Vote Yes for No Hotel

I should start off by stating that I am not speaking for anyone but myself. I am not a spokesperson for the Citizens Against the Taxpayer-Owned Hotel group nor have I attended any of their meetings or donated any money to their group. I don’t think I’ve ever met Harlan Crow or Tom Leppert for that matter. But I have lived in Dallas for 13 years and I’ve seen time and again the city council slavishly follow some real estate developer or “business oriented mayor’s” pied piper dreams of stimulating commerce through using public money for private enterprise. The Convention Center Hotel is just the latest in a long line of real estate developers and construction companies feeding at the trough of city funding. May 9th is when the citizens of Dallas need to draw the line in the sand and say no.
One of the first rules of capitalism is that when businesses see a need, they usually quickly move to meet that need. The fact that no major hotel chain has built a hotel next to the Dallas Convention Center, or even shown much of an interest in doing so, leads me to believe there is not a real need there to be met. The “build it and they will come” philosophy hasn’t worked too well in the case of Victory Park. The city gave Ross Perot Jr and his Hillwood Company to help fund and build Victory Park and its infrastructure. One wonders if the council ever actually looked at the plans for the development or thought about the foot traffic it would cater to. There is the American Airlines Center with thousands of mostly middle class sports fans streaming in and out of it, and what does Hillwood develop, a grouping of super upscale shops where a pair of pants cost $300 and a meal costs $75. Victory Park businesses have started either folding or leaving for higher traffic areas, and recently Hillwood has sought to renegotiate their loan payments with their German lenders. Allowing the city to spend $400 million on a hotel which is essentially in the middle of no where and hoping that other development will follow is like throwing good money after bad.
In March the pro-hotel group touted Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau information that “almost a dozen groups totaling 338,126 room nights, all contingent on the building of a convention center hotel” were pending. Of course, this information was incomplete as the DCVB stated they could not release some of the info because it was confidential, which seems overly convenient. But upon parsing the numbers submitted by Destination Marketing International, these assertions seem, well, suspect. The idea that 25,000 hobby enthusiasts who will hypothetically descend on Dallas in 2013 will spend $40 million strains credulity. I’m sorry, but I just don’t really trust the numbers or the people who are providing them.
The most recent additions to the efforts to push the hotel through include the “Enough is Enough” group of “business leaders” who seem to argue that, hey, enough of this democracy thing and enough questioning development and just get on board. The other group, the R.I.P. Dallas group, a supposedly grass roots group of “young professionals” and several members of the Mayor’s South Dallas Task force state in their commercials that “This is Our City” and that they plan to make a “few statements in ways Dallas has never seen before.” Both of these groups seem to speak to an “us versus them” mentality, that “this is our city and our future that they’re messing with.” It’s troubling that the argument for the hotel proponents seems to be that we know best, it’s our city and those who disagree are either trying to kill the city or are just not one of us. I personally do not wish to kill development in the city, I just think we need to spend our tax dollars more wisely.
The city does not need to be in the hotel business, especially in this uncertain economic time. The estimated cost of the hotel is half a billion dollars, and will probably end up costing more before it’s complete. What could $500 million do for the city of Dallas? How many streets could that money repave? How many extra days per year could it keep city parks or swimming pools open? How many after school and summer programs for youth could it fund? How many homeless people could it help with job training and other social needs? How many micro loans small businesses in South Dallas or other disadvantaged areas could that money be used for? The way to make Dallas a world class city is not by building a hotel in a deserted part of town next to the convention center; it’s by improving the quality of life for the citizens of the city who live here and work here and pay taxes here 365 days a year. Those sorts of quality of life improvements draw corporations and businesses to Dallas, not fancy hotels and slick marketing campaigns. So on May, I’m going to vote “YES” for props 1 to keep Dallas out of the hotel business and to send a message that this is my city too


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