Dallas Loses 2013 FOP Conference to Cincinnati

I got a call this afternoon from Dallas FOP president, Mike Walton. Dallas lost the 2013 FOP convention to Cincinnati, 800 to 1100 votes. We think one thing that may have tipped the vote in their favor was that FOP members in states near Ohio wanted to drive to their destination, and they have a larger voting bloc than down south.

I’m disappointed, but am so glad I had the opportunity to work with Mike, Fred, Dena, and everyone else who put so much time and energy into this effort. We’re very lucky to have these folks in our DPD.

Enjoy these pictures from our trip, and check out the videos of our presentation (below). Mike was on fire, and did a great job selling our city and hitting all the right notes.

Next time, I’m bringing the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. I kid you not.

Advertisements

Dallas Vies for 2013 Fraternal Order of Police Convention

I’ve spent the last few days in Long Beach, California, which is hosting the bi-annual convention of the Fraternal Order of the Police. The FOP is a national organization of law enforcement officials. Dallas’ FOP has been working for two years to bring the convention to our city in 2013, and the 3000+ FOP delegation will make the decision on Thursday. Dallas is competing against Cincinnati, Louisville, and Virginia Beach.

In January, I joined DPD officer and Dallas FOP executive board member, Fred Mears, and Dena Rambo of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, as we gave the national FOP officers a tour of Dallas’ police headquarters. Fred’s been working tirelessly to bring the convention to Dallas, which would be terrific for Dallas’ economy. I’ve been working with the Dallas FOP and the convention center to ensure we could bring the best deal possible to the table.

I was really impressed with the regional cooperation and statewide support Dallas received. Richardson, DART, Fort Worth and others have stepped up to help lure the FOP to Dallas. And the FOP lodges across Texas have been really working the delegates here at the convention, encouraging them to vote for Dallas.

On Monday, I met with Dena from the DCVB and DPD officer Mike Walton, president of the Dallas FOP. Mike has been working his butt off, campaigning every possible minute. We discussed our presentation for Wednesday (each city vying for the 2013 convention gives a ten minute presentation to the entire delegation).

On Tuesday, I spent the day at our convention hall booth with Dallas’ 20-member delegation. We were working hard to sell the delegates on Dallas. We had two main points. First, the entire delegation would be in just 3 downtown hotels, all close to the convention center (including the convention center hotel) and connected by light rail. This was a big selling point because the group is usually spread out across whatever city they’re in. This has been especially true in Long Beach, where some of us (the Texas delegation) are 10 miles from the convention center. Second, Dallas is economical. The three hotels have agreed to offer the prevailing federal per diem rate, which is $115 right now. None of the other cities could beat that.

Last night, Dena, Mike and I got together to prepare our presentation. We worked on it about 4 hours, and I think it paid off. Today, we made our presentation to the whole delegation (I’ll post the video shortly).

This has been such a great group to work with. I can’t say enough good things about the DPD officers I’ve gotten to know on this trip, and Dena from the DCVB could not be a better cheerleader for our city.

Tomorrow, the delegation will vote on the host city for 2013. I’ll give everyone an update on the results. Keep your fingers crossed.

(FYI — I didn’t spend any taxpayer funds on this trip; it was paid for by the FOP and out of my campaign funds.)

Council Authorizes Bond Sale for Convention Center Hotel

Last Friday, the Dallas City Council unanimously authorized the City Manager to move forward in selling the bonds to build the city-owned convention center hotel.

I did not, and do not, think that Dallas should wholly own a convention center hotel. After examining this issue very closely for more than a year, I still believe Dallas should have subsidized a privately-owned hotel, and that a private company should have borne the financial risk. As it stands, if the hotel fails, taxpayers would ultimately be responsible for the debt. I remain unconvinced that city consultant HVS’s overly optimistic financial projections will prove true.

