A Year in the Life
TOP NINE POLITICAL SPATS
2. Bill Aleshire vs. everyone else. He may be out of office, but former County Judge Bill Aleshire made sure he didn't leave quietly. In August, during intense negotiations with the city on realigning the local EMS system, Aleshire wrote a letter to the local daily in which he called the Austin City Council a dog that is "fat and overfed." The council "dog," wrote Aleshire, is "sneaky" and "is trying to eat off other dogs' dishes." Later that same month, KVET-FM played a tape of an angry message that county clerk Dana DeBeauvoir had left on Aleshire's voice mail, and that Aleshire had forwarded to several people. DeBeauvoir, who considered herself one of Aleshire's friends, said she was "devastated" by Aleshire's distribution of the voice mail. As for Aleshire, he left office unrepentant. "I've made folks mad," he said. "I don't take pleasure in that. I do take pleasure in agitating."
3. Annexed citizens vs. City of Austin. Circle C residents, still incensed over the annexations of '97, tried to get even in '98 by drumming up opposition to the May and November bond elections. Their efforts fizzled at the polls, but they did get one like-minded fellow -- Todd Baxter -- elected to the Pct. 3 seat on the Travis County Commissioners Court, breaking the long-time Democratic stranglehold on the court. Look for more demonstrations of annexation angst during this spring's City Council elections.
4. Judge Stephen Mansfield vs. the long arm of the law. He lied about his qualifications and still won a seat on the Court of Criminal Appeals. But when Mansfield tried to scalp tickets to the UT-Texas A&M football game on Nov. 27, he got arrested. Mansfield, who earns about $110,000 for his work on the bench, was allegedly warned by a UTPD officer that he could not sell tickets on UT property. A few minutes later, when the officer saw Mansfield taking cash for two tickets from another person, Mansfield was charged with criminal trespass, a Class B misdemeanor that could send him to jail for up to six months.
5. Nolan Ryan vs. Round Rock. Providing multimillion-dollar subsidies to sports team owners takes patience and understanding. Even though Round Rock citizens voted overwhelmingly in November to provide $9 million in funding for a new baseball stadium to be occupied by a team owned by baseball legend Nolan Ryan and his son Reid, the city and the Ryans almost parted ways in early December when the Ryans found out that the city could only spend about $7.5 million of the money on actual construction. The Ryans even threatened to look for handouts from other cities, but after much talking, Round Rock Mayor Charlie Culpepper announced that the two sides had "kissed and made up." Play Ball!
6. Austin vs. FM Properties/Stratus.The battle has been ongoing for eight years and shows no sign of abating. The two sides are currently litigating over the legality of a bill passed in 1995 by the Texas Lege which allows large landowners to escape the city's water quality laws. That issue, like the legality of the Save Our Springs Ordinance before it, will be determined by the Supreme Court. The quarreling between the two sides has been expensive: By late August, the city had already spent more than $2 million on outside counsel. Expect that figure to continue rising.
7. Jim Bob Moffett vs. Gary Bradley. In early 1995, the two moguls teamed up to get several favorable laws passed by the Texas Legislature. Then it got ugly. In 1996, Moffett's local real estate company sued Bradley's company over funds collected by the municipal utility districts at Circle C Ranch. A judge sided with Moffett and finally, in February, Bradley dropped his claim to millions of dollars in utility district funds. But the two aren't through fighting. They have different interests at stake in the city's annexation of Circle C. Moffett's company, now called Stratus Properties, could learn to like annexation, since it could get over $20 million from the city to reimburse it for infrastructure already installed in the area. Meanwhile, Bradley is fighting annexation tooth and nail because he will have to comply with the S.O.S. ordinance, and unlike his former friend, he's unlikely to get even one thin dime from the city.
8. Mean-spirited rich boy vs. tireless civic activist. In early November, Austin writer Joe Nick Patoski wrote a letter to the daily calling Mike Levy, his publisher at Texas Monthly, a "mean spirited rich boy." A week or so later, Patoski recanted in a second letter to the daily, saying Levy was a "tireless civic activist."
9. Ex-Statesman reporter Michelle Kay vs. ex-Chronicle politics editor Audrey Duff. The campaign season made for high drama worthy of a Brenda Starr comic strip, with Kay and Duff, newspaper starlets in their own right, battling it out in print every day in the name of their bosses -- attorney general candidates John Cornyn and Jim Mattox, respectively. Call us biased, but we think Duff played nicer than Kay, who said really, really mean things about Duff's guy Mattox and forced Duff to go on the defensive more times than she wanted. In the end, Cornyn won, but far be it from us to predict his performance as an AG. Ah, well. All's fair in love and war.
TOP NINE MEMORABLE QUOTES
1. "Well, I haven't seen every city's coliseum, but as mayor of Austin, I've got the ugliest one." -- Mayor Kirk Watson, lobbying to bring the Ice Bats downtown as a means of sprucing up Auditorium Shores with a revamped coliseum and Palmer Auditorium.
