Politics & Media
2019 Readers Poll
2019 Critics Picks

Johnnie Goudie   photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Best ATX Aural History

Johnny Goudie is the Marc Maron of Austin music. The veteran singer/guitarist – best known for fronting early Nineties pop band Mr. Rocket Baby and, later, his major-label rock act, Goudie – stepped up to the microphone with a new intention in 2011 and launched the How Did I Get Here? podcast. Now 840-some episodes in, the hourlong, twice-weekly interview show gives the host a platform to really connect with his Austin music guests, not just on what’s happening in their careers, but also in the shared experience of music appreciation – and that’s where he truly shines.


Best Decoders of “Can Trump Buy Greenland?” and Other National Security Topics

From forays into Trumplandia to weighing in on the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, University of Texas Law professors Bobby Chesney and Steve Vladeck dissect the latest legal controversies associated with the U.S. government’s national security activities on their weekly The National Security Law Podcast. Sure, the subject material might be niche to some (okay, a lot) of us, but the pair unpacks legal parlance in such a way that both lawyers and non-lawyers alike can understand WTH is actually going on with the legal issues behind the headlines. The duo’s added dose of frivolity doesn’t hurt either. We hereby order you to listen to this podcast.


Steve Vladeck (left) and Bobby Chesney   Photo by Bret Brookshire

via Instagram

Best IG Reporter on Mom-and-Pop Pan-Asian Restaurants

One of the best parts of Austin’s food scene is without a doubt the teeny-tiny family-owned restaurants that largely fly under the radar. Thanks to the genius – known simply as Lenny – over at @eats_n_noods, followers (us included!) are privy to a wide span of specifically Asian fare from spots across the greater metro area. From pho to sushi, from restaurants and food trucks to her very own kitchen, @eats_n_noods is #blessing us with mouthwatering photos of her #austinnoods adventures. As the bio reads, “A bowl of noods a day keeps the doctors away.”


Best Media Power Moves

In a shifting media landscape where a lot of stories don't end well, these two women taking the reins at two of Austin's most important media institutions – KUT-FM and the Texas Observer – is worthy of celebration. After a career laboring at and then leading the Statesman, Hiott jumped into broadcasting at just the right time, as a shaken-up KUT looked to heal from internal turmoil. Meanwhile, Valdez, a former rising star at Texas Monthly, returned home from a stint at Wired to become the first Latina to lead a statewide news publication. We value them both as colleagues and as competitors.

Debbie Hiott

Andrea Valdez

Photo by Jana Birchum

Best Move to the Left at the Lege

After the 2018 elections managed to flip 12 noteworthy seats in the Texas House of Representatives, the 86th legislative session saw a little blue wave of power pulsing through the state Capitol. But the biggest slap back to the Republican anti-LGBTQ agenda from the last two sessions came from the House's newly formed LGBTQ Caucus led by seasoned reps Mary González, D-El Paso, and Celia Israel, D-Austin, alongside freshman legislators Jessica González, D-Dallas; Julie Johnson, D-Car­roll­­ton; and Erin Zwiener, D-Driftwood. As a united front, they squashed some bad bills, neutered others, and sent a message to queer youth across the state: You matter.


Best Photographer to Keep You Starry-Eyed

Look into the night sky when you're way out in the country and there's no artificial light for miles: What you'll see will astound you. Now imagine you had a telescope and a good camera for capturing all that stellar glory. Even then, the images might not do justice to reality – unless you had the skills of Rob Pettengill. The local astrophotographer got his first telescope when he was 8 years old; now, he's among this year's NASA JPL Solar System Ambassadors and continues to use his professional experiences in computation, electronics, and imaging to bring the starry heavens a little closer to earth.


Lunar eclipse   photo by Rob Pettengill via astronomy.robpettengill.org

Photo by John Anderson

Best Progressive Tag Team

The entire City Council calls itself progressive, and each member has had chances to vote their values and lead their colleagues toward making Austin more just and equitable. Casar and Garza have made that progression easier for everyone with their consistent, coordinated, energetic, and thoughtful advocacy: for workers' rights and reproductive rights, for decriminalizing homelessness and (maybe!) ending possession-of-marijuana arrests, for a new modern land use code but also (on Riverside) for preserving existing working-class housing. It's an agenda that might give Greg Abbott hives, but Casar and Garza have shown that it's what many, many Austinites actually believe and want.

