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Dallas Officials Lobby Legislators for Convention Center Hotel
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Dallas Officials Lobby Legislators for Convention Center Hotel

Mar. 13--AUSTIN, TexasDallas' political heavyweights descended on the Capitol on Wednesday, seeking support for legislation that would fund a convention center hotel. Mayor Laura Miller, seven City Council members and other local officials told members of the House Economic Development Committee that building a hotel adjacent to the newly expanded convention center is the key to making Dallas a destination for conventioneers. "The question remains: If we build it, will they come?" Rep. Steve Wolens told the committee. Groups that don't give Dallas a second look could be coaxed to come to North Texas if the convention center had an adjoining hotel, the Dallas Democrat said. And spillover from large conventions would benefit other downtown hotels, he said. The committee is considering a bill that would allow the city to build a hotel and use the new occupancy taxes to finance construction. City officials have discussed building a $265 million hotel and hiring a private company to manage it. Opponents argued that the project would be a bad deal for taxpayers and that the city should stay out of the hotel business. The project would siphon travelers from existing hotels, they said. After hearing four hours of testimony, the committee took no action on the legislation. Mr. Wolens, who wrote the hotel bill, and his wife, Ms. Miller, who testified in support of the legislation, provided the city's one- two punch at the hearing. Officials from Fort Worth, San Antonio and Houston, as well as Hilton and Marriott executives, also lobbied for the bill. Houston officials successfully sought similar legislation a decade ago. The city's new hotel is scheduled to open in November. Mr. Wolens' legislation would have permitted only Dallas to use occupancy taxes to pay for a convention hotel. But a substitute bill would include any city with a population of at least 250,000. Jordy Tollett, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the hotel has given the city a leg up in luring conventions. Fourteen groups signed on with Houston the day the city broke ground for the hotel, he said. A convention center hotel has become a necessity for a number of organizations, said Greg Elam, senior vice president of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau. At least 60 groups won't even consider coming to Dallas simply because conventioneers must trek from the center to hotels scattered across downtown, he said. "This is the most important single step we can take for the viability of Dallas for some conventions," Mr. Elam said. But some committee members questioned whether Dallas would really be on equal footing with cities such as Las Vegas and New Orleans by virtue of having a hotel. "I'm wondering what other attractions besides the hotel are going to be able to bring people to Dallas," said Rep. Martha Wong, R- Houston. That's a familiar refrain in Dallas, Ms. Miller said after the hearing. "We understand that we've got to provide more things for people to do in Dallas," she said. The planned Trinity River project is evidence that city leaders are thinking big, Ms. Miller said. Opponents of the hotel bill argued that it's bad business to build a hotel on the backs of taxpayers. If a convention center hotel were likely to make money, "for- profit hotel chains would be beating down the doors at City Hall," said Peggy Venable, director of Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy. She said the state should not submit to pressure to keep pace with other cities' tax-subsidized projects. "If Las Vegas builds the Taj Mahal, do we have to do the same to compete?" she said. Bruce Walker, president of Source Strategies Inc., presented lawmakers a study that he said shows definitively that convention center hotels do not attract more travelers. "Convention center hotels do not create their own demand," he said In Dallas, there's no evidence of need for additional hotel rooms, Mr. Walker said. "A new hotel is going to steal from other hotels," he said. Mr. Walker, who has also worked for Holiday Inn, studied 16 large Texas hotels. Proponents of the bill disputed his findings because he examined hotels that were simply near and not necessarily adjacent to convention centers. Hotels attached to convention centers have been more successful than those even a block or two away, they said.

03/13/2003
Federal File: Pork Pie
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Federal File: Pork Pie

BY Erik W Robelen

The House-Senate conference report that came with a $400 billion spending bill enacted last month contains a little extra reading material you won't find in the actual bill. It includes page after page of what are commonly known as earmarks. Critics derisively call it "pork barrel" spending, since most of the money goes to parochial projects in lawmakers' home states and districts.

03/12/2003
Concerned That a Good Name Is Hard To Find
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Concerned That a Good Name Is Hard To Find

BY Reg Henry

Last week, high school students calling themselves the Pittsburgh Association of Peaceful and Proactive Youth rallied outside the headquarters of the city school district in support of peace. Whatever the merits of their cause -- and I am for peace, even if it doesn't do much to boost newspaper circulation -- surely we can all agree that the student group has come up with an inspired name.

03/11/2003
A Boon to Ordinary Investors
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Press Release

A Boon to Ordinary Investors

This op-ed originially ran in the Washington Post on Tuesday, March 11, 2003; Page A23 I believe there is an urgent need to pass President Bush's plan eliminating the double taxation of dividends. Such a change would revive investor confidence in equity investing, restore an appropriate balance between the interests of corporate executives and shareholders, and create new jobs.

03/11/2003
Latest Polling on the Economy and Tax Cuts
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Press Release

Latest Polling on the Economy and Tax Cuts

As you know, Citizens for a Sound Economy and our 280,000 members are mobilizing in support of the president’s tax plan. Grassroots members like you are already calling their Representatives and demanding that Congress pass President Bush’s Economic Growth and Jobs Creation package.

03/11/2003
Is Regulatory Reform Next?
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Press Release

Is Regulatory Reform Next?

President Bush’s $674 billion tax plan is driving the domestic policy agenda in Washington. Cutting marginal tax rates, eliminating the double taxation of dividends, and removing some of the more punitive elements of the tax code are all important steps toward a stronger economy. Fundamentally, the proposal offers better incentives for economic growth; workers, investors, and entrepreneurs will all see greater gains for their efforts. However, tax reform is only half the story. If the president wants to boost economic growth, the administration needs to look beyond tax policy and include sensible regulatory reforms that eliminate unnecessary burdens that stifle economic activity.

