The anti-convention center hotel people fired their first legal salvo yesterday, and if it was a shot over the council’s bow, it doesn’t appear to have scared off the pro-hotel people. A judge threw out the no-hotel group’s legal challenge seeking to keep the council from voting on the hotel development and management agreements today, giving Mayor Tom Leppert yet another opportunity to label the no-hotel group (funded almost entirely by Harlan Crow, owner of the Anatole Hotel), as a "special interest group" interested in trying to hold "our community hostage", according to the DMN’s story.
More than any other word, "sad" is the one that comes to mind when I think about the titan struggle between the pro- and no- groups we’re getting ready to witness. With $500 million of taxpayer money at stake, and with Crow and Matthews Southwest/Omni Hotels (the hotel developer and operator) loaded for economic bear, I suspect we’ll see yet another high-dollar, no-holds-barred-scare-themed nonsensical struggle for the taxpayer’s hearts and minds. If I may be so bold as to predict the party lines we’re about to start hearing …
The no-hotel Crow people are going to send out lots of scary flyers to likely voters, attempting to argue the dollars and sense of the hotel project, and they’re gong to get all wound up about the issues in such a laborious and convoluted manner that our eyes will glaze over and we won’t understand what they’re saying. We’ll sense the outrage, but we won’t be able to really absorb the argument, because it will be all technical and complicated — because, in short, this is a technical and complicated deal. The no-hotel group doesn’t have a recognizable spokesperson, and most of us don’t spend too much time palling around with Crow. So they’re stuck arguing the merits of the deal, which is generally a loser in politics because too many taxpayers/voters simply don’t have the time or the interest to understand the facts.
Which plays into the pro-hotel group’s likely strategy: It’ll be a replay of the Trinity River debate, with Tom Leppert putting his big arm around us little ol’ taxpayers and telling us – in that soothing Stepford voice that mesmerizes most of the council every week – that it’s OK not to understand the details, but that if we don’t build the hotel right away and exactly as he says, we’re letting each other down and Dallas will never be the city it can be. And then good-ol’ Uncle Tom will smile that warm smile, tell us everything will be OK, and remind us that rich guys like Harlan Crow just want to keep us down so they can bale up all of the money in town and haul it off to their private wine cellars.
So you have a highly technical, impersonal argument on one hand vs. a friendly, barely informative but somehow comforting argument on the other side. Are you leaning one way or the other yet?
And what of the $500 million or so we’re being told to spend? Well, I don’t know, that sounds like a lot of money, but I like Dallas, and I don’t want to be the only resident with no vision for the city, and Tom always sounds like he knows what he’s talking about, and I’m kind of worried about my job and don’t have time to figure out what’s going on, and I don’t like rich guys anyway, so I guess I’ll vote for the pro-hotel guys.
And there you have it – my election prediction 70 days out.