Convention center hotel talk – who will be right in 10 years?

Another day, another story about the taxpayer-owned convention center hotel being planned for downtown. This time, the Morning News is talking about the two sides of the equation — for and against the mammoth $550 million-plus project — and points out one of those frustrating aspects of politics these days: There’s really no way to now which side is correct.

It’s not as if either side is lying or twisting the truth (although you can be sure that each side’s opponents are taking that tact). It’s more a case of wading through the projections put together by the city’s consultants, who have the unenviable task of looking into the future 10 years and projecting average room and occupancy rates. Think about that: We won’t know whether the hotel actually meets projections for 10 years, and then most of us will have forgotten what the projections were anyway.
It’s no secret that I think this is a dumb idea, and it’s not because we couldn’t use a great hotel next to the convention center. I just think that having the city build and own a huge and expensive hotel is going to be a big mistake simply because the city shouldn’t be competing directly with private, tax-paying entities. Think about that — you start up a business with your own money, spend a lot of your time working at the place, hopefully scratching out a living, and then the city decides to build a shiny new version of your business just down the street. The city’s version is newer, in a better location (because you couldn’t afford that location on your own with your own money), and because it’s a publicly owned entity, the city can set the rates to whatever they want simply becausing their using your own tax dollars (or a pledge of those tax dollars) to build and operate the business that’s competing with yours.

That’s my problem with this whole deal — the city is using our tax dollars to compete with people/businesses who have put up their own money to build their own businesses. There are other ways, as the city has proven over and over again around town with tax abatements, tax increment financing districts and even partial grants to targeted businesses. But nowhere that I know of in Dallas has the city competed directly with private business. That’s not fair, and it’s not right.


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