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The final assembly of all U.S. nu clear weapons takes place in the Texas Panhandle. Houston has more oil company headquarters than any other city in the world. The whole state reeks of Sunbelt boosters, strident anti-unionists, political hucksters, and new industry and money. THIS IS THE LOOK OF TEXAS TODAY and the Texas Observer has its independent eye on all of it. We offer the latest in corporate scams and political scandals as well as articles on those who have other, and more humane, visions of what our state can be. Become an Observer subscriber today, order a gift for a friend, or instruct us to enter a library subscription under your patronage. Send the Observer to name address city state zip this subscription is for myself gift subscription; send card in my name $20 enclosed for a one-year subscription bill me for $20 name address city state zip THE TEXAS OBSERVER 600 W. 7th, Austin, Texas 78701 like the interlocking directorships of the largest corporations, the membership lists of groups like Quality Austin, Metro Austin 2000, River City Citizens Alliance, and the Austin Area Research same names. From the publisher of the city’s major newspaper to the president of the University, all facets of important city functions are represented. Hardly seeking any publicity, the members of the exclusive clubs like ASRO have the power money, prestige and position to move political mountains. Several groups have made their objectives clear: to replace unacceptable city council members. The first step will be to locate acceptable candidates for next spring’s mayoral-city council races, while at the same time blocking any unwanted candidates who might clutter up their side of the ballot. It’s too early for anything but conjecture about possible candidates, but they will NOT be the battle-scarred business leaders of past campaigns. There will be fresh new faces to conduct perfectly-orchestrated, financiallyunlimited campaigns every move carefully planned by experts. To complete the other half of the plan, the business groups are trying to reduce neighborhood association domination of the grassroots vote. Grabbing leadership control of groups, thus eliminating or neutralizing the political power of ANC, seems to be a priority as the struggle over WANG shows. Domination of neighborhood groups would also be useful in fighting selected issues, such as the recent appeal of the city council’s new electric-rate structure by the City Park Neighborhood Association, a quasineighborhood group. Environmental and energy conservation activists have been very active in neighborhood associations. Replacing them is a central goal of Austin’s developers and other business leaders. The organizational skills of these factions will be used to target certain associations, as we have seen with WANG, ensuring that like-thinkers become leaders in those groups. Prominent business community members are suddenly becoming interested in their \(and friends, relatives, and even their employees. Where control of an active neighborhood group cannot be gained, rival associations will probably be developed. This will divide and dilute the neighborhood power in appearances before city deliberative groups. With the backing of the city’s established daily newspaper locked up, and once the correct, acceptable candidates are in place and the direction of important neigh borhood associations is assured, it will remain only for the business leaders to maintain a low profile and hope for a low turnout. Of the recent West Austin Neighborhood incident, council member and long-time neighborhood group leader Larry Deuser said, “It appears to be a continuation of the earlier Save University Neighborhoods takeover battle. Most of the actors were different at the WANG meeting, but the methods were the same packing the membership for the leadership vote. This type of `member’ is usually never seen again at meetings, or, as in the WANG case, they didn’t even bother to attend the meeting. It was easy enough for them to send their proxy and their check for $5, but due to a correct interpretation of the bylaws, this ploy was unsuccessful. I would look for similar incidents in other groups as their leadership comes up for election.” Marilyn Simpson, backed by her years of experience in the movement, believes the “final” battle may be near. “WANG had a scare. The other side has made a comeback. I don’t know who’s winning, but it’s Armageddon for the neighborhood associations. Some groups, which I won’t name, have already been quietly infiltrated and taken over. If others are to avoid the same fate, they will have to look to their bylaws for solid parliamentary positions and, most important, build up a hard-working, interested membership. After all, many of the neighborhood associations formed to fight the developers; these groups have the motivation to preserve their neighborhoods. I’m optimistic.” One thing is certain. Without the neighborhood associations, AARO and the new business-directed organizations will prevail again in city politics. The struggle between Austin’s developer-business elite and rank-andfile neighborhood groups has been replicated in hundreds of other towns and cities. Yet many commentators have missed the significance of the rising power of grassroots groups. Too many analysts have written pessimistically about the “Me Decade,” or the “culture of Narcissism,” or the “swing to the Right.” They have missed the extensive growth of progressive citizens’ advocacy groups working actively to improve the quality of life in local communities. This is populism at its finest. And Texas, one must remember, was the original breeding ground for the first major populist movement in the late 19th century; then 200,000 Texans joined 2,000 local farmers’ alliance groups. Now it is happening again with thousands of Texans again mobilizing this time in the cities as well as in rural areas. 6 NOVEMBER 12, 1982