 25, 2013, Wendy Davis became the spokesperson for the Lone Star State’s dwindling women’s rights, and we haven’t stopped cheering since. And while she's running on not just one, but a number of issues, the message is clear. A sign from above – or below, as Rick Perry would have one believe – last July’s orange-shirt protest marks the largest in recent history and hopefully a sign of dissent to come. Clearly, Texas women (and men) aren’t about to hand over the rights of Texas ovaries without a fight.

Stand with Texas Women
www.standwithtexaswomen.org

Jana Birchum

Best Campaign Moment

Greg Abbott to an astounded audience in July: "You know where they are if you drive around. You can ask every facility whether or not they have chemicals or not. You can ask them if they do, and they can tell you, ‘Well, we do have chemicals, or we don’t have chemicals.’ And if they do, they tell which ones they have,” See? We don't need those job-killing transparency laws. How many fertilizer plants have to not explode before we accept the truth?

Greg Abbott
Office of the Attorney General
www.oag.state.tx.us

Best Elected Official

She stood up for women's rights (and for quite a while at that), and she continues to warm our cockles with her pitch-perfect presentation and unflappable fabulosity. She and her fellow female Texas state senators gave us some of the searing-est zingers a state congress has heard in a while, and the 2013 debate over choice drew down the ire of women across the state. She's certainly got a pair of brass ones, and we really can't wait for the campaign to really heat up and grab us all by ours.

Sen. Wendy Davis
Fort Worth
817/886-8863
www.davis.senate.state.tx.us
www.wendydavistexas.com

Jana Birchum

John Anderson

Best Environmentalist

Native Texan and longtime Green Revolutionary, John Dromgoole founded the expert organic gardening store, Natural Gardener, in South Austin. He’s also hosted KLBJ’s organic gardening radio show, Gardening Naturally for almost 30 years (the longest running in the U.S.), started the city’s Chemical Clean-Up Day, and founded Lady Bug Natural Brand Products. The is one earth-friendly man with a beautiful, sustainable plan for living the good life.

Natural Gardener
8648 Old Bee Caves Rd.
512/288-6113
www.naturalgardeneraustin.com

Best Grassroots Group

Local advocacy group Austinites for Urban Rail Action was formed to focus on rail expansion in Central Texas, but has broadened their scope to find working solutions for housing and transportation issues facing our rapidly growing urban/suburban sprawl. Now known simply as AURA, the group is still relatively new, but already making headway in fostering inclusiveness across a diverse cross section of the Austin population and tackling even more intersected issues – from urban farms and ride-sharing programs to multifamily dwellings, kid-friendly green spaces, and then some.

AURA
www.aura-atx.org

Best Local Politics Blog

We seldom think of burnt orange as having a place in the political spectrum, but if anybody can get progressives to "act blue," the Burnt Orange Report can. No longer a scrappy upstart on the UT scene, and revving up for a big site overhaul, BOR breaks open political bombshells at the state and local level.

Burnt Orange Report
www.burntorangereport.com

Best March or Rally

Glitterbeards, unicorns, unitards (Hey! Watch it!), community choirs, bared breasts, exposed voices, shameless dancing, hot-as-fuck marshas (procession marshalls), drunken (and sober) revelry, overpass reverberations, righteous love, righteous lust, lesbi-mohawks, rainbow suspenders, community. New for 2014: Dallas Edition.

QueerBomb
www.queerbomb.org

Jana Birchum

Jana Birchum

Best News Story

Our Tim Stegall was there. We asked for his account:

Wednesday, Mar. 12, 2014 – Los Angeles punk veterans X showcased at the Mohawk's outdoor stage. I covered it from the eastern balcony, with a clear view of the stage and the street outside the wall shielding the concert area. A largish crowd milled outside, hoping to enter. Understandable – X were good.

