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Advocates say concrete pouring doesn’t belong in the Music Division

Tuesday, June 16, 2015 by Audrey McGlinchy, KUT

The mournful hum of an industrial concrete mixer, it could be argued, makes for a lousy piece of music. Yet writing sound-impact plans for new concrete projects falls under the purview of the city’s Music and Entertainment Division. These plans describe how loud the noise from construction crews will be and how far it will travel.

Music advocates in Austin are now calling for the city to designate a department or staff position to handle these sound plans for concrete pouring. That way, they argue, a department designed to oversee melody, pitch and the number of decibels achieved by a concert on East Sixth Street can concentrate on doing just that.

“We’re just saying they have limited resources as it is, and by assigning economic development staff (in the Music and Entertainment Division) to deal with whether or not people can pour concrete at 2 in the morning, that’s not where these resources should be,” said Austin Music People Executive Director Jennifer Houlihan.

Houlihan went on to say that considering the stark landscape depicted in the recent Austin Music Census, with roughly 80 percent of local musicians making less than $10,000 from music in 2013, the Music Division should not be tasked with unrelated items.

“We’re seeing this in the larger context of how much work we need to get done to grow the entertainment industry,” she said. “We can’t do that if those resources are tangled up in a neighborhood dispute because someone can’t sleep because of construction noise.”

According to city documents, the Music Division employs five full-time employees, and last year the city allotted the division just under $800,000.

Music and Entertainment Division Program Manager Don Pitts said dealing with concrete pouring is not necessarily the department’s expertise. “It’s a stretch of resources, its expertise, its bandwidth, but also focus,” he said.

While noise complaints do not go directly to the Music Division, the division does hear about loud-music violations, and some other noise complaints do get circulated to them – though Pitts said this doesn’t happen often.

But a nearly 470 percent increase over the past five years in city noise complaints, documented by KUT, is another reason the city should designate one central department to handle these code violations, said Houlihan. Pitts agreed, saying there needs to be more “internal synergy” when it comes to addressing the needs of a swelling Austin – which seems to be creating a lot of bangs, cries and hollers in the process.

Houlihan sent an email last week to City Council, asking that the Music Division be relieved from having to consult on any city sounds unrelated to music and that the city manager investigate assigning these tasks to a different department.

Photo by and made available through a Creative Commons 2.0 license.

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