Austin Dispatches
No. 80
June 21, 2005
In an outfit the red of Communist flags, Jennifer Kim took her oath of office the evening of June 20, a day before the official onslaught of summer.1  The swearing-in ceremony occurred at the new, $57 million ski lodge that is Austin’s City Hall.2 

The 32-year-old businesswoman and former federal bureaucrat won the Place 3 City Council seat in a runoff election June 11. With a voter turnout of 9 percent, Kim’s was an upset victory against Margot Clarke, 55, an activist of and for the local ruling coalition and the front runner in the May 7 municipal elections.3 

Kim’s victory that night was a moment of personal triumph. It could also be the beginning of her downfall.

For simply by winning the election, Kim accomplished all many of her runoff supporters intended.4  And yet for her, that victory may be Pyrrhic.

A Clarke defeat isn't just a condign Clarke defeat. It's yet another setback for the ruling coalition.5  Clarke belongs to an older cohort of statists, supported by federal largess, which usurped power in Austin in the early '70s, to everyone else's detriment.6  The barriers to opportunity that ruling coalition has assembled make it more difficult for people like me to find local work.  That coalition came close to losing power during the late '90s boom. The recession was the lucky break, and the coalition’s members have been working to ensure prosperity never threatens them again.7

In other words, it’s them or us.8

Cumulatively, enough setbacks will weaken and ultimately break their spirits – see Shrimp Louis Black's babblings in the Chronicle for weekly examples – and ultimately, their hold on power.9

(I encountered Clarke on June 4. She was on the hustings in The Victory Grill, with that vacant expression on her face, while guffawing at anything anyone said that might be vaguely construed as humorous. She gave me that cult stare of hers and asked if I knew about the runoff.

“Yes, I know about the runoff and I know who you are,” I said. I used a tone of voice intended to convey I’m on to your little scheme, missy, so don’t be coming ‘round expecting something from me. It must’ve worked: she scurried away.

Although to be fair, she had the good sense to hustle for votes between sets.10  Otherwise, irate jazz fans might’ve slapped her around like one of Miles Davis’ girlfriends during his late ‘70s retirement.11

This is the sort of thing we libertarians have in mind when we decry the intrusion of politics in every aspect of life. A man can't even enjoy a night of dissonant music without some managerial-state apparatchik pestering him.)12 

Kim also belongs to the ruling coalition, but only ideologically.13  To get where she is now, she knocked off an insider, with the help of Republican suburbanites and taxpayer groups.14  (Alternately, they used Kim to knock off Clarke.) Read between the lines of the establishment’s post-election commentary, and it becomes clear Clarke’s friends will shun Kim. That is, if they’re not planning a vendetta. And again, because Kim’s views are so similar to Clarke’s, she’s likely unable to turn to her newest supporters for continued support. In other words, she’s unlikely to be trusted by either side.15  Her pro-business agenda will probably be thwarted. 

However, if she figures this out, it may rouse her to cause even more trouble for the ruling coalition, which is displaying ever-deeper fissures.16

At its June 6 meeting, the Transportation Policy Board of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization voted to go ahead with installing toll roads on pre-existing freeways, overwhelming public input to the contrary be damned.17 The environmentalists and many Democrats are irked enough at their own representatives on the board to do something about it. One angry letter writer even compared several Democratic board members to ... Dubya.18 

Meanwhile, the eastside blacks, a significant segment of support for the ruling coalition, are restive again. City officials, from officers on patrol to the City Council, have managed to ineptly offend them since the Midtown Live nightclub burned.19  The fire’s aftermath illuminated black dissatisfaction with the opportunities and quality of life in Austin, thereby fueling “black flight.”20  Moreover, between them, the Austin Police Department and the Travis County Sheriff’s Office have shot dead 12 unarmed eastside residents in the past two years.21 

(In a different but related vein, I'm getting a sense from reading the local papers, particularly the Chronicle, that the APD is a pustule of multiple scandals waiting to erupt. I still have this sense even after discounting for the media sources.)22 

They’re half right. Their mistake is in looking to government to help their plight.23 And they’re not the only ones ill-served by the crowd in charge.

The Bigger View

Those are just the local problems. The status quo displays fissures beyond the county line. For example, the Associated Press reports an economic funk is lifting.24 Again? This is the second time in two years we’ve had reports of one nation stuck in a rut.25  We’re in this funky situation because the people in charge perpetuate the same funky practices that got us into this funk in the first place.26  It adds to the obstacles the local power elite erects to make it more difficult for people like me to find work. Funk that.

