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#1 2011-04-07 19:53:47

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,210
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Who do we want on the City Council?

Austin's League of Bicycling Voters (LOBV) recently sent a questionnaire to candidates for City Council, and here are the the candidates' answers to the questionnaire.  Below are my own personal picks for Council.

Place 1 is easy: Chris Riley.  He's a car-free bicyclist, and as friendly to bicycle issues as any candidate we could ever hope to see.  Two of his three opponents didn't even return LOBV's questionnaire, and the third (Josiah Ingalls) wasn't particularly inspiring.

In Place 3, we start by eliminating Kris Bailey, who was very clear about his opposition to funding bike facilities.  That leaves Nofziger, Shade, and Tovo, all of whom talk a good talk for bikes.  So here I'll make my choice on other issues.  Nofziger opposes light rail (boo), and Shade supports the unnecessary and wasteful Water Treatment Plant #4 (boo), so I think I'll be going with Tovo, who wants light rail and opposes WTP4.

For Place 4, I like Laura Morrison.  Rangel said some good things about bikes but he doesn't seem to be a good enough communicator to be a councilmember, and he doesn't seem to have a good grasp of the issues.  His campaign web page doesn't even mention Light Rail or WTP4, for example.  Toby Ryan didn't return the questionnaire, and his campaign website, quite pathetically, has zero information about where he stands on the issues.

By the way, Question 1 asks about candidates' support of "the City's Complete Streets policy", but I couldn't find any information on that policy, either on the City's website or LOBV's.  Anyone have a link?

Anyway, what does everyone else think about the candidates?  Let's discuss here.

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#2 2011-04-07 21:17:38

chuckthomas
Member
From: Far NW Austin
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 76

Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

I too oppose light rail. It has proven to be an expensive boondagle that has made traffic worse. I'd rather see the money remain with taxpayers who can buy electric bikes with it if they wish.

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#3 2011-04-08 10:01:05

timdiller
Member
Registered: 2008-09-28
Posts: 14

Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

I'm in favor of light rail (if by that we mean the red-line commuter rail.) It has nice accommodations for bikes and is a good alternative to a ride home on 108F afternoons in the summer. There is usually room to squeeze one more bike on the train, but if the rack is full on a bus, you're SOL. Lately, however, the train has been jam-packed on the morning in-bound trains, and there was no room at all for me and my bike, so I made the ride anyway. Good thing I live close enough to have that option.
There is a larger question though: how should a candidate's stance on public transportation affect the recommendation of the LOBV? Do we need to have consensus? There is clearly a diversity of opinion among LOBV members.

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#4 2011-04-21 14:07:02

m1ek
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Registered: 2008-06-02
Posts: 153

Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

Sigh. You guys are going to give me a coronary.

THE RED LINE IS NOT LIGHT RAIL.

And Tovo's anti-density agenda will hurt cycling far more than Shade's WTP vote will hurt the environment.

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#5 2011-04-21 15:10:58

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,210
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Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

Where can I read more about Tovo's supposed anti-density agenda?  I couldn't dig up much, just an opposition to density in the sensitive aquifer recharge zone (which seems to be a responsible position), and a vote against a building going 36 feet higher than zoning allowed, which isn't as egregious to me as building an unnecessary water treatment plant.

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#6 2011-04-21 15:19:42

cycling74
Member
Registered: 2008-09-28
Posts: 61

Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

Well whoever wins, perhaps we can all finally agree on a public information campaign to help people understand the difference between light rail and the Redline. Too many Austinites seem to have never been beyond the city limits to know the difference.

Plus it may help bring down the cost of m1ek's premiums.

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#7 2011-04-21 16:12:24

timdiller
Member
Registered: 2008-09-28
Posts: 14

Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

Forgive me for the medical emergency I almost caused. Yikes! ;-)

So let me see if I have it right:
The red line is a "commuter rail" connecting the suburbs with the urban center.
"Light rail" is the proposed and recently-described street-car-like system that has many close-spaced stops and is concentrated in the urban center.

As far as I know, there are plans afoot for both types of systems: a green line commuter rail to Elgin, and a light-rail urban service that wouldn't quite reach to Mueller but crosses the river, might have a spur to the airport, etc.

To keep this on-topic, maybe it's important to make the distinction between the kinds of rail:
The commuter rail (in my opinion) is clearly bike-friendly. Bikes get on and off (in theory) and the rails are removed from traffic.