Delia Garza
301 W. Second

Greg Casar

Best Proletariat Uprising

Austin’s biggest music outrage of 2019 hit the fan May 28 when employees of Red River venue Beerland announced a strike, citing unpaid wages since March. Owner Richard Lynn attempted to outrun the drama with a pretty press release on Beerland’s sale to an unknown buyer. The successive social media firestorm offered ample use of “scabs” and “solidarity,” and the club has not been open since. In weeks to follow, the scene united to raise some $18,000 for Beerland workers, as well as owed employees of Lynn’s Super Secret Records label group. After a summer of ownership rumors, Stubb’s General Manager Ryan Garrett confirmed in October that he'd signed a lease on the property.

photo by David Brendan Hall

Photo by Jana Birchum

Best Reclaiming of Space

Some would say you can’t have Pride without a Dyke March. It’s the political, take-back-the-streets, in-your-face-and-fiery sister to the Pride Parade. One, in at least its modern-day iteration, is about celebrating how far we’ve come; the other about fighting for more and greater queer rights. A Dyke March is also about creating space for the other, often less visible letters of the LGBTQIAlphabet and lauding those faces and spaces, too. All this is to say: The return of Austin’s Dyke March this August was a joyous reclamation of queer space and a heartfelt gathering to remember our history while also charting a path to an inclusive and radical future.

Best Repurposing of a RuPaul's Drag Race Quote

When a group of Houston-based bigots descended on City Council during Austin Pride Week to decry Drag Queen Storytime events at local libraries, City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan – the first openly gay man to sit on the dais – shut that ish down. Chastising the speakers for both their anti-LGBTQ hate speech and their rudeness for interrupting him, Flannigan said, “I'm not going to stand for it. My community doesn't stand for it. My district doesn’t stand for it.” He thanked the queers and allies in attendance, promised a celebratory Pride weekend, and then – taking up one fabulous paper fan – channeled his inner RuPaul to send those haters home: “To those who have come here to spread their hate, I only have two words: Sashay away.” Flannigan – shantay, you stay, honey.

301 W. Second

Photo by Jana Birchum

Photo by John Anderson

Best Tool in the Civic Toolbox

Our city leaders aren't flying blind as Austin makes its dramatic, systematic efforts to flat-out end homelessness. Among their most valuable guides are the members of AHAC, a group of people with diverse life stories to tell, all of which include lived experience with homelessness. These volunteers came together in 2017 to inform the city Innovation Office's iTeam effort to "solve for homelessness," with help from $1.25 million in grant funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies; their stories and skills have gone into the design of the programs and services, both large and small, now being deployed to make Austin a different, better place for all, no matter where or how they live.


Best Utility Player (Activist League)

"Utility player" sounds like a dis – like something other than a star player – but in sports as well as in civics, it really means someone who's multitalented and incredibly useful. And Chris Harris is certainly that: an impassioned and also pragmatically effective advocate for criminal justice reform, for the rights and dignity of survivors and the marginalized, and for strategic and tactical efforts to make this a city where everyone thrives. He brings to his work not only the skills of an advocate and organizer but the analytic chops honed over his years in the tech world – all to help you win the game of Austin life.

photo by David Brendan Hall

Robert F. Smith addressing Morehouse College graduates

Better Than "You Get a Car!"

As the commencement speaker at Morehouse College’s class of 2019 graduation ceremony, Robert F. Smith (the principal founder, chairman, and CEO of Austin-based Vista Equity Partners and ranked by Forbes as the richest black man in America) stunned those assembled by announcing his intention to pay off the student loans of all 396 graduates. Wildly understating his gift – “We’re going to put a little fuel in your bus,” the philanthropist put it – Smith later sweetened the deal further: His $34 million donation to the new Morehouse College Student Success Program will pay off parent loans, too.


Critics: Nightlife
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