Caught on Video: Petitioners giving misinformation about MLS stadium deal

An anonymous source sent FOX 7 videos of two different petitioners near Austin polling locations on election day. The intent of the petition is to put the Major League Soccer stadium deal on the ballot next May instead of just letting it be built on city-owned land without the public getting a chance to vote on it.

The petitioners were hired by the group "Fair Play ATX" who told me "...the community doesn't want its property taxes abated for out of town corporations, especially when iconic businesses like Threadgill's are having to close and some residents are being forced from their homes due to high property taxes," said Nikelle Meade, General Counsel for the group. 

But those on the front lines actually asking for the signatures seem to have a different message.

"Alright this is for the soccer stadium, we're trying to bring a new soccer stadium here," a petitioner can be heard telling a voter.  "So we're trying to get it on the ballot."

"Personally I was at the Mueller's Farmers’ Market a couple of weeks ago and they approached me with a similar concept of 'Do you like soccer?  Sign this,'" said Tony Cardone with the MLS fan group "Austin Anthem."  

Cardone said they've been telling their members...if you want soccer in Austin, you don't need to sign anything, council has already approved the deal.  This is just meant to confuse.

"I want to believe it's a little more of the uninformed component.  Historically if you look at the people who run these petitions they've always had a tenuous grasp of the truth," Cardone said.

Fair Play ATX tells FOX 7 they've watched the videos and are "working with the supervisors and trainers of the petitioners to ensure that the information these two petitioners provided isn't used again."

"You're building stadiums at 3 times the rate of other cities.  Let's slow down and let the people have a say-so," a second petitioner told a voter.

Fair Play pointed out the second petitioner did a decent job of explaining the petition even though she did have some misunderstanding of it.

But the group says the first guy just gave "bad information."  He's being dealt with separately.

Linda Curtis with "Indy Austin" who really got the ball rolling on this issue clarified the petitioners aren't working for her but she does have some stern advice for whoever recorded the video.

"It's another shell game.  Hey let's focus on a few people who might not have their sales pitch right and we're going to ignore hundreds of millions of dollars in tax giveaways that's being done in the bowels of City Hall behind closed doors," Curtis said.

Here is Fair Play ATX's full statement:

“On behalf of Fair Play ATX, we have viewed the videos and are working with the supervisors and trainers of the petitioners to ensure that the information these two petitioners provided isn’t used again.  With regard to the video of the female petitioner, she did a decent job of explaining the petition but seemed to have some misunderstanding about the fact that the petition will, in fact, apply to the Precourt Sports soccer deal since Precourt has no zoning and no development permits.  With regard to the male petitioner, however, he simply gave bad information, which Fair Play ATX doesn’t tolerate.  We are dealing with the issue and that particular petitioner separately and are working to be certain all the petitioners working on our behalf are fully knowledgeable about the issue and the petition and can provide 100% clear and accurate information at all times.  
 
There is no need to mislead anyone about the intent of this petition. Polling shows that this Precourt soccer deal is unpopular with a large portion of Austinites, because the community doesn’t want its property taxes abated for out of town corporations, especially when iconic businesses like Threadgills are having to close and some residents are being forced from their homes due to high property taxes  This deal is unpopular in and of itself, so there is no reason for petitioners to give inaccurate information to get signatures.”
 

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