Charter Amendment Fight! Anti-Hotel Group Claims City is Deceiving Voters, Pro-Hotel Group Says Opponents "Screwed Up"

While it's admittedly wonkish, we elaborated yesterday on an important issue in the convention center hotel debate raised by Mayor Tom Leppert and the Vote No! crowd: The charter amendment written by attorneys from the anti-hotel group could jeopardize the use of economic development tools on other hotel projects.

Sure, the amendment allows for the adoption of tax increment financing and tax abatement agreements, but, depending on how you read it, it might restrict the expenditure of funds secured from such agreements. This essentially would prevent the city from assisting any future hotel projects, as Assistant City Manager A.C. Gonzalez described in a memo to council member Ron Natinsky posted at the end of the story.

Brooks Love, campaign manager for Citizens Against the Taxpayer-Owned Hotel, says it's "ridiculous legal hairsplitting" to suggest a TIF could be created but the funds could not be used.

"It's the equivalent of saying the city is authorized to buy police cars but prohibited from buying gas to operate them," Love tells Unfair Park. "The city is deceiving voters regarding the scope of Proposition 1, which is not surprising. As they proved during the Trinity campaign, the city will say or do anything to win."

We asked Chris Heinbaugh, Leppert's chief of staff, for a statement from the mayor regarding Love's comments. No dice on Leppert, but Natinsky was happy to send along this response.

The bottom line is they screwed up. But what do you expect when a billionaire tries to change the city's constitution to protect his special interest -- the Anatole?

Any layman can read the proposition the Crow group wrote and realize it simply allows for the creation of new TIF districts. It does not allow for the use of TIF funds and most certainly doesn't allow for the use of funds from existing TIF districts.

For instance, the historic Statler Hilton is a structure that almost certainly will need public support. That lies in the Downtown Connection TIF. Due to the bonds sold to restore the Mercantile, we cannot change the boundaries of that TIF. So if we had a proposal to save the Statler and turn it into a boutique hotel, TIF funds could not be used. And because of this self-serving proposition, almost every other tool is off the table as well.

When you write laws, you need to be succinct and clear; otherwise, you spend years in court sorting it out.

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Sam Merten
Contact: Sam Merten