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Austin's musicians, artists and local businesses need our help. It’s time for action.t shirt design

The Save Our Springs Alliance endorses the Unconventional Austin citizen initiative petition and encourages everyone who loves Austin’s live music, vibrant arts, unique local businesses, and beautiful parks and waterways to sign and support it.  SOS joins with the Austin Independent Business Alliance in endorsing the citizen petitioned ordinance that would be considered by Austin voters on this November’s ballot.

Please take just a few minutes to read about the key details below. Read more and contribute to the petition drive at the Unconventional Austin website.

In short, people don’t come to Austin for the convention center.

Convention center visitors make up less than 4% of hotel visitors, yet the convention center consumes more than 72% of our hotel tax tourism dollars.

The convention center serves a useful function, hosting SXSW and other events, but it has failed to meet every projection for generating business. Annual operating losses were $22 million and $15 million the last two years alone.

Visitors are coming to Austin in droves for the things those of us lucky enough to live here love about our hometown: the authentic Austin of live music, iconic businesses and restaurants, the arts, and our natural beauty and clean water. But, many of the people, places and activities that visitors and residents love most are going away or suffering from decades of neglect and Austin’s affordability crisis.

These human, local business, and natural resources get little or none of our hotel tax dollars, even though that’s what is driving the rapid increase in hotel tax collections to exceed $100 million this year.

Yet last month our council took preliminary steps towards a $1.2 Billion expansion of the convention center, to be financed with 30-year bond debt. They would do this without voter approval, even though Austin voters approved $69 million for the original convention center in 1989 and voted on and approved $110 million for an expansion in 1998.

SOS Alliance supported the 1998 convention center expansion and vote. We are not opposed to conventions or the center. We want a vote, like before. The Unconventional Austin citizen petition ordinance would simply require voter approval for any major expansion of the current center.

We also want our tourism dollars to fund what both visitors and residents love about Austin.

The petitioned ordinance would also direct at least two-thirds of our hotel tax tourism dollars towards cultural, heritage and environmental tourism, including transportation investments that would support tourism but also locals as well. Funding for the convention would be limited to no more than 34% of the hotel tax revenue.

This would mean we would spend the bulk of our hotel taxes in ways that benefit both visitors and residents; conversely, locking up more than 72% of our hotel taxes for the convention center would benefit very few visitors and even fewer residents.

This funding would be consistent with other Texas cities. Houston commits 33% of its hotel tax to its convention center; Fort Worth and Corpus Christi 35%; San Antonio 49%.

This issue is one of the most important issues since the Save Our Springs citizen initiative in 1992. How we spend – and approve that spending of—$2B to $3B of our current and future public funds will speak volumes about who we are as a city.

How we spend our money reflects our values.

Do we value our musicians, artists, parks, pools, historic places, and local small business enough to stand up and demand that we have a vote on the matter?

We think it’s time to stop paying lip service to loving what makes Austin special, and to fund what we love before it’s too late.

If you agree, please support the Unconventional Austin campaign here.  Sign the petition (print and mail) or it is available for signing at the SOS education table at Barton Springs weekends 11am - 3pm.  Spread the word and contribute if you can!