Is the City of Austin prepared to use a boatload of taxpayer money to turn the old Seaholm facility into a multifunctional meeting space for concerts, food trucks, docking, and other activities? It certainly appears so.
The Austin American-Statesman recently reported that the Austin Parks Foundation, a nonprofit that regularly receives grants through the City’s Parks & Recreation Department, will give $450,000 to a New York-based architectural firm to move the project along. On top of that, the City is looking at several supplemental funding sources, including using $600,000 of hotel occupancy tax (HOT) revenues and asking voters to support a potential bond package.
The proposal to tap HOT revenues is concerning to say the least. While the City claims the hotel occupancy tax is used “to promote tourism and the convention and hotel industry in Austin,” the public has been provided with no studies or reports substantiating that completing this project will lead to any meaningful boost in tourism dollars. Further, these public tax dollars should be going to pay for other, higher priority areas.
Asking voters to approve a bond proposition for something that is clearly a want and not a need is also troubling. Especially considering that the City’s total local debt is near $10 billion already, according to the Texas Bond Review Board’s searchable database.
Austinites have a lot of important priorities that they want the City to take charge of. Completing this project is not one of them.