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Cities can manage their destinies.

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To many citizens, the ways Austin has changed and is changing every day are overwhelming. Some rail against Smart Growth, as though the idea of the plan is to encourage growth, not try to control it. Others use Smart Growth as an ill-defined term designed to promote all kinds of ridiculous development. The growth has happened, is happening, and, short of a bust, will continue to happen. Endless sprawl and ever-more roadways are not solutions. Trying to promote inner-city redevelopment and controlling where the sprawl goes, all the while developing alternative means of transportation, seems only reasonable. But one friend, bitter about the way the inner city is being completely reconfigured, queried as to just what was so bad about suburban sprawl.

Sometimes it seems as though the problem is insurmountable, that we've lost Austin in the midst of this new city springing up. Usually, my feelings about this change when I go visit anyplace else. Sprawl seems a national disease, and leaving Austin always reminds me of the city's charms. Cities can manage their destiny. Although Austin has yet to get a handle on this kind of visionary planning, communities like San Diego and Portland, Ore., have. In this issue, Mike Clark-Madison explores how San Diego has managed its growth ("Bigger, Better, Smarter," p. 20). What is needed is visionary political leadership, community will, and an understanding that growth is inevitable. The idea is to not stop growth or promote it, but to try to control it so it doesn't overwhelm the city. Since neighborhoods are crucial to this kind of planning, Clark-Madison also profiles Austin's new neighborhood services office.


In the "Video Reviews" section of this issue, I wax ecstatic about writer-director Preston Sturges, as does Robert Faires (much more eloquently) in the Screens section. The Austin Film Society is presenting a seven-film retrospective of Sturges' work, beginning with his screwball classic The Lady Eve at the Texas Union Theater on Tuesday, January 18, 7pm. I think Sturges is the most underappreciated of the great American comic masters. All seven films in this series are good; arguably Sullivan's Travels (February 1) is the best of the lot, but go out of your way to catch The Palm Beach Story (February 7), Hail the Conquering Hero (February 15), and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (February 22). Palm Beach Story is still probably the most sophisticated American sex comedy ever made, and the other two films madly spin out of control at a speed unmatched by most Hollywood movies. I'll rant more on Sturges as time goes on (including my assertion that Kevin Smith is the only contemporary scriptwriter in Sturges' league), but trust me, all seven of these films are well worth seeing.


It is that time of year when we ask to hear from you about the Austin music scene. The Austin Music Poll ballot and the end-of-the-decade ballot are available in this issue. During the rest of the year, the critics, club bookers, radio deejays, and record company folks control how Austin music is presented and promoted. The Austin Chronicle Music Poll is your chance to take the wheel and tell the critics what you think. Remember, as the music fan, you are the lifeblood of the music community. Please vote. The more readers we hear from, the more accurate the poll is. You buy the CDs, you go to the clubs, you support the bands – now vote.

Also, we offer the Austin Musicians Register. If you are a performer or in a group, be sure to register. This register is distributed in the Chronicle, inserted in the bags at SXSW Music Festival, and consulted by music business folks and fans all year long. Be sure your act is included. end story

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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