"Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord,
But a just weight is His delight."
More background from Austin Affordability:
For the past several years, various citizen groups, City Commissions and the Austin American-Statesman editorial board have called for doing away with taxpayer funded fee waivers for large for-profit special events. This endless stream of subsidies adds up to somewhere around $2 million per year. Of course, the granddaddy of them all is South By Southwest.Read the whole thing here.
The Old Guard message has always been the same. That these big festivals bring in tourists and boost the economy. They claim that the fee waivers are a “sound investment.” In reality, they put a strain on the taxpayers that has persisted for far too long. At the biggest events, public safety is severely compromised, with police shortages in neighborhoods citywide. It’s time for the New Guard at City Hall to stand up and tell these event promoters that we just can’t afford it anymore.
The question comes down to priorities. If the City insists on not making the for-profit event companies pay their own fees, then they could easily fund the subsidies with the Hotel Occupancy Tax. The revenues from that fund have ballooned from $51 million in 2012 to over $70 million in 2014.
The Old Guard prefers to restrict every penny of the Hotel Occupancy Tax for tourism and convention activities. Their lobbyists have erected a wall of resistance around City Hall. But what are the community’s priorities? Do we have a crisis in Austin with low tourism rates, or do we see new hotels popping up like mushrooms? A couple of million dollars per year would be a minor tick to the tourism fund, but it would certainly help offset the tax burden when combined with other affordabilty reforms.