Austin City Clerk OKs Petition To Put Convention Center Expansion To A Public Vote
An effort to put a planned expansion of the Austin Convention Center to a public vote is one step closer to its goal. Today, the city clerk certified a petition that will send the issue to the city council.
The political action committee leading that charge, Unconventional Austin, says it received word this morning that the clerk had certified nearly 30,000 signatures. The petition hopes to sideline the Austin City Council's $1.2 billion plan to nearly double the convention center's size and purchase the historic Palm School, which was approved unanimously in May.
The petition ordinance would require any proposed expansion above $20 million within a four-year period be put to a vote.
Unconventional Austin argues that the expansion wouldn't directly benefit the city as a whole, and that the attendees of conventions and events there "account for less than four percent Austin's overnight visitors" and the hotel occupancy tax revenue from those events should be diverted to support Austin's culturally-minded local businesses and historic preservation.
Mayor Steve Adler railed against the petition when it was filed on July 12, suggesting that the effort was misleading and that the majority of the public testimony before the Council vote supported the expansion.
Former Adler staffer and political consultant Jim Wick started a counter-PAC when Unconventional Austin submitted its petition to the clerk, arguing that state law requires the city to expand the center, if it wants to see more tax revenue from hotel stays.
The petition's language will be be considered by the City Council at its meeting on Aug. 8. Council members can either approve it as an ordinance, or they can send it to an election in November. Council members will also weigh putting a petition against the proposed Major League Soccer stadium at McKalla Place on the ballot at their Aug. 8 meeting.