Bicycle Austin endorses Randi Shade
in the City Council place 3 June 2011 runoff election
Why we endorsed
We gave election endorsements for years, but when
the League of Bicycling
(LOBV) appeared on the scene, we were only too happy to turn the job
over to them starting in 2007. But for this runoff election
we came out of our retirement to make an endorsement again because we felt
a closer look at the candidates was in order, for several reasons:
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 our endorsement.
- We're faced with two exceptionally-qualified candidates,
sometimes appear more similar than different.
- This time around many of LOBV's questions seemed kind of
ambiguous or touchy-feely and didn't seem help differentiate the
candidates. (e.g., "What does bicycle safety mean to you?" and "How
important are bicycling and walking?")
- Some, like transportation expert Mike Dahmus, opined that
cyclists ought to be scrutinizing the candidates more closely on
density issues, since density is what makes non-auto transportation
- The fact that the election went into runoff meant that we
the time to take a second look.
Why we chose Randi Shade
Voters are often faced between choosing between
lesser of two evils, but not in this race. Both candidates are
sharp, qualified, conscientious, and civic-minded. Ultimately we
chose Shade because:
In addition, my earlier conversation with the Tovo staffer was just
bizarre. It went something like this:
- Shade speaks plainly and directly, with great clarity.
There's no question where she stands on an issue, and you don't have to
parse a lot of fluff to figure it out. Tovo is not as
straightforward. This distinction is important beyond
simply figuring out whom to vote for: once someone is elected, we want them
to be able to explain what they're doing and why very clearly.
Here are some examples of the difference from LOBV's survey, showing
the first sentence or two of responses to various questions.
How important are
This difference wasn't exclusive to LOBV's survey. The same
difference could be seen in the candidates' answers to other
Shade: In a growing
like Austin, it is crucial
that we facilitate multi‐modal transportation, to encourage and enable
people to use every possible method to navigate our city. I want to
foster more options for people who don’t want to drive....
Tovo: I believe that all modes of transportation must work
together as an overall system to ensure mobility and accessibility for
the community. The importance of each mode can be influenced by the
area, length, and purpose of the trip....
How often do you ride a bicycle on Austin's roadways?
Shade: Not often, and
when I do
ride it is recreational.
Tovo: I had occasional car‐free weekends in my pre‐parent years (I now
have two small girls) with trips to the farmers market, the library,
the grocery store, and other places in the central city.
[Tovo tried to mask the fact that she
doesn't currently ride by talking about her past riding, while Shade
simply owned up about her non-riding.]
- Shade is strong on bicycle issues. In
she supports two things that few councilmembers would ever stick their
necks out about:
(a) Car-free bike lanes on Shoal Creek Blvd.
parking on just one side of the street).
In fact, it was action by previous councils that got us parking
in bike lanes and a problematic helmet law, so Shade's willingness to
revisit these ideas is all the more impressive.
(b) A sunset review of the bicycle helmet law for minors. (See problems with the helmet law for
why we support helmets but oppose the law.)
- Shade strongly supports increased density. Density
is what makes non-auto transportation viable. The more people in
an area, the closer that home, work, and shopping is, which makes it
easier to walk, bus, train, or bike. The opposite is sprawl, with
destinations spread farther apart, which makes car travel much more
likely. Neighborhood associations have a history of opposing
density because they prefer the feel of houses to apartments and
condos. While houses might be nicer in that regard, we think it's
important to do what's best for the city as a whole. With strong
ties to neighborhood associations, there's been some concerns that Tovo
would side with them on density issues at the expense of the needs of
the greater community. Indeed Tovo opposed the Barton Creek PUD,
while Shade supported it.
- Tovo didn't return our survey, even after we gave her
time. When we sent out the survey on the 4th, we called both
campaigns to make sure they got it, and both confirmed that they
did. Tovo's campaign didn't say that they weren't going to return
it. The deadline was the night of the 11th, and we got Shade's
answers but not Tovo's. We called Tovo's campaign the morning of
the 12th to inquire about that, saying that we'd be willing to accept a
late survey if they could return it soon. They said that someone
would call us back shortly. That didn't happen. We called
again in the evening, and the person we spoke agreed that they'd let us
know later that night whether they'd be able to return the survey the
next day. He complained about our not giving enough time, and
asked, "Wasn't the deadline the 4th?" We replied, "No, we sent
the survey on the 4th, and the deadline was a week later, on the
11th." He complained again about the timeframe, and assured
me that someone would get back to me that night one way or the other
about whether they'd be able to participate. Again, that didn't
happen. The next day I got an email from a campaign
staffer, again complaining that I hadn't gotten the surveys out sooner.
