As Governor Rick Perry likes to say, Austin is the blueberry in the tomato soup we call Texas. The rest of Texas is a land of big oil, big business, big cars, big men and the big-haired women who love them, while Austin has long been labeled as something of a hippie kingdom where ladies sometimes go topless in public and everyone smokes the reefers.
Clearly, none of these stereotypes are entirely true, although you will find plenty folks who reinforce them from time to time. But the bottom line anyone who tells this kind of anecdote is trying to hit on is that Austin and the rest of Texas could not contrast more strongly, in almost every way.
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There are a million examples of how we differ, but the most obvious dividing line is plainly partisan. That’s one of the reasons why The Economist rated Austin the 14th most-liberal city in the nation. On the flip-side of that coin, the polling firm Gallup says that Texas is the 22nd most-conservative state in the nation, with 40.5 percent of its population self identifying under that label. There are indicators that Texas is changing, maybe even rapidly, but that’s not today’s reality in the government headquartered in Austin.
Despite all the things you could cite that define Austin as a city apart from the rest of Texas, two things happened last week that make the distinction even more clear than ever before…
Today’s reality in Texas government: We want to sell alcohol at gun shows
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) issued a proposal on Friday that would alcohol sales at gun shows. Yes: Texas thinks it is okay to sell booze at gun shows. Because that sounds like a good idea, right? Yes, there are some restrictions, and there are some businesses that would benefit from the allowance. After all, Texas is well known for having some of the most relaxed gun laws in the nation. But still: Booze at gun shows. Really? (Yes, really.)
According to Austin NBC affiliate KXAN-TV, the TABC’s rules would allow booze at gun shows provided they follow a few simple guidelines, including a ban on live ammunition in the building where booze is being sold; requiring all weapons to be disabled or on safety; and banning the delivery of firearms where booze is being sold. So, okay, maybe that sounds more reasonable than on face value, but still. Booze and gun shows? Face… And palm.
Today’s reality in Austin government: We just banned alcohol at the Barton Springs spillway
Just two days before the TABC announced their, ahem, suggestion for changing gun show rules, the City of Austin announced that beginning on Sept. 2, swimmers at the Barton Springs spillway will no longer be allowed to consume alcohol. In other words, Austin officials believe that drinking while swimming is a safety concern, and they’re right. It is. It’s also fun, but who says you can’t do that before walking over, right? (Especially with Chuy’s serving those amazing margaritas basically across the street. Mmmm.) The point is that in addition to it being a safety hazard, lots of drinking at the spillway creates a lot of waste, particularly of the glass and aluminum variety — which can also become a safety concern. That’s the city’s reasoning, at least.
The city is also introducing other new rules for the spillway due to its increasingly popular status in recent years, driven by surging numbers at the nearby Barton Springs pool, an enormously popular summertime destination. The other new rules include banning off-leash dogs and banning smoking, thanks in part to cigarette butt litter and numerous reports of flagrant public marijuana use (this is Austin, after all). Police are now actively enforcing these rules, but the ban on swimming that’s now posted by the spillway is merely a suggestion. Austin CBS affiliate KEYE-TV reported that the cops decided to step up their presence due to a rash of thefts and car break-ins at the park.
And there you have it: The State of Texas, from an agency based in Austin, is saying that it should be alright to get liquored up with your friends whilst perusing massive stockades of guns. Meanwhile, the City of Austin is banning booze while swimming at the Barton Springs spillway. What could better illustrate the difference between Austin and Texas than that?
Featured photo: Flickr user amy gizienski, creative commons licensed.