Austin City Council
8:28 am
Fri December 14, 2012

Council OKs F1 Track Team’s Bid to Tap Texas Trust Fund

The promoters behind Austin’s Formula 1 racetrack may tap a state trust fund for more than F1. The Austin City Council authorized the team at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) to act on the city’s behalf in negotiating payments from the state’s Major Events Trust Fund.

The payments would be for four upcoming races, with the first scheduled for this spring. COTA's promotions group just received more than $29 million from the trust fund to help pay for costs associated with putting on November’s F1 event.

The trust fund is meant to cover the costs of big events. But opponents say it’s not the city’s job to make COTA’s races financially sound.

“If COTA can’t figure out how to make this work by now, they need to put on their big boy pants and take their licks like everyone else,” said neighborhood activist Susan Moffat. “They should not be coming back to the city, asking us again to serve as the frontman to extract even more public finding at a time when our residents continue to face critical basic needs in health care, education and housing.”

The scene mirrored the initial fight over whether Austin would participate in the trust fund for F1, a battle that consumed the council all last summer.

Council member Bill Spelman argued that while the arrangement may not be a deal for the state, the city benefits.

“If I were, through some awful chance, elected to the state legislature, and I heard the sequence and events and the facts before us, I would be shocked and appalled and I would be asking for an investigations and I would be leading the charge to stop this travesty and eliminate the Major Events Trust Fund from the state budget,” he said.

But he continued, “I’m not here to argue on behalf of all taxpayers in the state of Texas. I’m here to argue on behalf of the taxpayers and residents of the city of Austin,” Spelman said. “And in the city of Austin’s point of view, this is a very good deal.”

But others were concerned about entering into an agreement so quickly.

“I do not believe the city of Austin should engage in being a conduit to allowing these events to receive, to allow recreational events to receive public funds when we have such a desperate need for those funds to be spent in education and a variety of other programs,” council member Kathie Tovo said.

The resolution passed 5-2, with Tovo and Laura Morrison voting no. The next race at the circuit, MotoGP, is scheduled for April.