Why are the Mayor and Ron Natinsky Lying to Voters (Again)?

I have tried very hard to parse my words and not be so blunt about it, but the fact is, the Mayor is lying about the convention center hotel.

The Mayor (along with Ron Natinsky) has told voters that without a hotel, the convention center itself is going to be a drain on Dallas taxpayers, costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. That is simply not true.

According to Sam Merten at the Observer, the Mayor and Ron Natinsky have been stating unequivocally that the convention center will cost taxpayers $150M – $300M if we don’t have a city-owned hotel:

At a Bachman Recreation Center debate in early March, Leppert said the convention center is uncompetitive for three reasons, one of which is because it loses $3 million per year.

“That comes right out of your wallets my friends because that comes out of the general fund. Three million dollars. And that number’s not going to go down,” he said. “Keep in mind, that’s your tax money. So as that gets worse and worse and worse, we’ve got to get better. It’s not unreasonable to believe over the next 30 years, it’s going to be over $150 million in taxpayers’ money if we don’t do something.”

Council member Ron Natinsky debated at the Farmers Branch Recreation Center in late February and made a similar claim. “If you take $5 million over the 30 years of the program on the hotel, that’s $150 million that I can stand here and tell you we are absolutely going to lose — if not more,” he said.

Natinsky ramped up the scare tactics by doubling that amount, claiming “our convention people” estimate the convention center will lose approximately $10 million annually.

“Well, $10 million a year of your taxpayer money is $300 million at the end of 30 years, and we will lose that,” he said. “We made a decision that the risk of losing $300 million is significantly larger than the risk that we calculated on the other side.”

That’s just not true. This morning I asked Dave Cook, City of Dallas Chief Financial Officer, if this was correct. Here is his answer:

We do not anticipate a need to subsidize the Convention Center operations. The convention center debt restructure greatly reduced the chances that a general fund subsidy would be needed. Following the debt restructure, Convention Center has returned the FY 2008-09 subsidy and the plan is to return the prior subsidies (Fy 2006-07 and FY 2007-08) to the general fund next year. That will “undo” all General Fund subsidies. I have heard of no scenario that would now require a $10M (or any other) general fund subsidy to Convention Center.

So why are the Mayor and Ron Natinsky lying to voters? Again?

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