Tovo staffer: About this question [No. 3],
name as many examples as you can of
instances in which you disagreed with the position of a neighborhood
association, and why," what does that mean?We're too flabbergasted about that one to even comment on it.
Bicycle Austin: Uh...it's not exceptionally clear to you?
Tovo staffer: No, what does that even mean? And why would
you even ask a question like that?
If Tovo's campaign is stumped about that question, I suggest they see Shade's excellent answer to it.
By the way, the Bicycle Austin editor was personally disappointed in Shade's support of Water Treatment Plant No. 4, but as that's not specifically related to transportation, we didn't consider it for endorsement purposes.
Finally, we're disappointed that many have criticized Shade for
continuing to the runoff rather than bowing out of the race, to save
the city the cost of the election. Our feeling is the democratic
process is the first thing we should be paying for.
That's the one thing you don't skimp on. Shade earned her right
to the runoff and has a good chance of winning. She deserves her
shot in the election, and her supporters deserve the opportunity to
vote for her. Really, if there's any blame to place here, it
should be with the Texas Legislature, whose archaic laws don't allow
Austin to hold Instant-Runoff voting which make actual runoffs unnecessary.
Randi Shade's answers
1. Bicycle infrastructure. How
do you differ from your opponent on improving Austin's bicycle
I have a strong record of support for
transportation policies that enable multi-modal options and reduce
dependency on private automobiles. At every opportunity, I have
voted for increased connectivity and maximum pass-through. I voted for
our Safe Passing ordinance, and I seconded the motion to put Prop 1 on
the ballot. I also support efforts to let businesses like Casa de Luz
require less parking to accommodate their more multi-model customer
base. In 2009 I helped create the Bike Theft Task Force to address an
increase in bike thefts. It was a great opportunity to work with
leaders in the cycling community to look for solutions to help keep
cyclists on the road. Here’s a link.
2. Density. How do you differ from your opponent
building/population density issues?
My opponent, on the other hand, has been endorsed by many
of the people who have fought against completing our bike lanes and
trail network, especially around Lady Bird Lake, and who oppose the
kind of central city density that helps make public transit and bicycle
commuting more possible. We also differ on the new parking rates
downtown. I voted for the staff’s proposal for several reasons:
increased revenue for public safety, way finding, and signage;
decreased emissions and time wasted from people circling while looking
for free parking; and hopefully additional transition that fosters more
multi-modal forms of transit.
I have a great record of supporting sensible, appropriate density in our central city and along transit corridors. Conversely, my opponent has frequently opposed in-fill and dense central development.
3. Neighborhood Associations, past. Please name
examples as you can of instances in which you disagreed with the
position of a neighborhood association, and why.
For example, I voted FOR South Shore PUD and Park PUD, both of which had strong support from the cycling community.
It is crucial that we enable more people to live and work close to the
center of our city, and depend less on personal cars. My opponent not
only opposed both projects, she was actively involved in trying to stop
them, both as a neighborhood activist and as a member of the Planning
Commission. If elected, she would present a serious obstacle to greater
density in the central city, which is needed to both address
affordability and reduce dependency on individual vehicles.
It is important to draw several distinctions in
answering this question. Neighborhood Associations are not the same as
neighborhoods and the neighbors who live in them. Furthermore, not
all Neighborhood Associations approach issues the same way. I
have seen several examples of cases where an association’s position was
in conflict with another group of neighbors, or even with an
overlapping association. In each instance I try and look at the project
in question and ascertain what is in the best interest of Austin as a
4. Neighborhood Associations, future. Under what
circumstances would you oppose the position of a neighborhood
association? (What is your criteria?)
In several high-profile cases, this has caused me to cast
my vote against the position of an association or against the Austin
Neighborhood Council, but again, in many of these same instances I have
also supported other neighbors or even other neighborhood associations
that are in conflict. The most notable example was the South Shore
PUD, the project east of I-35 along Lake Shore Drive. The project will
bring numerous benefits to the area, better transit among them. The PUD
guaranteed a permeable project with bike lanes, through streets and
density for a potential rail node through what is now virtually a gated
community. While many neighborhood activists -- including my opponent
-- opposed the project, I felt the gains for the entire community were
definitive. (Notably, many leaders of the so-called “Save Town Lake”
group that opposed bike access along Lady Bird Lake and opposed South
Shore PUD are among the strongest supporters of my opponent.) I took a
similar stance on the revised version of the Park PUD and on several
other key projects. On a recent historic zoning case I voted against
the neighborhood association’s desire to zone a house historic against
the homeowner’s wishes and against the staff’s recommendation.
