Many of you know I’ve been fighting the City of Austin over the $50 per-session fee they now charge for professional photographers to use Zilker Botanical Gardens. I have not asked for the fee to go away, only for them to charge us an annual fee instead so that photographers like me can absorb the cost rather than pass the cost on to my clients.
I sent letters to some twelve members of the City Council, Zilker, Parks and Recreations, and Mayor Will Wynn. The letter was cosigned by a number of members of my professional photography group, ApNet.
Stuart Strong, the acting director of Parks and Rec, simply said the fee was a way to “monitor and control” our use of the gardens. He did not address my request for an annual pass.
Some of you may have noticed that last Thursday, the Statesman ran an article on how the city is now proposing to charge fitness trainers who host running classes or yoga or even the “stroller mom” groups who jog together with their babies a $500 annual fee for the right to train in parks or on the trail.
I understand the city is strapped for cash, but the amount of money they make off these fees is so insubstantial when you add in the processing and personnel to do it. And the cost to the goodwill of the citizens of Austin and their view of their city and parks is enormous.
I’ll be speaking to the Austin Professional Photographers Association in a couple weeks in hopes they will join forces with my own group to fight the city. I’ve been communicating with the Statesman reporter about this as well. Even if we lose, we’re going to make some noise, and help ensure that sneaky measures get attention before going through, and to ensure the new City Council members (the run off election is June 14) take a good long look at how they are eroding the quirky, open, fun reputation of our city.