Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion talks hotel tax quarrel between City and County

It's a high-stakes quarrel between the City of Austin and Travis County.  And it's getting ugly. Here's the bottom line: the City wants to expand the downtown convention center and the County wants to modernize the aging "Exposition Center," home to the Rodeo Austin.
They both want to use hotel occupancy tax for the projects, that's money tourists pay for staying in Austin-area hotels.
In November, Travis County voters approved using 2% of the hot funds for the Expo Center expansion -- the problem is, the piece of the pie the county wants to use is still tied up by the City of Austin, debt from the first time the City expanded the convention center about 20 years ago.
The City recently informed the County that money may not be freed up until 2029.
So now what?

"I think we have to do better.   I think that the need for development in that area is immediate.  I think that we've got a number of families that are moving out to the area.  We see it going from a sparsely populated area to a densely populated area," said Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion.

Commissioner Travillion says gentrification in the city is moving folks to the communities around the Expo Center.  Those families need libraries, parks, and transit.

"2029 ultimately is almost the end of this decade that we're starting right now.  These families need opportunities and they need them right now," he said. 

According to a County spokesperson, County Judge Sarah Eckhardt recently warned the City -- if the Expo Center isn't updated, they may be forced to divest from the lease and walk away from the facility that sits on city-owned land.  Rodeo Austin would find a new home.

"You know that is not a preference for me. I drive through that area on my way home every day and I know that there is an important need that can be served by the Expo Center," Travillion said.  

Commissioner Travillion says investments in the community should be proportionate.  Areas like the eastern crescent have been historically left out.

"When the City talks about spending $1.3 billion you have to ask where would it be spent.  When you're talking downtown you're talking about a population of under 20,000 people.  When you look at serving the entire precinct 1 and precinct 4 as well, now you are looking at more than half a million people," Travillion said.  

As tense discussions between the city and the county continue...what happens next?

"I think that it is important that we sit down together as public entities and really work to build a “Marshall plan.”  Because many of the problems that we see have been created through government policy," Travillion said.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler sent Fox 7 this statement:  

"I remain a strong supporter of improving the Expo Center.  The City effectively donates the land for this purpose now.  I support continuing and extending donating the land in the current or a different form and without seeking any compensation or trade from Travis County.  The Council has asked the City Manager to identify viable construction funding options for the City and County to consider.  We await that analysis."  Adler said.