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Statewide, the important story is the new Legislature and governmental leadership running the place. Watson and gang, rather than taking a siege mentality and treating the new session as a liability, have seized upon this as an opportunity, hiring lobbyists not so much to influence the Legislature as to help the city's leadership communicate with them. Always the mediator, Watson believes that the state and the city can understand each other. The city will consider state concerns and explain to the legislators that the city's vision for itself is neither radical nor tie-dye utopian, but rather a coherent attempt to deal with the staggering population growth and increased urbanization of the area. It will be interesting to see how this experiment in communications will go.

My apprehension about many of our state's new leaders begins with their agendas, which I fear will be far different than advertised in their TV ad campaigns. In particular, Robert Bryce's report on the last-minute campaign financial involvement of San Antonio multi-millionaire James Leininger should cause one to worry. If you ask why, Debbie Nathan's profile of Leininger, who he is and what he is up to, will provide the answer. (This piece originally appeared in The San Antonio Current.)

As we have noted, the Chronicle's coverage of the state will increase. Towards that end, last issue we saw the debut of "On the Lege," a new column edited by assistant politics editor Lisa Tozzi offering capsules covering the Legislature's activities. This issue, Erica Barnett joins in with a look at some of the more important upcoming issues facing the state.

Around here, though, there are numerous Chronicle projects percolating: It's South by Southwest time. The event is roughly five issues away, which, in Chronicle time, seems like nothing. The kick-off event for SXSW is also our major event of the year, the Austin Music Awards Show at the Austin Music Hall, co-sponsored by 107.1 KGSR. (For the record, the Austin Music Awards Show is the official kick-off event for SXSW -- I always seem to read that it is the unofficial kick-off event.)

You, our readers, decide who will be honored at the show by voting in the Austin Chronicle Music Poll by filling out a ballot, which runs for the last time in this issue. Was Michael Bertin wrong about Storyville's last album? Do Chronicle critics overrate Alejandro Escovedo? Was there something wrong with Raoul Hernandez making Lucinda Williams' album his second choice of the year? Did Margaret Moser stiff Reckless Kelly's last album? Is Andy Langer's assessment of upcoming acts for the year on target? Now, it's your turn to speak up, your turn to demand justice. Vote. Let your voice be heard!

Every day there is news emanating from SXSW World Headquarters across the yard. SXSW Interactive is moving ahead full-speed with three impressive keynote speakers: Mark Cuban, president and chairman of the board of; writer Michael Wolff; and musical visionary Philip Glass. The SXSW Interactive panelists represent new media both nationally and locally, and the trade promises to be a unique focal point for the event. SXSW Interactive is quickly proving itself as one of the gathering place for the ever-growing local interactive industry.

This is the most appropriate year to have Lucinda Williams give the keynote address at SXSW Music and perform at the Music Festival. The lineup of panelists at the conference and performers at the clubs is extensive -- too long to go into here but check

Jack Hill has agreed to come to SXSW Film Festival for a tribute honoring his work. Director of Spider Baby, The Big Doll House, The Big Bird Cage, Foxy Brown, and Coffy, Hill is an exploitation film legend and a major influence on a couple of generations of American filmmakers. Quentin Tarantino has agreed to host the tribute; more on Hill soon.

We're especially excited because Sid Haig has agreed to come. Now, I'm willing to bet most of you have never heard of Sid Haig, although you've probably seen him on TV. Acting since the Fifties, he appeared (often as a villain or in the villain's gang) in series ranging from Mission: Impossible, Gunsmoke, Batman, and Star Trek to Charlie's Angels, Macgyver, and The Fall Guy. Haig's performances are usually a bit larger than life, especially in exploitation films where he appeared in almost all of Jack Hill's work. (More on Haig forthcoming, too. He was also in Black Mama, White Mama, Point Blank, and Emperor of the North.) Having someone like Sid Haig agree to appear for this event is an honor indeed.

Check the Chronicle and other local news media for regular SXSW updates over the next few weeks.

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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