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A Tennessean editorial
Sunday joins the propaganda war for a new convention center:
"It's difficult to see how the mere purchase of property would drum up opposition....It's not likely the price of downtown property will decrease. The city should be optimistic about a land buy now."
Let's see now, we have a buyer -- the city -- that must have the entire footprint of land all at once, right away, so the balance of negotiation power favors sellers. Later, if the project is shelved, the city will be motivated to sell land for which it has little use, especially if it turns out that the plain language of state law
means what it sure seems to mean: that the tourism taxes put in place for a new convention center (hotel/motel taxes, rental car taxes, and the airport taxi and shuttle departure tax) can only be used to develop, operate, or promote a new convention center, not to pay the note on land that will not
be used for a convention center. So then the balance of negotiating power will favor buyers. Put this together and it isn't all that clear why the city should be all that "optimistic" about buying land.
"No one can say there has been a lack of sensitivity to taxpayers in the process. That's why revenues were designated to come from the tourist activity."
As explained here
last week, it is incorrect to assert, as the Music City Center website
does, that "all of the revenue sources are derived from existing or new visitor spending." Local individuals and business will clearly be paying some of the these visitor-targeted taxes, and the mayor's office concedes it has made no attempt to calculate how much. Instead they are apparently relying on "impartial" sources like the Tennessean
editorial board to perpetuate the myth that only tourists are on the hook for this thing.
"It's expected to cost $595 million."
on the status of the convention center project, April 2009, slide 24:
Why is the Tennessean
lowballing the total by $40 million? That $635 million number, by the way, represents a hefty increase in estimated cost of almost 40 percent in three years of mostly low inflation and partly severe recession (and doesn't include public costs of developing a headquarters hotel, which everyone agrees is critical).
"If the city had not built LP Field, there certainly would not be an NFL franchise in Nashville or a place for events like the CMA Music Festival given problems at the fairgrounds. If the Sommet Center had not been built, there would not be an NHL franchise or major concerts downtown because of lack of space for them. Such events are strong economic generators."
We know the civic and emotional value of having the Titans, the Predators, and the CMA Festival, but what about the economic value in relation to costs? Supporters of these projects always serve up optimistic economic multiplier forecasts before they are built, but never do the analysis afterwards to figure out an actual cost/benefit outcome. Instead they spew intellectually lazy assertions that "events are strong economic generators" with no supporting evidence in order to support the next big idea. Sound familiar?
's Sunday editorial page also included some fancy rhetorical footwork
by Marty Dickens, who co-chaired the Music City Center committee back in 2005:
"Various studies over the past decade have shown that Nashville's convention center is inadequate to meet demand."
False. Studies have shown that the existing facility isn't big enough for many larger meetings and trade shows. If "meet demand" means accommodate any size meeting, the new one won't either. I haven't seen a study that shows the existing facility cannot meet demand for meetings that fit its profile. In fact, the 2003 KPMG audit of the existing facility concluded that "there do not appear to be any physical or structural limitations that limit the marketability of the NCC."
"As a result, we are losing visitor tax dollars that could be helping to keep our property taxes lower."
Is this an assertion that building a $635 billion convention center will make it possible to lower property taxes? Are you kidding? Can you back that up with specific projections and calculations? (Of course you can't.) Does the mayor's office endorse this argument?
"We clearly will be generating far more money and jobs for our city once we get the Music City Center built."
Define "far more." And what kind of jobs? An economic development strategy that analyzes job creation only numerically without contemplating the nature of the work force and the occupational profile of the local employment economy is simplistic, the kind of thinking that prevents a city from advancing its economic and cultural capital beyond a low-wage, low-brow mentality.
"This is much more than a decision about whether to build a new building or not. Rather, this is a decision about whether downtown Nashville remains in the convention business or not."
Yes, the existing convention center isn't very large and doesn't compete for larger meetings that won't fit, but where is evidence that the existing facility cannot continue to complete for business that does fit? Also, as Dickens' committee back in 2006 found, the existing convention center could be expanded. They chose to recommend a new center over expansion -- fair enough -- but it isn't a constructive to argue for a new center by making the preposterous assertion that failing to build it means Nashville exits the convention business.