For more than 15 years the AIBA has listened to its members and voiced their concerns at City Hall. At times we have proposed local policies that could help create a more thriving local business community or to relieve a particularly painful part of doing business. At times we’ve had to react to something the City Council has proposed. More often we’ve spoken to illuminate issues troubling to local business.
Throughout the years we have always advocated for and fought for local business. Until recently this has been a wonderful process of building lasting relationships, of debating the issues of the day, of being heard and considering the perspective of others in our community. Sometimes we’ve had to agree to disagree but ending with respect and a handshake. Local business was never viewed as the enemy—until now.
The City of Austin has recently cancelled $60,000 in contracts with AIBA. These are longstanding contracts that have served both entities well. These cancellations all came within a month of publicly announcing our support of Unconventional Austin’s Proposition B—and with no explanation.
The cancellations were no coincidence. They were punishment for voicing support for something contrary to the City Council’s desire to expand the Convention Center without permitting the public to vote. The AIBA, a local nonprofit and the local business community it represents is being punished for expressing the views of its members. That is not OK.
We are advocating for the public to have a vote on Convention Center expansion and to spend a small amount of Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) to promote local business to tourists. We’ve voted on every Convention Center expansion in the past and this one should be no different. However you might choose to vote on expansion, we just want you to have that opportunity.
Tourists who come to Austin are looking for what’s unique and different from where they live. They are looking to experience a different culture. Local business provides a fabulous expression of our local culture from clubs and restaurants to local shops. It is entirely appropriate that the city should promote our locals. It is also appropriate that as an organization of locally owned businesses, the AIBA should spotlight local businesses to benefit their own business and our local economy. It’s really that simple.
We are not so large that $60,000 doesn’t matter. It does. I have spent hours and hours looking at what services and programs we do for you that could be cut. But there is no fat here. So I’m asking you to step up and support the only organization in Austin dedicated to supporting you, our local businesses.
If you are already a member, consider a higher membership level or becoming a sponsor or partner. If you are not yet a member, join us at www.ibuyaustin.com/join. The City has taken your funding, but don’t let them damage our community. I can be reached anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-441-2123.