I Can’t Believe This Is Happening in Austin

Update on below: This task force won’t know what hit them in the next few weeks. Every fitness group in town is rallying big time!! Don’t try to mess with a bunch of type-A anal retentive fit people. Or to quote a wonderful line from the cinematic genius that was “The Breakfast Club,”:

“Don’t Mess with the Bull. You’ll get the Horns.”

If you’re an athlete of any sort in Austin, you must participate and let your voices be heard to Austin City Council. As a former Event Director and frequent staff member of several events, I can say that the last few years have been brutal when dealing with the City with regard to putting on races. I received this email from the President of Conley Sports, which is an Event Production company in Austin. They need our support in this endeavor!

Even if you don’t live here, please stay involved in your local politics to shut down races. It’s amazing that something like this can happen to one of the “fittest” cities in the U.S.

____

Hello friends!

Apologies for this very long note. This is the best summary I can come up with.

As some of you may know, I am on a City Council Task Force that has been charged with finding some remedies to the disruption to downtown traffic caused by special events. The Task Force consists of 16 citizens who represent various stakeholders in the issue.

So here’s the situation:

· Two-thirds of the task force represent ‘aggrieved parties’ who seek to limit and control running events and triathlons.
· I am the only race director on the task force. Paul Carrozza is a co-chair and he is obviously on the side of event promotion.
· Even though over 60% of the special events in the downtown central business district are street festivals or parades, not a single street festival or parade organizer is on the task force.
· It is no longer possible to add new members to the task force.
· The task force will likely take a hard stance on downtown running events but any recommendations adopted by the city council may also be applied city-wide.
· The rich and varied running events that have defined Austin as a ‘fit-city’, generated millions, upon millions of dollars for the local economy and the local non-profit community are at high risk of being over-regulated and in some cases priced out of existence in the next six to twelve months.
· A part of the cultural fabric of our city is in jeopardy.

Here’s the challenge

· If we don’t advocate for our running events, then nobody else will.
· A city council member once remarked to me, that after a race, she only hears from people who are angry and inconvenienced. She never hears from people thanking the city or complimenting a race or the charity that benefitted from the race.
· If this task force rolls with the two-third majority bias, running events in Austin will be regulated out of existence in some cases and will be priced out of existence in other cases.
· If we can get 18,000 people out to run the Cap 10K or 22,000 people out to run the Komen Race for the Cure, then can we get 100 people to email City Council Members this week, to tell them that running events are important to this community and our non-profits? Can we get 100 people to come to the next Task Force Meeting and the one after that and the one after that one until we make our point that runners are not anonymous or invisible people. Can we get 10 people at each meeting to get on the citizens communication part of the agenda to tell the task force of how important running events are to them personally?

If we can make our voices heard, then perhaps we can re-establish the balance that is missing in the composition of the task force.

I think the task force is composed of some of the city’s best and brightest and every one of the aggrieved has a legitimate complaint and a solution needs to be generated that reflects a true compromise. We will get there, but so far, the only public energy that has been mustered is from the side that would like to see Austin running events go away.

The silence of the runners is deafening.

In the last three meetings, the only people speaking during the citizens communication part of the agenda are angry, aggrieved people.

No runners or race organizers have spoken. [However, Jann Girard from the Cap 10K and Brad Davidson from the Cap Tex Tri spoke eloquently as invited guests last night, but nobody from the gallery represented a race or a runner during the citizens communication].

I would like to ask you to contact 5 of your running buddies and ask them to attend one or more of our task force meetings. I would ask that they let the chairman know that they would like to address the task force for 3 minutes during the citizens communication period. 10 people are allowed to speak at this time. They can say anything they want and the task force will listen. They might want to give the task force three simple messages:

1. Running events benefit the city economy and its non-profits.
2. Running events help define Austin as a fit and desirable city
3. Running events contribute to the health and wellness of the entire community.

If they don’t wish to speak, their presence will still be noted by the task force.

The task force’s work will take months and won’t likely end this year. However, we need runners to take an interest in this process and make their voices heard.

We will also mount a similar strategy to address the City Council directly once the task force has finished its work.

The next Street Event Closure task Force Meeting is scheduled for Monday, August 11 at 5:00 p.m. in room 1029 at City Hall. Parking is validated.

The task force will meet on an every-other-Monday schedule, always at the same time. I will alert you to any changes.

Please let me know if you are willing to come and if you or others would like to be put on the citizens communication part of the agenda. Meetings usually last 2 hours but the citizens communication period is first on the agenda and is over in 15 to 20 minutes.

Thanks for your time!

Best regards,

John

John Conley
Race Director, Nike Human Race 10K- Austin
Race Director, The Austin Marathon & Half Marathon
P.O Box 684587
Austin, Texas 78768
http://www.conleysports.com
racetheworld@conleysports.com

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7 thoughts on “I Can’t Believe This Is Happening in Austin

  1. Oh my! Hope ya’ll are able to pack the house with folks willing to speak up about the benefits of such events. I’ve done a couple Austin events in the past and hope to do many more!

  2. I can’t believe this is even being considered. What a bunch of whiners! Hopefully, the runners, cyclists, and other athletes can postpone a workout or two to do what is necessary to squash this crap.

  3. This really chokes me! If I lived in Austin I would be out beating the drum. The various events that cause the minor inconveniences for a couple hours bring in an incredible amount of revenue for the sponsoring city not to mention the good press as being a fit city. Good luck in the battle!

  4. WOW.Although I always make it a point to thank voluteer and police officers manning the streets when I do an event, I had not thought about writing a letter to the councils/etc. thanking them. Or, perhaps writing an editiorial or something. Great Idea!I live in an area that hosts a number of events all year long (much more in the summer obviously). Signs are posted weeks in advance warning folks about street closures, but I know that people get annoyed with having to change their routes. (It is probably such a HUGE inconvenience to actually think before then get in their car…)That being said, I like the suggestions and will get some of my runner buddies to do the same thing here in Mpls.In the meantime, good luck to you in Austin and keep us posted on the results from the meeting.

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