The house did not meet the criteria for historic zoning, so I was not
comfortable using that sort of zoning change as a neighborhood planning
tool, especially given the fact that a few months earlier we had voted
to approve a local historic district for that same neighborhood,
something that is designed to help with neighborhood preservation.
I have supported neighborhood associations in instances
when I felt additional density would truly be onerous or where factual
environmental concerns outweighed other interests. For example, I
did not support The Wildflower Commons Project because it did not
adhere to our tougher new ordinance pertaining to development over the
Barton Springs Recharge Zone. I supported the neighborhood association
position on the recent case before Council that called for a left-turn
lane off of 2222 near Hwy 360. I didn’t’ feel that the safety
benefits offered by the proposal from staff and the property owner
improved the safety already offered by the existing U-turn option and I
wasn’t willing to gamble on safety in favor of convenience. I
also typically support valid petitions, and I sponsored the resolution
to give neighborhood planning contact teams standing. And, I took the
lead in ensuring that even in a tough budget situation we got a Music
Office up and running to help with sound mitigation challenges between
music venues and neighborhood groups. The office is small but
already proving to be helpful in many of these contentious cases.
I try to l look at each item before Council with an open
mind and remember that I represent all of Austin, not just a vocal few;
however well organized they happen to be. I listen to subject
experts, individual citizens, neighbors, neighborhood associations and
developers alike. I listen to all sides and vote based on
facts. Pedestrian and bike access are always a factor in my
deliberations and on several occasion my office has asked for tweaks to
existing plans for better transit options before an item reached its
final reading at Council.
You are the first organization to ever formally ask me for my criteria in a land use case.
Thank you for this opportunity. I don’t use a specific punch
list, but I do think about the following issues in most cases:
5. Parking in bike lanes.
I try to look at the big picture, but also at the impact on those living nearest a project.
I ask myself how I would feel to have “this” next door to me. An
individual citizen who expresses a concern such as "this project will
tower over my house" carries a lot more weight with me than a group of
people voicing general opposition to growth or change. Then, I
think about the big picture. Is this a good place for density? Will my
vote bring better transit and walk ability to an area? Is this the
right place for the proposed use? For instance, a CS-1 (serving
alcohol) zoning is not same downtown as it is in a single family area
deep in the suburbs. Will a given project enhance and enliven a dead
street, or cause a traffic nightmare for everyone? Is this sprawl, or
am I capturing a higher use for the urban fabric here?
- Surrounding zoning/FLUM – how does this project comply
with the neighborhood plan/future land use map? If not, does it
accomplish Council goals?
- Does this accomplish goal of infill and existing resources?
- Does this discourage sprawl?
- Does this encourage development within the City limits?
- Proximity to density, mix of uses, and relationship to reduction of travel
- Is this re-development or new development? What is there now? Can we do better? What about water quality?
- Open space in exchange for density? Recreational facilities?
- What do all the “extras” cost? As a result of these costs, what is the impact on affordability?
I also strongly consider the rights of a property owner to
control their property and I often weigh the gains for our tax base
against the cost of services, (utilities, traffic etc.) Again, transit, including bike transit, also factors into my deliberations.
Overall, I base my votes on the objective criteria for
each project, and consider the facts of each case, rather than just
voting along with the opposition or support of organized groups.
Incredibly, it is legal for cars to park in many
bike lanes in Austin, rendering them useless for their intended
purpose. One supposes that in more enlightened communities, it's the
actual bicycles that get first dibs on bike lanes, not cars.
6. Shoal Creek Blvd.
vote to prohibit cars from parking in bike lanes?
Yes No √ Other
In the bike lanes where it's illegal for cars to park,
is spotty at best. Many times we've seen a police cruiser pass one or
more cars parked in a bike lane, taking no action. By contrast we know
cyclists who have been arrested and gone
for minor traffic
infractions such as bicycling on the sidewalk, running a red light, or
biking without a helmet.
While I am not ready to support banning cars from parking in bike
lanes, I do think we could do more in terms of education on this issue.
I’d support efforts to flier cars in bike lanes or issue a series of
warnings before ticketing vehicles. Ideally, I’d prefer to have bike
lanes in addition to parking lanes, with enough room for car doors to
open without intruding on the bike lane.
