DMN reporters push for muni hotel, cite Houston

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A reader passes along a two-reporter story from the Dallas Morning News on our northern neighbor’s efforts to justify municipal government getting into the hotel business. The headline pretty much suggests this isn’t exactly going to be critical or curious coverage:

Dallas hopes to duplicate other cities’ success with convention center hotels

Lo and behold, several paragraphs into the story, we learn that Dallas officials (or the two reporters — it’s not exactly clear from this uncritical reporting) are touting the “success” of other Texas cities that are in the hotel business:

Austin’s convention hotel, which opened in December 2003, initially failed to make projections for occupancy levels or room rates. But city officials say the Hilton Austin performed well enough to prevent the city from dipping into reserves to pay debt service on bonds. They now consider it a success.

And in Houston, city officials are preparing to seek offers in the next 30 to 60 days for the sale of the Hilton Americas, a $289 million, publicly owned hotel near the George R. Brown Convention Center.

The reason for the sale: The hotel has been so profitable that city officials think they can sell it for a good price, then turn around and finance the construction of yet another hotel near the convention center.

“This kind of development is being seen all over the country because municipalities view conventions as an opportunity to attract outside sources of income. It’s a part of the evolution process” for convention centers, said Peter McStravick, chief operating officer of the Houston Convention Center Hotel Corp.

So, the Hilton Austin is a success because the city hasn’t been stuck with as big a bill as it might have been? And Houston’s Hilton America is a success because… the people who want to sell it in order to finance an even bigger boondoggle say so.

That’s some critical reporting by two Dallas Morning News reporters!

Apparently, it would have been entirely too much to ask for the reporters to look into (and post), say, occupancy rates or average room rates, or the histories of the various boondoggles, or even feature any critical comments that aren’t followed by rebuttals. Dallas PR officials couldn’t have done a better job with this circular reasoning (other cities are doing it and say it’s swell, so Dallas must copy!) posing as news.

For a little perspective, here is a sampling of some of our posts on these sorts of taxpayer-funded boondoggles (with all sorts of relevant links): A novel counterproposal, City ready to build ANOTHER convention center hotel?!, Astrodome Hotel developers seek projected tax revenue to secure funding, Why the Astrodome Hotel is a terrible idea.

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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX