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I have been attending (and speaking at) the last four Visitor Impact Task Force meetings. My purpose has been to bring to light the importance of local business to tourism. After all, local business provides the culture, the vibe, the fun, the uniquely Austin flavor that tourists love to experience. I have presented a series of compelling presentations pointing out why local business should be included in the considerations and, specifically, why AIBA is the organization to oversee this. Read the presentations here. But all is not well in Task Force Land. 

The City Council directed the task force to ”make recommendations to the City Council about how to best utilize all hotel occupancy revenue to impact tourism by April 1, 2017.”  What began as an objective overview of best use practices for Hotel Occupancy Taxes has eroded into the haves and have-nots. The two majority entities already receiving HOT funds are the Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB) and Cultural Arts. Both are represented on the Task Force (see all members here). Having these two powerhouses on the Task Force has enevitably led to the haves and everyone else—the have nots.These two entities control most of the HOT funds. Arts (represented by LuLu Flores) and ACVB (represented by Tom Moonan) have laid down the law that no one is touching their money and, to date, this has not been challenged. This is a tactic of bullying and intimidation. 

While the majority of the task force is just trying to do their job without confrontation, some have painted a picture with less than the truth. Since AIBA was the focus of these deceptions, I have informed the task force of the truth. Read AIBA's letter in the task force meeting backup material. Mr. Noonan made several erroneus statements regarding ACVB's relationship with AIBA (spoiler alert-there isn't one) and proclaimed that ACVB promotes the local business community, AIBA and the IBIZ Districts. Our recent survey says otherwise but more on that later.

It's time to show the City Council and the Task Force that local business is listening and we are not amused. Take action now. Come to the next Task Force meeting on May 23 at 5:30, Hyatt Regency on Barton Springs Rd, Foothills 2 Room when Citizen's Communication is scheduled. You don't have to speak but show our force. Write to your Council Member and tell them that local business is driver of tourism (and sales taxes). Go on Speak Up Austin and share your views on including and funding local business. But most of all, Be Vocal for Local.

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