Page Two

Page Two
Not voting can be a form of voting. It can be a comment that the voter thinks the front-runners are going to win and that's OK. Maybe they think the front-runners are going to win, but if they're beaten, there's no problem. Not voting can also indicate anything from outright apathy to ignorance. Some of the lack of excitement for this election is a direct consequence of the recent poorly conceived but successful campaign finance reform referendum. Clearly, nonvoters took the day, but what are they saying?

Inevitability, rather than complacency, is what I think drives a significant number of the no-shows. Vote liberal or vote conservative (and I realize those terms no longer have much meaning), vote green or vote development, the economy is more in control than the government. Does a person's history of voting have an impact on the society?

We should consider, then, that this election is not symbolic of apathy as much as an act of acceptance. The anti-council vote was about 12,000, the pro-council vote was about 18,000. There was a concerted effort to turn out the vote in the areas most hostile to the council and all the incumbents, still, handily, won re-election.

Austin has a 20-year record of voting for pro-environmental politicians and policies and an almost equally long record (with a long break for the bust) of consistent unrelenting growth. You just have to drive out of town 10 or 15 minutes in any direction. The debate is over. Here's the new bumper sticker: Growth Happened. The concern is what do we do next.

One of the reasons for growth is because we have fought to keep this as environmentally sensitive a community as it is. Austin is a desirable place to live. Its environmental sensibility is not a weakness, but a strength. I am sympathetic with anyone who berates the city's development process. Its goals are unarguably visionary.

No one can avoid this, as much as the discontented crowd (developers, talk-show hosts, residents of annexed areas and politicians) tries to portray the current council as crazed anti-business environmentalists. Shut up and look outside the window. Drive the streets. There is too much traffic, there is overwhelming development, there are city services issues. All of these are the consequences of growth. How to deal with this growth, which is not going to stop, control it and try to maintain the integrity of the city, should be an agenda all sides can agree on. The issue now has to be one of environmental preservation, and I would think, conservative voices would be the loudest raised in this direction.

Development downtown can implode and suburban expansion explode until Austin housing covers the city and races toward surrounding communities like an out-of-control red-hot lava flow. Against this disaster, planning is reasonable.

Does anybody looking across Lake Austin now at the glut of development on what were once green rolling hills, find the view more attractive, natural, and restful? I'm not even questioning the legitimacy of this growth. I'm saying there is out-of-control growth; to argue for unrestricted growth, as well, seems more than excessive.

In 1999 it is relatively easy to be glib about water-quality protections. In 20 years this whole area will be overdeveloped. This is going to happen. How overdeveloped, and where, is the question. What happens when a two-year drought hits? In 50 years, when San Antonio to Austin to Dallas/Fort Worth is one long suburban strip, are the current council's land purchases going to look foolish or farsighted?

The city leadership is basically arguing, let us plan this city's growth for the long-term health of the city. This is reasonable. The voters just agreed, again. Which doesn't mean we shouldn't watch this council carefully. It does mean we should move away from the old, tired characterizations and begin to move forward to a new vision of this city.

I'm not even sure where to begin with Jacob Young's documentary, Dancing Outlaw. Maybe when its subject Jesco White tap dances over a bridge holding a boom box and singing along "In order to get to heaven, you have to raise a little hell!" Jacob Young will show his work Wednesday, May 12, as part of the Texas Documentary Tour at the Alamo Drafthouse, sponsored by the Austin Film Society, UT's RTF Dept., SXSW Film, and The Austin Chronicle. Check out Anne S. Lewis' piece this issue for more on Young, and check out the show at the Alamo for something else entirely.

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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