AUSTIN (KXAN) — A proposition on the City of Austin’s November ballot could negatively impact youth sports organizations and raise participation fees for participants in the city.
Proposition A will be on the ballot for Austin voters in November and would require any use of city-owned land for any sports facility or entertainment facility be approved by a super-majority of the council and approved by voters in an election.
The proposition also would require organizations that lease city-owned land to pay taxes or fees equal to the tax value.
It was driven by a petition effort earlier this year from those opposed to Austin’s new Major League Soccer stadium, which required a lease of city property. However, the ordinance also has far-reaching effects to youth sports facilities and organizations.
Lee Nichols, the North Austin Soccer Alliance (NASA) president, expressed deep concerns over the proposition, saying it threatens their ability to negotiate with the city over the fields they currently lease. Nichols said there are at least five city-owned athletic fields that NASA currently uses.
He said a tax increase on the land could potentially lead to the extinction of the organization. At the very least, it would lead to a price hike for participants and their families.
“We are a non-profit organization that serves youth in the community, and we try to make ourselves as affordable as possible,” Nichols said. “We would rather do this where we are able to sit down with city staff and negotiate our lease rather than put it in front of voters who may not have heard of NASA.”
The Travis County GOP issued statements in support of the local ballot referenda. A GOP spokesperson said the precinct chairmen decided by unanimous voice vote to support Prop A.
Andy Hogue, the communications director for the Travis County GOP, said that sports and entertainment projects, both new and old, have the potential to affect people’s lifestyle, drive-times and city infrastructure. Therefore, people should be able to place a vote on it.
“We deserve the right to discuss it. Is this something we need? Is this something that will affect the community? And what better place than the ballot box to have this discussion,” Hogue said. “If they have a good project that affects the community, builds morale and improves the life of our youth, then yeah, let’s hear about it!”
Proposition A was made possible by the petition efforts of PACs Indy Austin and Fair Play Austin, groups which expressed opposition to Austin’s MLS stadium deal with Austin FC at McKalla Place.
Circuit of the Americas chairman Bobby Epstein was a known opponent of this MLS stadium deal as well as the funder for the Fair Play Austin PAC.
However, while Fair Play initially supported the effort to challenge the Austin FC deal, Fair Play Austin PAC sent out a statement on Aug. 19 explaining that Prop. A had “drifted from its original intent” and in its current condition would “do more harm than good.” The PAC said it would not undertake any effort to support the proposition.
Francoise Luca, with Friends of McKalla Place, said her group still supports Proposition A.
“We still believe the citizens should have a right to vote on how to use public lands and public money,” she said.