Austin Head: DJ/LGBT Advocate Is Running for City Council
As a deejay, Austin Head knows how to work a crowd. It takes finesse, and it takes being in touch. Those skills are coming in handy for the entertainer/LGBT advocate: He recently announced that he is running for a seat on Phoenix's District 4 city council.
Fernando Hernández Austin Head
It's a very different gig than providing music at a nightclub, but his entertainment credentials play heavily into his decision to run. He wants to see Phoenix get a cultural makeover, and help shed the idea that the city is the capital of a racist and homophobic backwater state. When Head and a friend were assaulted in November in a bias crime on Central Avenue it cemented his resolve to enter politics.
"I'm sure that if [the light rail] was running the Thursday I was assaulted, I would have been on the light rail and not walking on the street," says Head, who advocates light-rail expansion and densifying Phoenix's business and entertainment clusters.
Arizona makes headlines, obviously, but for all the wrong reasons. (We're a recurring Daily Show gag.) He wants to change that, citing the Big Apple's "I Love New York" campaign as an example of cultural rebranding.
"Some of the reasons businesses don't come to Phoenix is because of the reputation that Arizona has," he says. "Some large entertainment names don't come here on tour because of SB 1070 and other reasons, like [Sheriff Joe] Arpaio's practices," says Head, who wants to see Phoenix branded less as a resort town.
Phoenix's sprawl contributes to a lack of identity he says, and he'd like to see the city's public transit expand its reach.
"We want the light rail to expand," he says. "I would propose putting another line up and down Thomas or McDowell from 59th Avenue, as opposed to just extending the one line. All that land on Central could have more businesses, and with the light rail expanding, it would motivate businesses to come to Phoenix as well. We just lost a major headquarters when US Airways chose Dallas over Tempe; we want to lure headquarters to base themselves in Phoenix."
District 4 spans approximately from 59th Avenue to State Route 51 between Interstate 10 and Camelback Road. This midtown area is home to a significant number of local businesses, including many of the venues that host Austin Head as a DJ or as a singer. He says the area can learn a lot from downtown Phoenix.