Best Of People & Politics 2013
Servant of the People
Readers’ choice: State Sen. Wendy Davis
Critic’s choice: Wendy Davis
Where do we get some pink Fila sneakers? While our silly-goose governor and male pinheads in the Texas Legislature continued their quest to take back control of women’s bodies from the women who possess those icky, frightening things, Fort Worth’s own state senator stood up (and stood up and stood up some more) to say, “Enough!” Her filibuster helped run out the clock –– albeit temporarily –– on a repressive abortion bill and made the Republicans look like a bunch of incompetent bullies for trying to shut her down early. In doing so, Davis roused not just Texas Democrats but progressives across the country, proving that even in a state controlled by right-wing nutjobs, there are people who actually think through the implications of the legislation they’re voting for.
Candidate for Alien Abduction
Critic’s choice: Jim Oliver, general manager, Tarrant Regional Water District
Through a spokesman, Oliver disputed new board member Mary Kelleher’s description of a confrontation in which she says he got red in the face and yelled at her for daring to request records from water-district staffers. But how does he explain away the taunting, abusive e-mails he sent to other citizens, the nepotism and buddy deals, and the attitude that water-district records and information belong to the bureaucrats and not to the people? He needs to go to the mothership for some serious work.
Politician Most Likely to Sell Grandma to the Highest Bidder
Critic’s choice: Fort Worth City Council members except Joel Burns
They all said the right things. They wrung their hands. They made promises. Some of them cried. Then all the members of the council except Burns voted for a 2012-13 budget that cut $267,000 in funding for the arts. Never mind that arts funding tends to repay its investment many times and that arts supporters came up with a plan to make the funding economically feasible. Never mind that Fort Worth’s slogan is “Cowboys and Culture.” Council members say they care about the arts, but when it came time to pony up, they kept their hands in their pockets.
Local Political Development
Readers’ choice: Wendy Davis’ filibuster
Critic’s choice: Mary Kelleher’s election to the Tarrant Regional Water District board
The water district and its board of directors have been as transparent as a murky lake at midnight, but few people were paying much attention. Then the district became a driving force for the controversial Trinity River Vision project, which relied on eminent domain power to push people off their properties and make way for what amounts to a tax-funded for-profit development. Kelleher ran as part of a slate of three challengers in this year’s board elections, and she was the only one to unseat an incumbent. She’s already been involved in fireworks with fellow board members and district officials, and with four years on her term, it should be interesting to see whether she can make the water –– and the politics and the spending –– a little clearer.
Critic’s choice: Jerry Russell
We selected the veteran Fort Worth actor-director and Stage West founder for this category before he died in early September from complications due to surgery. In the latter decades of his long stage career, Russell played an impressive variety of old guys –– adorable, gruff, saintly, criminal –– and never, ever bored us.
Critic’s choice: Betty Brink
The writer who personified Fort Worth Weekly‘s willingness to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted died in December, leaving a large hole in the fabric of local investigative reporting. She wrote about corruption, injustice, and discrimination wherever she found them –– in the schools, at city hall, outside cement plants, and, in one of her longest-running series, behind the bars of the Carswell federal prison hospital for women. Last year the Tarrant County Trial Lawyers Association awarded Brink the Laurence “Lanny” Priddy Pursuit of Justice Award, citing her courageous stories that, across more than four decades, uncovered corruption and injustice.
Critic’s choice: Kaylie James and Zach Oderberg
Bar mitzvahs (for boys) and bat mitzvahs (for girls) are more than a celebratory rite of passage for Jewish adolescents. One little-known part of the tradition is for the kiddo whose big day it is to raise money for a non-Jewish cause. Kaylie James raised $1,800 for the Arlington Animal Services Shelter, while her friend Zach Oderberg raised $1,500 for a fund for the family of a local woman killed by a suspected drunk driver.
Critic’s choice: Don Young
The longtime Fort Worth resident who battled gas drillers, fought to protect Tandy Hills Natural Area, and created the popular annual event Prairie Fest, is no stranger to being called a free spirit. Young has won this Best Of category before, but he gets it again because it might be the last time he’s eligible. By this time next year, he may be gone from these parts. Years of pushing city officials to rein in drillers, without much success, have left him weary and longing for a change. He and wife Debora put their house up for sale, and they’re eying a new place in Marfa.