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City’s SXSW Survey Finds Little Worth Noting

General questions by ACE staff lead to general answers
Chase Hoffberger, 9:30am, Thu. May. 29

The most notable takeaway from Wednesday’s second public meeting by the city’s Austin Center for Events (ACE) staff, which presented results of the citizen feedback survey taking stock “on all events related to” the 2014 SXSW Film, Interactive, and Music Festival, was that four of the six panelists didn’t find any conclusions deemed noteworthy.

The EMS commander didn’t have anything to say about the survey. Ditto for APD sergeant Jeff Crawford and the Fire Department rep sitting alongside him, neither of whom offered any insight into the survey during the 90-minute discussion.

Don Pitts, who heads the city’s Music & Entertainment Division, noted nothing in particular, and Frances Hargrove, there with Austin Transportation, only spoke to offer that the survey “solidified what we were thinking about events taking place” alongside unofficial events sanctioned by the city without conference approval. Bill Manno, the former APD sergeant now working as the city’s Corporate Special Events Program Manager, allowed that the 19-question survey filled out by some 850 respondents put 44% of those attending SXSW for the event itself, while 45% came for the free booze, food, and swag.

Council member Mike Martinez called for a “full, post-event evaluation of SXSW” just two weeks after the most tumultuous timeline in the conference’s 27-year history concluded, one marked by the deaths of four attendees. What came from the 18-slide summary was that public perception of the conference is exactly as many had anticipated. From there, the panel did little to interpret the data, which focused loosely on music programming, event permitting, alcohol vending, street closures, and use of city resources.

Manno said he wouldn’t name names when asked about rapper Tyler, the Creator, who was arrested after causing a riot at the Scoot Inn during SXSW Music, in remarks about “having a conversation with that event promoter” about any performing artist “we have reason to believe… may disrupt an event.” He also declined particulars after mentioning efforts to curtail venues taking on different names and hiring alternate staffs during the week of SXSW – something that a skateboarding artist who’d shown up late said used to happen in the warehouse district.

At one point, Don Pitts suggested that the Music Office is currently entertaining the idea of approving zero temporary outdoor permits for events involving live music and alcohol in the Sixth Street zone during the five days of SXSW Music.

Manno and his panelists will now turn the results of the survey over to City Council, who will debate its merits at an eventual meeting. Asked by Do512 cofounder Jimmy Stewart if the panel has a specific plan of attack for the conference based on the results presented just prior, Pitts responded:

“We’re all going to get Webster’s Dictionaries and look up the definition of the word ‘No.’ We’ll probably be saying that a whole lot more over the next year.”

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