A Tired Oasis

I don't know if it's the oppressive heat or the fact that I spent all weekend driving around New England in search of a wedding, but I'm completely exhausted with all of the progressive political prospects these days. When Representative Naishtat is the most energetic officeholder in the crowd, you've got a star pitcher with an empty bullpen.

Word has it that less than $500 was spent on tonight's inauguration party for our recently elected Mayor Lee Leffingwell and newly anointed Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez at Threadgill's. While I've never been opposed to buying my own Dos Equis at these events, I typically expect a bit more interest -- not from the spectators but the elected officials themselves.

As Austinites looked on, soaking in sweaty optimism only found south of 183 and Mopac, Councilwoman Sheryl Cole proclaimed apologetically at the end of her speech that she was "tired." Mayor Pro Tem Martinez announced he was going on vacation tomorrow and that he'd respond to phone calls and emails upon his return. Mayor Leffingwell remarked that the heat was "what you get" for living in Austin.

It was hard to tell if that was supposed to be a positive thing.

Credit goes to the organizers of the party for adding in an edgy slam poetry act immediately after the deflating speeches. An Iranian-descendant who goes by "C'est La Vie" used words like "pistol whipped" and "raped" in her slam against an oppressive Iranian government -- not exactly family-friendly material, I noted, as the young girl next to me, coloring in a trademark Threadgill's armadillo on the paper in front of her, was quickly ushered out by her mother. An EMS siren wailed down Riverside a little too close in the background saying Somewhere in this city, someone hurts. C'est la vie.

Up next was snarky favorite Genevieve Van Cleve, who by daylight works for Annie's List and avoids Pflugerville, roaring in veiled cynicism against old versus new Austin, comparing old Austin to a comfy bed with fresh cotton sheets. Dirtied since, no doubt, by the same crimes -- Austin-style -- that C'est La Vie had just mentioned. We laughed.

Austinites are warming up a crop of progressive someday-maybes. We laugh and enjoy our well-groomed City Council, dreaming their dreams of higher office for them. But the laughing stops when we're reminded, by people like Van Cleve, that I-35 is more than just a highway, that segregation exists in this city, that crime continues around us. Fire and brimstone, found in our artists, poets, and even rogue candidates, doesn't fill potholes, they'll tell you. Our officeholders yawn and grow tired and hope we don't notice, as long as the streets are smooth and sidewalks are lit.

There's work to be done, on Riverside and beyond. We're all tired. Who's going to do it?

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