After a special June 19 city council meeting popped up on Wednesday's addendum, we reached out to City Secretary Deborah Watkins and Danielle McClelland, assistant director of the city's Public Information Office, for an explanation. Neither had an answer as both cited the lack of an agenda for the special meeting.
But, as The News discovered, the council appears ready to vote on the authorization of approximately $500 million in revenue bonds to fund the publicly owned convention center hotel project, which Dallas voters narrowly approved May 9.
Angela Hunt, the council's most vocal critic when it comes to the city fully funding and owning the hotel, says she's been meeting with city attorneys and Assistant City Manager A.C. Gonzalez to make sure taxpayers are protected as much as possible. She's not at liberty to discuss all of her requests, but one ensures the $50 million reserve fund doesn't need to be replenished.
"If we're where I think we need to be, I will be supporting the bonds," she tells Unfair Park.
Hunt says Dallas voters want a city-owned hotel and decided it was worth taking the risks associated with the project. "I feel like I've gotten my marching orders, and now my responsibility to the 49 percent who voted against this funding mechanism for the convention center hotel is to ensure that we move forward with as many protections as possible."
So how is this any different from voters keeping the Trinity River toll road in between the levees?
"A convention center hotel isn't necessarily a bad idea; it's just about how you fund it," she says. "A toll road in a floodway is always going to be a bad idea."
She adds that the June 19 special meeting "doesn't make a lot of sense" as the council has a June 24 meeting before its July recess. She suspects the motive is to keep council member-elect Ann Margolin, whose campaign literature opposed the funding method for the hotel, from asking questions. Margolin will be inaugurated along with the rest of the council June 22, taking over for Mitchell Rasansky, who has been a critic of owning the hotel but has a conflict of interest keeping him from speaking about it in meetings.
"I think it's odd that the mayor is pushing for this," Hunt says. "It's a strategic move; there's no question about that."
Update at 4:00 p.m.:
Margolin tells us she was unaware of the nature of the June 19 meeting until our phone call. "I would very much like to have the opportunity to vote on it, but even more importantly, I would like the opportunity to see what is being proposed so I can comment on it."
Like Hunt, Margolin says she's focused on the details of the proposed $50 million reserve fund. "If the general fund is essentially going to be liable for the first negative dollar, then I would have a very serious problem with it."
She also acknowledges that the public has spoken on the issue. "My district spoke to the tune of 54 percent, so I'm not going to at this point try to get in the way of it," she says. "I just want to try to manage it the best way possible."
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