Pouring Good Money after Bad

For eighteen years we’ve heard that The Oregon Convention Center needs a headquarters hotel nearby to make it successful. The $90 million original facility never covered its costs. Voters turned down a property tax increase to fund an expansion, so the powers-that-be issued $116 million of municipal bonds to enlarge the building. Occupancy rates dropped and deficits continued. Now, the cost of a publicly funded headquarters hotel may exceed $244 million.

Last week the Metro government heard from supporters and opponents of the headquarters hotel. The Metro council is set to vote this Thursday on spending $600,000 for a detailed financial analysis of the project, despite national evidence that such ventures almost never work out.

Local businessman Roy Jay testified that he was disappointed in the hotel critics because they didn’t back their opinions with facts, a point that was then refuted when local economist Joe Cortright presented his nine-page fact-filled refutation of the public hotel proposal.

Mr. Jay wants the critics to stop complaining and get on board the publicly funded hotel bandwagon. He made this clear by stating, “We are team players in this city.” The fact that no substantial hotel operator will risk its own money on this project tells us that this “team” has little chance of winning. It’s time to cut our losses and get government out of the convention business altogether.

Steve Buckstein is Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon-based think tank.

© 2007, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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