Bernie, we have a problem.
Austin City Council slams the brakes on Formula One plan, delays crucial vote
Suttle, who was handpicked by State Comptroller Susan Combs to sway City Hall, told the council that unless they voted today to approve a contract that sometimes seemed like it had been ordered from LegalZoom.com, Austin might not get a race because of strict funding deadlines.
In what played out as a total debacle, Austin city lawyers sweated in front of the entire racing planet — with thousands of fans watching live online — and struggled to answer repeated questions from council members about the contract they were asking those members to endorse. That contract would bring F1 racing back to America.
Only Austin's mayor, Lee Leffingwell, seemed confident that the deal was without faults, but his peers left him in the cold, voting 6-1 to actually create a contract before they vote on it.
Austin Formula One fans — who showed up in force with pressed polo shirts and shiny handbags — are now likely creating clever combinations of four-letter words behind the wheel of their Escalades.
Because Thursday was Council Member Randi Shade's last day on the job before vocal F1 critic Kathie Tovo, who defeated Shade recently in a mudslinging bloodbath, takes her seat. The election shifted the power base to the half of city council that is skeptical of the whole thing and creates a real possibility that Austin city council will kill the F1 race, because city council must endorse the state's plan to hand $25 million over to F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, in order to hold the race at the new track already being built out by the airport, starting in 2012.
A lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in another attempt to stop that $25 million from being paid.
The Austin City Council will now hear the Formula One topic on June 29.