Amy Babich  Candidate for Austin City Council, Place 5

Human Power Party

P.O. Box 49084, Austin, TX 78765 * (512) 453-0438 *

Position Statements
Details on Transportation Agenda
Interview with Bicycling in Austin Newsletter
Recent letters to the Austin Chronicle
Profile by the Austin Chronicle

Links to other sites
Early Voting Locations
Austin American-Statesman article about Amy, 2-8-99 (The Statesman charges $5.95 to read this article on their website, and won't allow us to reprint it here.)
Amy appeared on the cover of the October 17, 1997 Austin Chronicle, which carried a feature story about Austin cycling. (The Chronicle lets you read that article for free.)
Reviews of Amy's 1998 novel, "The Age of the Bicycle":
   Review in the Austin Chronicle
Review in MSRRT (Minnesota Library Association Social Responsibilities Round Table)
Bicycling in Austin website

Interview with Bicycling in Austin newsletter
Introduction & Questions by Michael Bluejay | published 1-16-2000
Free subscriptions to the newsletter available ot Bicycling in Austin

Introduction. I've seen the state of local bike advocacy go through three phases. When I first moved to Austin in the mid-80's, there really wasn't any significant bike movement. Then in the early/mid-90's, cyclists started lobbying the government for improved conditions and more support. When government officials were less than receptive to their requests, bike advocates got smart and realized that the best way to influence government officials was to BE those government officials. Towards that end, bike advocates got themselves appointed to City commissions. (For example, David Sullivan to the Planning Commission, Michael Zakes and Patrick Goetz to the Urban Transportation Commission, Mike Librik on the Parks Board, and Chris Riley on the Downtown Commission, among others.)

Even when not actually running for office, cyclists have shown that they are a political force to be reckoned with. Cycling was a popular issue in the 1997 City Council elections, with candidates taking the questionnaire by the (now defunct) League of Bicycling Voters seriously, and with most candidates actually getting on bikes and riding in a special ride to show their support for biking issues. And just last month, Mayor Watson pledged to focus on traffic and sprawl problems in his second term.

One bicycle advocate is now trying to get a spot on the City Council herself. Amy Babich, known to thousands who have read her vitriolic letters to the Austin Chronicle, is seeking the council position currently held by Bill Spelman. The Biking in Austin newsletter is proud to bring you the first print interview with Amy regarding her candidacy, scooping both the Chronicle and the Statesman. Our interview appears below.

This isn't the first time Babich tried to run for City Council. Candidates must either collect hundreds of signatures on a petition or pay a filing fee in order to run. Last year when Babich tried to run she collected the signatures, only to have the City Clerk throw the petition out because some of the signers didn't write the word "Austin" on the form (even though they listed their address and zip code). And even that wasn't the first time that citizens have had their petitions spat on by the City. A year earlier, the Clerk threw out campaign finance petition by Austinites for a Little Less Corruption by invalidating thousands of signatures -- for no good reason, according to the petition organizers. And in 1992, after the City Council's inaction on water quality issues forced citizens to submit their petition calling for the SOS ordinance, the council illegally delayed placing the issue on a ballot for 90 days, allowing developers to file development plans under the much softer rules during that 90-day window.

Babich is collecting petition signatures now, and this year she's making damn sure that each signer includes the word "Austin" in their address. The petition is due in March, although she hopes to have collected enough signatures to turn it in by mid-February.

While I share Babich's dream of a car-free city, I'm less optimistic that it could actually be achieved any time in the near future. Still, the radical thinkers help to pull society in a positive direction away from the negative extreme. Babich may not get her wish of a car-free Austin by 2020, but her insistence on that goal will mean that more attention will be placed on transportation issues affecting the city. On that basis, we wholeheartedly support her candidacy.

In other news, Charles Gandy, founder and former director of the Texas Bicycle Coalition, and former Texas State Representative, has announced his bid for the U.S. Senate, seeking the position currently held by Kay Bailey Hutchison. We'll try to bring you an interview with Gandy in a future issue. For now, you can check out his campaign website (still under construction) at <>.


[True to her reputation, when we called Amy about this interview, she answered her cell phone while she was on her bike! Gotta love it. And because she's a safety advocate, Amy insisted that we explain that she was actually on the back part of a tandem bike with her husband, and that she would never try to steer a bicycle while talking on a cell phone.]

Why are you running for City Council?

     Because I really think it would be good to have a non-motorist on the City Council, and I think it would be good to have someone who thinks that facilitating non-motorized transportation is an important thing. Nobody on the current council thinks that, at least not strongly.

What's your vision for Austin?

      This is more of a long-term thing, but I think that Austin ought to be the first city to get rid of cars, by around 2020. It would be wonderful to have a city where people got around by public transit, walking, and biking.

Would trucks be able to deliver goods to the retail shops, or would you get rid of them too?

      It really doesn't matter if there are only a few hundred motorized vehicles. That would be okay. The problem is that the city is currently overrun by them. You'd have to get rid of all the private cars, because you can't say that some people can have them and some can't. You'd still have emergency vehicles, though hopefully those would be converted to electric power.

How, specifically, would you implement these ideas?

      I'm working on writing all of this down to explain it better. The first thing is to reduce usage and slow cars down, such as with bicycle boulevards. [These are streets which have obstructions which let bicycles go through, but which block cars. Cars can still get to any house or building, but can't use the street for through traffic.] And then we could establish car-free zones, such as in the downtown area. The idea is that this will be so nice that people will want it all over the city. You're not going to get anything all over the city unless people want it -- it has to be democratic. Another thing is to build more sidewalks and to fix those that are in bad condition. Right now the City doesn't claim any responsibility for maintaining sidewalks -- I'd try to change that.

You think people will really go for all this?

      Yes. I know they're not into it now, but they'll see how attractive it is. If we start having car co-ops [in which several people jointly own a share a single vehicle], people won't be so attached to "their" vehicle. Once they have less attachment to the car system, it will be easier for them to buy into the idea of a car-free city.

What is your response to all the people who say that you're a one-issue candidate?

      I don't think that's true. I favor a citizens review board for the police and I support the Living Wage campaign, for example. I also think that companies could employ more local people if they'd let people work part-time. A lot of these computer companies only offer full-time jobs, which keeps people like musicians from getting better jobs. They have to take lower-paying jobs because those are the only part-time jobs available.

      It's true that I probably wouldn't run if transportation weren't on the table. Running for public office isn't my favorite thing to do. But this problem really affects me, and I don't see that anything is going to be done about it unless someone who doesn't drive a car DOES run for office. This issue affects all other issues, and it easily gets swept under the rug. People talk about redeveloping downtown, but they don't talk about what they're going to do about the car traffic it's going to cause.

Why did you pick Spelman's seat?

      I'm not even sure whether Spelman is running again; I don't think he's announced. Since he's younger and stronger than I am and has a tenured position at UT, why isn't HE the bicycle candidate? I don't think he really sees the problem. And maybe if I don't win, I can influence him or whoever does win. He has a bike and could ride it if he felt that it would help him politically. (laughs)

If you're elected, how do you plan to convince your fellow councilmembers to agree to your radical ideas?

      By pointing out that I got elected! I'm not planning on getting elected by lying and saying I'm giving out free gasoline. I'm running by saying that I want to get rid of the cars by 2020 while promoting other forms of transportation. If I get ELECTED on that basis then I've shown that those issues are popular. I think it's more popular than people think. Lots of people wave to me and encourage me while I'm riding. And I don't think my ideas are that radical anyway.

Website hosted by Michael Bluejay, who supports Amy's campaign but is otherwise uninvolved with it.