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Council hears Task Force request to create City Music Department

Friday, November 21, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Representatives of the Live Music Task Force presented their recommendations to the Austin City Council on Thursday. First and foremost on their list is the creation of a City Music Department to deal with, nurture and promote the local music industry.


While Task Force representatives admitted the economic downturn made it difficult to ask for money for a new city department, they said the city needed to act to help struggling musicians and club owners.


“We’ve seen venues close down, we’ve watched musicians migrate…to Nashville, Seattle, Chicago, New York, and LA. We’ve seen downtown prices force out venues,” said Task Force Chair Paul Oveisi. Since the Council passed a resolution declaring Austin the “Live Music Capital of the World” in 1991, Oveisi said, the city had failed to put safeguards in place for the creative community at the heart of Austin’s worldwide reputation. “We didn’t foster that creativity, protect it, grow it,” he said.


The creation of a City Music Department, he said, would be the first step to bringing the type of music industry infrastructure to Austin that is necessary to support musicians throughout their careers.


The proposal found some support on the Council, including from Mayor Will Wynn. “Even as somber as the economic outlook seems to be, even as judiciously as our City Manager is already beginning a process whereby he is halting spending, likely beginning to already make cuts to then make potential future cuts less painful…even while we’re doing that, I’m going to figure out how to be supportive of us creating a Music Department as soon as possible,” the Mayor said, prompting wild applause from the hundreds of musicians packing City Hall for the presentation.


Council Member Mike Martinez, whose staffer Bobby Garza served on the Task Force, is also enthusiastic about the recommendations. “I think establishing a Music Department is the least that we could do,” he said. “It’s time. It is past time. We need a formal, structured process within the City of Austin’s normal department structure that speaks to the music industry here in Austin. I’m going to be completely supportive of that recommendation.”


Council Member Randi Shade said her concern would be on the relationship between nightclubs and their residential neighbors as the Council considers the Task Force’s report. “In these last few months, there’s been some additional work done to make sure that the neighborhoods had a voice to discuss one of the more controversial issues, which is compatibility and the sound issues. And I think that the work that’s been done has been excellent,” she said. “I want to keep the informal group together to continue working to make sure that we address, more specifically, what kind of process is going to need to be in place. I know that we will be exploring the feasibility of the Music Department, and I want to make sure that equally of importance is that we continue our efforts along those lines.”


The Council did not vote on the recommendations during Thursday’s meeting, but simply accepted the Task Force’s report. The group also dealt with issues ranging from affordable housing to noise regulations.

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