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Molly Awards, East Avenue, Boardwalk and more

Michael Barnes
mbarnes@statesman.com

MEDIA: Texas Observer confers 2014 Molly Awards. “Isn’t this event too political for you?” asked a concerned guest at the Molly Awards. Sure, speakers blasted politicians in the unabashed comic style of the late Molly Ivins, namesake for the investigative journalism prizes given by the unapologetically liberal Texas Observer. Yet the actual winning arcticles know no partisan boundaries. Dave Phillipps, for instance, won the top honor for a story in the Colorado Springs Gazatte on how the military classifies veterans as somehow dishonorable to get out of treating them for PTSD. Michael Phillips took a runner-up spot for looking at lobotomized World War II vets who, in current terminology, had PTSD, in the Wall Street Journal. Haley Sweetland Edwards grabbed the other honorable mention for a Washington Monthly story on how regulatory and judicial rules subvert the laws that the U.S. Congress passes. Attorney Nelson Roach, who has represented workers and residents victimized by industries, graciously accepted the Bernard Rapoport Philanthropy Award. A shaken Becky Beaver reminded the full house at the Four Seasons Hotel that Annie’s List leader Grace Garcia had died the previous day in a car accident and that colleague Piper Stege Nelson was still in the hospital from the same Interstate 35 crash. Broadcaster Dan Rather welcomed the crowd via video, but the spotlight was again stolen by Pulitzer Prize winner Connie Schultz, the Molly Ivins of Ohio and a heck of a storyteller. (No matter your political standing, you’d likely get a kick out of this benefit.)

HISTORY: Recalling Austin’s ample East Avenue. From my story in the Statesman: “Revived talk of lowering Interstate 35 as it passes through downtown has also revived memories of East Avenue, the old, broad street that the freeway replaced in 1962. Originally the eastern boundary of the city, this boulevard remained unpaved for much of its history. Across East Avenue, homesteads and farms stretched up into the highlands above East Seventh Street, then down to the Colorado River, once thick with spinach fields. As early as the 1870s, East Avenue served as an informal ethnic boundary, despite large Swedish and Scottish populations in East Austin. During Reconstruction, more than one freedmen’s town grew up near the avenue. Later, they were joined by two African-American colleges, Samuel Huston, right on the avenue, and Tillotson, in the highlands off Seventh Street. They merged to become today’s Huston-Tillotson University. After it was paved in 1933, East Avenue was among Austin’s most attractive thoroughfares. It was lined with trees and split by a broad median that served as a plaza-like park and gathering place for African-American, Mexican-American and other families who settled on both sides of its quiet lanes.” http://shar.es/Pnwmy(Loved reporting this story.)

CITY: Austin’s new boardwalk empire. From Pam LeBlanc’s story in the Statesman: “When the long-awaited boardwalk opens on Lady Bird Lake on Saturday, users of the Butler Hike and Bike Trail will no longer have to veer away from the river, onto the Riverside Drive sidewalk and across the Interstate 35 overpass to play Frogger with six lanes of swiftly-moving traffic. Instead, they’ll venture onto 1.4 miles of glittering new pathway — partly over water and partly on land — that will take them beneath the hubbub of the interstate on the south side of the river, alongside a curtain of limestone bluffs and into a thickly wooded section of wetlands. They’ll be able to pause at shaded pullouts along the way, too, and take in a fresh new view of the city. “It’s going to be a destination for runners, hikers and walkers,” Susan Rankin, executive director of the Trail Foundation, a nonprofit group formed in 2003 to maintain the trail, said during a recent walk-through with project director David Taylor. The implications are huge.” http://shar.es/PnwPn(A great gift to Austin!)