Opposition Organized To Convention Hotel Owned by Dallas
By Bill Zeeble, KERA Reporter
Dallas, TX – Opponents of a Dallas convention center hotel have launched a 20,000 signature drive to put the issue on next spring's ballot. Dallas' mayor and others back the hotel.
No one's opposed to growing Dallas' tax base or economy with a brand new convention center hotel. Such a project could also make the city more attractive to visitors and mean hundreds of new jobs. But members of Citizens Against The Taxpayer-Owned Hotel say the project's way too financially risky for a city that's already overburdened.
"They're making decisions to delay street repairs, reduce library hours, and drain neighborhood swimming pools to make up for the current budget shortfall," said Anne Raymond, managing director of Crow Holdings. The company owns and operates the Hilton Anatole Hotel.
A hotel owned by Dallas would be direct competition. Raymond is leading the opposition and says she knows the hotel business and how risky this investment could be for Dallas. She says Dallas already paid for the convention center expansion, with questionable results.
"We built it and guess what? They didn't come," Raymond said. "And we could spend $500 million today to build 1,200 rooms for a Marriott or Omni Hotel and guess what? If we build it, they won't come."
But Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert doesn't buy that for a second. First, he says, Crow's been out to stop a convention center hotel for 20 years. What's more, he says Dallas needs this hotel, and voters should know why.
"They need to understand that like any household or business, we need to invest in our city," Leppert said. "If we want to see it go forward, if we want to create a tax base, job opportunities, we've got to make ourself competitive. Competitive like the other 20 cities we compete with that unfortunately are starting to pass us by."
Leppert says we shouldn't just give up by throwing in the towel. No matter where citizens stand, Brooks Love, who helped organize opposition to a city funded hotel, wants voters to at least make the decision.
"I think absolutely we'll get the signatures," Love said. "No doubt about that. During the spring we'll see how the campaign plays out."
Workers have 60 days to collect 20,000 signatures.