by Daryl Slusher
Thank you for visiting the Austin Independent website. This publication/website is my attempt to add to local and regional news coverage, contribute to public discourse, and also a way for me to return to something I really enjoy doing — that is writing about Austin politics and government.
While the focus will be local and regional, the Austin Independent might occasionally venture beyond the metropolitan boundaries, especially if a particular subject relates back to Austin. For example, of the two initial March 1 stories/posts, one covers the local County Attorney’s race while the other discusses how the 38 electoral votes of Texas could potentially play a decisive role in the 2020 presidential election.
It would be fair to ask what I bring to this task so I will offer a short version of that answer here.
I began my direct involvement in local politics and government as something of a community organizer from roughly 1981 through 1985. I was involved on issues such as: working alongside East Austin residents to help protect and preserve predominately Hispanic neighborhoods; fighting against construction of the South Texas Nuclear plant; helping lead a petition drive and election to protect Auditorium Shores from becoming the front yard for a convention center/retail/condo magaplex, and working in several City Council campaigns.
Readers of a certain age may remember that I was also a journalist here in town for 10 years, from 1985 to 1995. That was with the Daryl Herald, along with co-editor and co-publisher Daryl Janes, the Austin Mirror, and then from 1989 to 1995 the Austin Chronicle — with occasional publishing in the West Austin News as well.
My decade in local journalism ended when I left the Chronicle in 1995 and ran the next year for a seat on the City Council. I won and then won two more three-year terms, serving from 1996-2005. I decided nine years was just about right and didn’t run again in 2005.
In 2007 the City Manager offered me a newly created job at Austin Water as Assistant Director of Environmental Affairs and Conservation. My hiring was somewhat controversial at the time, but I pressed through – overseeing the utility’s water conservation, land conservation, climate and other environmental efforts and serving as a member of the Executive Team. I retired from Austin Water and the city of Austin on December 31. (If you want to know more about my path see this article from the Austin Monitor, or this earlier one when I first hired on at Austin Water.)
So now I hope to utilize my experience and knowledge of local politics and government to add to the local political discourse. I guess you could say that the Austin Independent is something of a retirement project. The overall plan, subject to adjustment as we go along, is to cover a particular issue in depth while perhaps providing further reporting and analysis on other topics as they arise. Topics could include:
- Austin’s Land Development Code rewrite;
- Transportation, including rail proposals and other mass transit;
- Climate change including local impacts and the oddity and challenges of a locality planning for climate change while the state government refuses to admit it exists;
- Taxing structure in Texas, particularly how state policies result in school districts and local governments having to rely heavily on property taxes;
- Distribution of wealth, with an emphasis on wages and how national distribution of wealth issues manifest themselves locally;
- How it’s still important to save Barton Springs; and
- Periodic exploration of policies and issues in other cites.
About the Website
The Independent will be a small operation. At least at first I will serve as the editor, reporter and publisher. As readers may have noticed from the dates I cited above, my journalism experience in Austin dates back to the ancient electronic typewriter, pre-Internet era of the 1980s. Since then I have become pretty good at writing articles on computers, as well as doing research and keeping up with the news. What I did not learn was how to actually create a website myself.
I am in the process of learning that, with significant help. That learning process is still very much an early work in progress. So please bear with me on any shortcomings relating to the webpage. And, if you run into any difficulty please come back and visit us later.
I also want to note that in establishing the Austin Independent I went back and forth on the exact form to take i.e. nonprofit or a private business unlikely to make any profit. Ultimately I took the latter path because it allows me more flexibility for changes in the future and I can be more explicit in discussing election campaigns. So the Austin Independent is published by The Austin Independent LLC with me as the LLC manager.
A LLC allows partners or investors, but I want readers to know that at this point all expenditures and investments have come from my personal funds. At some point I will ask for subscriptions or some form of financial backing, but first please just read the articles and I would appreciate any feedback readers care to give through the contact section.
About the Name
As to the name, the Austin Independent, it is not intended in the political party sense. Anyone who knows my history knows that I am a life-long Democrat — at least a third generation Democrat, but a very independent thinking one. I do not hesitate to criticize or critique party leadership or officials and I sometimes veer from party orthodoxy. That will be the spirit here as well.
Rather than alluding to political parties though, the name Independent is meant to signal independence of thought. On journalistic style and approach, I will not claim to be objective in the now old-time daily newspaper sense although I might sometimes write articles straight down the middle in something close to that style. When I have an opinion or particular viewpoint I will not try to hide it. I will also seek to understand and accurately characterize the opinions of others, including those with whom I might disagree. I also will never intentionally leave out information that might work against my point of view. I consider that last one a particularly important principle. Additionally, I will not hesitate to take on controversial topics, even ones that risk offending political correctness.
In closing this section I want to thank a few folks. I mentioned that I am serving as editor, publisher, writer and only investor, but still I am not doing this alone. It has been a family operation to get as far as I have. So I first want to thank my wife of 30 years Adela Mancias who patiently edits my articles, raises important questions, and periodically reels me back in. Thanks also to our son Oli Mancias Slusher for helping with a variety of tasks in getting the Independent started.
Also love and thanks to my friends Linda Lewis, Roxanne Evans, Erna Smith and Eva Lindsey for their advice, guidance and support. But, don’t blame anything I say herein on them.
Additionally, I want to thank Ken Martin of the Austin Bulldog for his generous advice on how to get a publication off the ground. Thanks also to Jeff Adams and others for helping us navigate our path to getting online.
I also want to thank everyone who was willing to let me discuss the idea of a new publication with them and offer me feedback.
Also deserving of thanks is my dear friend, the late Ray Reece whose bequest is helping get this started.
In closing I want to dedicate this first issue to an Austin institution and my close friend Charles Miles. He passed away February 25. In an upcoming post I will discuss his life.
Austin Independent, March 1, 2020
The Austin Independent, a publication of The Austin Independent, LLC