1970s Austin No. 11: Lee Cooke on the super-sizing of Austin

We asked thoughtful locals why the 1970s left such a lasting imprint on Austin. We received many provocative answers, which we’ll share here first. 

Feel free to send yours to mbarnes@statesman.com.

Lee Cooke, former Mayor of Austin
1. The young liberal/populists/neighborhood movements took over city government in mid-seventies and the environmental movement quickly followed. This changed Austin in every way to the city it is today.

Council Member Emma Lou Linn was among the liberal coalition that took over Austin politics in the 1970s.

2.  The outlaw/counterculture music movement was given birth with the relocation of Nelson and gang along with creation of Armadillo, Austin City Limits and Antone’s, etc. This gave rise to music as a economic sector and Austin Chamber of Commerce staff promoting and exporting Austin music in 1980s along with their first use of “Live Music Capital of World” in August 1985 issue of Billboard Magazine and calling meeting in 1986 that lead to creation of South by Southwest

3.  The discussion on central city revitalization was institutionalized in the business, cultural and architectural discussion in late 1970s (see many Statesman stories from 1978-1980) that begin the 24-hour livable central city with a strong tax base for the Austin school district and reversed a dying core that has impacted so many American cities.

4. Infrastructure in energy (power plants), roads (Mopac, 360 and discussion on east loop), push for a new airport, convention center and expansion from a 3-sector economy to a 7-9 sector economy to keep and attract the creative class to be new job base gave Austin the diversity by 2008 to weather the financial recession better than any large American city per CNN — and many business publications and the cultural identity by the type of people living and still coming.

5. Steady and focused goal-oriented leadership at all levels that took goals developed in 1970s and implement and improved them in every succeeding decade. Austin in halfway through a total transformation that begin in 1970s and will go on till 2040s.

In 1970 Austin was 57the  in size — today 11th. No American city, save Charlotte, has changed that much! Note: Charlotte was 60th in 1970 and is 17th today.


1970s Austin: No. 1 Elizabeth Christian
1970s Austin: No. 2 Forrest Preece
1970s Austin: No. 3 Eddie Wilson
1970s Austin No. 7: Fern Santini
1970s Austin No. 8: Rick Lowerre
1970s Austin No. 9: Sherry Matthews

Author: Michael Barnes

Michael Barnes writes about Austin's people, places, culture and history for the Austin American-Statesman and austin360.com.

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