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Gus Garcia is not simply the best choice for mayor on this slate but the best choice for mayor, regardless; Austin needs roads, but the road propositions that go before the electorate Tuesday are bad politics; the war in Afghanistan is a terrible misstep that played into the terrorists' hands and will have devastating consequences for our community; the Chronicle co-sponsored "Eat Drink Watch Movies" series starts Thursday.

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Tuesday, Nov. 6, is Election Day, when voters will be asked to pick the next mayor and vote on bond propositions and on state constitutional amendments. The turnout is expected to be pathetic. I've been hearing that well under 10% of registered voters are expected to have voted by the time the election is over.

It is assumed that Gus Garcia will win the mayor's race. He is the only candidate to run a highly visible campaign and has the most name recognition. What Eric Mitchell is up to is anybody's guess. His non-campaign is classic Mitchell. He does like to screw with the establishment, and he's seriously talented at doing it. The question is, which establishment? Maybe his supporters are hoping that, with a very small turnout and the bonds mobilizing the environmentalists-have-gotten-us-into-this-traffic-mess vote, there might be a possible upset, or at least a chance at a runoff.

Gus Garcia is not simply the best choice for mayor on this slate but the best choice for mayor, regardless. The next couple of years are going to be very tough. How tough is still anybody's guess. As a leader, Gus will bring the city together. His civic vision is deeply rooted in neighborhoods and the integrity of Austin. He is also a skilled and wise politician who should never be underestimated.

The Chronicle endorsed one of the Travis County bond propositions (County Parks Project, Prop. 2) and offered a thumbs-down on the three road projects (Local Roads Drainage, etc., Prop 1; SH 45 North and FM 1826, Prop. 3; and SH 130, Prop 4). Since so few of you are planning to vote, I imagine most of you stopped reading before you even hit the end of the endorsements, but if you kept on, you saw I abstained from the bond endorsements. I'm not in favor of them. Prop. 1 and 3 bundle almost non-controversial road repairs and projects with environmentally questionable ones. This is bad politics. The SH 130 proposition I'm more noncommittal on. I think the road is positioned in a variety of ways, some clearly contradictory: as a bypass, as an artery to direct development, etc.

But the reason I abstained is because I thought the tone of our endorsement was totally anti-road. The Chronicle editorial staff will tell you that they could be in favor of a road project, which I believe. I also believe the immaculate conception had fewer conditions. I am in favor of roads. I am in favor of SH 130. The chicken-and-egg argument is: Should roads drive development or follow it? Do roads bring growth? Look around: There is sprawling growth in all directions, without an adequate roadway system to support it. The growth came without the roads. Roads should be used to direct growth to the less environmentally sensitive areas, where it is desired.

But vote no on these propositions. Why? Because they are bad politics. More important, I'm afraid that the only relatively quick antidote to congestion is about to hit hard. Nothing reverses growth like a recession. Now is a great time to courageously turn down these road bills. The required repairs will be back soon, the questionable projects will be slowed, and traffic may well be improved organically. Truthfully, I'm not sure how I'm going to vote on SH 130.

That being said, it's time to address the commonly spouted fiction that the environmentalists got us into the city's mess by misfocusing the attention of the council. Nonsense -- the environmental community was screaming about the consequences of unrestrained growth: too much traffic, the infrastructure overwhelmed, the city's identity challenged. Now many of the same folks who supported unrestrained growth, rather than accept the consequence of their actions, blame the environmental community.


I'm feeling sick to my stomach about the war. Not because I'm morally opposed to it, but because I think it is a terrible misstep that played into the terrorists' hands and will have devastating consequences for our community. Instead of stopping terrorists, I think it will encourage them. More and more it looks like we went in with fancifully high expectations. Having to reevaluate so dramatically, so early in a campaign, is unnerving. I hope I am wrong.

I'm not saying this in an unpatriotic way, but as a citizen worried about my government.


Right now! call 454-5766 and make a reservation for "Eat Drink Watch Movies." This is the incredible pairing of film with restaurants' evening dinner planned by Chronicle Cuisines Editor Virginia B. Wood with the Alamo Drafthouse and restaurant folks. The series starts tonight (Thursday), and there will be only a very limited number of tickets available each night at the door. So make sure you get in -- call in your reservation now.


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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

2001 elections, Austin mayor, Gus Garcia, endorsements, voter turnout, Eric Mitchell, Travis County bond propositions, Country Parks Project, Proposition 2, Local Roads Drainage, Proposition 1, SH 45 North, FM 1826, Proposition 3, SH 130, Proposition 4, bond endorsements

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