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn is challenging Gov. Rick Perry for next year’s Republican gubernatorial nomination.27 Apparently, the Texas GOP has been ensconced in power long enough for public  factional infighting and ego clashes. Much like what happened to the Democrats in the ‘70s that helped the Republicans regain the Governor’s Mansion for the first time since Reconstruction.28

Elsewhere, some dinosaur pinko writing for Arthur Magazine has decided the centralized Leviathan state, which he and his ilk succored, isn’t such a good idea when Republicans run it. So he’s touting secession in general, and in particular for Vermont, which used to be an independent republic founded by Ethan Allen, an insubordinate, gun-toting, backwoods atheist who somehow has become respectable enough to use in selling chain-store furniture.29 (Then again, I once saw an MCI TV ad that used the dead anarchist Emma Goldman to sell phone service. That’s an even better fate for her than being deported before she got her hands on some box cutters.)30

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch …

The Austin chapter of the Society for Technical Communication appointed me chairman of the Independent Contractors and Freelancers Special Interest Group at its May 24 meeting. I’m not even a member of STC. But it looks good on a resume.

The clothes industry continues to vex me. I’ve had my style figured out for a long time, but manifesting this look is hindered by the vicissitudes of money and the caprices of manufacturers.  Take shoes, for example. I’ve been wearing a particular style of basic walking shoe, a black Rockport model, for about seven years.31  These shoes are comfortable. They also suit my esthetics: Among other considerations, they don’t resemble clown shoes, unlike so many models these days. Recently, the soles of the latest pair wore out and I sought replacements. Except this particular model has been discontinued. Fortunately, Shoe Carnival obtained a pair in stock from Waco. But what I am going to do when that pair wears out and I have to find a new model that doesn’t make me cringe? This sort of thing happens far too often. I’m increasingly tempted to seek a tailor and a cobbler whose taste and discernment match mine.

e80fig2 Speaking of apparel, the June 9 XLent has a cover story on the “hip” aspects of Georgetown, with a cover photo of the writer. I want to know when it became hip to dress like a dork.32  Specifically, when did it become hip to wear the kind of porkpie hat associated with football coaches in the Deep South in the early ‘60s?33  They could pull off that look. This guy can’t.

Lately, most of my excursions have been free and easy. At least, easy when I wasn’t dodging every middle-age out-of-towner who thinks he can weave in and out ofe80fig3 rush-hour traffic on a motorcycle for the Republic of Texas Biker Rally. Go home, idiots.34

The highlights:

May 28: At a salsa dance at The Copa, dominated by a bachelorette party, a dance partner told me she’d recently been abroad.

“Really? I never would’ve guessed,” I said, waggling my eyebrows. That line turned out to be an effective icebreaker, once she figured it out.35 

June 2: I went to the grand opening of NEST, a furniture store on West Sixth Street, mostly for the free hors d’oeuvres and booze. I watched middle-age women shuck their snakeskin-pattern platform sandals and purr as they rubbed their feet across an early ‘70s-style shag carpet the hue of a broccoli soufflé, priced at four figures.

Then I went to Book People and got some free barbecue chicken upstairs from two women promoting their barbecue book.36 

The next night, I attended the grand re-opening of Footworks Dance Studio, which relocated from Oak Hill to 501 W. Third St. I walked in and one of the instructors scolded me for blowing off dance lessons I signed up for. It turned out she thought I was someone else. Owner Stacey Houston was her usual vivacious self.37 After a turn on the floor, she said my dancing had noticeably improved since our last encounter.

Cultural Canapés

I think my sense of humor is hindering my success in life. When I invent ridiculous items for Austin Dispatches, I treat them as the jokes they are. Meanwhile, Sideshow Collectibles has produced a talking Scarface doll.38 

The Voyager 1 space probe has entered interstellar space, decades after Sun Ra and John Coltrane.39

Neighborhood News

Solectron Corp. is moving into Metric Center.40  Hill Partners bought Building A at the Braker Center.41  The politician the J.J. Pickle Research Campus is named after, a protégé of the slimy Lyndon Johnson, finally died.42  The new owner of the former J.C. Penny call center on Running Bird Lane plans to upgrade the place for either another call center or a medical clinic.43

