By approving two resolutions focusing on cryptocurrency and blockchain innovation. Austin is preparing to become America’s next crypto hotspot.
Cities around the United States are competing to be the next hotspot for cryptocurrency and blockchain adoption. Last year, Miami became the first city to accept its own section of CityCoins, allowing it to launch its own cryptocurrency, “MiamiCoin,” for civic engagement.
New York City has likewise established a reputation as a crypto-friendly city, sponsoring educational activities and paying Mayor Eric Adams in Bitcoin (BTC) in January of this year.
Austin takes a Firm Stand on the Issue
Recently, Austin, Texas’ state capital, has taken a keen interest in cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies, under the tagline “Keep Austin Weird.” While Governor Greg Abbot’s willingness to lead the way for crypto innovation was established around a year ago when he tweeted that he is a “crypto law proposal supporter,” the city of Austin has gone above and above to ensure that cryptocurrency is accepted for city services.
Mackenzie Kelly, an Austin city council member, proposed a resolution directing the city manager to investigate the usage of cryptocurrencies to benefit Austin and its inhabitants. The resolution specifically requests that the city manager look into how Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies could be used for financial transactions in the city.
According to Kelly, her resolution instructs the city manager to conduct a fact-finding study to identify what would be required for the city to accept Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency payments for city services:
This is more of a proof-of-concept. As council members, we currently lack sufficient information to determine whether or not we may accept cryptocurrency as payment for city services. Before we can make a decision, we need to learn more about this. In doing so, we’ll need to look at security data to see if this is really feasible and if we can keep crypto on our books financially. We’re not sure if we can bill it as an asset, which would restrict us from accepting cryptocurrency as a payment. There’s also the question of crypto’s overall financial stability, and if we can embrace it in that sense.”
Despite the unanswered questions, Kelly stated that Austin has always been a forward-thinking and innovative city, noting that many bitcoin investors now live and work in the city. Mayor Steve Adler is a co-sponsor of Kelly’s resolution, she said. Kelly feels that bitcoin payments will be a helpful alternative to enable individuals the freedom to pay for some local services as a result of this support. She went on to say:
“For example, if someone receives a speeding ticket but does not have a bank account, they may pay with bitcoin.” Or if they wanted to use Bitcoin to pay their taxes or utility bills, or to dedicate a park in their honor. This is all part of the research for allowing Austin to take cryptocurrency payments.”
8% of Texans now hold Bitcoin, with adoption expected to reach 14% by the end of the year. Austin, in particular, could gain from cryptocurrency payments for city services, as Google data shows that Austin is the most-searched-for city in Texas for the terms “Bitcoin” and “crypto.”
Kelly’s motion was adopted during Austin’s city council meeting on March 24, which should come as no surprise given the circumstances. Now that the resolution has been passed, Kelly noted that the next step in the approval process will take place in mid-June when the Austin city manager will assess whether or not cryptocurrency can be accepted as payment. The city’s studies on financial stability, security, equity, and inclusion, as well as consumer benefits and hazards, will be used to make this decision.
Adler’s resolution focused on blockchain technology was also passed. During the discussion, city council member Sabino Renteria explained that Austin began investigating the usage of blockchain four years ago in order to assure that the city’s homeless population will always have control over their personal records. “The idea was that we could use blockchain technology to allow people to own and access all of their documents,” he explained. “I’m excited at the idea of what blockchain can do,” Renteria remarked.
Despite the fact that both resolutions are novel, some city council members expressed reservations at the meeting. Leslie Pool, a council member, stated that the “absence of a central authority” is her single largest problem about blockchain deployment. She continued, “
“It’s tamper-evident and tamper-resistant, but that’s about it.” It’s a computerized ledger. So there may be some unique uses for this or for the city to promote its use, but given its relatively new introduction into data storage or other digital arenas, I’m wary of the city embracing or using it at this time. Before making a decision to implement these technologies, I’d like to hear from our financial office employees or specialists on the subject.”
Amid Qualms, Austin Forges Ahead
Residents in Austin are optimistic about the future of bitcoin and blockchain technology. Jesse Paterson, chair of the ATX DAO education committee — a chain-agnostic decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) in Austin — told Cointelegraph that the organization aims to serve as a local resource to educate city council members and residents on the implications of the recently passed resolutions:
“While several ATX DAO members were to city hall to show our support for the resolutions, we also advised prudence because crypto is still in its infancy.” As a result, it takes time to have a sense of the environment before plunging into tasks.”
By introducing its own CityCoin, Austin might soon join the ranks of Miami and New York City. In a presentation at ETH Austin, a two-day event held during South By Southwest, a CityCoin community member discussed how this might play out.
CityCoins’ major purpose, according to the community member, is to collaborate with the city of Austin in order to enable leaders like Mayor Adler and council member Kelly better understand how Austin’s own cryptocurrency might succeed. “Before we do anything, we need to clarify this and make sure we do it correctly.” We’d like to make an announcement about this during Consensus 2022, which is scheduled for June 9.”
Also Read: The Mayor of Austin is a Supporter of Web3 Technology and Cryptocurrency Payments
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