Zilker poll (deep-dive)

I was in the middle of responding to Dave Weinberg’s post about the recent poll of Austinites that covers Zilker Park-related issues, and for those of y’all not sick & tired of the topic – I’m certainly getting there, and this will probably be my last comment on it – I’ve delved into how it’s both manipulative as well as misleading.

First: for the record, I supported the Vision Plan as a whole, but parking garages were my one main area of disagreement; I know others who liked the plan in principle did as well. (OTOH I do think there are valid reasons for building it, and I acknowledge the opposing view as valid – something the ZNA does approximately never.) I opposed it because we need to be moving away from means of automobile-based transportation; building parking garages that can fit hundreds or thousands at a time contradict that long-term need, even if they better meet a short-term one versus parking in the gravel area over the toxic waste dump. OTOH I’m also mature enough to be able to support a plan that I don’t consider to be 100% perfect, though the ZNA has made it extraordinarily clear over the years that it’s their way or the highway.

I also don’t think this poll is “evil” or “deceptive” per se, but some of the questions are rather clearly loaded – in particular the ones specific to the Vision Plan:

Generally speaking, when thinking about the future of Zilker Park, do you think it should be more of a natural area for recreation activities like swimming, soccer, and frisbee playing, or more of a venue for concerts, theater productions and large events?

This isn’t quite a straw-man query, but it’s close. Even in this group, I doubt anyone supports the idea of making commercial events at the park its main attraction. It actually is Austin’s crown jewel, and I completely agree it should main primarily a natural recreational area. The problem, however, is us taking woefully poor care of the place – which was one of the main points of the Vision Plan. NYC’s Central Park hosts hundreds of performances each year – some commercial, others free to the public, but all quite high in traffic – but has a vastly greater budget for park maintenance. We do not have anything remotely similar, even after accounting for Zilker’s smaller size – and we badly need more budgeting for general wear-and-tear that has zero to do with commercial interests. Good time to segue here:

The ACL Music Festival, also known as Austin City Limits, has grown from 25,000 people to over 450,000 per year. The original Austin owners sold the concert to Ticketmaster Live Nation, which is now an 11-billion dollar company. Do you think that ACL still belongs in Zilker Park, or do you think it has outgrown the park and should move to a different venue in Austin?

The highlighted part has several rather massive distortions. C3 is Austin-based & launched the festival, but also continues to run it. It was already the largest indie concert production company on the planet when Live Nation bought a partial share in 2014. They didn’t “sell the concert to Ticketmaster Live Nation,” and this is exactly the type of propaganda we’re calling bullshit about. (It’s also an example of “othering,” the Republican tendency to demonize anyone & everyone who emigrates to the US from another country or even emigrates to Texas from blue states. And, of course, all trans people and most queer people.)

If you were writing an actual balanced question, there is zero need to note the purported market value of its parent company – unless you’re looking to stilt the results, and if so, it worked! (In a related vein, the question also fails to mention that the festival generates $350 million a year for Austin business owners (mostly small businesses), including the dozens of entirely local vendors selling food, drink and souvenirs each year.)

When it comes to making decisions about the future of Zilker Park, do you think those decisions should be mainly controlled by the City of Austin, or mainly controlled by commercial interests such as ACL Festival, the Trail of Lights and others who conduct business in the park?

Again, this is yet another false argument intended to infer that Zilker is either corporate-owned or corporate-controlled, when we all know the Austin Parks Foundation continues to run Zilker and every other local park. Austin’s few Trumpists might prefer corporate control due to the distrust in government they’ve fomented – and which you’re actually helping, even if you’re unaware of it – but rational Austinites clearly think Zilker should remain entirely within the city’s control. (OTOH you don’t seem to want it under city control, either. I’m entirely fine with our elected leaders deciding Zilker’s fate; you / SOS / ZNA / etc. are clearly terrified by the idea, never mind that the entire Council is liberal or progressive, excepting CM Kelly. Thankfully the city will never relinquish Zilker Park control to the ZNA, either - whew!)

