Deciding what events we should have downtown

October 8, 2008

The whole process with the task force has been very frustrating at times. It’s one of those things where everything is so general or way down in the weeds. So today I asked a friend for a spreadsheet used for multi-variate attribute valuation for things like lead scoring … ok yes, you must be asking what the hell are you talking about. Bear with me.

For events the task force has talked about a number of things like economic impact, non-profit beneficiary, roads impacted, day and time of day as factors. But the voting so far has been about each item. Saying that “non-profit beneficiary” should not be a requirement for a permit. Well that all makes sense but the reality is that for almost all items a all or nothing consideration won’t work. We need to list all the attributes or considerations, and then rate them.

Here’s a spreadsheet I’ve shared (hope it works with google docs, post a comment if you want the .xls file) with a couple of task force members to try and provide a framework of sorts to more systematically define the attributes that should be used to evaluate events. This isn’t quite what this spreadsheet was originally designed for but hopefully it’s a starting point.

Today’s Run: 5 Miles at 7:08 pace

Current Wins: Relaxing vacation in London, 3 visits to the gym in two weeks, Clean car, Evolving friendships

Current Losses: No running at all in London, No license/inspection for scooter, Less than one week left off

Limiting races in downtown Austin

September 30, 2008

Yesterday was the first meeting after last weeks 12 to 0 vote by the Task Force to limit events in downtown Austin. I posted details on all the discussion on the site so please feel free to discuss the topic there:

Let’s just say it was an interesting meeting. One thing that did come out of it is that members of the Task Force recognized that a vision and objectives are needed instead of focusing on specific items and voting on them. There were a couple of task force members that said we seem to be in the details and have missed step A and step B.

There were also some good points about impact on churches and examples where events like the Capital 10k have done a good job with addressing access and traffic for people attending services at churches. There were also some choice quotes:

Paul Carroza in reference to the 12-0 vote last week – “The vote bothered me and it bothers me that I voted for it.”

John Conley while discussing the need for fewer races – “There should be some rules and reasons to limit them, having said that I don’t know what they are. Having three races at the same time what does that mean? If I had my druthers I’d only have my race so I don’t have to compete.”

Now of course don’t take the quotes out of context. I brought up the 12-0 vote being an issue, the task force did bring up that this is only the first reading but my point was that if you don’t believe in something you shouldn’t vote in favor of it even if there is a second reading. When you vote you’re supporting it as stated. Similar to zoning cases with three readings before city council, if somebody is against it their vote is how they express it in the first reading.

John’s comment was related to a discussion about needing fewer events and then races specifically. There’s probably some truth to what he’s saying but the broader point is that only so many races can really be supported on a given weekend. The big question is how it’s decided which ones. You can see some of my commentary on the forum post:

Don’t have a great feeling about the task force yet

September 11, 2008

I manged to make it to the task force meeting again this week and it was kind of depressing, the decisions so far were non-decisions. There doesn’t seem any overriding “purpose”. The approach right now appears to be to come up with some consensus that makes the different constituents on the task force happy. I don’t necessarily consider everybody on the task force representative of the people they’re supposed to represent. I will say however that some of the task force members have really impressed me, I wish I could remember their names. Next time I’m going to make a point of noting them.

I have my notes and links to what was voted on on the site:

This is a very complicated issue and there are lots of factors to balance when deciding whether or not to approve an event. Before you come up with some rules I think there needs to be some over arching goal, nobody has spelled that out. The sense I get from the meetings is some task force members want their “cares” addressed (Brees, Petin, and others) and it’s like a collection of special interest group. I hope the result isn’t some watered down list of recommendations, I believe in consensus but taken too far that can create “bridges to nowhere” … a term used by a task force member, nothing to do with the election right now 🙂

What is the purpose of events downtown? Isn’t it about the image and feel of the city as well as the quality of life of it’s residents? Now I don’t know what those things are but I’d think somewhere in there is “music”, “fitness”, and “arts”. What is it the events are supposed to fundamentally supposed to achieve for us and then we can go about getting all the secondary goals and make sure different constituents needs are addressed.

More on this later on, I’m on an information gathering exercise right now to try and better inform the task force members.

Next downtown special events/road closure task force meeting this Monday

August 21, 2008

The next meeting has been confirmed for Monday August the 25th at the Waller Building of 10th Street. You can stay informed about the meeting and see notes and discussion about meeting on the 11th on this page at

Thank you to the 150 runners that showed up at the Task Force meeting yesterday

August 12, 2008

It was pretty amazing to see the room packed. When I got there at 4:30 the city had put out 40 chairs, that didn’t last very long as the room filled up and a whole new section was created. Notes about what was discussed as well as a couple of interviews from people in attendance are on

The meeting in two weeks will be interesting. Some of the task force members brought up a few times that they needed to inform more neighborhood associations so they can voice their concerns. Here are a few of mine from yesterday:

  1. The task force members said this is about events and not just running but I heard “races” 5 to 10 times more than I heard “event” … draw your own conclusion
  2. One of the task force members said “I want to get ahead of it so the presumption the event will go ahead isn’t there”. That didn’t come off to me about working on a solution together but seemed more about trying to prevent events.
  3. The assistant city manager clearly stated that there has been NO direction from anybody in the city that events or races should be reduced. I think that’s good but policies can lead to that even if that isn’t the intent. Case and point, the Go for the Gold 10k, the costs have gone from 10k to 24k for the barricading and coning. How is somebody supposed to deal with that so this time around there was no Go for the Gold. And this is without any regulation change, just how people have all of a sudden decided to “enforce” things.
  4. One of the people presenting (a consultant for events) made a comment that “small event planner” are the issue since they don’t know what’s going on. I differe on that account, the Go for the Gold has been held before, they seemed to just get screwed by stupid rules.
  5. There were also comments that small events may not belong downtown. So that means the Cap10k, the Human Race, etc can go on but the small races for charities can’t occur in the downtown or East Austin area?

I have a lot more notes but this is what I remember off the top of my head. What concerned me wasn’t what was said but the undertone of some of the comments. It was after most people left and the break that this really came out. We need to make sure we keep informing people about the real issues and concerns and that this process doesn’t just cater to a handful for interests.

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