Last night, after hours of contentious testimony and city council debate, Mayor Adler threw in the towel with a minor concession from his colleagues and joined a unanimous council in voting to direct the City Manager to move $15 million from this year's proposed budget for the convention center over to fund $3.2 million for promotion of live music, $500,000 for locally-owned business promotion, and $11 million to create an Historic Preservation Fund.  This fund would help protect historic places that we are losing as well as historic preservation activities, such as operation of the Austin History Center.

The funding is only for this year's budget.  However, it sets the stage for future moves to shift even more funding away from the failing convention center and towards live music, arts, parks, preservation, and locally-owned business.

Mayor Adler and representatives of several groups who have signed on to his "downtown puzzle" plan vehemently opposed the measure throughout the evening.  The mayor's downtown puzzle plan needs to keep around 85% or more of our hotel occupancy tax (HOT) tourism funds dedicated to fund a proposed $560 million convention center expansion.  However, he has been working overtime to hide this fact by proposing $50  million to fund a grab-bag of projects, $30 million for homelessness through a deal with the downtown hotels, and $110 million in dedicated general funds for gold-plating the 34 acres of the downtown Waller Creek park.

In the end, the Mayor was forced to concede that the one-year $15 million funding to meet immediate, top Austin priorities would not block his $2 billion, 20 to 30 year downtown puzzle plan.  Thus, the downtown puzzle plan battle will continue in the days, weeks and months ahead.  The next major round is currently set for the council's Thursday, September 28 meeting.  Please mark your calendar and plan to be there.

This is an incredibly important battle over how we spend $2 billion or more over the next 20 years or so.  It will tell us what our elected officials actually value.  These funds can help us save our most important natural, cultural and human treasures, or they can be wasted benefiting a few Broadcasdowntown hotels and a failing convention center industry.