New adventures in Houston trinket government, March 2012 edition

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Mayor Parker and Comcast SportsNet Houston Announce Major Local Sports Media Investment – Office of Mayor Annise Parker

Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Comcast SportsNet Houston, a partnership between the Rockets, Astros and the NBC Sports Group, today announced that Comcast SportsNet Houston will make a significant local investment to build a multi-million dollar state-of-the-art studio and production facility, creating 125 new jobs. This investment is facilitated in part by Houston’s Market Square Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) #3.

[snip]

In addition to the local jobs that will be created, the city of Houston, the state, local charities, businesses and schools will all benefit. The Market Square TIRZ contribution will be more than offset by spending at nearby stores and restaurants by tourists and local residents who come downtown to watch the live broadcasts from a street level viewing area, similar to that utilized for NBC’s Today Show at Rockefeller Center in New York.

They seriously expect people to believe that crowds will be drawn to watch live broadcasts related to two middling local sports teams at a taxpayer-subsidized Pavilions facility that was promoted as yet the latest greatest way to boost downtown (rah RAH!), but that never really enjoyed the promised success in terms of traffic or tenants?

If you believe that, I think there are some folks in Montgomery County who would be happy to sell you some shares in their epic dinosaur amusement park that is going to rival Disney’s attractions. Rah RAH!

$16,000 Per Employee – Cory Crow, No Upgrades

That’s the expense rate that NBC is seeking to open up their new play-pen in the (struggling) Houston Pavilions downtown development.

As noted many times before, World-Classness doesn’t come cheap!

It’s full speed ahead for new convention center hotel and it’s going to be Texas big – Ralph Bivins, CultureMap

Houston First — called a “local-government corporation” created by government officials — would not own the project, but might participate by assisting with tax rebates or other assistance.

Bad development ideas never die – Cory Crow, No Upgrades

The convention battle is over, resort destinations have won. Cities that still try to chase the white dragon of large convention business are only fooling themselves, bankrupting the treasury and enriching the middle-men who facilitate these types of deals.

In other words: The Houston Way.

City report says tax increase, outsourcing of EMS should be studied – Chris Moran, Houston Politics/Chron.com

The city should consider studying the impact of raising property taxes … City Finance Director Kelly Dowe suggested to the Council’s Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee on Tuesday morning.

There are any number of mechanisms by which Mayor Parker seems to be able to funnel money to favored interests (the Pavilions sports TV studio, a second convention center hotel of dubious necessity, engineering and construction firms that lobbied/lied for the rain tax to name a few), but average citizens who pay for water, who have businesses that require permits (which require fees), who pay property taxes — well, as so many liberals like to say, get ready to “pay YOUR fair share” (no set number, but definitely MORE).

A Wichita shocker: You can beat city hall – Wall Street Journal

Local politicians like to get in bed with local business, and taxpayers are usually the losers. So three cheers for a voter revolt in Wichita, Kansas last week that shows such sweetheart deals can be defeated.

In late 2011 the Wichita city council passed (six votes to one) a bill exempting the new Ambassador Hotel, owned by real-estate developers, from 75% of the city hotel tax, on top of at least $10 million in other subsidies. The measure was sold in the name of jobs and urban redevelopment, and the local power brokers were all for it: the Chamber of Commerce, the political class, the city newspaper. All the skids were greased and, truth be told, hotel taxes are too high in Wichita, while the money at stake, $2.25 million over 15 years, was small.

But voters were so enraged by the insider dealing that they launched a petition drive for a voter referendum. Despite hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by hotel advocates, almost 10 times more than opponents spent, voters routed the subsidy 61% to 39%.

The elites are stunned, but they shouldn’t be. The core issue is fairness.

Wichita sounds a lot like Houston! Well, except for the voter rebellion part. Although, Mayor Parker’s narrow avoidance of a runoff last year against trivial candidates could be a warning sign.


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