AUSTIN,Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - Earlier today, the Clerk of the City of Austin certified a petition signed by more than 29,000 local voters proposing a new city ordinance related to the use of publicly owned land for sports stadiums.
The Austin City Council must now approve that ordinance or give Austinites a chance to vote on it themselves.
The proposed ordinance requires voter approval of any agreement that allows a professional sports team to use public land tax-free, an arrangement that Austin's elected officials are attempting to enter into with California billionaire Anthony Precourt.
Precourt is the former operator of a Major League Soccer (MLS) team based in Ohio, and the City of Austin has proposed giving his company use of publicly owned land at 10414 McKalla Place for $1 a year for five years and exempting it from all property taxes for a minimum of 20 years, hoping that he might build a stadium and attract a new MLS team to play within it.
Events held at the stadium would not include any revenue-sharing from ticket or concession sales, and the agreement would leave the city to pay for millions in utility, sidewalk, and emergency service improvements.
The proposed ordinance would require sports teams to pay property taxes if they want to use public land for private profit.
"Austin residents and locally owned businesses already pay some of the highest property taxes in the state," said Chris Lippincott, a spokesperson for Fair Play Austin. "Those taxes have forced Austin icons like Threadgill's, the Frisco Shop, and the East Side Cafe to relocate or close their doors forever. So if we are being asked to give hundreds of millions of dollars in property-tax breaks to an out-of-state billionaire's for-profit venture, then we deserve an opportunity to approve the deal at the ballot box."
"Major League Soccer can be great for Austin, but only if our city's leaders play fair," said Lippincott.
"The Austin City Council should not be picking winners and losers, and local taxpayers should not be subsidizing a private and very profitable enterprise."
Friends of McKalla Place:
Friends of McKalla Place, a group of Austinites who oppose the City of Austin's proposed stadium deal with California-based Precourt Sports Ventures to build a private stadium on public land at McKalla Place in North Austin issued the following statement in response to the Austin City Clerk's certification of a 29,000-signature petition demanding voter approval before public land is used for private sports stadiums:
"Today, the City of Austin acknowledged the obvious: that tens of thousands of everyday Austinites have serious questions about the McKalla stadium deal. That plan allows a billionaire to build a stadium on public land and then profit from it for decades without paying a dime in property taxes."
"Years ago, the families from several neighborhoods who live near McKalla Place worked with the City of Austin on the neighborhood plan to envision how to put this public land to best use as a community park and transit-oriented affordable housing development. The city is breaking those promises and ignoring basic priorities.
"As neighbors, we have concerns about the proposed stadium's impact on traffic, noise, and the environment. All Austinites should be concerned about the property tax breaks being offered to the stadium's billionaire because it robs our schools, social services of hundreds of millions of dollars in funding. Austinites already pay some of the highest property taxes in the state, and we can't afford to give a billionaire a free ride."
Statement from PSV (PreCourt Sports Venture):
"Neither the petition nor a possible election impact Major League Soccer coming to Austin in March 2021. Austin FC is already a part of this community. The City Council-approved lease for McKalla Place is signed, and the site plan has been filed.
These decisions were made after a thorough community engagement process that included more than 10 community engagement sessions and eight city council meetings. As a result of the site plan being filed, this petition initiative cannot retroactively overturn the binding result of the council vote that approved the 100% privately financed construction of the stadium and soccer park at McKalla Place."
Report from City of Austin
Report on Analysis of Stadium Petition
We estimate that there are 26,441 valid signatures on the Stadium petition. Using a random sample of a size required by law, the City is 95% confident that the true number of valid signatures on the entire petition exceeds 26,217 and is 95% confident that the true number of valid signatures on the entire petition is less than 26,666.
Furthermore, the City is virtually certain that the true number exceeds 20,000.
A total of 28,909 lines of names were submitted on the petition, after deletion of 225 names for which the petition wording deviated. A random sample of 7,229 of these lines was checked.
608 of the sample lines were disqualified on account of being duplicate signatures of registered voters who signed more than once (3), or for other reasons (605). The remaining 6,621 sample lines were validated as bearing signatures of qualified voters.
Using these figures, we estimate that there are 26,441 valid signatures on the Stadium petition. The method used for calculating this estimate is based on Goodman's method (The Annals of Mathematical Statistics, 1949, pp. 572-579), supplemented with variance estimate based on Haas and Stokes (Journal of the American Statistical Association, 1998, pp. 1475-1487.)
The estimate of 26,441 valid signatures adjusts properly for the effect of multiple signatures. In principle, it is incorrect to extrapolate the 6,621 valid signatures that were found in the sample by simply multiplying 6,621 by the petition-to-sample-size ratio 28,909 ÷ 7,729 = 4 (approximately).
Also, the presence of multiple signatures in the sample substantially increases the margin of error for the estimate even when the multiplicities are relatively few, as in this petition. The method used correctly calculates both the estimate and the margin of error; the simple extrapolation does not.
The effect of increased margin of error is to reduce confidence that a required minimum number of signatures was submitted. However, the correct margin of error is still small relative to the difference between the estimate of 26,441 and the benchmark minimum figure of 20,000.
Therefore, the confidence is nearly 100% that the petition contains at least 20,000 valid signatures.
Details on proper ways to adjust for multiple signatures are given in the cited references.
Random number generation for the sample and all programming were done with SAS
(Statistical Analysis System) software.
Number of Valid Signatures on Stadium Petition is Estimated to be 26,441.
The City of Austin has determined that the Stadium petition meets the requirement for the minimum number of signatures of valid voters if the required minimum is 20,000. 28,909 lines of names were submitted on the petition, after deletion of 225 names for which the petition wording deviated.
A random sample of 7,229 of the submitted lines was checked. 608 of the sample lines were disqualified on account of being duplicate signatures of registered voters who signed more than once (3), or for other reasons (605). The remaining 6,621 sample lines were validated as bearing signatures of qualified voters.
Furthermore, using the random sample, the City estimates that there are 26,441 valid signatures on the Stadium petition.
The City is 95% confident that the true number of valid signatures on the entire petition exceeds 26,217 and is also 95% confident that the true number is less than 26,666. Furthermore, the City is virtually certain that the true number of valid signatures exceeds 20,000.