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‘Agent of change’ remains static for now

Wednesday, July 19, 2017 by Chad Swiatecki

With a brand-new manager of Austin’s Music and Entertainment Division, there’s not expected to be any upcoming action on the so-called “agent of change” policy that dominated the bandwidth of that office for the first six months of 2017.

That’s in part because new manager Erica Shamaly is expected to focus first on the remaining pieces of the city’s Music and Creative Ecosystem Omnibus package of policies, including implementation of an online business development platform for local musicians and revising the city’s Music Venue Assistance loan program.

The agent of change delay also comes because the issue has been handed off to a working group featuring leaders from local neighborhoods, live music venues and the area hotel industry. A recent trip to San Francisco by Rebecca Reynolds, executive director of the Music Venue Alliance, and Brian Block, head of the city’s entertainment services group, was expected to provide information on how that West Coast tech hub implemented its own agent of change policy to address friction between music venues and nearby development.

There is no timetable for when that group could bring back a policy proposal for the city’s legal department to review, but Kevin Johns, director of the city’s Economic Development Department, has offered to hire a mediator to help the group come to a consensus on how policy can be revised to provide enough physical or legal buffers so music venues can exist as Austin continues to grow and become more population dense. “I offered to do that so they can run kind of a Camp David type of thing where they come up with something they feel good about moving forward,” Johns said.

“When I saw that people said (agent of change) was toothless, I realized we needed to work harder to get a better solution out there, and I think it’s going to come together very soon.”

As a side note to that issue, reports circulated this week that a million-dollar noise nuisance lawsuit between the Nook Amphitheater nightclub and the nearby Westin Austin Downtown hotel – which has been the real-world flashpoint for the agent of change issue for going on two years – has been settled. Terms of the settlement include an agreement by the hotel to pay up to $145,000 for a special sound system designed to keep loud music from traveling upward and toward the hotel. The Nook also agreed to pay for any fines resulting from loud music that exceeds decibel limits agreed to by both sides.

Photo by Geoff Livingston made available through a Creative Commons license.

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