Please join us Thursday, Sept. 28th at City Hall or send an email to City Council to oppose Agenda Item 15, which would renew the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau (aka Visit Austin’s) budget and also oppose Item 52, which would advance Mayor Adler’s  “Downtown Puzzle” plan and more than a billion dollars on a wasteful and irresponsible convention  center expansion.  These items will likely come up at or after 3:30 p.m.  tomorrow.

Last night, KXAN exposed how Visit Austin/ACVB has been treating Austin’s hotel tax revenue as their personal party fund. Check out the story here.  As just one example, the records we uncovered show Visit Austin spending tens of thousands of dollars on Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and Adele concert tickets in other cities (thus incurring air travel, hotel and meal expenses as well), all purportedly to  promote Austin tourism.  It’s time to tell Visit Austin that the party is over. We need to demand an immediate and comprehensive audit of Visit Austin’s finance, management and operations as Austin’s tourism department.  We need to return these functions to the city rather than as payout to a private entity that wastes our money and hides its activities from public oversight.

Thursday’s City Council Meeting also features the next round of discussion on the Mayor’s push to sell the convention center expansion as generating money for the Austin community when the current convention center lost more than $30 million last year alone and an expanded convention center would lose more money and take yet more prime downtown land off of the tax rolls.

While the Mayor is selling this plan as an interconnected “puzzle” of various funding sources, the truth is this is just another attempt by the convention industry to lock up billions of dollars of future revenues that could otherwise go towards live music, local businesses, arts, parks, and historic preservation, which are and continue to be the true economic drivers of Austin’s tourism.

We can do better, but we need to empower our City Council Members to ask questions and fully assess all options for the use of hotel occupancy tax revenues. Please join us in person or by email to demand that the so-called “downtown puzzle” be put on hold while each element is considered on its own merits, with full financial disclosure and with the clear commitment to prioritize funding for those people, places and activities that both visitors and residents love and which we are losing because of Austin’s hyper-growth.