2. "I would almost dare you to find a minimum wage employee in Austin." -- Glen Garey, Texas Restaurant Association, expressing doubt over the need for a mandatory wage increase in Austin.
3. "Jesus didn't say according to city ordinances and the health department." -- the Rev. Marvin "Bubba" Acosca, on why the city should allow his soup kitchen to remain open despite noncompliance with federal ADA laws.
4. "Bilingual education is about using a child's native language and existing skills, instead of saying, 'This five-year-old is like Wolf Boy with no language skills whatsoever.'" -- former bilingual teacher Louis Malfaro, now president of Austin Federation of Teachers, explaining the advantage of bilingual education in public schools.
5. "Good shootin', Your Holiness." -- Kurt, a Corpus Christi police officer, who befriended Mayor Kirk Watson on a Saturday night at the Ritz, where the two hit it off during a game of pool.
6. "Right now I'm poking my head back up and seeing that Austin's problems are worse than they've ever been." -- Rev. Mark Weaver, anti-gay activist, explaining his renewed interest in Austin's political scene.
7. "The citizens of Austin apparently have not had enough boondoggles." -- Vic Vreeland, an on-again, off-again City Council candidate whose campaign slogan is "Had Enough Boondoggles?"
8. "Not a day doesn't go by that I don't think, 'Gosh I'm sorry.' We still bear the burdens of the sins of our ancestors." -- Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle quoted in the Austin American-Statesman, discussing the release of the "Commitment to Racial Reconciliation," a document designed to address racism in Austin that was signed by the mayor and various local religious leaders.
9. "He wasn't unhappy with [my mom], but she thought sex was a duty. ... So he's got a woman he loves and a woman who doesn't think sex is a duty. He's got the best of both worlds." -- Sarah Scaggs, quoted in the American-Statesman after the trial of her father, Roger Scaggs, who was convicted of killing his wife, Penny.
MAYOR KIRK WATSON'S TOP NINE MIRACLES FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM
1. Paves downtown streets with gold.
2. Brokers a deal to convert Longhorn Pipeline to environmentally friendly use carrying Karo syrup; dedicates resulting "sticky springs" where pipe leaks as destination parks.
3. Moves to Cedar Avenue.
4. Presides over "guest landing" of space shuttle endeavor at Austin Bergstrom International Airport; personally distributes commemorative ear protectors to 57,000 southeast Travis County residents.
5. Builds Crosstown Expressway; "peoplemover" system carries cars high above Koenig Lane on guiderails, using technology developed at Walt Disney World.
6. Announces sister-city deal with Florence, Italy; equips new City Hall with cannons and imprisons Mike Levy in rooftop cell; relocates downtown jewelry stores to new shops on stilts over Lamar Bridge; builds "loggia" in new City Hall Plaza to house Umlauf and Elisabet Ney sculptures, along with Pottery Barn mega-store.
7. Annexes entire Colorado River Basin; builds Mark Rose Memorial Fountain in front of Hobby Building, gushing 14 million gallons of water daily.
8. Drinks a Roy Rogers while shooting pool at the Ritz; ties knot in the cherry stem with his tongue.
9. Declines to seek higher office.
TOP NINE WAYS BUSH CAN SAY "I'M REALLY NOT RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT"
1. "I have nothing to say about running for president. So what can I tell you?" -- Washington Post, Nov. 26, 1997.
2. "I think about it." -- Houston Chronicle, April 24, during a Beverly Hills visit with conservative Hollywood movie stars, producers, and writers.
3. "I've told the truth. I do not know whether or not I'm going to run for president." -- Dallas Morning News, June 19, after raising more than $1 million during a fundraiser in Washington.
4. "It's a troubling period. I think running for president is a commitment to the bubble, and I've got to make up my mind at the right time if that's what I want to do. Is this something I want to put my family through?" -- Austin American-Statesman, Sept. 16, regarding his twin daughters and the privacy of presidential candidates.
5. "I'm not sure if it's a step up or a step down to be president." -- Dallas Morning News, Oct 25, while campaigning for governor in Fort Worth.
6. "People seem to think this is a simple decision, but it's not. It's a complex decision."
-- Houston Chronicle, Nov. 4, after winning re-election to the governor's office.
7. "I've got a philosophy I think people will find attractive, but I've just got to make up my mind." -- Dallas Morning News, Nov. 19, while in New Orleans for a meeting of Republican governors.
8. "I'm not here for political purposes. I'm here to learn more not only about Israel, but about the history of my own religion. Other than that, I have no comment on this trip." -- Houston Chronicle, Nov. 30, while on a three-day trip to Israel.
9. "I'm thinking about it. I'm thinking about it a lot." -- Austin American-Statesman, Dec. 23, after Bush called to congratulate the chairman of the Iowa Republican Party on the birth of his son.