Light rail is not so clear to me. I'm imagining trying to take a bike on Boston's Green line (a street-sharing trolly like the one proposed for Austin, I think) and that doesn't look so good, unless it's a folding bike I'm using. Also, from a bike's point of view, I would rather have fewer interactions between my bike rims and the recessed in-street rails that light rail trains tend to use. Been there, done that, don't care to do it again, especially not in traffic.

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#8 2011-04-26 16:14:20

bizikletari
Member
Registered: 2009-03-18
Posts: 223

Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

Well, the LOBW has just announced their preferences.
I like them with the exception that I'll rather vote for Tovo for place 3. Water conservation is of paramount importance in central TX. even for bike activists.

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#9 2011-04-26 16:56:55

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,210
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Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

I think I prefer Tovo, too.  I heard that when the City was voting on the Bike Plan, Shade said at a Council meeting that she wanted everyone to know about all the calls she got complaining about cyclists breaking the law.  (I don't want to put words in her mouth, so don't quote me on that, and maybe someone knows the Council meeting in question so we can look up the transcript.)

But if this is true, does she think that a certain class of road users shouldn't get funding if some of them break the law, and if so, will she move to deny funding to road projects given all the carnage that law-breaking motorists cause in this city?  I wanted to ask that question at the Candidate Forum, but I got there too late.  (I also wanted to ask the candidates' positions about getting cars out of the bike lanes on Shoal Creek Blvd.  Why is nobody in the cycling community talking about this?)

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#10 2011-04-26 17:26:56

bikinpolitico
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-09-04
Posts: 78
Website

Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

Michael,
I was at that meeting you are talking about it. It was really strange. The rest of the Council was being so positive, and she did this finger wagging that seemed like political posturing to me. There was no other good reason for it at the time.

Regarding the parking in bike lanes, I could be remembering this wrong, but I think the Master Bike Plan calls for parking bans in all bike lanes by 2020. Bike/Ped have been implementing this neighborhood by neighborhood with improvements (my neighborhood got the Exposition Road treatment this winter -- now there is no parking in any bike lanes.)

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#11 2011-04-28 15:33:33

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,210
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Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

Thanks for the info on Shade, bikinpolitico.  Would you happen to remember about when it was so I could look for the transcript on the City's website?

In my first post I'd mentioned that the LOBV questionnaire asked about the "the City's Complete Streets" policy, but I couldn't find a reference to that policy, and asked if anyone knew anything about it.  Nobody replied, but I did just learn that there's a *state* bill pending with the same name.  Still not sure what LOBV was asking about.

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#12 2011-04-29 14:52:36

tomwald
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From: 78722
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 288

Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

Here is the City of Austin's version of a Complete Streets policy, passed in 2002, that the LOBV is aware of:
http://lobv.org/wp-content/uploads/2011 … -04-18.pdf

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#13 2011-04-29 15:25:38

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,210
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Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

Okay, so why are we asking about candidates' support of the City's Complete Streets policy?  It's apparently already law, so in theory Councilmembers don't really have any choice about whether it's implemented or not.  Is the suggestion that a councilmember might move to repeal it?  Has anyone every floated such a fantastic idea?  Why area we asking this question?

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#14 2011-04-29 15:42:35

tomwald
Moderator
From: 78722
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 288

Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

A law can be passed, but there needs to be continued support from all areas to ensure that it's enforced.  We need continued support of the City Council, staff, and the citizenry to make sure these laws are enforced.

I hadn't read the City's Complete Streets policy in quite a while.  After just reading it again, I see that this policy is violated by the City regularly.  However, I'm sure if multiple members of our City Council spoke up each time a violation was proposed we wouldn't see it happen so much.

I wish the LOBV had more resources to enforce the Complete Streets ordinance all of the time, but we aren't quite there yet.  Volunteer time is limited and we don't yet have full-time staff.  (E.g., I have 2-3 jobs.)  We are getting closer each month to reaching that level of stability.

As we work to reach a wider audience with our work and our successes and build a broad membership, we need everyone who is _already_ reading this to become a member NOW.  Not everyone is reading this, but you are, and we need you.

------

Our accomplishments include the recreation of the Austin Bicycle Advisory Council in 2007, and the following more recent work:

* Candidates Forum and Endorsements:
    Ensuring that bicycling is part of the public discourse in the Austin City Council Election, and encouraging the bicycling public to get out and vote.

