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Andra Lim
By Andra Lim March 18, 2016

Austin mayor acknowledges no headway on free concerts promise

In a 2015 phone interview, Austin Mayor Steve Adler admitted he hadn't made headway on a campaign pledge to make available "free, large- and small-scale, high-quality, family-friendly concerts and events" in the city.

Asked why Adler made this promise, his spokesman Jason Stanford said by email that an important piece of the mayor's "Austin experience" was seeing live music when he attended the University of Texas School of Law (class of '82). "It's always been important to him, and as he thought about running for mayor he decided to focus on supporting local music because it's an indelible part of what he thinks is important about Austin," Stanford said.

Adler emphasized by phone that he's made progress on other ideas included in his campaign platform on the Austin music industry, "many of which were probably more meaningful than free concerts." In early 2016, Adler introduced a resolution, which the Austin City Council approved March 3, directing the city manager to study ideas -- some of which were in his platform -- for supporting the local music industry and other artists.

That resolution doesn't mention "free, large- and small-scale, high-quality, family-friendly concerts and events."

When we asked Stanford about the resolution, he replied by email that it's "too soon to tell" if the council action results in free concerts and events. His March 2016 reply continued: "We will hear back within 90 days from the city manager after we passed this resolution. It could we be part of a music ordinance that will result from what the city manager comes back to us with as well as the mayor and" Austin City Council "and public having their input."

Seeking another view of progress on Adler's concerts' promise, we turned to Jennifer Houlihan, executive director of Austin Music People, a coalition that advocates for the local music industry.

By phone, Houlihan said that some of the policy and regulation changes that happen because of the adopted resolution could make it easier for organizers to put on free, family-oriented concerts.

On the other hand, Houlihan said, she hadn't noticed a dearth of such events. "I've got kids myself, and we don't have much of a shortage of opportunities to hear music, but I also know I'm not average," Houlihan said in a nod to her position with the coalition. "So there could probably be better communication and advertising, letting people know about the options available to them."

To Houlihan's point, we asked Melissa Alvarado, a spokeswoman for the city department that includes the Music and Entertainment Division, what the city does as far as hosting, sponsoring or assisting free and family-friendly concerts and events.

In March 2016, Alvarado emailed us a list compiled at our request. Highlights:

  • Funding for concerts such as Bill Oliver and the Otter Space Band's Mother Earth Day Festival, Austin Symphony shows for public school students and DJ Bling's Back 2 School Festival

  • Funding for youth music education groups such as Mother Falcon's Music Lab, Amphion Youth Choir and Girls Rock Austin

  • Throwing Austin's New Year, an alcohol-free festival that includes live music on three stages (though the city drew scoffs for postponing the 2015 event)

  • Holding a free summer concert series, Music for Kids, through the Austin Public Library

  • Sponsoring events such as the Juneteenth Run, Parade and Celebration and the Zilker Kite Festival

Judging this previously unrated promise is tough in that Austin already has some free family-friendly music events. But more is better, candidate Adler indicated, and he hasn't delivered the more.

Cue the fiddles. For now, this is an Adler Promise BROKEN.

Promise Broken – The promise has not been fulfilled. This could occur because of inaction by the executive or lack of support from the legislative branch or other group that was critical for the promise to be fulfilled. A Promise Broken rating does not necessarily mean that the executive failed to advocate for the policy.

Our Sources

Phone interview, Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Dec. 30, 2015

Emails, Jason Stanford, communications director, Office of Mayor, City of Austin, March 8 and 15, 2016

Emails, Melissa Alvarado, senior public information officer, Economic Development Department, March 9-10, 2016

Phone interview, Jennifer Houlihan, executive director, Austin Music People, March 9, 2016

News story, Austin American Statesman, "Mayor pitches plan to boost Austin's music industry," February 26, 2016

News story, CultureMap Austin, "Austin is being mocked for decision to 'postpone' New Year's Eve," December 31, 2014

Web page, "A New Way Forward for the Austin Music Industry," (accessed March 10, 2016)

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