Saving “the weird” of Austin at SXSW

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AUSTIN (KXAN) –  More than 100,000 have descended on Austin for South By Southwest, many of them repeat visitors going back decades. They may have noticed some changes; more cars, more people, more high rises, higher prices. A SXSW panel that wondered if the city is losing it’s “Weird” and how we can save it.

“Keep Austin Weird” shirts glare at south-by visitors from storefront windows around town.  It’s a formula for success and a call to action to preserve the heart and soul of the city.

“We strive every day to put food on our table,” a protester shouted via megaphone to the crowds at SXSW, “what is Austin doing about that?”

But many think, the Austin stands as a victim of its own success, pushing the natives out for sleak, high-paying newcomers. Several shouted at a SXSW protest against gentrification and what comes with it. They put a pinata store demolition called “Jumpoline” as an example of people and businesses on the east side being forced out.

“It calls itself the live music capitol of the world. But we look at statistics to find that 1200 music jobs have been lost in the last four years. That says we’re losing a piece of the community,” said Duff Stewart from GSD&M. He remembers when you could spend a night at a downtown show with a few beers for 20 bucks. Now, that’s just parking.

He’s on a panel with leaders from the Statesman, Dell, and the new UT Med School to talk about weighty issues; an increasing un-affordable town with gridlock traffic. Keeping Austin weird, really is much more.

“What I think is weird and you think is weird maybe different, but it’s the fact that we’re having the discussion of what we love about weird in Austin,” said Stewart.

City leaders left with another call to action. The way to save the city we all love is to get involved. Ensuring the city grows while keeping true to what makes it great. Several members of the panel are calling the new “10-1” city council to tackle affordability, transportation and gentrification issues in the coming year.

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