Petition proposing Austin Convention Center expansion be put to public vote heads to City Council

The question of an expansion of the Austin Convention Center has been debated for years.

The question of an expansion of the Austin Convention Center has been debated for years.

Austin’s city clerk estimates 24,481 Austin voters signed a petition proposing a law that would send current plans to expand the city’s convention center to a public election, surpassing the 20,000-signature threshold needed to force a City Council vote on the proposal.

City Council is expected to decide whether to adopt the ordinance on Aug. 8, a city spokesperson said. If City Council rejects the proposal, they will be forced to call an election, in which Austinites would vote this fall on whether such an ordinance should exist.

Earlier this month, Unconventional Austin, a political action committee vehemently opposing a proposed $1.3 billion expansion of the convention center, submitted the handcrafted petition, claiming 30,000 Austinites had agreed with their proposal.

The petition targeted change in two different areas. The first: Austinites should be able to vote on whether the city moves forward with any convention center expansion costing more than $20 million. The second: The city should allocate less hotel-occupancy tax revenue toward the convention center and more toward cultural arts, historic preservation and heritage tourism.

The petition proposed reducing the portion of hotel tax spent on the convention center from 70% to the greater of 34% or five times the annual amount of hotel tax revenue generated by the convention center. State law mandates that cultural arts and historic preservation can each receive only 15% of the city’s annual hotel tax revenue.

The petition proposes using the extra funds taken from the convention center pot to advertising for cultural tourism or designing, constructing and maintaining a transportation system that can connect the city’s tourism ecosystem. The petition also proposes using the extra funds to build cultural tourist attractions like performance art or live music venues.

A majority of Austin’s elected leaders have come out against the intent of the petition. If City Council rejects the proposed ordinance, a city spokesperson said it is unclear at this time whether the two pieces of the petition would appear as a single question or two separate questions on the November ballot.
By Christopher Neely

Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Su


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