The Austin Chronicle

Page Three: Council Follies Are No Joke

City leaders prep for another multimillion dollar giveaway (shhh, don't talk about it; you'll ruin it)

By Nick Barbaro, December 14, 2012, Columns

A late addendum to this week's City Council agenda, added precisely 72 hours before Thursday's meeting, is a resolution "authorizing the Circuit Events Local Organizing Committee to act on the city's behalf for purposes of submitting applications to the Texas Comptroller for Texas Event Trust Fund" for monies for the following events at the Circuit of the Americas: MotoGP, V8 Supercars, American Le Mans, and the FIA World Endurance Championship.

While the resolution prepared by city staff stresses repeatedly that "[t]his authorization in no way obligates the City to provide any funds for any Event Trust Funds ..." and that COTA will "fully fund the costs [of] the application process," it avoids stating its direct purpose and the very direct cost to the city – open-ended, but likely in the millions of dollars. The resolution authorizes CELOC to act on the city's behalf, to request that Comptroller Susan Combs take sales tax revenue which would normally go to the city and to the state general fund, and give it to CELOC instead. That bears repeating: With this resolution, the City Council intends to ask that city sales tax revenue, likely in the millions of dollars, be given directly to CELOC instead of to the city of Austin.

Because of the late posting, Mayor Lee Leffingwell reminded Council members at a Tuesday work session that they are forbidden to talk about the proposal before Thursday. Right. You wouldn't want any discussion of the matter in advance of a vote.

Oh yeah, and, in other news Tuesday, Comp­trol­ler Combs released the full $29.3 million in Major Event Trust Fund money to CELOC for F1, based on the pre-event economic impact study CELOC paid for, even though area hotel revenues were actually some 40% off of what was in that estimate, and most downtown businesses reported lower-than-average business on race weekend.

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