Monday, August 4, 2008
The Friendly City and its fragile Violet Crown
Austin, Texas; home of freedom lovers from all over the world, the city is amongst the most vibrant and diverse in today’s American landscape. Bursting at the seams, some studies conclude that the next two years will bring an approximate 70,000 more people to the open-minded haven of the state. While the rustic, Old Southwest ideal may have brought the masses to the tiny town with a big heart, their pocketbooks are bringing the slick, sexy and exclusive atmosphere to the center of Texas. Many have commented on Austin’s 21st century transformation, such figures like former Gubernatorial Candidate Kinky Friedman dubbed it Old and New Austin. However trite it may sound, his analogy hits it right on. The difference is as stark as night and day.
When I first came to Austin from the “Sim-City” prairie metropolis of Dallas, I did not at first understand the jagged hills and cliffs, the rustic, natural, and often unpretentious side of Austin life. But, soon I grew to love its aura of smallness, community, and old-time Texas wisdom. I learned of its limestone structures, its creeping tangled oaks, branching out almost horizontally against the mounds of sod, rock, and wheat. Those who experience the culturally rich array of stores, hang-outs, and dives of the Friendly City never forget its serenity and down-to-earth honesty. The people seem to carry some of it with them, waving to bikers on the roads, easy to put out a hand to help and meet an acquaintance; community-minded, selfless and frank. While these characteristics may all ring of ideal and never completely true to life, it is that moment one feels amongst the plain of Zilker or the small peaks amongst Barton Creek. The still thriving original establishments of Waterloo decidedly make up the soul of the ever-evolving inlet.
And to see the new wealth coming into town, all rendered wards of debt. To build upon the empire and to know what made it great is to advance its searing grip. But, in reinventing the city, in commoditizing its mystique with cookie cutter pillar residencies by outside interests is to construe the truth and destroy the violent crown which once sat over these picturesque hills. The new developments are swift and all-encompassing. In the past three years, a boom in construction, even in times of economic bust, has changed the landscape and entire population makeup of areas of the city. Perhaps most visible are the new luxury condominiums built downtown off of Town Lake. More disturbing is the destruction of the West Campus community by high-rise scams and deliberate overpopulation and exploitation of a small and once serene community. Such are the wastelands the majority of Austinites will endure.
While the Austin City Council prides itself as an independent community-trusted arbiter, it could not be farther from the truth. They openly plot with high price developers, specifically working with developer-tied Cid Galindo, who ran for a council seat and eventually lost a run-off against former Neighborhood Association head Laura Morrison. It is not a question of government interference, rather their compliance in a corrupt system where again the people are ignored and the high dollar interests pandered to.
Everyone’s in business, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, I believe it is in the best interests of this city to only buy good investments for the future of the community.
So, I urge Austinites, long time residents and newcomers to learn the history of this city and why it has become the beam of fire, which insatiably draws all nearer.