“Without music, life would be a mistake,” Friedrich Nietzsche. Though perhaps an exaggeration in most people’s eyes, Nietzsche saw a value in music that apparently City of Austin officials don’t. Earlier this month, officials stated that, starting October 1st, they would be strengthening the enforcement of Austin’s Sound Ordinance to such an extent that, as told to The Odyssey by Austin Police Department Officer Ray Lopez: “What’s been allowed is going to come to an end. Ninety-nine percent of you will not be able to get the permit you need.” These words seem more than a tad aggressive, as Lopez does not even consider the possibility that organizations seeking a permit will comply with the specifications of the code. They certainly don’t suggest that APD will “enforce the law in a fair and impartial manner,” which is part of the philosophy of APD.
These changes, according to Lt. Brad Price of the Austin Fire Department, came as a result of an “increasing number of complaints made by older residents of the West Campus area.”
Let’s say, not that I agree, that Lt. Price’s claim for the reasoning behind this recent change is legitimate. The constitutionality of this sound ordinance is something that should be considered. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects against the abridgment of free speech. In fact, the Florida Supreme Court recently struck down a similar ordinance restricting the volume at which music could be played from a motor vehicle, stating that it was a violation of the defendant’s First Amendment rights.
Austin is often termed the “Live Music Capitol of the World.” Many a band starts off playing at fraternities or other organization’s parties on campus in which they get paid decent money to play the music they love. According to one anonymous local musician posting on the petition website protesting this new policy, “Every coming-up band loves getting a gig at a party. Parties reach a different demographic than bars or restaurants. The audience and performer usually have a more intimate connection at a party… Taking that away from us musicians does not just affect some college kids trying to drink, it would be a huge blow to the Austin music scene, which is probably the strongest part of Austin culture as a whole.”
Music groups would not be the only groups adversely affected by this new policy. Many students live in West Campus due to its proximity to such parties. Property values are high because of this desire and because most parents of students in West Campus are able and willing to at least help pay the premium for their kids to live there. This desire could very well serve to increase the demand of real estate in West Campus, which would thus drive up the property values. Limiting the sound in West Campus could very well lead to growing discontentment with West Campus living and the eventual depreciation of the property of all owners in the area. If this occurred, surely local businesses would suffer too. Once students leave, so too does their business to the variety of local establishments in West Campus, which currently tailor its products and services towards those students.
As a substantial part of the Austin community, students have the opportunity to have our voices heard in local government and policy-making. Unfortunately, candidates often don’t listen to students’ concerns because most don’t vote in these elections. Local elections are coming up in November and students have the opportunity to change their lack of voice in policy-making. Research local candidates and vote, so that these ordinances do not remain in effect for long, and so that can students have their voices heard in the future.
Lueder is a Plan II, business honors, finance and philosophy junior from Dallas.