You might have already seen this flier produced by Save Our Springs Alliance. SOS is part of a growing movement of Austinites who want the $90 million per year, and growing, revenue from Hotel Occupancy Taxes (taxes which can only be spent on tourism) to be spent on things that make Austin so attractive to tourists – Barton Springs, parks, live music, local art…rather than a grandiose and hugely expensive expansion of the city’s convention center as desired by some members of the Austin City Council.
Our convention center already loses $25 million annually but only drives 2% of local tourism. That’s right, 98% of the tourists visit Austin for the same reasons we love the place, yet the convention center sucks up all of the money like a Hoover.
You can help score a win for the Austin community —and what makes Austin unique —- by winning approval of Item 60 on 1he council meeting agenda sponsored by Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo (District 9),and Council Members Leslie Pool (District 7), Ann Kitchen (District 5), and Ellen Troxclair (District 8).
Go down to City Hall today anytime after 4 pm OR contact your Councilmember and the Mayor – Austin residents only, please. Tell them you support Item 60 and you DON’T support the Mayor’s Item 101 (on the addendum). Read Item 60 right here.
Want the deep dive on this issue, keep reading…
Mayor Steve Adler has posted a counter-attack on Item 60 to which Council members Troxclair, Kitchen and Pool have responded. It’s interesting for those of you who are following battles over HOT funds. It appears to us that the Mayor is using the homeless problem in Austin to advocate for the Convention Center – an amenity that truthfully benefits the downtown hotels far more than Austin’s local businesses and community, and most assuredly does not benefit homeless people.
The mayor’s main argument is that the resolution doesn’t address homelessness. He is correct that it does not directly address homelessness. It does fund important and urgent community needs, thereby freeing up general funds to address homelessness and other community needs.
It appears to us that the only “homeless solution” the resolution threatens is the one the Mayor is trying to sell: the unlikely promise that committing $1.5 to $2 billion in HOT funds over the next 25 years to expand the convention center will result in the creation of a “Tourism Public Improvement District”, whose members “might” vote to dedicate $4 million per year to homelessness through 2021.
Bottom line is that the City is prohibited by law from dedicating funds to homeless needs from the HOT tax, regardless of whether we expand the convention center or not. The Mayor’s “what if’s” are seriously misleading on this issue. It should not be tolerated by Austinites — including and especially homeless folks!
The Mayor also argues that the Item 60 resolution, if approved, would threaten funds for the MACC (Emma Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center), the Red River District, etc. This is nonsense on its face. If Austin doesn’t throw $1.5 to $2 billion into a black hole of convention center expansion, MORE funds will be available to do all of these historic preservation, arts, culture, parks projects…not LESS.
You can read the back and forth here on the Council forum page.