The state attorney general and the city attorney suggested he stay out of the debate, but Mitchell Rasansky decided to speak up anyway Wednesday, telling the Morning News that he favored a public referendum on whether the city should commit upwards of $500 million to build, own and operate a hotel attached to the Dallas convention center (see yesterday’s Back Talk discussion here). That’s about as far as the referendum discussion has gone, and given that a majority of the council already appears to favor the deal, whatever it is, and Mayor Tom Leppert has said (with the city attorney’s blessing) that the council doesn’t need — and apparently won’t seek — voter approval to commit $500 million to the project, there’s no need to start worrying about whether your vacation will conflict with the election date.

Other tidbits:

• Six developers applied to be the city’s development partner prior to the economic development committee’s surprising decision to recommend the city shoulder the burden itself. The prices for those packages ranged from $343 million to $850 million. Somehow, from that range, Leppert divined that the hotel the city would build and operate would cost $450 to $500 million.

• Angela Hunt has asked for a council briefing on commercial valuations downtown; since more than four councilmen signed her letter requesting the briefing, one is required to be scheduled.

• The city would issue issue revenue bonds to pay for the construction, with projected hotel revenues paying the interest cost and principal amounts back. Presumably, the revenue bonds also would account for a projected deficit created by operating the hotel; no word on what would happen or where the money will come from when/if the deficit estimates wind up low and/or the construction costs go higher.

• The city is comparing the public funding that build the Grand Hyatt at D/FW Airport with the city’s plans, saying that since that project is making a profit, the downtown hotel could, too. I’m not sure how well that comparison stands up, though, since the airlines shuttle tens of thousands of passengers to the hotel’s doorstep each day, while the gigantic conventions that would fill the downtown hotel usually come around only a couple of times per year. The rest of the time, our city-owned hotel will be competing with the Adolphus, the Fairmont, the Sheraton, etc., for the same few conventioneers careening around town, and you can bet the rates will be lower than the profitability level quite a few days each month.


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