E-mail: austindispatches@swbell.net Home    Archives   

1 Lee, Adrienne. “Council Members Take Office.” DT June 21, 2005: 1-2A; Stanley, Dick. “In Store: A Sweaty Summer.” AAS 20 June 2005: B1+.
2 AD No. 75n32 (Dec. 5, 2004).
3 AD No. 79n15 (May 22, 2005); Clark-Madison, Mike. “Revenge of the Doughnuts!” AC 17 June 2005: 20; Coppola, Sarah. “Newcomer Kim Wins Seat.” AAS 12 June 2005: A1+; Eisler, Dan. Regime Change: A Strategy for Libertarian Victory and Dominance in Travis County. Privately circulated mss., Nov. 2002: 5-6; Herrera, Leonard R. “Jennifer Kim Wins Council Runoff.” Nokoa 16 June 2005: 2; “Kim Wins City Council Place 3 Run-Off.” The Villager 17 June 2005: 1; Lee. “Underdog Kim Received Less Votes Than Clarke in May 7 Election, Will Fill Goodman’s Place 3 Seat.” DT 13 June 2005: 1-2A; Nichols, Lee. “Pro-Kim/Anti-Clarke Crowd Celebrates.” AC 17 June 2005: 20-21; Smith, Cheryl. “New Trumps Old in Run-Off.” Idem., 21.
4 Levy, Michael R. Open letter to Austin voters, 27 May 2005.
5 Hsu, Kristi. “Clarke’s Supporters, Surprised by Two-Time Candidate’s Defeat, Cite Low Turnout, Use of Negative Ads.” DT 13 June 2005: 1-2A.
6 Orum, Anthony M. Power, Money and the People: The Making of Modern Austin, 1st ed. Austin, Texas: Texas Monthly Press, 1987: 145-167, 172, 205-225, 267-305; No Apologies: Texas Radicals Celebrate the ‘60s. Ed. Daryl Janes. Austin, Texas: Eakin Press, 1992: passim.; Richards, David. Once Upon a Time in Texas: A Liberal in the Lone Star State. Austin, Texas: U of Texas P, 2002: Ch. 15; Strauss, William, and Neil Howe. Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584-2069. New York City: William Morrow, 1991: Ch. 2.
7 AD No. 26 (Apr. 27, 2001); AD No. 38n3 (July 7, 2002).
8 Zappa, Frank. Them or Us. Barking Pumpkin SVBO-74200, 1984.
9 AD No. 46 (Feb. 10, 2003); AD No. 48n48 (Mar. 10, 2003); AD No. 76n41 (Jan. 17, 2005); Rodgers, Rick. Simply Shrimp: 101 Recipes for Everybody’s Favorite Seafood. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1998: 12; Singleton, Robert. “Modest Suggestions on How to Repair Council Campaigns.” TGL June 2005: 19.
10 “Roadshows.” AC 3 June 2005: 102.
11 Szwed, John F. So What: The Life of Miles Davis. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 2003: 246-248.
12 Gottfried, Paul Edward. After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 1999.
13 AD No. 79n15, op. cit.
14 Coppola. “How Kim Turned Tide in Runoff for Council.” AAS 15 June 2005: B1+; Nichols, op. cit.
    In the June 24 Austin Chronicle (p. 10), Republican attorney Marc A. Levin wrote: “…Also in saying ‘we pulled her over the line,’ I did not necessarily just mean Republicans, although I think the results in different parts of the city show that the support of Republican activists may well have been a necessary though not sufficient condition.
    “I think an even broader center-right coalition was mobilized, including, for example, real estate agents who were offended by Clarke’s attacks and young professionals who tend to be conservative on economic issues though their views may vary on social issues…”
15 Eisler. “The Best of a Bad Lot.” E-mail to TCLPActive, 20 Mar. 2005.
16 Eisler, Regime Change, op. cit.
17 AD No. 76; May, Vincent J. “Urgent.” E-mail to TCLPActive, 8 June 2005; Wear, Ben. “Toll Roads Stay in Area Transit Plan.” AAS 7 June 2005: B1+.
18 Angello, Giovanni. “Doesn’t Like Toll Roads.” Letter. AC 17 June 2005: 10.
