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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Oregon Lottery: It does bad things

The great Portland Convention Center hotel ripoff took another weird turn this week, with the gaggle of public relations bobbleheads at Portland's Metro government suddenly pushing the news that they're going to ask for state lottery funds to build the thing. That money would immediately be handed out to the planners, construction company scoundrels, and hotel chain honchos who are determined that the taxpayers are going to finance the project.

Asking Salem for money for a monstrosity that's doomed to failure? It's the Sustainability Center all over again, but this time with a Democrat-controlled legislature. Pork for the Usual Suspects will be a high priority. All sorts of good money is about to be thrown after all sorts of bad.

It won't be the first time that huge gobs of lottery dough will be dedicated to a white elephant. Some $250 million of state gambling funds are already being spent on the ridiculous Tri-Met Mystery Train to Milwaukie. Compared to that monumental ripoff, a mere $15 million* for a hotel that nobody needs seems like a mere bagatelle.

Meanwhile, the list of demands coming from the Hyatt Hotel chain, which would operate the hotel in a classic Portland backroom no-bid deal, gets more appalling every time they shine a flashlight on it:

Combined with $4 million each from Metro and the Portland Development Commission, that would amount to $23 million in upfront public money to support the planned hotel. But Dresler stressed that negotiations are ongoing and expected to take months, and there is no agreement yet on what the upfront requirement would be to move the project forward.

The hotel's owner, Hyatt, is also calling for a refund of most of the room taxes paid by hotel guests, a number that could total $111 million.

In turn, Hyatt would guarantee a block of rooms would remain available for large conventions looking to hold events in Portland.

This zombie project simply won't die, and you can bet that unlike Tom Potter, old Char-Lie Hales will be glad to dole out PDC dollars for it. The screwing of the average Joes and Janes of the city and state just never stops. Oregon poses as "progressive," but the only people making "progress" live in the West Hills of Portland and own construction companies.

* - Liars' budget number; actual number will probably be at least twice that.

Comments (17)

Liars budget = estimated original cost x 3 plus at least 30%.
Example? The tram (rim shot).

"In turn, Hyatt would guarantee a block of rooms would remain available for large conventions looking to hold events in Portland."

In other words, the entire hotel. Now's not the time to bring up that Portland's brilliant plan to get into the convention center hotel business comes a full decade after any number of cities did the same, and they're now realizing exactly how badly they were ripped off, is it?

Is this ask all for the children too?

"In turn, Hyatt would guarantee a block of rooms would remain available for large conventions looking to hold events in Portland."

And you can bet everything you own that Hyatt will also require that the city/Metro buy those rooms back when the convention business fails to materialize.

The hotel's owner, Hyatt, is also calling for a refund of most of the room taxes paid by hotel guests, a number that could total $111 million.

I thought one of the points of this whole (mis)adventure was bring in some of the tourist bucks we forfeit by not having a sales tax.

"Some $250 million of state gambling funds are already being spent on the ridiculous Tri-Met Mystery Train to Milwaukie"

It was $250 million in bonds that will take probably over $400 million in Lottery proceeds to pay off.

Also the OHSU/PSU Life Sciences Collaborative Complex in SoWa got $115 million in Lottery backed bonds legislators hid in end of session legislation which no one read.

"Portland, where nothing succeeds like sleazy"

At a debate last fall, I had the chance to directly ask both Hales and Smith about the convention center hotel. (Bizarrely, the subject never came up during the actual debate--too busy talking about bike lanes). Hales told me he had reservations, didn't want to spend too much money on it and didn't like the current design. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach, having the feeling he was trying to equivocate. Smith said flatly, "I don't like it," but I had the feeling he was just telling me what he figured I wanted to hear. I ended up voting for a third party candidate.

Do any of the schmucks promoting their idiotic hotel realize LAS VEGAS actually gets many of the smaller conventions they "think" will come to Portland? And did any of these dummies actually ask a few convention planners where they prefer to go?
Or where would you rather be in March? A city where it's sunny and in the 70s or someplace where it's raining and in the 40s?

Real estate developers pull the strings, period. All else is a distraction, no matter what the dreamers want to believe in.

Tax subsidies, lottery dollars, tax-payer bonds, urban renewal money has all failed to bring prosperity to these convention center hotels/complexes.

In Tucson they are in over $220 Million to try to develop a convention complex without one shovel full of dirt moved. It's now under criminal investigation. The La Paloma and Hilton El Conquistador Convention/Hotel complexes just went through bankruptcy. Tucson is building a streetcar line of 3 miles thinking that might revive the city at the tune of $225 Million of assorted tax dollars. In both the Phoenix and LA areas there are numerous foreclosures, bankruptcies of convention/hotel complexes. All these are in sunny climes with great air/transportation connections.

But here in Portland they keep ignoring reality, common sense, and the taxpayers. The state legislature being demo should have nothing to do with throwing lottery dollars out the window. Demos should have common, fiscal sense too. There's still time.

There's a reason that Las Vegas and Orlando get a lot of the convention business. (It's not the room space and that's called a clue.)

I understand the American Moss Association thinks Portland is a perfect location.

No not for a convention - too freak'n rainy, damp and cold.

I still get acquaintances who make a big deal of how successful the Portland Linux conferences are, and how that would transfer over to a new convention center hotel. Just what Portland needs: to quote from folks in Las Vegas about the late, unlamented Comdex show, "an audience who comes out with one shirt and one $20 bill, and won't change either the entire week."

A lot of great comments, not even to mention how specially sleazy and predatory those "lottery revenues" are. Preying on those people for this project adds insult to injury or vice versa.

It seems like government lives in two versions of reality at the same time. One, in which they have a "fiscal crisis" and are scratching their increasingly bald heads for answers and the other where they have a ton of dough to waste on idiotic projects like a train to move people to where they do not want to go. It would be nice if they could meld these two realities and actually end the fiscal crisis by stopping the idiot projects.

Not to mention the horrible record Hyatt has for labor abuses: http://www.hyatthurts.org/

Oh, Portland. You're so progressive, unless you're not.

As the owner/innkeeper of a small B&B in SW Portland who collects lodging taxes for Washington County as well as the State of Oregon (we are in unincorporated Washington County but, because of our close proximity to Downtown Portland, benefit greatly from the efforts of entities who receive lodging taxes and promote tourism with them such as Travelportland.com and Traveloregon.com), we consider this as an affront to small businesses throughout the city and particularly to the B&Bs in the Irvington district who have a large clientele from visitors to the convention center. To think that a gigantic corporation such as Hyatt would be allowed to collect the lodging taxes and then KEEP THEM is pretty conclusive evidence that the city and Metro have no interest at all in supporting small business in the Portland area. The City of Portland should let the Water Bureau take up the "cause" for Hyatt as another one of the cockamamie projects which so enthrall and excite the ratepayers!

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