Music Office

A Sense of Priorities

Posted in Buildings & People, Live Music, Music, Music Manager, Music Office, Neighborhoods, News Report, Outdoor Music, Outdoor Music Venue Permit, The Code on November 15th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

I haven’t posted on this website much lately. Too much to do, and too little time in which to get it done.

That’s why, when you face certain facts, healthwise, it sharpens your sense of priorities, to the point where one instinctively narrows in on the pertinent facts. (More on the health stuff later, too, as “things” are narrowed down)

In my case, the priorities tend to fall along the line of, “after caring for, as best I can, to show my love and concern for my family and friends, is to do the right thing for my community”. That community is Austin, my main base, for 35 years. Specifically, my community is the Austin Music Community.

To that end, in this post, and those that will follow, I don’t want to accuse people of being Nazis, not even as being, necessarily, ”evil” people … I just want to set the record straight with facts, as I know them, with a bit of opinion, and intuitive reasoning, thrown in. So, bear with me while I attempt to “Keep My Lamps Trimmed and Burnin’ “, and my knife blades sharp, in doing the right thing, to the best of my ability.

The subject that I must focus on is The Austin Music Office, and will be my attempt to expose a current and ongoing campaign to discredit the Music Office’s good work. The campaign that I’m referring to is being conducted, in part, and in my opinion, by Stratus Properties, with CEO Beau Armstrong at the lead.

This is the man who helped bring pesticides and fertilizer, from the Source Point at his company’s Barton Creek Country Club, directly to the outflow of Barton Springs Pool. That, after Mr. Armstrong having to take over duties of the former Stratus CEO, Jim Bob Moffett, when Jim Bob was exposed as owning the company, Freeport Macmoran, that possessed the mineral rights to the largest gold mines in the world, and was the worst kind of polluter, perhaps the world’s worst polluter, of traditional indigenous peoples and lands.

Basically, Status has blown it, on a number of fronts, regarding decision on the specifications for their building materials, and it is causing problems that they are trying to hide, in there current campaign against both long-time, Downtown, Outdoor Music Venues, and the Music Office.

The sound issues are only part of the problems that Mr. Armstrong faces;

W Hotel to Close after More Glass Falls:

The  focus of this series, however, will be on the campaign Mr. Armstrong is currently, in my opinion, waging, and directing, at long-time Downtown venues, and the Music Office Staff, which is, by my account, the best thing to happen to Austin Music, in the past 3 decades.

This is one of best, and most accurate reports I’ve seen. Excellent reporting, by KXAN’s staff and Reporter Jarred Wise:

More to follow.

Comment on “Austin Noise Discussion

Posted in City Council, Live Music, Music Commission, Music Office, Sound Permit on November 8th, 2011 by admin – 6 Comments

The following is a repost of my reply to the post  “The Halfway Point Between Developers and Venues”,  by Joshua Leasure P.E., an acoustical consultant living and working in Austin, on his excellent site: “Austin Noise | Discussion on community noise in Austin, Texas”.

———- begin Comment ———-


First, I want to applaud your comprehensive and professional approach to the issue
of Noise & Austin. Your most recent post, analyzing the Nutty Brown Cafe sound
issues, is excellent.

You have my complete support in continuing your efforts to educate all parties;
the public, business owners (especially venue managers), and developers as to the
facts, and workings of the current state of affairs, especially in the area of
analyzing the extremely bad and broken Noise & Sound Ordinance, in it’s current

I’ll point out the following, however, as to what, in my personal opinion, is the
real problem, in spite of the Music Commissions great work. I feel that if this
central problem is addressed, it would make your work, my work, and the Music
Commission’s work, much more effective and beneficial to everyone concerned.

At the following links, you can read certain facts, along with my analysis of why
the City Council is moving (albeit, as slow as molasses), in the exact opposite
direction of the Music Commission’s Recommendations to Council (which is the limit
of the Music Commission’s power.

“DANA Letter to the Mayor & Council” –

“Disingenuous Politickin’” –

“Mistake on Decibel Reading Location” –

In the posts, above, it is clear as to why, on Feb 17th of this year, Council
staff basically “screwed the pooch” and set back Austin’s Noise & Sound Ordinance
several years

The letter was from DANA (Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association) who were, at
the time, very much “at the stakeholder’s table” of the backdoor meetings being
called by certain members of the Council. I am of the opinion that DANA was
overzealous, drunk on the attention and support they were getting from Council and
Staff, and simply overstepped the boundary of just what an organization can
insert, of it’s own agenda, directly into the Code.