However, Dallas voters assessed this risk when they voted on May 9. They (narrowly) approved city-ownership of the hotel. In the end, it is their money and their decision. So when it came time to authorize the bonds, I felt my obligation was to approve the authorization IF there were sufficient protections in place for taxpayers (my responsibility to the 49% who voted against city-ownership of the hotel).

I spent a great deal of time talking with city staff about the deal they have brokered for sale of the bonds, and what types of taxpayer protections were in place. Continue reading

Dallas to Build City-Owned Convention Center Hotel

Tonight, Prop 1 failed 49% to 51%.

I would like to thank Harlan Crow for his effort to allow the citizens of Dallas to have a say in the city’s proposal to build a convention center hotel. I would also like to thank Anne Raymond for tirelessly debating the issue and educating voters. I have been in her position before, and it is a grueling, challenging task. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Let’s Play “Who Loves Dallas More”

I am amazed by the rhetoric of some of the hotel supporters who claim to be “pro-Dallas” who argue that we MUST have a hotel or our city will die…. Really? So, we haven’t had a convention center hotel, our convention business is on the upswing and doing better than publicly-owned hotel cities like Houston and Denver, yet our city will be ruined without a hotel? I seem to recall our city was also going to fail without a toll road in the Trinity Park. How’s that working out?

If we’re going to play “who loves Dallas more,” then a fair argument can be made that hotel proponents who claim the sky will fall without a city-owned hotel are actually anti-Dallas. They see nothing beneficial or desirable about our city except huge, expensive projects (Calatrava bridges, Trinity toll roads, convention center hotels). They think so little of Dallas and what we have to offer that they desperately throw money at any unnecessary (but flashy) project just to convince people we’re a decent city. Whatever your position on the hotel, our city has much more to offer than the Mayor and others give it credit for, and we don’t need a hotel or any other massive, taxpayer-funded monument to excess to prove it.

Vote YES on Prop 1 and NO on Prop 2

I’m voting YES on Proposition 1 because I am concerned with the risk to Dallas taxpayers. Proposition 1 will prohibit the city from owning a convention center hotel, as the Mayor has proposed.

In theory, the hotel would be able to pay for itself through its own revenue. But if the hotel doesn’t meet the Mayor’s rosy projections for occupancy, taxpayers get stuck with the bill. So I am voting YES on Proposition 1.

I am voting NO on Proposition 2, which will essentially call for a referendum whenever the city provides more than $1 million in financial incentives for a development.

There are areas of our city that need incentives to convince developers to build there, and developers won’t stick around for a public vote. They’ll simply go elsewhere — Las Colinas, Irving, McKinney — where they can get the same incentives without waiting months for a vote. Bottom line is, Prop 2 has the potential to make Dallas non-competitive and seriously damage our city’s ability to provide reasonable economic incentives to businesses.

UPDATED:
On another website, someone posted “So many things would have to go wrong for this hotel to use taxpayer funds.” Not really. Just missing a mortgage payment could force the city to dip into taxpayer debt.

While the hotel debt is initially secured by hotel revenue, it is also secured by taxpayer dollars. Apparently, the market didn’t feel comfortable betting solely on the hotel, so it required additional security — in the form of taxpayer funds. So here’s how it works:

The city’s going to borrow $550 million for the hotel: $500 million to build it and $50 million to set aside in a rainy day fund (the “reserve account”). The reserve account protects bondholders so they know they’ll get repaid — the city can dip into this reserve account if the revenues for the hotel aren’t enough to repay the debt.

If it ended there, I’d be supporting the city-owned hotel, but it doesn’t. The reserve account has to stay at $50 million to satisfy bondholders. Guess who has to keep the reserve account full? Well, if the hotel doesn’t have enough money to pay its mortgage, it surely won’t be able to refill the reserve account. So that will fall on taxpayers. It’s really not that complicated, or that unlikely.

This city-owned hotel is a gamble, and in this economy, it doesn’t make sense for the city to be putting taxpayers at risk.