We would never suggest that citizens base their decisions on who to vote for on just one issue, like transportation. But we do believe that citizens should consider a candidate's position on specific issues in forming their overall picture of the candidate. It is in that spirit that we offer the following endorsements.
Mayor: Jennifer Gale
Okay, Jennifer Gale is admittedly a little crazy. But I'll take a little crazy over bad public policy any day. Mayor Will Wynn and Danny Thomas are "normal", and that normalcy means they won't get cars out of bike lanes or promise not to vote for a helmet law. (We're guessing about Thomas' position on the latter, since he didn't answer that question in our survey.) And yes, the Mayor said that he's only "leaning" towards supporting a helmet law and that he'd have to be convinced that it's a good idea before he'd definitely support it, but that's not nearly as good as Gale's flat-out opposition to it. Gale also supports increasing staffing for the City's Bicycle Program, while Wynn won't commit to that. If I'm selecting based on candidates' positions, which seems like a reasonable way to do it, then Gale is unquestionably friendlier to our interests.
Many BicycleAustin forum members pleaded with me to not endorse Gale because they said it would make the biking community look bad, and that no one would seek our endorsement again. I don't think so, because I've chosen Jennifer Gale as BicycleAustin's endorsement twice before, once for mayor, and once as recently as last year, and almost all the candidates are still seeking BicycleAustin's endorsement. The mayor's campaign called seeking an endorsement before we even began our process, and nearly all the candidates returned the survey we sent out.
Still, I told list members that I would highlight the list's endorsements in the Chronicle ad instead of my own if either 1/3 of the list members would fill out the online endorsement ballot, or list members would pitch in to pay the $432 for the Chronicle ad, which I had originally planned to pay for out of pocket. That is, if the ad were to represent the community, then I wanted to see some participation from the community, either by voting in reasonable numbers or funding the ad that is to represent their position. But only 19% voted in the polling, and only 15 out of the 212 members pledged anything to pay for the ad, which didn't amount to 3/4 of the amount needed. So I paid for the ad myself and highlighted my own endorsements, but also made it very clear in the ad how forum members picked two races differently, and their choices are represented at length at right, too.
Place 2: Mike Martinez
Ugh. Every candidate in this race either wants parking in bike lanes or an adult helmet law. Since the forum members and I liked Mike Martinez except for his support of a helmet law, I called him up to ask if he were aware why we oppose it: That every community that has passed a similar law has seen a drastic reduction in the number of cyclists on the road. He said he wasn't aware of that, and that it gave him enough pause that he'd want to get more information before making a decision. That's a lot better than "I want a helmet law no matter what". Wes Benedict opposes a helmet law but he won't ban parking in bike lanes, and frankly, his hardcore Libertarianism is more than a little creepy. ("I don't support mandatory helmets for bike riders any more than I support mandatory condoms for gays.") Eliza May, who likes parking in bike lanes and an adult helmet law, is just right out.
Place 5: Colin Kalmbacher
I'd like to quote from the survey that Colin Kalmbacher returned: "As your City Councilmember I will strive and fight to see that not a single new road is constructed, not a road expanded or repaired without the addition of curbed bike lanes." Whoa. Pinch me, I must be dreaming. I would also be happy with Kedron Touvell who, like Kalmbacher, wants car-free bike lanes and no helmet law for adults, but Kalmbacher gets the edge for his gutsy survey answers.
Place 6: Darrell Pierce
As in Place 2, the choice here is between a candidate who wants an adult helmet law (Darrell Pierce) and those who want parking in bike lanes (Sheryl Cole, DeWayne Lofton). As with Place 2, I called our otherwise-favorite (Pierce) and he agreed that knowing that helmet laws tend to decrease cycling participation, he's inclined to slow down and want to get both sides before getting squarely behind a helmet law. So we like Pierce. Supporting a helmet law without knowing all the facts is a reasonable mistake, while supporting cars in bike lanes (like his opponents do) is just being out to lunch.
Proposition 1: Open Government
Transportation expert Roger Baker relates that when he recently called to check on whether Austin was funding the bike and ped projects promised by the $150 million bond election in 2000, the city told him he would have to file a formal open records request to get that information! When he finally got the info, he found that the money that voters approved in 2000 for bike projects was actually spent on highways!
Enough is enough, let's have open government already. The doom & gloom warnings from those opposed to this measure are unconvincing. Sure, the amendment isn't perfect. But the current system IS? Hardly. Earth to pundits: It's the current system that's broken. The amendment might not be perfect, but it's a hell of a lot better than what we've got now. And if the amendment passes and causes problems, then the City will have a big incentive to come up with a better plan to pitch to the voters to replace this one. Whereas if we don't pass this one now, we get nothing.
(Though these weren't my own choices, I did write the text for the explanations below, since I hope I can represent forum members' feelings fairly well. -- M. Bluejay)
Mayor: Will Wynn
We'll admit, we're troubled that Wynn says he's "leaning" towards a helmet law for adults, but we think that once we explain how helmet laws decrease the number of cyclists on the road, he'll reconsider. We're also disappointed that Wynn won't get on board to ban parking in bike lanes across the board, but he did stand up for us on the Shoal Creek issue, being one of only two councilmembers voting to ban parking in bike lanes on that particular roadway. Wynn also bikes to work on occassion and has expressed his support for a Bike Summit later this year. It's hard to remember when we've ever had a more bike-friendly mayor, so we'd definitely like to keep him.While Jennifer Gale has good intentions and we can understand Bluejay wanting to focus on that, she's just too crazy to get the job done. For example, when she promises to personally go out and monitor cars parked in bike lanes, we can't help but think that this isn't the best use of a mayor's time. How anyone could take us seriously again if we endorsed her is beyond us. Danny Thomas, who supports parking in bike lanes, voted against us on Shoal Creek, and didn't even answer the question about helmet laws, was never seriously considered.
Place 2: Mike Martinez
We hate having to choose between candidates who want parking in bike lanes and those who want an adult helmet law. But Bluejay called Martinez and talked to him about how helmet laws decrease the number of cyclists, and that seemed to soften Martinez' support of a helmet law considerably, which made us more comfortable in our support of Martinez. Martinez is right in every other aspect -- he wants cars out of bike lanes, wants to finish the Lamar bike/ped bridge, and vows to bike to work if elected.
Wes Benedict is squarely against a helmet law, but besides that he would be disastrous for cycling and transportation interests. According to his website he wants to shut down CapMetro bus routes and raid their funding to spend that money building roads. It's no surprise that he also won't ban parking in bike lanes. Eliza May is likewise unimpressive, favoring a helmet law and parking in bike lanes.
Place 5: Kedron Touvell
We'd be happy with either of these candidates. Yes, Kalmbacher talked a good talk in his survey answers, but Touvell really impressed us at the Austin Cycling Association's candidate forum. As Bob Farr said, "Kedron Touvell was very clearly against a helmet law and impressed the hell out of me every time he opened his mouth. On the Shoal Creek subject, Touvell seemed to be the only one there who understood that on-street parking vs. bike lanes was the root of the problem, Most of the others seemed to think it was traffic calming vs. bike lanes."
Place 6: Darrell Pierce
We're concerned that Darrell Pierce supports an adult helmet law, but we're hoping he'll change his mind after we brief him about the fact that helmet laws tend to seriously discourage cycling. His opponents, Sherly Cole and DeWayne Lofton, support cars parking in bike lanes, and anyone who supports that is just the wrong person for the job.
Proposition 1: Open Government
(Forum members were not polled on this issue, due to an oversight.)