Page Two

Page Two
by Louis Black

This is the last Austin Chronicle of 1995. The Chronicle does not publish again until 1996. Then, for one of the rare times in our history, we will actually come out on Friday rather than Thursday; the first issue of 1996 appears on its issue date, Friday, January 5, 1996.

Chronicle offices will be closed for the holidays beginning Thursday, Dec. 21 and will reopen 9am, Tuesday, January 2.

The past year has been one of tumultuous and continual change here at the Chronicle, mostly involving internal restructuring, though also including a major editorial redesign. The paper is produced by the whole staff, but run by a management team that has taken more and more responsibility over the past year. Neither managing editor Jen Scoville, art director Ben Plimpton, production manager Nisa Sharma, ad services coordinator Laurie Powers, advertising director Pattie Moon, marketing director Laura Pruter, director of online services Laxman Gani, nor computer guru Chris Burton were in those jobs in the first week of January, 1995; several of them weren't working for us at all at that point.

Each week, 140,000 Austinites read the Chronicle. This is both very good -- the more readers the merrier -- and bad -- we are no longer the little paper that could get away with most anything and whose staff could fit around just a few tables at the Hole in the Wall and drink the night away. The above people, working with the rest of the management team, including classified manager Herb Steiner, circulation director David McNair, office manager Deborah Wilson and controller Michael Schwartz, guide the Chronicle, with a staff now numbering around 50. (Editorial content is controlled by the senior editors, of course.) The Chronicle has always been more or less group-run, but this last year has seen the emergence of both a structure that makes sense, and a staff that accepts responsibilities.

The very bottom line is that this year the Chronicle has delivered more pages of editorial, and better editorial than ever before, and that is what it is about.

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It has been a time of growth and change in Austin. The Urban Planning series, which started a month ago and concludes in this issue, gets at the heart of the matter. This is not a battle of good guys and bad guys, but of our collective vision toward what type of city this is going to be.

Much of the talk I heard at parties over the weekend was of Chancellor Cunningham resigning. When asked, I said that, as with the naming of the building after Moffett, it was besides the point and I didn't much care. I thought, regardless of your position on Freeport-McMoRan's international relations, Cunningham had a conflict of interest and he should resign. But Cunningham's board memberships, Moffett's personality and the like are marginal issues. If Jim Bob were a saintly man who built hospitals by hand in Central America, it would not change the impact of development over the watershed. If Freeport-McMoRan goes away tomorrow, none of the major concerns facing this city change; there will be new developers, and new plans of development. The issue is not personalities; the issue is a city and its vision of itself -- the questions are about growth, about planning, about roads and transportation, about where we build schools and recreational facilities. These are complex issues, and we should not lose sight of the long-term questions in the day-to-day struggles. What is the City of Austin -- how its neighborhoods and business areas, roads, and undeveloped areas grow and are managed -- is our main concern heading into the next century. Urban planning is the battleground for the current conflict over this city's future -- a string of questions with no easy answers, right down here in the land of the heroes and villains. This series on urban planning has raised the real issues Austin must now address, and how the city responds to these concerns will play a significant part in determining its future.

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It was probably the Austin Chronicle that made Austin American-Statesman ex-publisher Roger Kintzel really famous in Austin. Even in this town, where criticizing the daily paper is one of the favorite mental contact sports, a publisher wouldn't be that well-known. I've lived in a lot of cities, read a lot of dailies, and rarely have known who the publisher was. But we offered Kintzel weekly publicity and more, during his tenure as both publisher (of the Austin American-Realestatesman, as we called it) and head of the Chamber of Concrete, when we noted this conflict of interest every time we mentioned his name. The writer who did more than anybody to focus attention on Kintzel, of course, was Daryl Slusher.

Perhaps appropriately, perhaps not, now as Roger Kintzel has left Austin to become the Cox publisher in Atlanta, Daryl Slusher leaves the arena of advocacy journalism for the world of politics. Daryl was a columnist for the Chronicle, then politics editor, before resigning to run for mayor, and then returning as a columnist. Now, he has resigned again to run for Max Nofziger's Place 1 seat, and even if he isn't elected, he won't be back at the Chronicle. But we think he's got a very good shot at winning his race this time out, and in any case we're confident we'll be hearing from Daryl regularly, one way or another. Kintzel, meanwhile, who provided such a frequent target for the Chronicle, proved to be a great friend in our business relationship with the Statesman (which prints our paper), and his last significant act was hiring Richard Oppel, who already has tremendously improved the Statesman. We wish Kintzel well in Atlanta. Thus two major figures in the Austin print press, often on opposite sides of issues, have now left local print media, one to Atlanta and one to the campaign trail.

Next week, there are the holidays, and a new issue the week after that. Happy holidays to all our readers, and may next year be the best of years for you.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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