I’m not a regular reader of Digital Music News. Yes, I enjoy music, but not enough to read about it in-depth. A few days ago, I somehow stumbled upon a Digital Music News article with this headline: “10 Reasons Why Austin Is Starting to Suck.”
The headline sucked me in. Then I went on to read the entire piece, written by Paul Resnikoff. He’s the founder and publisher of the Digital Music News website. And he doesn’t live in Austin, as I do. Rather, Paul calls L.A. home. So since Paul doesn’t hang his hat in Austin, he relied on the insights of “honest natives”–and nameless ones, too–to craft this piece.
While Paul praises Austin’s great music, great barbecue and great people, he laments that the “only problem is that a bunch of very sucky things are now starting to happen to this city, which suddenly makes Austin a far more complicated proposition.”
So, what “sucky things” is he talking about? Let’s take a look, point by point. (Note: The headlines for the 10 points are presented here pretty much as they were presented in Paul’s article.)
1. South by Southwest.
“Unfortunately,” Paul writes, “most Austin natives now systematically avoid major parts of the city while the multi-week SXSW chaos ensues.” Meanwhile, he points out, some locals take extended vacations during SXSW.
Yes, Austinites do this. I’m one of the ones who “systematically” try to avoid downtown Austin during SXSW.
Why? Because downtown Austin turns into a zoo while the uber-popular music, film and interactive festival is going on. But that doesn’t mean I think Austin sucks. The event lasts less than two weeks, people. Deal with it.
FYI: A lot of people head out of Austin during SXSW because it coincides with spring break, when practically every school in the region shuts down.
2. Every Other Big Festival or Event Besides SXSW.
Events like the Austin City Limits (ACL) Music Festival result in “thronged hotels” and “out-of-towner traffic jams.” Furthermore, Paul says, “packed flights are becoming more and more commonplace.”
My answer to this: Get over it. Yes, Austin gets crowded during ACL and numerous other events. My suggestion to local residents: Stay away from the areas where they’re happening, and enjoy the parts of the city where they’re not happening. Austin’s a big place. Explore it.
3. It’s Not THAT Cheap Anymore.
To his credit, Paul reminds us that Austin remains “vastly cheaper” than Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the Southern California beach community of Santa Monica or San Francisco’s SoMA neighborhood. But compared with other U.S. cities, Paul adds, “Austin’s cost of living is noticeably more expensive and creeping upward.”
Guess what? That’s what happens when thousands of newcomers relocate to your city every year. Popularity breeds price hikes; when it comes to housing, it’s all about supply and demand.
Earlier this year, I relocated back to Austin from San Francisco and haven’t looked back. The one thing that drove me away more than anything else was the astronomical rent; in Austin, I pay about $900 less a month for an apartment that’s about the same size (and is newly built).
If the “expensive and creeping upward” cost of living in Austin truly bugs you, then pack up and move to a cheaper place.
4. The Highways Have Become Quite Congested.
Austin motorists have been moaning and groaning about this for years. Has traffic gotten worse in the past few years? Yes. Is it worse than places like Houston and L.A.? Not really.
City and regional leaders are working on solutions to the gridlock—solutions that can’t come soon enough, in my book. If you’re really disgruntled about Austin’s traffic jams, hop in your car and move somewhere else.
5. Public Transportation Remains Hit-or-Miss.
Certainly, public transportation in Austin leaves a lot to be desired. We do have a commuter rail system, but not all of the stations are in commuter-friendly locations. And the bus system pales in comparison to bus systems in other, mostly bigger, regions. But just as with our roads, government leaders are mulling improvements, including an urban rail system.
6. It’s Still Surrounded by Texas.
There’s no denying that Austin is engulfed by a state that, by and large, is considerably more conservative than the liberal-leaning home of the Texas Capitol and the University of Texas. But Austinites seem to survive just fine in this political bubble. If liberal icon Ann Richards could live in conservative-minded Texas, then anyone can.
7. But Wait: What’s Wrong with Texas?
Paul emphasizes that as Austin draws more international attention, its relationship with Texas becomes more complex.
“When you’re trying to set yourself apart from a place as large and as bold as Texas, you have to work really, really hard,” Paul quotes Huffington Post writer David Landsel as saying. “Which could explain why everyone walks around here looking so stressed.”
I beg to differ. Austinites tend to be a pretty laid-back bunch. People I observed while living in San Francisco looked far more stressed than people in Austin ever have.
8. Flights Suck.
So, Paul does have a point here. Austin is not an airline hub like Dallas or Houston is. But we can connect to plenty of flights in those two cities and other airline hubs. Yes, it’s a hassle. But it’s not that bad. And I can tell you from painful experience that San Francisco International Airport truly sucks, thanks to its constant fog-related flight delays.
I’ve got to wonder whether Paul ever flew in or out of the old Austin airport, which closed in 1999. Now, that airport sucked. The new airport is much bigger and much nicer than its predecessor. And it’s adding nonstop destinations all the time, including a nonstop to London set to take off next year.
9. The Summers Are Stultifyingly Sweltering.
Two words here: air conditioning. I’d rather put up with “stultifyingly” hot summers than frigid winters (New York City, Chicago) or soggy seasons (Seattle, Portland).
10. Everyone Plays in Three Bands.
Really, Paul? You’re the editor of a music website and you’re griping about musicians and music overload? Let me pull out the world’s tiniest violin and play the world’s saddest song for you. Perhaps someone should give you some heavy-duty earplugs for your next trip to the “Live Music Capital of the World.”
In conclusion, Paul, I’ll take Austin over L.A. any day. Austin is a very non-sucky place to live for so many reasons.