The Austin Chronicle

Top 10 City Council Moments

January 6, 2006, News

1) Jennifer Gale and Pat Johnson: Meet the good-cop/bad-cop of citizens communications. Anybody can sign up to address council, but could anyone but Gale so cheerily charge half of them with being illegally elected, then burst into a heartwarming holiday sing-along? We still get misty-eyed remembering her autumnal declaration, "It's Halloween – and even the pumpkins are burnt orange!" The more substantive Johnson's public-safety-related harangues rattle the dais. These two make the most of their appointed three minutes – into what feels like so many, many more.

NAACP President Nelson Linder
photo by John Anderson

2) Full Nelson: Austin's treatment of African-American citizens produced no better orator than local NAACP President Nelson Linder, who discussed the city's Quality of Life program: "What we're talking about didn't come from Mars, they were based on practices by public officials right here in the city of Austin for years and years and years that weren't fully addressed." Of a proposed APD policy of "disablement, not deadly force," Linder noted bluntly, "It's not really a new policy – because in reality, white folks already have it."

3) We Don't Recall: Waging war on TxDOT's burgeoning toll roads, Sal Costello's Austin Toll Party promised to rain terror on "pro-toll" council members with a recall campaign. The ATP's noisy efforts to unseat Mayor Will Wynn and a moving target of council members went down in flames – but not before embarrassing Wynn's aide Matt Curtis over a public face-down with a recall petitioner.

4) Benedict Poaches Council's Eggs: After his failed Place 4 bid, Libertarian Wes Benedict spent the remainder of '05 documenting that all of council (save Danny Thomas) apparently violated election law by accepting more than allowable out-of-town funds – in some cases, by tens of thousands of dollars. Official reaction has been a collective shrug – wait until next year?

5) The Enemy of My Enemy Is My ... Enemy?: The biggest (non) story of the year – the Ku Klux Klowns come to town, to support gay-bashing Proposition 2 – galvanized council members to declare a "day of tolerance." Members took turns denouncing the Klan and Prop. 2 – all except the Rev. Mayor Pro Tem Danny Thomas (who supported Prop. 2). "Texans have the chance to decide if they're on the side of freedom, or they're on the side of the Ku Klux Klan," declared Brewster McCracken (adding safely, "I'm on the side of freedom"). Thomas, council's lone African-American, grumped, "I thought this press conference was about the Klan using our plaza."

6) Where's My Cock's Comb?: Shortly after taking her Place 3 seat, rookie member Jennifer Kim informed the bulk of predecessor Jackie Goodman's board and commission appointees that they needed to reapply or be canned – then Kim discovered she didn't have the authority to replace them. Aide Amy Everhart told In Fact Daily that Kim relented in order not to "ruffle so many feathers" – seems the henhouse was already in full squawk.

7) Squatting on the Yellow Brick Road: For sheer spectacle, we can't top House-the-Homeless prez Richard Troxell's Over-the-Rainbow Freakout. Speaking against since-adopted ordinances prohibiting panhandling, sitting, and sleeping outside, Troxell, aka the "Wizard of Austinville," woke a late-night council by leading a wannabe Lion, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and misplaced Dorothy around chambers, ultimately presenting "moral compasses" to the perplexed council members.

8) Goodbye to Alice: Following the spring departures of Daryl Slusher and Jackie Goodman – two figures long instrumental in forging Austin's current community values – at year's end, Alice Glasco stepped down as director of Austin's Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department. The city's servant for 23 years, Glasco's poise and patience guided council through interminably long zoning meetings – her final session comprising a record 53 cases.

9) Wynning Style: Will Wynn is like, totally extreme, but not in your typical, Mountain Dew-mainlining way – he's multifaceted. For every badass plunge from a bridge, or skatepark dedication, there's something like November's Threads fashion show, where (accompanied by City Manager Toby Futrell) he shook his distinguished booty on the catwalk to benefit the Red Cross. When term limits kick in, can Victoria's Secret be far behind?

10) Rebuild, revitalize ... retail?: The item on everybody's mind this year – juicing Downtown for all it's worth – stooped to a dubious nadir in an October presentation on Downtown retail, replete with several "psychographic profiles." We learned that "Metro renters" splurge on "ski and workout clothes [and] designer jeans," while "metropolitans" "buy organic," probably to keep up with their "civically involved, active city lifestyles." Don't get us started on the well-educated, high-income "young and restless."

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