Top 9 Local Stories

Tea party protesters at the Capitol
Tea party protesters at the Capitol (Photo by Jana Birchum)

1) WET OR DRY? For it or agin' it, the 25-years-in-the-planning Water Treatment Plant No. 4 dominated city politics for several months, with City Council finally voting narrowly to move forward with the massive multiphase project. Come hell or high water – more likely both – something tells us we haven't heard the last of the local water wars.

2) TEA-BAGGED "Tea Party Patriots" opposing health care reform (etc.) disrupted town hall meetings around the nation, including Austin, where angry wingers shouted down Congressman Lloyd Doggett. YouTubing of the event and similar episodes elsewhere made national news; the tea-baggers' tactics left them looking like asses but provided Fox News the illusion of a grassroots uprising.

3) SEEKING NEW COUNCIL The biennial City Council changeover resulted in a new mix but no grand break with precedent: Mayor Lee Leffingwell joins veterans Mike Martinez, Sheryl Cole, Randi Shade, and Laura Morrison with newcomers Bill Spelman (a return trip) and Chris Riley. In a very tough budget year, Shade has emerged as a swing vote on a handful of vexing questions.

4) POLICE THE AREA The Austin Police Department garnered more than its share of headlines in 2009, centered on the clouded shooting of Nathaniel Sanders II, rumbling through the federal lawsuit over the termination of Ramon Perez, and sustained in December by the APD's response to a Department of Justice official review – Chief Art Acevedo moved to install DOJ reforms for the new year.

5) IS MUSSOLINI AVAILABLE? Hard to know where to begin summarizing the 2009 Capital Metro "story": financial desperation, labor tension, managerial chaos, board inanition, or just the perennial "rail will be here ... eventually." Now it's looking for a permanent fearless leader to make the trains run on time.

6) RACING THE RELAYS The city took a PR bruising in April when Highland Mall – already in a financial nosedive – announced it would close during the Texas Relays rather than welcome crowds of mostly African-American visitors. The NAACP and city leaders responded with a street demo and an education campaign – quickly obscured in the aftermath of the Nate Sanders shooting. The various groups insist they intend to pick up the baton for 2010.

7) BUILDING BREATHER The city's relentless growth slowed in response to what seems to be the only antidote: a nationwide recession. With a few less cranes on the skyline, City Council considered how to sustain affordable-housing initiatives amidst booming real estate prices. It's made a few baby steps, but there's much left to do.

8) TRAGIC FALL Speaking of building, in June three high-rise construction workers died when their scaffold collapsed under them. In December 2009, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ruled neglect on the part of four contractors, and the APD continues a criminal investigation. The men's legacy may be increasing vigilance on worker safety and perhaps a renewed local union movement.

9) TEXAS MUSIC MATTERS NOT KUT 90.5FM radio management cut the hours of veteran deejays and local radio legends Paul Ray and Larry Monroe, sparking a "Save KUT" movement to which the business planners largely remain deaf, insisting they're focused on the long-term future of the station. A future that apparently doesn't include the folks who over many years made the station and its locally steeped sound. Ostensibly about music, money, and planning, it was also a story about lifelong loyal staffers thrown away like worn-out transmitters.

Honorable Mention: ARA BLUES REVIEW The Austin Revitalization Authority has come under steady criticism over the years for accomplishing too little Eastside redevelopment with city resources, and a city audit this year formalized that judgment, albeit without a resolution. The city manager's office said it is "not advisable to continue the relationship as currently structured nor to bring to close our partnership." Meanwhile, longtime President Byron Marshall debarked for Richmond, Va., and what the refigured "partnership" should look like is yet to be determined; City Council should decide on that sometime in the next few months.

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 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.

Support the Chronicle  

More Water Treatment Plant No. 4
WTP4: What's $15 Million Among Friends?
WTP4: What's $15 Million Among Friends?
One expects Council will be more vigilant the next time around

Mike Kanin, Dec. 14, 2012

WTP4: Running on Overruns?
WTP4: Running on Overruns?
Austin Water wants more money for WTP4

Mike Kanin, Oct. 19, 2012

More Austin Water Utility
Austin Water Woes
Austin Water Woes
Residents see steep water bill hikes

Chase Hoffberger, Sept. 11, 2015

Pressure Rising at the Water Utility
Pressure Rising at the Water Utility
One manager forced out, another accused of harassment ... who's watching the valves?

Wells Dunbar, May 7, 2010

More by Michael King
Point Austin: The Never-Ending Story
Point Austin: The Never-Ending Story
Millions of guns, and countless murders

Feb. 20, 2024

Paxton’s Impeachment Circus Continues Into 2024
Paxton’s Impeachment Circus Continues Into 2024
Dan Patrick’s denunciation of the House decision to impeach confirms entire trial was tilted in Paxton’s favor

Dec. 15, 2023

More by Lee Nichols
From the Music Desk
From the Music Desk
On Willie, Billy, Stevie Ray, Blaze, and more highlights from four decades of covering Austin music

Sept. 3, 2021

Game Changer
Game Changer
A new football culture for Austin bars

Oct. 23, 2015

More by Richard Whittaker
It's a Family Affair for the Hurleys in <i>Strictly Confidential</i>
It's a Family Affair for the Hurleys in Strictly Confidential
How Elizabeth tried (and failed) to keep son Damian out of the film biz

April 12, 2024

Paramount Theatre Announces <i>Star Wars</i>, <i>Pink Flamingos</i>, <i>Sin City</i> for Summer Classics Film Series
Paramount Theatre Announces Star Wars, Pink Flamingos, Sin City for Summer Classics Film Series
Plus Robert Rodriguez gets his star on Congress Avenue

April 11, 2024


Water Treatment Plant No. 4, Austin Water Utility, Tea party patriots, health care reform, City Council, Lee Leffingwell, Austin Police Department, Nathaniel Sanders II, Art Acevedo, Highland Mall, affordable housing, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 21 Rio, KUT, Paul Ray, Larry Monroe, Austin Revitalization Authority, Capital Metro, MetroRail, Top 10s

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle