Raise your hand if yesterday was the first time you ever watched a City Council meeting? Now raise your other hand if you don't even live in Austin, Texas?
Yesterday was nothing short of a democracy marathon. We were actively watching the live webcast, listening to the radio feed and tweeting the entire time. Kevin was in attendance and he donated his 3 minutes of speaking in favor of the F1 proposal due to other time constraints.
We thought the Austin City Council did a great job allowing both proponents and opponents to have their voices heard at the meeting, which began at 10:00AM with an exit speech from Council Member Randi Shade, broke for Executive Session at noon, reconvened at about 2:00PM and concluded with a vote at 5:00PM. KUT News reported an unconfirmed number of 243 people signed up to speak in favor of the approval of the F1 agenda items, 26 against and 3 neutrals.
Our Will Buxton Video was broadcast for the Council and in front of the maximum capacity of the Chambers. We immediately started receiving messages from people around the world thanking and congratulating Will on his "presence" at the meeting! Will was watching the Austin City Council meeting via the web from the Valencia Street Circuit, where all the F1 teams, crews, reporters, employees and supporters are located for this weekend's European Grand Prix. It was inspiring to hear from our fans from around the world that they were tuning in to watch this American democratic process unfold.
But while listening to the opponents arguments, we received a message from Will that he had further comments to share. We worked our magic and found another F1 proponent who was willing to read Will's letter at the Council meeting. Thank you Scooter!
Scooter Womack, F1 proponent, reading Will Buxton's email at the June 23, 2011 Austin City Council meeting on behalf of The Austin Grand PrixHere is Will's letter in full:
"As I sit here in the media centre at the Valencia Street Circuit, home of the 2011 European Grand Prix, I and many of my colleagues are hanging on every word coming through to us online of today’s events in Austin, Texas.
There have been some salient points made, but there have been a number of falsities and some scaremongering, which I feel it only correct to address, particularly in light of an ill informed article by Dutch Mandel in AutoWeek, which those who have displayed an argument against the race today, have almost all referenced.
Bernie Ecclestone has become a rich man through his control of Formula 1. Of that there is no question. But this is a man who was almost single handedly responsible for turning this sport from a ragtag operation into the single most watched regular sporting event on earth. Only the Olympic Games and the Soccer World Cup get more viewers globally, and they happen only once every four years. This sport happens every other weekend. If you’d come up with the idea, you’d probably feel you were entitled to a cut, wouldn’t you? Of course you would.
But the anti lobby seems to believe that he and he alone will take the race hosting fee and run away with it. But Bernie Ecclestone, although still in charge of this sport politically, has for a long time not owned this sport. He is a minority shareholder. He is responsible for ensuring that the sport remains profitable for its current owners (a private equity firm)
But that fee doesn’t even go purely into the equity firm’s pocket either. This sport takes the money, divides it between teams to aid with their transport costs year on year, pays out to those who score well in the world championship and races. The sport does not run on breadcrumbs. It never has. It never will. No business can.
It is the highest form of racing spectacle on earth. Last season over 500 million people worldwide watched Formula 1.
Why, as AutoWeek suggests you do, would you wish to run away from that kind of exposure?
It is exposure which national governments have decided is worthy of investment to promote their country and host city for international tourists.
In the case of Austin it has taken individuals and entrepeneurs to take the decision and personal financial risk to build a track that, in most other nations on earth, would have been funded by national governments. Circuit of the Americas are doing this because they have a dream. And this dream is one which can only serve the people and the city of Austin, Texas.
As I sit here in this paddock, I am surrounded by hundreds of fellow journalists. In the paddock beneath me are hundreds of people who work for the Formula 1 teams and put these cars on track. There are hundreds of people working in hospitality. Around the track are hundreds of local people acting in their roles at the circuit, be it promotional, be it trackside, be it operational.
Hundreds of thousands of race fans will attend this race.
Every one of them needs a hotel room. Every one of them needs to eat. Every one of them wants to have a cold beer at the end of the day. And if every one of them has a good time, how likely will they be to return, not just for the race but simply to visit? And how many of their friends would wish to visit the city based on the recommendation of those who have attended?
This is one race. Formula 1 is one circus. MotoGP, Nascar, Indycar. They all operate similar numbers. They all bring an influx of funds to the cities and surrounding area in which they race. Year on year.
Two weeks ago in Montreal, the centre of the town became one big F1 party. Every shop front carried chequered flags. Every shop was full. Everyone you passed carried bags of purchases. Day after day. Business boomed. As it does, every single year.
Again, to reference the autoweek article, what part of that is something that Austin would wish to run away from?
A ten year promise to pay $25 million a year is by no means a small investment on face value.
But the revenue from those who attend, the exposure that the city will receive, will dwarf the initial outlay.
But that depends on Austin. If the city embraces this sport, if it is welcomed with open arms, Formula 1 will open itself to you.
Make it happen.
This sport cannot wait to return to America. And to its new home, in Austin, Texas."
The outcome of the meeting was a 6-1 vote in favor of postponing the decision of the Austin City Council to vote on Agenda Items 20, 21 and 101. That will take place next Wednesday, June 23. The City of Austin has created a Formula One page which includes in-depth materials related to the matter. You can access the page here.
Thank you to all our fans. It is truly amazing to hear from people around the world, telling us that they have never been to a city council meeting, nonetheless in a city they don't even live in. We even got a message that a fan in Dubai was glued to their computer until 11:00PM watching the webcast. Amazing.
More info to come about next week's City Council meeting. Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below or on our Facebook page.
Thank you and MAKE IT HAPPEN!