Archive for March, 2011

HONK!TX, Austin loves you!

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen so many happy faces, and it’s all thanks to HONK!TX. Austin’s own Minor Mishap Marching Band and Samba School were joined by community street-band aggregations from all over the country. The march was from City Hall east all the way to the Pan American amphitheater. What a treat!

And it was easy to stop off at the HOPE farmers market afterward for some tomato plants and Brussels sprouts from Johnson’s Backyard Garden, and wurst of the very best kind from Salt & Time. Today’s market seemed to have been displaced by Fader Fort events and so was set up next to Cheer Up Charlie’s, probably temporarily.

I was sorry to see that the Tejano mural, complete with Selena, on the old Iron Gate has been obliterated to make way for a depiction of a crown, since the freshly painted Iron Gate is now disguised as the Violet Crown Social Club.

See the following souvenirs of today’s fun: three unedited videos (if the long parade video is not yet available, check back) and a bunch of toy-camera photographs. Austin has been at its best today.

There’s a rally going on

Downtown resembles a stroller fashion show this morning. Groups of parents, teachers, and other concerned citizens were meeting in clusters all over downtown before proceeding to the Capitol.

Those here for the rally seemed to outnumber those headed for the farmers’ market and SxSWers generally. It’s a beautiful day for marching. People were handing out leaflets for Save Texas Schools.

My camera wasn’t working, so I caught just one picture, of a group from Cedar Creek meeting at the library before heading to Congress and the Capitol. One of the handmade signs displayed by that group says, “Those who can, teach; those who can’t, legislate.”

Enterprises that silkscreen tee-shirts have been doing a good business, and I saw some handsome S.O.S. designs from all over Texas, not just from around Austin.

Texas Independence Day parade

The prelude to the parade was noisy: drum cadences, bagpipes, thunderclaps, and pounding downpours accompanied by tree-branch-ripping gusts of wind. As we headed down Congress from the Capitol, we kept asking the barricade workers and the police whether the parade had been cancelled. “Not yet,” was always the answer.

And the thunder stopped and the rain almost disappeared, although the wind never did quit. It tore my souvenir Texas flag right out of my hand and carried it away out of sight. It also took the beret from the head of one of the Del Valle ROTC cadets. An older woman recaptured it several yards to the west of Congress, and another spectator ran after the parade with it and eventually caught up.

Del Valle is a faithful participant in these events. Today also brought out the Crockett High School band, along with many other participants, including a spritely drill team wielding force cups, also known as plumber’s helpers, and a wagon drawn by a team of mules with very handsome tack. The Texas Cowboys found it necessary to fire off the cannon at frequent ear-confounding intervals.

There are a couple more pictures and four brief uncut videos on line.

The hotel next door

Some of these establishments are so well conducted that less observant neighbors don’t even realize that they exist. They are in competition with hotels and motels and with bed-and-breakfast lodgings, but short-term rental properties seem to escape the provisions of laws and regulations that other public lodgings must observe.

Would-be renters find these short-term rentals on craigslist or VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner), as well as via other on-line referrals. Some are offered by owners who briefly vacate their own homesteads during big-time events on the Austin calendar or by owners who have rental space on the real estate where they live in their own homes, which they do not vacate. Some short-term rentals are in residences that failed to sell before the real-estate market weakened.

There are other short-term rentals that have been purchased and outfitted expressly to serve as lodgings for transient visitors. The owners may visit, but they never spend a single night in residence. The lengths of individual rental periods may be brief, but the neighborhood hotel is rarely vacant for even a single night. As advertised, the property’s exterior is seldom displayed, only the indoor amenities and sometimes a photograph of the yard or grounds. Only the neighbor familiar with a property inside and out is likely to recognize one of these hotels so long as the guests are discreet.

Some guests are considerate; others, particularly in the rentals that accommodate large numbers of people, are not. Blocked driveways, U-turns that demolish curbs, parked vehicles that prevent trash carts from being placed in the street on collection day, taxicabs coming and going at all hours of the night, horns honking, doors slamming, shouting by falling-down drunks, the lovely morning sight of towel-wrapped unshaven men escorting women to taxicabs, the sound of multiple barking dogs on blocks where the resident canines are silent, and fast-food packaging and beverage containers strewn about are just some of the delights. There have been perhaps apocryphal reports of door kick-ins and broken windows where befuddled arrivals mistook a neighbor’s house for the “hotel” and gained entry by any means thought to be necessary. The Allendale Reporter was an early describer of the short-term rental phenomenon.

Whether required hotel occupancy taxes are collected and remitted is an open question. It does not appear that governmental authorities have any way of knowing just how many of these establishments exist and where they are located, let alone whether they are evading taxes. The office of the Austin City Auditor has taken a look at this question without deriving firm conclusions. Here’s a link to the summary and a link to the full report issued in February; the formal findings and underlying the reasoning beginning on page 4 are of particular interest.

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.