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As with any good return-from-the-dead scenario, the almost unexpectedly revived SOS is again wreaking havoc and mayhem. When the citizen-passed initiative was reaffirmed by the courts, supporters were vindicated and re-energized but some of them are so excited they are ready to go too far (see this week's "Council Watch"). The morally correct choice for environmentalists is to oppose all development. Development inherently corrupts the environment (though since the environment is also changed by natural forces we could get into quite a discussion here). Any retreat on development standards is a loss. Compromise is a way of losing, but only in a pure, committed-to-the-environment sense. In the real world, the question remains whether you are committed to yourself or committed to actually working effectively to preserve the environment. The latter demands reasonable, though often difficult, compromise; it requires creative, flexible thinking. The former simply sanctifies the purity of your own moral position, but ultimately, by taking extremes, you destroy your own position.

The question concerns how to treat the 70 or so development permits that were approved under the CWOII, which was in effect from shortly after a court threw out SOS until just recently when an appeals court reinstated it. The council has been asked whether to honor these agreements with those developers or, in true environmental/pure suicidal fashion, demand that all those developments be re-approved under SOS.

Interestingly, this is especially a dilemma for former Chronicle politics editor-turned-council member Daryl Slusher. As a writer for this publication, there is little doubt that he would have supported making SOS retroactive; a political columnist must operate by moral rather than pragmatic standards. As a councilmember, Slusher is leaning towards not making SOS retroactive. Some of his supporters call this a sell-out. Austin's non-elected moral legislators, the council regulars, are booing. But a politician's obligation is to do what is best for the city.

Slusher has been very effective his first weeks as a councilmember, growing into the role of political leader, not abandoning his agenda but maturing into it, realizing how not just to postulate but to achieve it. Making these developers go through getting new permits will lead to endless litigation (if I were a developer, I would sue) and, ultimately, Austin-bashing in the legislature. There is an opportunity to preserve the environmental momentum by moving forward and not turning back.

The council (and Slusher's) position on this issue is correct. Making SOS retroactive would be, at best, a pyhrric victory, given the attitude of the courts and the legislature. The case may well be taken to the Supreme Court where things could change again.

Austin has been accused -- sometimes correctly -- of too often changing the rules once the game has begun. Despite certain people's tears and hysteria, the council must let these developments proceed under the rules to which everyone has now agreed. This is a moment for the environmental community to compromise and work towards an achievable future.

So far, this council has been a refreshing surprise in its apparent commitment to be more concerned about the city's needs than personal feuds and pointless posturing. This is a very difficult issue and I don't mean to be glib. But we must move cautiously and deliberately towards our future, a future that embraces and includes the whole community.

In the group of ex-Austin Chronicle political editors that includes Slusher we reluctantly add Louisa Brinsmade. Brilliant, aggressive, and charming, Brinsmade expanded and groomed the Chronicle's politics section, initiating coverage in many different areas. She assembled a top staff and wisely led them. We regretfully watch her leave as she embarks on a freelance career.

Brinsmade leaves us in great shape. Audrey Duff, who has been writing for the Chronicle and editing "Naked City" now becomes Politics Editor. Amy Smith becomes assistant politics editor and the merry crew of Robert Bryce, Alex de Marban, Roseana Auten, Mike Clark-Madison, Chris Walters, and Hugh Forrest are all still on board. We will miss Louisa but are very excited to be working with Audrey as the section's editor. The staff wishes Louisa our very best in whatever she chooses to do.

The Sixth Annual Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival is free to everyone this Sunday, August 25, noon-5pm at Central Park, 38th and North Lamar. This event has become one of the biggest salsa contests in the country -- imitated by many -- and it is creatively directed by Robb Walsh. As always, this year boasts an amazing lineup of judges and will feature music by Los Pinkys and Don Walser's Pure Texas Band (see the "Hot Sauce" section beginning on page 45 for more details). This is a great sprawling party with literally dozens and dozens of hot sauces available for sampling. The Festival is produced by Elizabeth Derzco for Austintatious Events, and co-sponsored by Central Market, Shiner of Austin, 107.1 KGSR, and Guiltless Gourmet. n

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 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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