The Austin Chronicle

Page Two

By Louis Black, January 15, 1999, Columns

Nineteen ninety-nine, let the games begin -- state and local politics, arts and culture, the future and the past -- it is a brave new year. The legislature is in session, which is always entertaining, but not always fun. The leadership of the state government has almost entirely changed hands from Democrat to Republican, which should be, at the very least, interesting. Effects of the change can already be seen, and this is just the beginning.

On the home front, the Watson Council has hit cruising speed and is dead steady in its course. There is little stopping this Council now, so we better all pray that substance and vision doesn't get lost for accomplishment.

A year before the millennium (or two, depending on how you want to count), we watch this city change. It is not just roads, traffic and seemingly unending suburban sprawl, but more and more it is going to be the changing face of downtown. What is demanded now is planning, is competence, is vision.

The Chronicle squarely faces these times, with perhaps an emphasis on the word squarely. It is a time not for less coverage but more. In light of the new leadership of state government and with the legislature being in its biannual session, a lot of our attention will be focused on the state. This does not mean we will pay any less attention to city government, especially given the rapidity of civic developments and political movements with this Council.

As important, will be watching the interaction between the city and the legislature. Mayor Watson and a team of top lobbyists will try a proactive approach, working with the legislature rather than either ignoring or attacking it. What, if any, kind of difference this will make is everyone's concern.

In these heady economic times, Austin culture is robust, which keeps the rest of the staff busy. Our territory certainly isn't just politics.

We're rearranging offices (we've been rearranging for months), to accommodate our ever growing staff. This just adds to the sense of being in some kind of intellectual industrial factory, where some product is being wrought and struck. The assembly line of ideas has heated up and brains are burning out everywhere.

I go for a walk in the middle of the afternoon. It is a cold day, which I like. It's nice to get away. After the office, the street noise seems quiet. On my right is a Jack in the Box. I realize how much this neighborhood has changed since we moved here at the beginning of the decade. Then Hancock seemed like a tired mall on its way out, now it is revitalized and packed. You hit the residential neighborhoods though and the quiet I remember from the late Seventies, when this was still a lazy town, is still there. It doesn't smell so fresh and pure as it did then, the air electric with fragrance and possibility. I suspect this is me. The neighborhoods still have that lazy comfortable feeling and I keep walking for a long time.

The Austin Music Awards Poll Ballot runs in this issue. These really are the people's awards, but to keep them that way, you have to vote. Fill out as little or as much of the ballot as you like and send it in. Don't leave it to us, the media professionals, make your opinions known. This is the time for our readers to speak.

Musician's Register: The life of the Register is now not just the physical issue of the Chronicle, which is distributed all over town, prominently displayed at SXSW Music, shipped all over the world and stored by desks for the whole year. It is also the web version. All year long, professionals and fans around the world will access this special issue, a guide to working Austin musicians. It is up to you to get your act listed and make sure your information is accurate.

It is SXSW time, and over at SXSW World Headquarters things are chugging away with intense work going on for all three conferences. Check the Chronicle and other local news media for regular updates over the next few months.

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