03/11/2003
Pass President Bush’s Economic Growth and Jobs Creation Plan
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Press Release

Pass President Bush’s Economic Growth and Jobs Creation Plan

What: President Bush has proposed a bold new tax cut package that would greatly accelerate economic growth and create millions of new jobs for Americans. The President’s plan would: accelerate the 2001 tax cuts scheduled for 2004 and 2006, retroactive to January 2003; eliminate the marriage penalty that affects millions of couples; increase the child tax credit from $600 to $1,000 per child; completely eliminate the double taxation of dividends; increase the amount America’s small businesses may write off from their federal tax liability from $25,000 to $75,000; and, broaden the 10 percent tax bracket.

03/11/2003
Texas News Briefs
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Texas News Briefs

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst says his staff has found as much as $6 billion to help with the budget shortfall with ideas ranging from using the emergency Rainy Day Fund to changing the way the state's gas tax is collected. But the Republican leader of the Senate was careful not to reveal too many details about the ideas, saying he's discussing them with members of the Senate Finance Committee who must make the decisions about how to balance the next state budget despite a shortfall of at least $9.9 billion through 2005. "These are tough times. We've got a budget shortfall, and one of the things that we're all concerned about is making sure that we've got enough funding for all of our core services," Dewhurst said Monday. Dewhurst said until now the focus has been on making cuts to state spending. After weeks of budget hearings where agencies and needy Texans testified about the effects of deep cuts, the lieutenant governor said it's time to begin the discussion about revenue - as long as it doesn't mean new taxes. Student buys half-page ad to sex partner he secretly videotaped

03/11/2003
Concerned that a Good Name is Hard to Find
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Concerned that a Good Name is Hard to Find

BY Reg Henry

Last week, high school students calling themselves the Pittsburgh Association of Peaceful and Proactive Youth rallied outside the headquarters of the city school district in support of peace. Whatever the merits of their cause -- and I am for peace, even if it doesn't do much to boost newspaper circulation -- surely we can all agree that the student group has come up with an inspired name. Given the amount that most teens sleep, most young people could lay claim to being peaceful, at least in calculus class, but being proactive is a greater challenge. In my experience, many kids are not proactive enough to shovel snow off the sidewalk, much less save the world from militarism. As it happens, I have always appreciated good names for groups or organizations promoting a cause or public interest. The best names declare what the groups are about in bold and unambiguous fashion. For example, there's no confusing the Peaceful and Proactive Youth with any group styling itself the Rowdy and Inactive Young People, and that may prove helpful. My love of simple, defining names can be traced to Citizens for a Sound Economy, which has been in business since 1984. At that time, it is not clear what opposition the group faced and whether there was a Citizens for a Screwed-Up Economy from which it needed to differentiate itself. Actually, if memory serves, the person screwing up the economy most in 1984 was Ronald Reagan with his budget deficits, but I am not sure the Citizens had him in mind. I confess to having a soft spot for the term "concerned citizens," which you often hear on the local TV news, as in "Concerned citizens brought a petition to the school board meeting tonight ...." This puts the viewer on notice that the fuss wasn't being made by aliens, or even by citizens who really couldn't give a darn but were just there to raise heck and have some fun. Because so many concerned citizens exist, and they have so many concerns, the political landscape today is adorned with groups and organizations, and many of them have pleasing, no-nonsense names. I have begun to keep a little list of groups to cheer myself up in these depressing times. While I am not sure what the organizations do, when I read the names I know better than to confuse them with anybody else. For example, the Center for Responsive Politics won't be confused with the Association of Unresponsive Politicians, which, if it exists, is likely to have a large membership. Likewise, the Council for Affordable Health Insurance is clearly not the Organization of Expensive Health Insurance. Nor is the Center for Public Integrity in any way linked to the American Association of Crookedness in Public Life, which, in truth, may have another name, and not necessarily the Congress of the United States. By the same token, Accuracy in Media is not related to those rascals from Inaccuracy in Media and the Institute for Peace and Justice is not the Group for War and Injustice. A particular favorite of mine is the Committee of Concerned Journalists. This is a rebuff to many in the profession who, if only they had enough initiative, would organize themselves as the Unconcerned Reporters Who Watch the Clock for the Shift to End. Sometimes a group will have an appealing name that is nevertheless misleading. Take, for example, The Wisdom Fund. At first blush, it seems that it might be a fund to underwrite wisdom, which would be excellent, given that there's so little of it around. Moreover, citizens -- concerned or otherwise -- would know not to confuse The Wisdom Fund with The Stupidity Fund. As it turns out, The Wisdom Fund has been set up to promote an understanding of Islam, which is doubtless a worthy purpose in today's world, but nevertheless a disappointment to people like myself (wise guys looking for a handout). It sounds like a job for the Colorado Center for Chaos & Complexity, which you know better than to confuse with the McKeesport Center for Order & Simplicity. If you have any other examples of aptly named organizations, you could always forward them to me. As it happens, I have re-organized myself as the Pittsburgh Association of Snoozing and Inactive Older Persons, not to be confused with any of the above.

03/11/2003
Next Enron wave: a flood of new rules
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Next Enron wave: a flood of new rules

BY Peter Grier

Washington's response to the collapse of Enron Corp. is moving gradually into a new phase: the search for ways to fix perceived problems revealed by one of the most spectacular bankruptcies of the century. President Bush's new plan for changing corporate rules, unveiled last week, is only one part of this movement. On Capitol Hill, legislators have introduced at least 30 bills that deal with one Enron-related subject or another, from retirement security to the relationship between accounting firms and their customers.

03/11/2003

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