Would you support the construction of a 5,000- seat amphitheater located on Zilker Park’s Great Lawn, or do you think the Great Lawn should be left alone for its current uses?

The “5,000-seat amphitheater” is total BS, as noted by the Chronicle in May. To quote directly:

The fear of 5,000 permanent seats on the Great Lawn, furthermore, is simply unfounded: “We’re not talking about permanent seating at all. If the stage is elevated, then you can accommodate seating on the grass. No permanent seating.”

The conspiracy theory came from the fact that as many as 5,000 people have attempted to watch Hillside Theater productions in the past, in many cases from unsafe vantage points (e.g. up in trees, which also creates potential liability exposure for the city). That, however, does not mean there would ever be that many permanent seats.

In a similar vein – and, yet again, falsely inferring that “corporations own/control Zilker”:

Commercial operators in the park have proposed to build over 150 million dollars of new construction in Zilker Park…

No, city officials have proposed looking into building various facilities at Zilker, including a parking garage, but – yet again – these questions falsely infer that the Vision Plan was somehow set-in-stone and entirely unchangeable. The city merely sending out RFPs isn’t even vaguely the same thing. The decision whether to proceed is entirely within the hands of Austinites and their elected leaders, NOT Ticketmaster. (But you’re, of course, being paid to paint a wildly inaccurate picture suggesting exactly that.)

Really, though, it’s the demographic questions at the end that indicate just how unrepresentative this poll is vis-a-vis Austin as a whole. Seniors over 65 comprise less than 9% of Austin’s population, but 24% of poll respondents are that age. Further, 64% have lived in Austin for at least 20 years: even aside from the fact that Austin’s population has grown 50% during that time – meaning the poll answers are even more warped than they seem. Meanwhile, adults under 45 comprise 54% of the city’s population but only 38% of the poll respondents. (Btw I assume that’s not including the Austin area’s 100,000-plus college & university students.)

The older you get, the more you dislike change, hence the reason so many Austin NAs are predominated by seniors. While understandable, you simply cannot validly argue that this poll is in any way representative of the city as a whole, and certainly not statistically speaking. (Representative polls need representative demographics, which this poll plainly lacks.)

But hey, I get it! You people (the ZNA and its proxies, definitely including paid lobbyists like yourself) have even come up with ways to oppose Project Connect, despite the painfully obvious reality of how badly we need at least some type of rail network aside from the obviously limited Red Line service. Along that lines, I’ll end by quoting Jack Armstrong’s view:

Getting rid of Code Next was a success and getting rid of the light rail was a success.

I’m not even sure which light rail initiative Jack’s gloating about “getting rid of” – the 2016 one? 2000? Project Connect?? – but this remark is utterly appalling wholly on its face. Defeating urban rail is only viewed as a “success” by Texas Republicans and TPPF mouthpieces, and if y’all think these views in any way help you with the 57% of Austin adults who are renters and take significant issue with older white men continuing to dictate what is and isn’t done in this city – a list that includes everyone from Bill Bunch to Kirk Watson – you’re even more deluded than I realize.

(I’m admittedly curious how you managed to get kicked off the ZNA listserv despite broadly supporting their mandate. That must’ve taken actual effort!)

Just for your knowledge the parking garages proposed were not going to increase the total parking at all. Just were going to allow the surface parking to be reclaimed as park land thus drastically reducing impervious cover around the park for better water management and cleaner water going into the springs and other sensitive zones. In addition I believe there was a proposal to put the garages underneath Mopac.

Something that always amazes me in these debates is the city pays educated people who are experts in their respective fields to come up with these documents. To painstakingly lay out the considerations and facts and, yes, take input from all interested parties. Then, at the last minute suddenly everyone puts on their urban planning / park designer hats and says woah ho ho what are these people doing cramming these ridiculous ideas down my throat! Or in the case of @dweinberg you just get your feelings hurt because they might move your frisbee golf course up the hill. It’s laughable if it weren’t so destructive.