“Inadvertently … left in place?” –

That Ordinance included the provision that: ““The decibel limits prescribed under
this section must be measured … from the location of the sound equipment on the
property or site where the permit is issued.”

This meant that the current 70 dB (Restaurant) and 85 dB (Cocktail Lounges &
non-Restaurant venues) decibel level limits would hence forth be measured in front
of the speakers!

I was told that Staff didn’t have an Ordinance ready, and with mere weeks before
SxSW, a Council Member ordered, “We need something now. Put something together,
and get it on the Agenda!”. The Mea Culpa in the form of a Memo by the Council’s
staff lawyer, can be read here:

As a result of my efforts to quickly call attention the mistake, an additional
ordinance was passed (!) 2 weeks later, in order to rid the Code of the
inappropriate “mistake”.

“Location of dB Readings Changed” –

However, if you’ll notice, several other “suggestions” from the Dana letter have
remained in the Code, as of that one rushed Ordinance.

The Music Commission, as well as the City’s Music Office have been doing an
excellent job of communicating these damaging inclusions, starting as recently as
6 months ago, so far, absolutely NO action has been taken by Council … and that’s
my point.

Respectfully, Gary Etie

———- end Comment ———-

Tonight: Special Called Meeting
of the Austin Music Commission

Posted in Music Commission, Music Office on August 9th, 2011 by Gary Etie – 4 Comments

Don Pitts,head of the Music Office, Greg Gurnsey, head of the City’s Planning division, Clara Hilling, who issues Sound Permits, the Music Commission, and others will be addressing the current, thoroughly messed up Sound Ordinance (section 9-2 in the Code) The actions are necessary, in large part, to correct mistakes that were made on February 10th, in rushing a flawed ordinance into law.

I stayed up on the night that the Ordinance was passed, and caught the one provision that stood out as the most ridiculous, namely… measuring decibel level readings “at the source” (in front of the speakers!) instead of measuring at the property line, as it had been. That was amended, with an additional “emergency” Ordinance, 2 weeks later.

That leaves several more bad insertions into the ordinance that are now starting to raise their ugly heads, and must be addressed. Therefore, tonight’s Special Called Meeting of the Austin Music Commission.

From the Agenda ( )

1. Sound Ordinance Chapter 9-2 review – Clara Hilling and Greg Guernsey in attendance to
answer questions

One of the mistakes being discussed will be the decision to apply the “100 – 600 ft” rule to ALL permits under section 9-2. In the past, the rule applied to only Temporary Sound Permits. Currently, it must be applied to Outdoor Music Venue Permits, according to the flawed Code amendment.

That, coupled with a new and completely different legal interpretation of the term “Property Zoned & used as residential” … has created a quandary that has to be eliminated.

Currently, a Restaurant closer than 100 ft to any use consider by Austin legal to be residential, cannot get an Approved Outdoor Music Venue Permit, at all.

The term “residential” which in the past referred to ONLY Single Family Residences, is currently being ruled upon, by Austin legal staff, as including apartments, townhouses, condos &, significantly, RESIDENTIAL TOWERS (!)

This also affects the hours allowed for Restaurants that are closer than 600 ft to what is now being defined as “Residential” by the City of Austin legal eagle that calls these things … (cough – Brent Lloyd?)

The Ordinance passed on Feb 10th, was a blatant maneuver to subvert the process, with a rush to passage, on an emergency basis, on the Consent Agenda (no Council or Public discussion whatsoever), while failing (waiting?) to add the proposed Ordinance to the Council Agenda a mere 2-1/2 hours prior to passage, whereupon it went into immediate effect, it having been declared an emergency.

Many of the changes that made their way into the ordinance came directly from, or found their way into, a letter sent to the Mayor and City Council, by DANA, a neighborhood group that recently lost status, in several respects. I have a feeling that DANA may have overreached just a bit, on this one.

The problem remains, however, that DANA, and other “stakeholders” had to have one or more willing Council members, their staff, and their legal advisor involved, in making this happen the way it did, so expect a lot of the same kind of maneuvering for control that got us to this point, to remain as a proposed solution to the current problem. Inertia can be very difficult to overcome.

Austin City Hall
301 West 2nd Street, Austin, TX 78701
Room 1027 (Enter Cesar Chavez side, 1st room on he right after entry)