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Michael Barnes

Six Square Tour, Humanities Texas, ‘Indelible’ Readings, Downtown Towers, Who Pays for Roads?

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Victoria Cumberbatch and Lisa Byrd at Six Square.

HISTORY: You couldn’t ask for a more effective tour. The African American Cultural Heritage District Austin has been rechristened Six Square. That accounts for the six square miles of the old “Negro District” in Central East Austin, proposed in a 1928 city plan as one answer to the “Negro Problem,” or how to keep the races from mixing. Recently, a couple dozen guests met at Six Square’s HQ on San Bernard Street to mix, sip, sample and board a bus for a tour of the area’s historical sites. Lisa Byrd and Harrison Eppright made superior guides to the Carver Museum, David Chapel, Downs Field, Rosewood Courts, Texas State Cemetery, etc. I encourage everyone to to take this tour, which neatly encapsulates more than 150 years of black history in Austin.

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William Adams and Ed Dorn at Humanities Texas.

BOOKS 1: What a heady crew at Humanities Texas! The stars of the intimate dinner of barbecue and Tex-Mex were Jane Chu, chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts, and William D. Adams, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. After a big event at the LBJ Presidential Library, they retired to Humanities Texas‘ gracious historic home in the Old Austin neighborhood. Adams and I chatted about history, Texas and Maine. Later, I sat between host Michael Gillette and power couple Amy Updegrove, former publisher of Texas Monthly, and Mark Updegrove, director of the LBJ Library. Needless to say, the stories flowed like ripe wine.

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BOOKS 2: A week of multiple author appearances. “Indelible Austin: Selected Histories,” is well and launched. I’ve made six appearances so far, five in town and one in Houston. Twelve more to go. And that’s just what’s on the books. Thursday, Dec. 10 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., I’m at Sue Patrick on on Burnet Road, interviewed by Ed Clements from NewsRadio KLBJ. Then Saturday, Dec. 12 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., I join more than 20 other Texas authors signing books and talking with guests at the Humanities Texas Book Fair. You are more than welcome to join me at these two free events. “Indelible Austin” slips easily into stockings.

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CITY: Pause and take a look at what we are building downtown. Taken from Lori Hawkins and Shonda Novak‘s story in the American-Stateman. “Like Austin’s skyline? Then snap a photo — because it won’t look that way for much longer. Building by building, a wave of skyscraper construction is gradually altering the city’s visual identity yet again. “Skylines are deeply revealing of the inner economic and social character of cities,” said Trevor Boddy, a Vancouver, British Columbia, architecture critic. “Even the most ambitious city planners, mayors or developers cannot design them — they are an organic expression of the vitality of the city.”

dyc-cycle-track-04TRANSIT: One of the finest recent examples of explanatory reporting. Taken from Ben Wear‘s column in the American-Statesman: “My story last week about a delay in the $14 million bike-pedestrian bridge over Barton Creek produced what, after more than 12 years covering transportation, has become a familiar complaint from readers. Why is the city of Austin spending so much money on bike stuff — not just this notably expensive bridge, but all those bike lanes and trails that have been showing up around town over the past decade — when cyclists pay no gas taxes or registration fees? And to that point, some readers suggest, the city or the state ought to force registration of bicycles just like cars, and charge a fee.”