So Long to My Other Brother Daryl
Slusher remembers Janes
My friend and former journalism partner Daryl Janes passed away on May 30. He was 65.
Daryl and I were partners from 1985 to 1987 in publishing The Daryl Herald, a political newsletter focusing on city government. The setting was boomtown Austin of the mid-1980s. Daryl and I had arrived in the Seventies and were fond of the town we found then, not the one envisioned by boosters and developers. The neighborhood or progressive forces, as they were often labeled then, had just triumphed in the City Council elections led by Frank Cooksey winning the mayor's seat.
Daryl and I were both active members of the winning coalition. Daryl then came up with the idea that he and I should start a newsletter that covered city government with particular emphasis on how the new council delivered on its election commitments. Daryl described his view of government in the first issue: "Government is a little like a two year old if you don't keep an eye on it, it'll wander off where it should not, hide things from you, and be generally uncooperative."
The journalistic philosophy at the Herald was to be tough but fair and to scrutinize government and players in government, no matter whether their views comported with ours or not. We scrutinized the media as well, with the Austin American-Statesman as our most frequent object of scrutiny.
Daryl's biting wit and sarcasm made his reporting both informative and entertaining. One of his most devastating talents was for bestowing nicknames (sometimes cruel ones that we won't dredge up here). For example, in Daryl's coverage of Austin's growth battles, the Austin Chamber of Commerce was the "Chamber of Concrete," and their arch enemies were the "Granola Patrol." Daryl lambasted the American-Statesman for its "idiotorials." The South Texas Project got so far behind schedule that he accurately dubbed it the "South Texas Nuclear Teenager."
Daryl questioned city spending on a wide array of topics, harped on Austin's bond debt, frequently quoted the City Charter to those charged with honoring it, and repeatedly reported on the tax and utility-rate burden of small businesses. He took up for average citizens ensnared in regulatory quagmires, like a duplex owner trying futilely to get a separate water meter, whom Janes described as finding himself "stranded on a median during the rush hour traffic of public policy gone berserk."
Daryl was also a master of one-liner quips, like his take on immigration: "Mexican, sí. Yankee, no." He also combined part of that sentiment with frequent complaining about his allergies: "Yankee go home and take a cedar tree with you." He was no more fond of new arrivals from the West Coast states, especially "Californicators," a term he probably didn't coin but sure used a lot.
We split up the Herald in 1987 and went in different directions. In recent years we'd catch up when we ran into each other at Threadgill's or the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. We generally didn't delve into politics during those discussions. Daryl worked for Jim Mattox at the Attorney General's Office and then in his campaign for governor. After that he went to Kountze in Southeast Texas, where he published and edited the Kountze News for a little more than a year. Then he came back to Austin, worked for the Austin Business Journal, then for Carole Strayhorn at the Texas Comptroller's Office, where he was still employed when he died.
Harvey Kronberg, editor of the Quorum Report, knew Daryl better than I in recent years. He called Daryl a "populist," which is consistent with Daryl's own description of himself as an "ill-tempered, free-enterprise" populist. Kronberg also noted in a Quorum Report tribute, "His view was equally jaundiced, whether it was labor or capital under his microscope." That was the Daryl I knew.
In addition to co-publishing The Daryl Herald, Daryl Slusher covered city politics for The Austin Chronicle in the late Eighties and early Nineties and served three terms on the Austin City Council, 1996-2005. He is currently the assistant director of environmental affairs and conservation for the Austin Water Utility.