I recently learned someone who worked at the shoal creek conservancy and had a ton of knowledge in the difficulties in maintaining an urban ecosystem had a fallacious ethics complaint filed against them because they questioned the re-wild effort. This is the sort you’re up against.

Moderator - Thank you for flagging that post. DOXing is not OK.

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A former member of the parks board, who has since resigned, had an ethics complaint filed against her. This is all a matter of public record.
Including her letter to the Parks Board asking them to pass the vision plan. That is not doxxing.

search for and publish private or identifying information about (a particular individual) on the internet, typically with malicious intent.

The intent wasn’t malicious, I was trying to counter a bunch of crud JD was spinning about a situation. If that’s malicious then we’re all in big trouble.

The information isn’t identifying – it is a matter of public record. For the hundreds of us who were at the 6-hour parks board meeting this all played out around
midnight from the dais at City Hall, when Paige Ellis’s appointee to the parks board asked that that board member recuse herself.


Looking here:

You may have found

No City official or employee shall transact any business in his official capacity with any entity in which he has a substantial interest


Just one teensie weensie little problem.
“Substantial interest” doesn’t mean what David thinks it means. It doesn’t mean what Isaac think’s it means.

It is explicitly defined by state law here

With very very very little exception, which isn’t even mentioned in the law, substantial interest always comes back to financial gain of actual monetary value for the individual or a family member.

In your explanation as to why this individual was accused, you failed to mention the single most important element for you to have any amount of credibility. Wheres the financial gain? What money was changing hands. By what mechanisms.

Maybe she resigned because she had a personal interest in the parks, and dealing with a hostile public making false accusations were simply not the best use of her time as she worked on things she cared about.

I will add that as a paid lobbyist, you already know this. Your ability to be disingenuous is astounding.

And hell, while we are talking about the definitions of words in regards to laws, heres a fun one.


Sec. 73.001. ELEMENTS OF LIBEL. A libel is a defamation expressed in written or other graphic form that tends to blacken the memory of the dead or that tends to injure a living person’s reputation and thereby expose the person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule, or financial injury or to impeach any person’s honesty, integrity, virtue, or reputation or to publish the natural defects of anyone and thereby expose the person to public hatred, ridicule, or financial injury.

Do you think death threats would constitute “public hatred” ?

People who have 6 hours to attend park board meetings are not representative of the neighborhood. Families don’t have the time or energy for these things. Which lends to a particular type of personality calling the shots. Those who are paid to do so and those who thrive on these things. I’ve heard the latter being referred to by psychologists as “Enforcers”.

Over the past twenty+ years of asking my neighbors here why they don’t attend ZNA meetings, They mostly say they don’t like hearing people argue and not accomplish anything. I can’t blame them. They are reasonable people. This leads to the few representing the many.

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Issac Cohen,

With very very very little exception, which isn’t even mentioned in the law, substantial interest always comes back to financial gain of actual monetary value for the individual or a family member.

Boy oh boy, I’ve got a story for you about another city commission member who didn’t recuse themselves on the Vision Plan and whose spouse had a huge monetary interest in the plan!

And another story about another commission member whose business is designing parking garages who at first recused himself from voting, and then un-recused himself!

And yet another story about a design consultant who is also the vice chair of the planning commission and as a member of that commission voted on increasing fees to PARD!

But, I’m growing pretty tired of the dialogue here.

I’ll swing back this way if and when this thing comes back piecemeal in zombie form.


Somebody take me off this never ending chat. How do I remove myself!!!

It is pretty easy to mute topics. There are more advanced controls for notifications under your user preferences.

Drop a bunch of unsubstantiated fodder and pull the ejection handle - true to form @dweinberg