The Austin Chronicle

Living La Vida Local

By Amy Smith, May 21, 2010, News

Liveable City, the local nonprofit that advocates for quality-of-life issues, last week handed out its 2010 Vision Awards to those who do their part to make Austin a better place to live, work, and play. The May 12 celebration, held at the Mexican Ameri­can Cultural Center, marks the group's seventh annual presentation of the awards.

This year's event carried a couple of new twists: The LC board chucked its usual method of selecting the winners outright and instead asked members to nominate individuals or organizations for the awards. The board then whittled down the nominees to winners who fit the "E" profile in five categories – from "Economy" to "Esthetics" (opting for an alternative spelling of aesthetics). They also added a surprise category this year with a special award to Council Member Laura Morrison for increasing the level of public participation at City Hall, according to LC board Chair Brian Donovan. Morrison originally had been nominated in one of the five categories, Donovan said, but the board decided instead to add a surprise-award element to the evening's bill. Morrison, a former president of the Austin Neighborhoods Council, typically votes on the side of neighborhoods and community activists.

And now for the Vision Award winners in their respective "E" categories:

• Economy: The Austin Independent Business Alliance, for its work championing locally owned businesses through advocacy and training.

• Engagement: Franklin Gardens and the Chestnut Neighborhood Revitalization Corporation, for helping to tackle the ramifications of gentrification in East Austin, where older residents are being priced out of their neighborhood. Franklin Gardens, a rental home complex for seniors, is drawing on public funds to get off the ground at East Martin Luther King and E.M. Franklin. Local treasure Edna Rhambo accepted the award and also turned out to be a big hit with the LC crowd.

• Environment: Sustainable Food Center, for helping promote good eatin' while spreading the "grow local" word through farmers' markets and outreach programs to low-income residents.

• Equity: TexHealth Central Texas, for providing low-cost health coverage for businesses in Travis, Williamson, and Hays counties and offering grants to help cover health care costs for lower-wage workers.

• Esthetics: SunFlowers – An Electric Garden by artists Mags Harries and Lajos Heder, for adding a touch of eye-pleasing, solar-powered dazzle to what otherwise would have been a drab space between the I-35 access road and the back of a big-box store. The installation, which involved the cooperation of several public and private entities, is part of the residential and commercial redevelopment at the site of the old Mueller airport.

For more about Liveable City and the award winners, go to

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