City of Austin preparing for POTUS and SXSW

SXSW is now just a few days away and Austin City Officials (including police, code enforcement, and the health department) are laying out their safety plans.

The show must go on.
   
Even though the rain fell pretty steadily Wednesday morning, workers setting up for South By Southwest 2016 just kept right on working.
   
The City of Austin estimates the festival will bring 200,000 people downtown per day.
   
To kick the festival off in style, President Obama will be here on Friday.
   
Imagine the traffic...

"I would love to say minimal but we all know that's not true.  It's going to be very significant," said Bill Manno with City of Austin Events.

City officials held a press conference Wednesday to detail how different departments will keep everyone safe. The City Manager has authorized the early release of non-essential city employees at noon on Friday to keep the number of cars on the road at a minimum.  They'll be paid of course.
   
And the city is encouraging other employers to follow suit if they can.

"If employers can come up with some alternative ideas for either telecommuting or different schedules or shifts, we strongly recommend that," Manno said.

Assistant Police Chief Chris Mcllvain says APD won't be using water barricades quite as much this year because they cannot be easily moved to help traffic flow.

"All barricades around the outer perimeter for SXSW will have a marked patrol vehicle present to enhance safety," Mcllvain said.

Mcllvain says CityStage has a map of road closures.

"Additionally Sixth Street and Red River will re-open daily to help with mobility which is a big change from last year," Mcllvain said.

This year is the first year for APD's extended "No Refusal" initiative.  It started last Friday and will end March 22nd.

"Again last year it only lasted 3 days but it did result in 61 DWI arrests," he said.

Chris Porter with the TABC says agents will be making sure alcohol sales are above board.

"For SXSW specifically we'll be conducting checks to make sure retailers aren't selling alcohol to intoxicated people or again that alcohol to minors," Porter said.

Marcel Elizonda with the Health Department says so far there are 162 food events at South By and more than 360 booths.  The Health Department has a designated staff of inspectors that will keep an eye on those.

"As we go out there we check food temperatures, making sure they're washing their hands.  A lot of the violations we find are insufficient water supply so they're not washing their hands, how are you serving safe food?  You're touching that dirty money, then you're going to serve that food.  So we go out there and often times we have to shut down these businesses for the weekend because they don't have the proper facility," Elizonda said.

APD says if you have traffic flow issues, call 3-1-1 not 9-1-1.
   
And if you absolutely have to be downtown Friday when the President comes, the city is urging people to use mass transit or just be patient...it's going to be rough.


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