in Houston, Texas
Austin officials to see F1 racing in England; city taxpayers get $5,556 bill
Friday, Jun 29, 2012, 02:07PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
F1 car

Not crazy enough to let a perfectly good junket go to waste, Austin’s top city officials will be going to England courtesy of a Formula One racing company.

Oh, and city taxpayers, who will be picking up $5,556 to send four other city officials, in what has become a sprawling junket saga for the Austin American-Statesman.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell and City Manager Marc Ott, who are getting their travel and board paid for by Circuit of the Americas, whose offer to do the same for two Travis County officials was spurned the other day by the Commissioner’s Court.

The gracious, normally secretive Circuit folks are also paying to put up Police Chief Art Acevedo, Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr and two other city officials, whose airfare taxpayers will be footing.

Calm down, you fiscal worrywarts out there. The tickets are coach.

Although the short notice was one of the reasons the county turned down the free trip, city officials are making time to spend July 5-9 at Silverstone, where racing entrepreneurs have crowned the lovely English countryside with a jagged 3.2-mile ring of asphalt.

As was the excuse proffered by county officials, Austin’s leaders are going to take an eyewitness look at how a Formula One event is staged. The $300 million Circuit of the Americas racetrack here is hosting racing Nov. 16-18.

City Council member Kathie Tovo, who had been alerted to the trip by the American-Statesman, said, “Public money should not be used to fund trips to England in support of the Formula One race. The City of Austin has many pressing needs, and it would be inappropriate to use our scarce dollars for this purpose.”

Tovo may or may not have been referring to the pressing need for $2.2 million to run the money-losing MetroRail trains on the weekends. Or the $2 million to give away reusable grocery bags to low-income Austinites. Or maybe the $1.2 million to make Austin Energy’s private cleaning service public.

Or maybe she was piqued not having been invited along on the Silverstone junket.

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo 'Formula 1: British Grand Prix' by flickr user Alex Basnett, used via a Creative Commons license.

Friday, 06/29/2012 - 02:48PM

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