Austin City Council approves resolution for SXSW review

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council unanimously approved a resolution Thursday to dig deeper into some of the issues that occurred during this year’s South by Southwest festival.

The festival may be a distant memory to some, but council members wants to revisit how the festival went.

Everything from security, to traffic, and alcohol. The goal is to gather feedback from the public, stakeholders, and participants in an effort to make changes for the future.

Council members Mike Martinez, Chris Riley, and Kathy Tovo are sponsoring the resolution and said it’s important to find out what is going well and what’s not – all in an effort to make the festival better and safer for those who attend.

“This item is not about trying to limit or make SXSW go away,” Martinez said. “In my mind this is about preserving SXSW. It’s part of what made Austin so special and so attractive, but we do see that there are improvements that can be made.”

Martinez likened the festival to bringing the Olympics to Austin every year.

He hopes the review could lead to more security and partnerships with other law enforcement agencies like the Travis County Sheriff’s department.

One idea being tossed around is creating bike and pedestrian only streets during the festival, Martinez said.

For example, shutting down Fourth Street to cars to encourage those who are on foot or in pedicabs to travel that street in order to avoid coming into contact with cars.

That’s not exactly music to the ears of workers in that area.

“We definitely aren’t down for street blocking as much,” said Sarah Brown, who is a manager at Fado Irish Pub. For workers downtown, they say closed roads would make downtown employees and residents suffer.

Jackie Marquet, who works at Halcyon coffee shop and bar, agrees. She blocking more streets from traffic would cause other problems

“You know, delivery trucks, they still have to come and deliver supplies. And, people are still trying to commute to and through downtown,” Marquet said.

The resolution would include getting feedback from just about everyone involved in the festival, including residents that live in the neighborhoods where there’s live music, and the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission about events that have free or donated alcohol.

Council members want the Music and Urban Transportation Commissions to also get involved in the feedback concerning possible code changes.

“Folks just want to take a couple steps back and look at how this festival is organized,” said Rich Garza, Austin Music Commissioner. “Are there better, more efficient ways to make it a better experience for everybody?”

Sara Le Vine started a petition on the website Change.org to help make Austin a safer place during big events.

“I think things have become so bad in Austin as far as public transportation and infrastructure,” she said. “We are growing too fast and not keeping up with it.

“It’s me being able to take the petition…to all these people in the city and say, this is your citizens speaking.”

Council is proposing this feedback come in the form of online surveys and public meetings. The city manager has up to 90 days to get feedback before presenting it to the city council.

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