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The mayoral race is on, with and without some usual suspects.

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Let the games begin. Gus Garcia has decided not to run for re-election, though he almost certainly would have won. Garcia has been involved in city government for a long time and is ready to call it a day. Given Garcia's lengthy tenure in city government and the many different crises the city is facing, his decision wasn't really a surprise. We salute Gus and thank him for his service to the city.

The next mayor will be plunged into the fire without even getting a brief stop on the frying pan. City elections always have long-term consequences, but this one will be unusually important. A good mayor will plan for the future and not just put out fires in the present. Planning while dealing with budget deficits is almost impossible, but the lack of vision is why this city is facing so many problems. We can't wait until later to begin planning for it, or we'll end up right where we are. Now we have to face the present and begin building structures that will support the future.

It seems that, outside of politics, Max Nofziger just can't think of anything else to do with his life. Once again, he's running for office. Max's finest moment is still his first electoral victory, where the people's candidate trumped the system. In three terms on the council, he made little mark. Having achieved his fame and position running as a "non-politician," has he done anything since leaving office that wasn't essentially some kind of politics (police liaison, helping to defeat light rail)? In fact, has Max ever had a real job? As a council member, Max voted for city bicycle lane funds to be used to build Gary Bradley's Veloway and, as just mentioned, campaigned against light rail. Now that's a visionary!

Robin Rather is not running. Rather has been really impressive in action and in word. We sincerely hope she continues to take such an active, intelligent interest in city politics.

Will Wynn has announced his run. This comes as no surprise to anyone observing the Austin political scene. (I know, like, and have worked with Will. Which means I may recuse myself on the endorsement vote, but not in this column.) Before offering any substantive comments, let's give it a couple of weeks and see who else might announce.

The most apparent thing about this race so far is how disastrous the effects of the $100 campaign contribution limit have been. During the campaign, we referred to it as the incumbents' full employment act, and that has certainly turned out to be the case. Most so-called campaign reform is anti-democratic legislating by reformers who don't trust voters. Term limits and campaign contribution limits don't level the playing field; they tear it up. Electoral politics are artificially constrained by them, but the real tragedy is their negative impact on good government.

Lest the smoke being blown by Republican spinmeisters gets in anyone's eyes, this Trent Lott thing is pretty simple. Whether what he said is worth a big blowup or not, the bottom line is that George Bush and Karl Rove orchestrated his ouster, not because they give a damn about civil rights, but exactly the opposite. Here is a record -- or one should say, not a record -- that the Republicans would much rather not be explored. There was a hysterical Wall Street Journal editorial arguing that the Republicans didn't really have a position on race and that it was the Democrats always playing the race card. Remember the love that dare not speak its name? The Republicans have a very strong position on race, only they cleverly never say it out loud. A few minority faces in the administration to the contrary, the party of Lincoln is uninterested in either civil or minority rights. The Bush gang was getting ready to weigh in against diversity as a consideration for college admission in the case currently before the Supreme Court. Now they either have to keep quiet or weigh in on the other side. They must be furious with Trent Lott.

One last note on this: The argument about diversity always centers around admitting minorities. College is not just about information; it is about learning to learn, to interact with others, and to be broadly socialized. The more diverse a college community, the richer the college experience for everyone.

It was years after I first got to know Doug the Slug that I discovered his name was Charles Gunning. Doug looked like a B-movie villain naturally, and when he really got going he was scary. A promoter, an actor, a clubgoer, Doug was all over the scene for years. When he got more serious about acting, he appeared in a number of Richard Linklater's films and the Coen Brothers' Miller's Crossing, as well as other films, TV movies, and commercials. We knew each other to nod and briefly chat for years. At some point, he began to work for SXSW during the Music Festival. We got to spend a lot of time together. He was a completely original character who lived by his own rules and usually seemed to be enjoying the hell out of life.

The classic Doug the Slug story, among the hundreds that exist, happened during SXSW Music one year. Doug was out with Managing Director Roland Swenson. Outside of Emo's, they saw a fan throw a can of beer at a girl's head. Doug grabbed the guy in a headlock and began bashing his head against a fence. The guy looked up at Doug. "Hey, you were in Slacker," he said, adding "You had all the good lines." Charles Gunning died last week. He will be missed.

It's been a great year for us here at the Chronicle, and, we hope, for you, the readers, as well. Personally, we've never had a staff I was so consistently proud of, as well as beaming over their work. If I get started mentioning standouts, I'll go through too much of the staff. We wish you and yours the happiest of holidays. This is our last issue of 2002. See you next week in 2003. 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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Gus Garcia, Austin mayor, Austin mayoral election, Austin City Council, Austin city elections, Austin city planning, Max Nofziger, light rail, Austin police liason, Gary Bradley, Austin Veloway, Robin Rather, Will Wynn, Austin politics, Austin campaign contribution lim

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