* Pedicab Ordinance:
    Ensuring that pedicab operators have legal access to our public streets, just their motorized counterparts do.

* Austin Bike Summit 2011 (April 16th)

* Providing community support for:
    * An uphill bike lane on South Congress
    * West Campus bikeway on Rio Grande St.
    * Mixed-use trail along Robert E. Lee Rd.
    * Implementation of the 2009 Austin Bike Plan
    * Austin Bicycle Advisory Council -- Bringing topics to the BAC and following up with action on their behalf.

* LOBV Bike Parking Initiative:
    Establishing Austin's first on-street bike parking and developing new standards at the Mueller Redevelopment.

* Ensuring that there is a voice for bicycling in the Travis County Bond Election, Downtown Austin Plan, Imagine Austin, and the MoPac Improvement Project.

We continue to build the case for bike and pedestrian facilities as part of the MoPac Improvement Project.  This includes arranging key meetings, researching current policies, building a broader community support base, securing further federal funding, and bringing bicyclists out to public meetings in great numbers.  Success with this project will set the precedent for all future Austin-area highway projects.

Consider becoming an LOBV Member at the Advocate Level, by donating $100 to support our work.  Make a one-time donations at http://lobv.org/join/ using the "Donate Now" button.

(Thanks for the opportunity to provide you with this tangential, but important message.)

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#15 2011-04-29 15:48:52

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,210
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Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

Thanks for the detailed explanation.  So, what is the City's Bicycle Program doing when the City regularly violates the Complete Streets policy?  Anything?

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#16 2011-04-29 19:39:59

bikinpolitico
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-09-04
Posts: 78
Website

Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

Michael,
The Council meeting in question was the one where they passed the Master Bike Plan, June 11, 2009.

I'm leaning towards voting for Tovo in Place 3, but I just saw her TV commercial where she attacks the City Council for raising parking fees downtown. I'm sorry, but I don't want another politician defending the ridiculous subsidies we give car drivers. (Plus she complains about water fees going up while being an opponent of WTP 4. You are either for putting real market costs on water to drive conservation or for building more capacity. Being against both isdisingenuous.)

Elliott McFadden

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#17 2011-04-29 23:41:31

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,210
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Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

Thanks, Elliott.  Those positions by Tovo are certainly disappointing.  I agree that we shouldn't be encouraging water consumption or driving by trying to keep those costs (artificially) low.  But Randi Shade isn't perfect, either.  This is a lesser-of-two-evils race for me, and I think I'm still going to pick Tovo, based on her opposition to WTP4.

Thanks also for the help on which meeting Shade made her comments.  I found them.  They're not quite as damning as I thought they might be, but still, does any politician ever temper their vote for a highway project based on all the carnage caused by motorists?  A hit-and-run driver killed a cyclist here recently, and that's way more against the law than a biker rolling a stop sign.

Here's what Shade said at the council meeting in question:

Councilmember Randi Shade on June 11, 2009

I'm going to support this, and I thank you for thinking through that addition. I think that makes a lot of sense. And I just have to say from the dais on this issue, because I definitely support this plan, but I just want to make sure everybody in the bicycle community knows how many notes and emails we've gotten from people po really want to raise the awareness on following rules, safety rules. There are a lot of people who are very angry and upset when bicycle riders don't follow rules. And so I just wanted to bring that up. We've gotten a lot of people who -- a lot of messages from people who are not in favor of this, simply because they feel like they've been treated badly by a retired who, you know, isn't following the rules, running stop signs, that sort of thing. So I want to make sure and say that when we do this, that we really need to have heightened improvement in is, and that for the bicycle community this represents a very significant investment in all, you know, the community. You know, this -- everybody -- you know, everybody pays for this. So I think you need to -- you know, everybody needs to realize that. Everybody benefits from this, and everybody is collectively paying for this.

From the transcript page.

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#18 2011-04-30 00:53:35

Augenwinkel
Member
Registered: 2010-02-05
Posts: 16

Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

MichaelBluejay wrote:

Thanks for the detailed explanation.  So, what is the City's Bicycle Program doing when the City regularly violates the Complete Streets policy?  Anything?

The policy is not an ordinance, it's just a City Council resolution. So, it's not really enforceable. The Bicycle Program adheres to the resolution whenever and wherever possible. I don't know of any violations (which wouldn't really be violations, since it's not a law). Can anyone tell me about a specific case?