19 Hardin, George E. “Town Hall Talks Gather Ideas for City Council.” The Villager 17 June 2005: 1+; Jones, Carolyn. “ ‘Just for Us’ Explores African American Issues.” Nokoa 16 June 2005: 1; King, Michael. “Doing the Right Thing.” AC 3 June 2005: 24; Oppel, Rich. “To Improve Life for Blacks, Austin Must Look Beyond Nightclubs.” AAS 12 June 2005: H3.
20 Jordan, Andy. ”Do East Austin Changes Benefit the Residents?” AS 9 June 2005: A3; Oppel, op. cit.
21 Evans, Akwasi. “Police Paranoia.” Nokoa 16 June 2005: 1+; Herrera. “Communities of Color Protest Police Killing of Daniel Rocha.” Idem.
22 Eisler. “Oh the Doo-Dah Day and the Thin Blue Grime.” E-mail to TCLPActive, 29 Jan. 2005.
23 Williams, Walter E. The State Against Blacks. New York City: New Press, 1982.
24 AD No. 54n4 (Aug. 22, 2003); Aversa, Jeanne. AP. “Economy Snapping Out of Funk.” AAS 27 May 2005: C1+.
25 AD No. 54n4, op. cit.; Funkadelic. “One Nation Under a Groove.” 1977. The Complete Recordings 1976-81. Charly 23, 2000.
26 Bonner, William, and Addison Wiggin. Financial Reckoning Day: Surviving the Soft Depression of the 21st Century. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2003; “Funky Situation.” Commodores. Motown 884, 1977.
27 Delahoussaye, Marie. “Ending Speculation, Strayhorn Says She’ll Take on Perry in ’06.” DT 20 June 2005: 1-2A; Selby, W. Gardner. “Strayhorn Talks Tough in Taking on Perry.” AAS 19 June 2005: A1+.
28 Barta, Carolyn. Bill Clements: Texian to His Toenails. Austin, Texas: Eakin Press, 1996: 198-212; Zelade, Richard. Austin, rev. 4th ed. Houston: Gulf Coast Pub. Co, 1996: 112-113.
29 “Allen, Ethan.” Encyclopedia Americana, intl. ed. Danbury, Conn.: Grolier, 2002: I, 590; Lloyd, Mary Ellen. “Ethan Allen Awaits ‘No-Sale’ Payoff.” WSJ 13 Apr. 2005, Eastern ed.: B9; Wilson, Peter Lamborn. “Freedom Now Maybe.” Arthur May 2005: 4+.
30 AD No. 31 (Nov. 17, 2001); Reds. Barclays Mercantile Industrial Finance/JRS/Paramount Pictures, 1981; Tuchman, Barbara W. The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914. 1966. Rpt. New York City: Ballentine Books, 1994: 81-83.
31 Ebenkamp, Becky. “Rockport Aims Wider.” Brandweek 22 June 1998: 9.
32 Dietz, Dan. “Hip to be Square.” XL 9 June 2005: 34-38+.
33 AD No. 55n20 (Sep. 3, 2003).
34 Collins, Emily. “Motorcyclists Just Wanna Have Fun at ROT Rally.” DP 16 June 2005: 22; Olmstead, Maggie. “Biker Babe in Waiting for Next ROT Rally.” Idem., 4; Sebesta, Courtney. “Rolling and Rumbling, the Bikers are Here.” XL 2 June 2005: 35.
35 AD No. 58 (Nov. 2, 2003); AD No. 65 (May 22, 2004).
36 “Out & About: Books.” TGL June 2005: 7.
37 AD No. 51 (June 24, 2003); Collins. “Dance Studio Moves Downtown Without Missing a Step.” DP 16 June 2005: 13+.
38 “Best Coke Accessory.” Stuff July 2005: 30.
39 AD No. 17n13 (June 10, 2000); Coltrane, John. Interstellar Space. Impulse! 9277, 1974; Gugliotta, Guy. “Voyager at Edge of Solar System.” WP 25 May 2005: A3.
40 Kaspar, Mary Alice. “Solectron, Other Tenants Taking 180,000 s.f. at Metric Center.” ABJ 27 May 2005: 3.
41 Kaspar. “Hill Partners Grows Industrial Portfolio.” ABJ 3 June 2005: 1+.
42 AD No. 38n19; AD No. 76n45; Caro, Robert A. The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Vol. I-II. New York City: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982-90; Hsu. “J.J. Pickle, Longtime Congressman, Dies at 91.” DT 20 June 2005: 1A-2A; Lindell, Chuck. “The People’s Politician.” AAS 19 June 2005: A1+.
43 AD No. 62n61 (Mar. 18, 2004); Kaspar. “Former J.C. Penny Call Center Gets Overhaul.” ABJ 17 June 2005: 3.