How would you improve enforcement of the
no-parking in bike lanes rule where it exists?
Please see above -- I support greater education,
even on a windshield-to-windshield basis to help inform drivers, and
would be open to considering a series of warnings before ticketing.
Council affirmed that it's perfectly fine
for cars to park in the bike lanes on Shoal Creek Blvd., ignoring
national safety guidelines and the advice of its own staff. Staff and
cyclists favor the common-sense plan of having parking on just one side
of the street, freeing up enough room for a car-free bike lane on each
side of the road. Here's a 6-minute
movie of the presentation we gave to council on this issue, as well
as more background
7. Helmet ordinance.
Would you support staff's plan for Shoal Creek to
have parking on one side of the road and car-free bike lanes in both
√ Yes No Other
If you think the Shoal Creek represents a "compromise" (as
it has been popularly misrepresented), then what exactly do you think
gave up, and what exactly did cyclists gain?
Shoal Creek was not a compromise because all sides
were not given a chance to weigh in substantively during the planning
process. Citizens were only able to comment when it was on the dias
for a vote. We need to engage people much earlier in the process, as
our city’s neighborhood connectivity division does such a good
job of now.
The only benefit from this experience was that it
created a really positive process that we used for Expositin and
Chicon, which should help mitigate these problems in the future. I
hope that when Shoal Creek is up for resurfacing we can resolve this
and re-line the roads in a way that balances the needs of all of our
[Editor's note: Point of
fact, the Shoal Creek process a substantive public input process.
We know, because we attended one of the town hall meetings. The
reason that the Shoal Creek outcome wasn't a compromise was not that we
didn't get a chance to weigh in, it's that we didn'tget anything.
We had parking in bike lanes before, and we have parking in bike lanes
now. In a true compromise each side gives up something, which the
other side gets. In the Shoal Creek case, cyclists got
nothing. (more on this issue)]
Feel free to share any other comments or thoughts on the
Shoal Creek Blvd. issue.
Yes, I would follow staff’s recommendations and
respect the public input process that was developed after the Shoal
Creek problems to address these concerns. Shoal Creek happened
before I was elected, and from what staff has told me, it was a very
contentious process in which insufficient input was solicited from
stakeholders. As a result, the City hired staff to help engage
Austinites in a consistent manner going forward. The resulting process
worked well on Exposition Boulevard and Chicon, and seems like a good
way to balance the needs of all road users while addressing our traffic
problems and increasing multi-modal transit options. Even though there
will still be contention and discussion, we know the City has a
process, and a way to plug in the neighbors and residents who want to
get involved. Staff tells me that best part of this process has been
hearing from majority of neighbors who support one-side parking.
Thankfully, we also have many more tools, such as sharrows, to
help increase connectivity and add to our bicycling infrastructure.
Austin is a member of NACTO, and we contributed a lot of positive ideas
to their new guidebook, something I’m very proud of. We’ve come a long
way in 5-6 years to help make Austin a leader in bicycle infrastructure.
Many people have reservations about the helmet ordinance because the last
time anyone checked, over 90% of
the no-helmet tickets given to kids
were given to black and Hispanic kids, and because many believe
getting kids to wear helmets should be the responsibility of parents,
not the police. Helmet laws have also been shown to reduce the
number of cyclists, making cycling more dangerous for those who
continue to ride, and some research has suggested that cyclists
who wear helmets are more likely to get hit by cars, which could
partially explain why as
helmet use went up in the 1990s, head injuries among cyclists
skyrocketed. (More on helmets and helmet laws from BicycleSafe.com.)
Do you support a local helmet law for...
Adults Both √ Neither Other
I support a sunset review of the under-18 helmet law,
and I support further study related to the correlation between helmet
laws and getting more bicyclists on the road. I’ve seen some
studies that show mandatory helmet laws create a stigma that cycling is
unsafe, and as a result less people ride. I’ve also been educated by
members of the bike community about how mandatory helmet laws seem to
put the onus for safety on bicyclists, rather than a shared commitment
between all road users. This suggests to me that we don’t need a
mandatory helmet law as much as we need more education for drivers and
cyclists alike, about the need to share our roads, and provide a safe
commuting and traveling space for everyone.
Personally, I will always make my two children (Ethan, age 5, and Emme, age 2.5) wear helmets.
I want them to want to wear their helmets to protect them from other
people who may not be on the look-out for bicyclists on the road.
However, when they are older if they are not wearing them on the
three-block ride down the street to Galaxy Café or Nau’s, I don’t think
they necessarily need to be cited by the police.