Maybe five songs in and 16 bars into “Johnny Hit and Run Pauline” (of all tunes), a Honda Civic crashed through the barrier on the block's west, doing maybe 70 or 80 mph, two police vehicles in pursuit. Bodies flew left and right, or were mowed over, first responders arriving maybe two minutes later. The rest of the set – and SXSW – was spent in a state of shock I (and so many others) would not recover from, with a split-screen Fellini horror film equivalent before me: X rocking on one side, preserved in amber from The Decline of Western Civilization, unaware of the carnage outside the wall, unintentionally providing a gruesome, ironic soundtrack: “Nausea bloody red eyes go to/Nausea bloody red eyes go to sleep ….”

Twenty-four people were hit, four killed. Killeen's Rashad Owens, 21, faces one count capital murder, four counts felony murder, and 24 counts aggravated assault. These cold statistics don't make the SXSW crash 2014's standout news story, however. It's simply impossible avoiding emotions. This vehicular assault, the first such crowd tragedy in SXSW history, involved friends and neighbors, raising questions about the growth of Austin's biggest annual event and its security: Was a traffic stop so close to the festival necessary? Do we need sturdier crash barriers? No, this story is not the “best” news story of the year. It's the most important.

Best Nonprofit

It's so easy to anthropomorphize our domesticated mammalian significant others. But Austin Pets Alive! knows what animals need, and has developed a range of programs to meed those needs. Of course, APA! is the nonprof responsible for making Austin a no-kill community, and deserves unending kudos for this alone. But other programs intrigue: Their barn cat program, which takes poorly/undersocialized cats and places them in alternative homes – big, outdoor spaces and barns – is just one example of the many ways APA! puts pets' needs first.

Austin Pets Alive!
1156 W. Cesar Chavez
512/961-6519
www.austinpetsalive.org

Jana Birchum

Best Politician

She stood up for women's rights (and for quite a while at that), and she continues to warm our cockles with her pitch-perfect presentation and unflappable fabulosity. She and her fellow female Texas state senators gave us some of the searing-est zingers a state congress has heard in a while, and the 2013 debate over choice drew down the ire of women across the state. She's certainly got a pair of brass ones, and we really can't wait for the campaign to really heat up and grab us all by ours.

Sen. Wendy Davis
Fort Worth
817/886-8863
www.davis.senate.state.tx.us
www.wendydavistexas.com

Best Scandal

The easiest way to inflame Texas-Exes these days is to simply make mention of the UT Board of Regents. Perry appointees all, the BoR have earned their reputation as backwards-thinking "advocates" for higher education. This past year, an overzealous regent, Wallace Hall, attempted to pin an admission scandal on UT President Bill Powers (which hasn't yet materialized), and did so in a very shady (and potentially illegal) manner. The upshot is, Powers was given the ultimatum by the BoR: resign or be fired. At the eleventh hour, Powers chose resignation, and the timeline agreed upon would have Powers stepping down by the end of 2015. Get your popcorn out, and let the shit-show continue.

The University of Texas System
601 Colorado
512/499-4200
www.utsystem.edu/board-of-regents

Best Social Program

This one's a hard one, folks. There is no good year for Planned Parenthood, the perennially politically maligned provider of health care options for women (and men) in Texas and across the nation. While new barriers to accessing abortions and health services are erected (WTF ambulatory surgical centers!?), the reputation of Planned Parenthood is publicly pilloried. Of course, the salve for such social malady is grassroots political action; an award is sweet, but boots on the ground even sweeter.

Planned Parenthood
1823 E. Seventh, 512/477-5846
201 E. Ben White, 512/276-8000
9041 Research #250, 512/331-1288
www.ppgreatertx.org

Biggest Huevos/Ovaries

She stood up for women's rights (and for quite a while at that), and she continues to warm our cockles with her pitch-perfect presentation and unflappable fabulosity. She and her fellow female Texas state senators gave us some of the searing-est zingers a state congress has heard in a while, and the 2013 debate over choice drew down the ire of women across the state. She's certainly got a pair of brass ones, and we really can't wait for the campaign to really heat up and grab us all by ours.

Sen. Wendy Davis
Fort Worth
817/886-8863
www.davis.senate.state.tx.us
www.wendydavistexas.com

Jana Birchum

 
Readers: Outdoors & Recreation
Readers: Services