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Is Austin the Next US Crypto Hub? Officials approve blockchain resolutions

Innovative cities across America are vying to become the next hotspot for cryptocurrency and blockchain adoption. Miami was the first city to launch its own portion of CityCoins last year, allowing it Implementation of your own cryptocurrency dubbed “MiamiCoin” to be used for civic engagement.

New York City has also made a name for itself as a crypto-friendly city through the implementation of educational initiatives and with educational initiatives Mayor Eric Adams receives his paycheck in bitcoin (Bitcoin) in January of this year.

Austin takes a strong stance

Recently, Austin – the state capital of Texas with the slogan “Keep Austin Weird” – has shown a strong interest in cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. Texas’ desire to lead the way for crypto innovation was established by Gov. Greg Abbot about a year ago tweeted that he is a “crypto law proposal supporter” for the city Austin has taken additional measures ensure the acceptance of cryptocurrencies for city services.

On March 9, 2022, Austin City Council member Mackenzie Kelly introduced an executive order directing the Austin City Manager discover possible use cases of cryptocurrency for the benefit of Austin and its residents. The decision expressly calls on the city manager to do so investigate how the city could introduce bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for financial transactions.

Kelly told Cointelegraph that her decision directs the city manager to conduct a fact study to determine what would be required for the city to accept bitcoin or other cryptocurrency payments for city services:

“It’s more of a feasibility study. We as council members do not currently have enough information to know if we can accept crypto as payment for city services. We need to know more about it before we can decide. In doing so, there is security information that we need to review to see if this is even feasible or if we can hold crypto on our books financially. We don’t know if we can bill it as an asset – that would prevent us from accepting crypto as payment. There’s also the financial stability of crypto as a whole, and if we can even accept it in that regard.”

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Image from Austin City Council meeting on March 24, 2022. Source: Austintexas.gov

While questions remain, Kelly noted that Austin has always been a forward-thinking and innovative city, noting that many cryptocurrency investors currently live and work in Austin. Kelly added that Austin Mayor Steve Adler is a co-sponsor of her resolution. Given this support, Kelly believes cryptocurrency payments will be a useful alternative to give individuals the flexibility to pay for certain city services. She stated:

“For example, if someone gets a speeding ticket and doesn’t have a bank account but has cryptocurrency, they could use crypto as a means of payment. Or if they wanted to pay their taxes or utility bills with bitcoin, or dedicate a park in their name with crypto. This is all part of the analysis to allow the city of Austin to accept crypto payments.”

This could certainly have a major impact, as recent data from Finder.com shows found that 8% of Texans already own bitcoin and that state adoption could reach 14% by the end of the year. Austin in particular could benefit from crypto payments for city services, according to Google data shows that Austin is the number one city in Texas to search for the keywords “bitcoin” and “crypto.”

All in all, it should come as no surprise that Kelly’s determination was authorized during the Austin City Council meeting that was held on March 24th. Now that the decision has been made, Kelly stated that the next step towards approval will come in mid-June, when the Austin City Manager can determine whether crypto can actually be accepted as a form of payment. This is based on the city’s research into financial stability, security, equity and inclusion, and consumer benefits or risks.

In addition to Kelly’s resolution, Adler’s resolution focusing on blockchain technology was also passed during the Austin working session on March 24, 2022. During the meeting, City Council Member Sabino Renteria explained that Austin began exploring the use of blockchain four years ago to ensure that the city’s homeless population would be in control of their personal records at all times. “The concept was, what if we use blockchain technology to give people ownership and access to all their records,” he noted. Renteria added that he’s “excited about what blockchain can do.”

Although both resolutions are innovative, some Austin City Council members expressed concerns during the meeting. Councilor Leslie Pool mentioned that their biggest concern regarding blockchain implementation is the “lack of a central authority”. She added:

“It may be tamper-proof and tamper-proof, but that’s about all it is. It’s a digital ledger. So there might be some unique uses for it or for the city to encourage its use, but at this point I’m really cautious about the city going into the Acquisition or use immerses it. I would very much like to hear from our finance office staff or experts on these technologies before making any decisions to roll out these elements.”

Regarding the proposed cryptocurrency resolution, Councilor Pool added:

“I continue to believe that crypto, a form of currency, is too volatile to risk taxpayer dollars or employee retirements. Crypto is unregulated. It’s not just unregulated. It’s also unprotected. There is a game element here for me. That makes me really uneasy. Crypto as a form of payment or investment is inconsistent with a community’s role in securing community revenue.”

Austin pushes forward despite concerns

Aside from concerns, Austin residents remain positive about cryptocurrency and blockchain innovation in the city. For example, Jesse Paterson, chair of the education committee at ATX DAO — a chain-agnostic decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) in Austin — told Cointelegraph that the organization aims to serve as a local resource to help educated city council members and residents understand the impact of the recently drafted Decisions:

“Some ATX DAO members were at City Hall and showed our support for the resolutions, but we still exercised some caution because we are still in the early days of crypto. So it takes time to understand the space before diving into projects.”

Ryan Harvey, ATX DAO Community Manager and longtime Austin resident, added that based on the wording of both Councilor Kelly’s crypto resolution and Mayor Adler’s blockchain resolution, it’s clear that they are still missions act to find out the facts. However, he noted that this is a positive step in the right direction:

“New information is always a good thing. But even beyond the statement of fact, both resolutions show that Austin is open to business and fosters innovation, which is fantastic.”

During the March 24 council meeting, Harvey took a few minutes to share his thoughts with council members. He explained: “There are organizations like ATX DAO here in the city – and I was thrilled that DAOs are mentioned in the resolution – that can be a point of reference.”

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Ryan Harvey, ATX DAO Community Manager, made a statement at the March 24 City Council meeting. Source: Austintexas.gov

In addition to ATX DAO efforts, other Austinites are creating initiatives with crypto and Web3 elements to give back to the community. For example, City Magic is a project that aims to bring Austin communities together through grants in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

City Magic founder Raffi Sapire told Cointelegraph that the project will award $1,000 in grants to those in the Austin community who want to create a friendly space or event for neighbors or for civic engagement. “City Magic is for middle-class people and those who care about community. It also helps build a bridge for people who may have never interacted with tokens. Grants are NFTs, and the cost of joining our committee is equivalent to a grant benefiting civic engagement.”

eagle recently shown his support for Sapire and other blockchain-focused Austin entrepreneurs and companies in a tweet which read, “Austin is excited to support the companies and innovations that will turn the promises of Web3, cryptocurrency and blockchain technology into reality.”

Additionally, Austin could soon join the ranks of Miami and New York City by implementing its own CityCoin. A member of the CityCoin community gave a presentation on how this could play out accomplished at ETH Austin, a two-day event that took place during South By Southwest. The community member shared that CityCoins’ primary goal is to work with the City of Austin to help officials like Mayor Adler and Councilman Kelly better understand how Austin’s own cryptocurrency can thrive. “We need to define that and make sure we’re getting it right before we do anything. Ideally, we would like to have an announcement on this during Consensus 2022, which is scheduled to take place on June 9.”

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Member of the CityCoins community at the presentation at ETH Austin. Credit: Rachel Wolfson

When asked about a CityCoin being implemented in Austin, Kelly remarked, “I’m open to the idea, but my financial conclusion is dependent on my resolution getting passed and I know it’s feasible for the city of Austin to accepting crypto as a whole. ”