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#19 2011-04-30 08:20:26

bikinpolitico
Member
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-09-04
Posts: 78
Website

Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

Augenwinkel,
The Master Bicycle Plan has the force of an ordinance. It's not just general policy guidelines. This issue came up with the Nueces Bicycle Boulevard which is specifically mentioned in the Plan. I'm not sure what legal tap dancing the staff came up with to abandon Nueces, but anytime something is mentioned in the Plan, it is meant to equivalent to an ordinance.

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#20 2011-04-30 13:15:01

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,210
Website

Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

bikinpolitico, I think Augenwinkel was talking about the Complete Streets policy (as was I), and you're talking about the Bicycle Plan.  Or maybe you meant the Complete Streets policy but accidentally said Bicycle Plan?  Or maybe I'm missing something?

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#21 2011-05-01 21:23:12

bizikletari
Member
Registered: 2009-03-18
Posts: 223

Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

The Google god brings it as Resolution 20020418-40 and it mentions it in http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/publicworks/ … unding.pdf in objective 4.1.2, Chapter 5 of the Bicycle Master Plan.
Maybe that's the confusion; it is everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

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#22 2011-05-01 23:52:24

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,210
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Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

Yes, I think it's confusing, especially as the words "Complete Streets" don't appear anywhere in the document.  That's why I couldn't find that document with my own Google search for "Complete Streets" Austin.

When LOBV asks questions of candidates in the future, I hope they'll provide some background material on their website about the questions they're asking.

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#23 2011-05-02 10:48:26

bizikletari
Member
Registered: 2009-03-18
Posts: 223

Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

As expressed by the ED, they can only do that with your financial support. You may want to consider donating some.

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#24 2011-05-02 11:30:20

damicoaustin
Member
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 143
Website

Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

Michael is right. LOBV board members (e.g. me) should have been more careful in developing that question. I didn't write it, but I think when I first read it I knew that it was a resolution, then made too large of a mental leap in assuming it would bring up discussion on how to make it more enforceable (e.g. an ordinance).

It's correct that a resolution isn't a law, but the way COA uses them it is an action that is passed by council with the expectation that it be carried out. So theoretically you could have some accountability at some level if it isn't. For instance, if the council passing a resolution directing the city manager to do something, and he doesn't, he could end up paying for it with his job.

Instances where it isn't followed? Tom is right that a lot of it is just too much to try and tackle. There's many other questions to consider even with the resolution. For example, as I've heard discussed before, why does a complete streets policy even have a 20 percent provision? Shouldn't it be more a matter of what makes sense for the system rather than the cost? I know that's naive!

It's also a matter of what the Bicycle Master Plan lists for a street and what we as advocates know about it and plans for it. If anyone was really scouring the bike plan, shouldn't they have explored something better for 7th Street since everyone knew it would be torn to hell for months of construction? Maybe someone did...it's just a lot of work to keep up with this stuff. Even large-scale planning efforts like the Riverside Corridor project haven't gotten the attention they deserve.

Bike/Ped does a good job at trying to follow the policy or even just eyes on the street when there are surprises. Look at W. 6th street...LOBV sprang into action as they started resurfacing and helped push for the bike lanes and required reverse parking...I got the impression that the resurfacing wasn't even on their radar, though, and Bike/Ped had to scramble to get it accomplished.

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#25 2011-05-02 11:40:54

damicoaustin
Member
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 143
Website

Re: Who do we want on the City Council?

With regards to Randi Shade and Tovo. I'll say that Randi has always been extremely supportive of at least talking with LOBV. She's taken the initiative on several occasions, and in fact, was the only candidate I know of that contacted us to ask for a meeting to discuss her candidacy when she first launched it. But yes, she's also a pain in the butt with her questions about cyclists breaking laws and brought it up when we met on Nueces stuff. But hey, it's a valid thing to bring up. I don't think it was such great timing on the bike plan discussion, though.

WTP4 .... well I had serious concerns about that stance from Shade as well, because let's face it, the environmental community should be natural allies with bicyclists (not to mention I personally side against the plan). I had favored a rating system this go around instead of endorsements to avoid this type of problem. But I was overruled, and I have to say that the other LOBV board members had many good points in their argument for doing the actual endorsement instead of my cop out process. It will be interesting to see how this continues in the future.

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