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Crow to Leppert: That Convention Center Hotel "Will Be a Huge Loser."

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Harlan Crow told Mayor Tom Leppert back in July that the hotel biz should be left to private sector folks -- like, ya know, Harlan Crow. In his missive to the mayor, Crow outlined many reasons why spending taxpayers’ money to subsidize a convention center hotel is not economically viable. Leppert, of course, ignored Crow’s letter and hasn’t wavered in his support of the hotel. Things have been full-speed ahead on this project since Leppert mentioned building this hotel in his inauguration speech.

On Tuesday, Unfair Park suggested that maybe the city council oughta demand more information before approving a $500,000 payment from the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau to help secure land for the proposed hotel. The council then approved the item Wednesday, with only council members Angela Hunt and Mitchell Rasansky essentially agreeing with my assertion that the council doesn’t have enough information to move forward.

Alas, Unfair Park has discovered that Crow fired off another letter to Mayor Tom yesterday, telling Leppert his decision to put an option on the land was “morally wrong.” Crow is pissed that the $500,000 is coming out of the pockets of hotel owners like him. “We financed our hotels privately, took all the risks, and have been paying the city’s and the CVB taxes for 30 years,” Crow writes.

Crow, whose family owns the Hilton Anatole, admits that the convention center will hurt the Anatole and the Crow family. However, he says his family has a great deal of knowledge about the hotel bidness. “This one you are planning to build, I expect using the faith and credit of the citizens to finance it, will be a huge loser,” Crow writes.

Crow also ripped the previous decision by the council to expand the convention center, saying it can’t be filled because it’s too big. He says Dallas has the second-lowest hotel market in the country, and building a convention center hotel is “the height of folly” (which is a nice way of saying, “This is a stupid effin’ idea, Mayor.”)

Crow ends his Valentine’s Day missive with this: “By the time it is finished, you may have moved on to another time in your life and leave the problems you are creating to your successors, but just know that there are a lot of us in the city who are well aware of the mistakes that this council is making on this matter.”

I haven’t met Crow, and we couldn’t have been on more opposite sides on the Trinity referendum, but I gotta say I admire him for standing up to Leppert on this issue. Sure, he has a financial stake in this, but he raises significant concerns about the city getting involved in something that should be left to the private sector.

Crow tells Leppert, “If you take the time to become more knowledgeable about this subject, you will find that a number of other cities that have done the same thing have suffered greatly.”

This is really the significant issue here. If Leppert would only take the time to read something like this, he would find outstanding research by Dr. Heywood Sanders that illustrates just how risky building a convention center hotel can be.

But we know that isn’t Leppert’s style. He cannot be bothered by facts and details, as he proved with the Trinity issue.

Leppert sold himself as a bad-ass construction CEO and boasted during his mayoral campaign about having graduated from Harvard. I wonder, though, how a guy with an Ivy League brain would react to exposing his former company, Turner Construction, to such a risk. It’s so much easier to waste taxpayers’ dough than company money.

If he ran Turner the way he’s running Dallas, none of us would know the name of Tom Leppert. And it’s up to all of us to decide if that would be a good thing or not. --Sam Merten

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