Dear Paul Resnikoff: Why Austin Isn’t ‘Very Sucky’

By    September 11, 2013

i love you so much austin

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.

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.

austin cost of living

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.

austin metrorail

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.

austin-airport

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.

Photos courtesy of flickr.com/photos/supertsai, sxsw.com, austin.apartmentlovers.com, austincityliving.com, aviationblog.dallasnews.com

John is editor of The SpareFoot Blog. He first moved to Austin in 1999, when downtown Austin wasn't nearly as lively as it is today. John's loves include pizza, University of Kansas basketball and puns.

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  • Tom Sussexe

    Nice effort defending your hometown Paul, but the defense is weak – very weak. My favorite points are four and five where the defense is, “government leaders are mulling improvements.”

  • Troof

    What my friend John was trying to say regarding 4&5 is that the Austin municipal government with full involvement from Mayor Lee Leffingwell recently won an $11.3 million TIGER grant to improve the rail and bus systems in Austin, and are in very serious discussion to finalize new routes that will open urban rail to more Austin neighborhoods by 2014.

  • Lucky13X

    I’ve had to do what the person quoted for reason #9 in the original article for about 2 years due to bad circulation in my apt.

  • Bird

    How the hell can you read this entire article and think this guy was arguing with himself as “Paul” in the third person the entire time?

  • KCM

    I agree with Paul on the airport situation. It’s expensive to get out of Austin if you like to travel. It’ll add at least $100 on to your trip.

    But the rest of the complaints? The nameless people griping about SXSW? Come on. “Oh, boohoo people from all over the world want to come and visit my city and spend money here! It’s so awful.”

  • M1EK

    We don’t have a light rail system. We have a shitty commuter rail line which precluded a great light rail system.

  • lovenlife

    I am a Texas native but, I have lived in California twice in my life…San Diego and Santa Barbara. I have spent much time in LA. I would pick Austin over LA, ANY day!! My son & daughter in law have lived in Austin for the last 10 years. I own property in Austin so, I spend a lot of time in Austin. I love the town and everything about it (except for the traffic)! When you live in a growing city, you will have growth, duh!! I have traveled all over the world and have lived in the suburbs of Houston for the past 20 years. I love Houston (except for the traffic)! I think a lot of people are jealous of the great state of Texas. People will look for anything negative to say when they think that their opinions are important and are more superior (in their own minds). Every city has it’s good and bad points. I am not familiar with this writer but, when he lives in Austin and/or spends the majority of his time in Austin, then I will find him credible…until then, I choose to ignore his rantings!! Bravo for your defense….long live Austin and long live Texas.

  • Gina Sigillito

    I lived in New York for twenty years before moving to Austin two years ago. Everyone looks stressed? I’ve found quite the opposite, and obviously the writer of the original article doesn’t know what stressed looks like. The “everyone plays in three bands” statement is just false. As for music festivals, the music scene is why many of us moved here. Yes, SXSW is crowded, but it still has many more positives than negatives. His gripes really read like those of someone who doesn’t spend a lot of time here, but then again he doesn’t. Call me old fashioned, but I think you should try living in a city before you can call yourself an authority, for better or for worse.

  • dcravenr

    I just reviewed Paul’s article. It’s 10 bullet points with a couple of sentences under each point. That hardly qualifies as quality journalism. I question Paul’s value to the music industry if that article is his idea of quality writing. I’m guessing his bullet points got rejected by Buzzfeed for being so mediocre. Maybe after a few writing classes he can try again. Better luck next time.

  • guy from Beaumont

    maybe Austin is so significant only because it’s the capitol of TEXAS. Now I’m a Texan, but every Texan knows that Austin might as well be San Fransisco. i understand both sides in this article. Mr. Paul should have compared Austin to the rest of Texas.

  • beobjective

    I dare you to find me any objective reference where Houston has worse traffic than Austin.

  • Sarcasm0

    Seriously. I drive to Houston from Austin relatively frequently thanks to in-laws. At least that city has 412 highways to choose from. Austin has 4 or 5, and really only one of those provides meaningful access to downtown. God help you if you live in Round Rock and work elsewhere.

  • Sarcasm0

    SXSW contributes an entire mountain of cash to the city’s coffers every year. If anything, it needs to be extended.

  • S

    SXSW is also one of the reasons we can have so many successful local businesses here. Many bars and restaurants pay their rent for 6+ months based off the money they make those couple of weeks alone. Yeah, SXSW is annoying for the natives but please come in and contribute to my cities economy!

  • Tom Sussexe

    True, should have said John instead of Paul. Nevertheless, the defense offered in points four and five are extremely weak – actually laughable.

  • Tom Sussexe

    Now that I have finished laughing, I can reply to your reply Troof. Point four and five are addressing highway/road improvements and public transportation improvements. Do you seriously think $11.3 million is a significant amount of money in that context? It is not. It would not even begin to address the improvements that are needed. As for the “serious discussions” – talk is cheap and means nothing. Urban rail takes money, not serious discussion. Austin traffic is getting worse, not better. I would love to see an expansion of urban rail, but there is nothing of substance to suggest that is even on the horizon.

  • Tom Sussexe

    Point 6 show’s the author’s shallow thinking. “If liberal icon Ann Richards could live in conservative-minded Texas, then anyone can.” John, liberal Icon Ann Richards was actually elected governor of Texas in the early nineties because Texas was once a very blue state. The gravy sweatin’, cousin lovin’, right-wing whackos have not always dominated the thinking here.

  • http://twitter.com/heathermnida Heather Nicole

    I’m a little disappointed in this article, as Paul brings up valid points, and instead of intelligently debunking them with objective evidence and arguments you do so with subjective “nah-uh” type of responses. Austinites deserve a better argument than this.

  • ttrr

    I moved from Austin to San Diego and never looked back! I’d take any location in California over Austin or Texas.

  • Bob Comp

    NATIVE TEXANS HUMP THEIR SISTERS AND SCREW LIVESTOCK!

  • Bob Comp

    ONLY “LOVELIFE” YOU HAVE IS WITH YOUR MOMMA AND YOUR RIGHT HAND!

  • Bob Comp

    BEAUMONT RESIDENTS LIKE SEX WITH DOGS AND GOATS! NEVER BEND OVER FOR ANY REASON IN BEAUMONT!!

  • Bob Comp

    ALL YOU TEXANS CAN KISS MY YANKEE BALLS! THE ALAMO SHOULD BE CHANGED TO A WETBACK WHOREHOUSE!

  • Bob Comp

    BET THE POSITION YOU PREFER IS ON YOUR KNEES IF FRONT OF YOUR “BOYFRIEND”!

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