A look back at the “neighborhood” lobby

While searching for a photo of Jackie Goodman the other day, I came across this Chronicle article from the first week of the current millennium by Mike Clark-Madison, the current publisher of the Monitor. It’s a look back at the biggest “newsmakers” of the 90’s. Goodman shares first place with current County Commissioner Brigid Shea:

In 1990, Goodman and (especially) Shea were fairly anonymous activists. In 2000, both are household names who can take the lion’s share of the credit for the Austin news story of the 1990s — the progressive takeover of the reins of public policy. Shea and Goodman are not entirely responsible for the current importance of enviros and neighbors in Austin politics, but they are more responsible than anyone else.

Anyway, by “neighbors,” MCM is of course not employing Webster’s definition of the word, but as shorthand for neighborhood associations. What is most striking about reading old Chronicle articles from the time is how ingrained the idea is that neighborhood associations represent liberal values. It is reflected in the way writers describe politics as well as the way that candidates describe themselves as “pro-neighborhood.”

As I’ve said before, the 10-1 Council has led to a vocal group of liberal Council members who do not depend on support from the traditionally influential Central Austin neighborhood groups and who are open to challenging the narrative that what is good for the Austin Neighborhoods Council is what’s good for Austin.

But it’s not just 10-1 that changed the paradigm. There’s a general shift in attitudes. It is not infrequent that you see an article in an elite liberal publication denouncing exclusionary zoning as the new Jim Crow. Closer to home, veteran Chronicle city hall reporter Michael King has become a reliable thorn in the side of ANC. The increased emphasis on climate change in the environmental movement may have also led many young environmentalists to embrace density as a means to reduce sprawl, driving and carbon emissions. And of course, the more expensive that Austin has become, the more people feel and hear about the “housing crisis.” Part of the solution will inevitably be building more housing.

This year’s mayoral race will be a great test of how much things have changed. There is no better symbol of “neighborhood” politics than Laura Morrison. Not only is she firmly in that camp (former president of ANC), but there doesn’t appear to be much else that she is challenging Adler on. He’s pretty much been a reliable vote for all of the other things that liberals care about, which leaves very little left for Morrison to challenge him on besides CodeNEXT/development.

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