8. Bus system. How can the bus system be
improved? What role would you take in that?
Clearly we need to improve our bus system.
The question is how, with limited resources, to address issues
pertaining to bus frequency, range and area of operations, hours of
service, special-needs users, and choice commuters, just to name a few.
Do we put more buses in underserved areas, or focus on increasing the
frequency in major travel paths? It's kind of a chicken-and-egg problem
-- more people would ride if the routes were more direct, but the
routes that end up getting improved upon are the ones that already have
9. Urban Rail. Please answer as specifically as
possible whether you support trains running inside the urban core, and
if so, what role you would take in making that happen.
Two ideas that could have an immediate impact and reap long-term benefits are dedicated lanes and improved data streams.
Dedicated lanes along major traffic arteries at rush hour
would create an incentive to take the bus, rather than crawl down MoPac
for 45 minutes. Dedicated lanes help with congestion all around,
even for those who choose to continue to drive their cars. Dedicated
lanes and a faster ride can help create more choice commuters. Choice
commuters are key to the long-term financial health of CapMetro. We
can’t run a bus service that serves predominantly the bus-dependent
population—it’s simply not viable.
CapMetro can also accelerate their plans to put GPS
sensors on top of buses, stream the data, and operate a website or
smartphone app that provides real-time data on when the next bus is
coming, locate nearby bus stops, plan a route, etc. This would take
a lot of the guess-work out of riding the bus, when riders don’t know
if a bus is running early or late, or even what the schedule for that
stop is. This app might also help create a greater culture of
accountability for buses being on time and on schedule. While our
overall on-time statistics are strong, there are still too many
instances of buses leaving before their scheduled stop times, stranding
Austin is growing, and is going to continue to grow.
We can plan wisely for this and I’m very concerned about how we will
move the next 30,000 people in and out of downtown. I support rail as
part of the solution to our traffic problems, and I foresee a time when
urban rail will make sense for our City. Rail is going to be very
expensive, however, and requires participation of regional partners and
key stakeholders such as the University of Texas and State
10. Car parking requirements. Parking space
requirements for businesses work
against density goals
and are a significant obstacle for small businesses in central
Austin. Also, about 12 bikes can be parked in the space used to park a
single car. Would you be willing to reduce the amount of car
parking that regulations currently require?
Any plan needs to be about more than just traffic reduction, and must support economic development and housing goals.
I need to see a sensible business plan before endorsing urban rail. At
this time, I have not seen a plan that suggests that it will be
economically viable, and will attract the ridership needed to be
√ Yes No Other
11. CAMPO Reform. Are you willing to oppose the
representation of the federally-sanctioned CAMPO body, with its
share of officials representing areas and districts lying outside
Austin, even though Austin has most of the area's population?
Yes, especially when a business is actively catering to pedestrians, cyclists, and bus riders.
Areas such as Barton Springs Road, 2nd Street, and the Drag cater to
these kinds of customers. We need to approach parking requirements
holistically, and factor in businesses whose customers who depend on
multi-modal transit options.
Yes No √ Other
12. Personal bicycle use. How often do you ride a
CAMPO has just been restructured and this was addressed. I
don’t serve on CAMPO and do not feel informed enough to weigh in on
this question without further inquiry. I am happy to follow up,
[Editor's note: The 2009 restructure of CAMPO
addressed this issue slightly. Austin and Travis County together
had 7 out of 15 city/county seats before, and has 7 out of 14 seats
now. While this isn't ideal, at least Austin is no longer in the
minority. In any event, we won't be asking this particular
Unfortunately I don’t ride a bike very often at the moment, with two young children and a busy career.
However, I will strongly encourage my two kids to ride bikes, and I’m
very interested in creating bicycle facilities that work for riders at
all skill levels. I support improvements to help more kids bike safely
I also want to make sure our transportation policies take
into account the many Austinites who rely on bicycling as their only
way to get to work and make ends meet. Anything we can do to
improve our multi-modal transit options will have a positive impact,
not only on mobility, but also on people’s pocket books.
I am proud to have the support of several leaders in the bicycle community (Council member Chris Riley, Leslie Luciano) and many leaders in Austin's urbanist and smart-growth community (Scott Polikov, Glenn Gadbois, Jeb Boyt) just to name a few, as well as strong environmentalists (Mary
Ann Neely, Jim Marston, Mike Blizzard). I would be honored to receive
your endorsement as well, to continue working together on a cleaner,
(Kathie Tovo did not return our survey, even after we gave