The great Movable Scam -- the proposed taxpayer-financed Portland Convention Center hotel -- will not die, but it sure gets uglier and uglier. Now the Goldschmidt Boys at Metro who are pushing the thing are actually coming out and admitting that the facility won't pay for itself -- not even close. Indeed, here we are still in the preliminary stages of "planning" the hotel -- the time when everybody knows all the projections are rose-colored lies -- and already the revenue is going to be nearly $8 million a year short of what it will take to get a mortgage to build it. But don't worry! Somehow, eight years after the hotel opens, we can predict that there will be a sudden surge in tourism in Portland, and magically all the financial troubles will disappear. And if it doesn't? The taxpayers can pick up the difference.
If this is what Metro is peddling before they rubberstamp the backroom deal that was made on this project years ago, can you imagine what a sober assessment of the truth would be? A $10 million annual shortfall? $12 million? $20 million? Remember, as they say, "All figures are estimates until the hotel's builders provide a guaranteed price." Uh huh.
Meanwhile, a new slice of baloney has been added to the steaming pile that's already been generated on this deal: Without the hotel, Metro now says, the Convention Center will "fail." Gentlemen, get serious. The Convention Center has never done anything but fail since the day Bud Clark built it. It doesn't attract big conventions, and it never will. It's going to be, at best, a decent but overbuilt facility that hosts a nice roster of regional and local confabs. It's always going to lose money. That's why the voters voted not to expand it, but Vera, Opie, and Sam the Tram knew better. Which is how we got to the losing condition that we find the facility in now.
And the Convention Center's not going to forfeit 15 percent of its existing business to places like Spokane just because it doesn't have a big hotel attached. It's a pretty safe bet that the Greater Western Oregon Quilters Weekend and the Oregon Chess Federation are staying in Portland. That threat is about as valid as the promise that somehow that bottomless pot of money known as lottery funds will miraculously make this stinker pencil out.
One way that Metro's proposing to make money magically appear is to refinance the currently outstanding bonds on the Convention Center, presumably stretching out the term of those bonds and lowering the annual debt service on them. The lighter payments on those bonds could then free up hotel-motel tax dollars to go for the headquarters hotel scam. Borrow from Peter to pay Paul -- sound like good fiscal policy to you?
I'm sure there's more smoke waiting to come blasting out of the Metro p.r. machine before this one's over. We haven't heard "green and sustainable" yet, and of course, there's always "for the children." But a better tack would be for all the Metro suits to splash some cold water on their faces and get a grip. It's time for somebody in the Network to buy Hank Ashforth a nice set of golf clubs and a case of great pinot and break the news to him that we're sorry, but we can't put this one over.