Austin City Elections
Time to get creative with your vote
Hey, just because you're all amped to see the Ladies Are Funny Festival on Saturday or take the Art of the Pot tour or catch the opening of Palindrome Theatre's Accidental Death of an Anarchist or do one of a thousand other artsy things around town, don't forget that that's the day we vote for Austin's next mayor and three city council members. For anyone who cares about the arts, or is involved in any creative pursuit, it's a critical time to take a stand at the ballot box – not because some specifically pro-creative community candidates need your support, but because the people hoping to run Austin these next few years are acutely aware of the creative sector right now and are paying attention to its actions.
That was quite clear from the Mayoral and Council Candidate Forum for the Creative Sector held April 30, at the Emma Barrientos Mexican-American Cultural Center. The 12 candidates on hand (the only absentees were Place 5 challengers John Duffy and R.A. "Bo" Prudente) faced the largest turnout for a candidate forum this season – 120 to 140 people, estimated Austin Creative Alliance Executive Director Marcy Hoen. Projections on the huge screen behind them reinforced the sense, throughout the forum, of a new level of solidarity among historically separate creative communities (the event was co-sponsored by the Creative Alliance, Austin Music People, Austin Film Society, and Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts of Central Texas) and the substantial economic impact of Austin's creative industries: 25 percent growth over the past five years, 49,000 jobs, $4.3 billion in economic activity annually. It might as well have been stated: We're too big to be ignored.
Not that the candidates looked at all interested in ignoring this crowd. They all sang the praises of local creatives for their contributions to both Austin's economy and its identity, albeit in mostly generic terms – you rarely heard local creatives, companies, or projects cited by name, or creative scene achievements noted beyond what Jon Hockenyos included in his latest economic impact report. And, alas, they weren't much more specific when it came to policy, despite the notable efforts of moderator Kevin Benz to frame questions with enough context to prompt detailed responses. Most kept their positions broad ("The creative sector deserves support!") or used the creative sector as a Trojan horse for discussing larger policy issues (e.g., affordability, Austin Energy rates). Though don't take my word for it; a fairly thorough summary of the candidates' responses is on the Austin Music People website: www.austinmusicpeople.org/2012/05/mayoral-city-council-candidate-forum-for-the-creative-sector-recap. Go see if there's something there that might affect your vote.
My feeling ultimately was that whoever winds up at City Hall will still need some education about what matters to Austin's creatives and how the city can best address that. The point is, they're listening. What all us creatives have to do is speak up.