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Another Mother of Hotel Giveaways Angle Sounds Familiar
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Another Mother of Hotel Giveaways Angle Sounds Familiar

BY Carlos Guerra

Some City Hall boondoggles keep getting resurrected, each time with a stranger twist. One of these is the "Mother of All Hotel Giveaways," as I dubbed the convention center hotel when it was first proposed seven years ago. It began with the $200 million Convention Center expansion that city leaders said would win us the Really Big Conventions that would fill up local hotel rooms and increase occupancy tax revenues. But after the expansion failed to draw the huge meetings, they said we needed more rooms and then gave multimillion-dollar subsidies to three big hotels. And when the conventioneers still didn't show, it was because we needed a hotel at the convention center itself. It will be the Mother of All Hotel Giveaways, I predicted. In addition to the biggest subsidy to date, it will also get a free city parking lot and sit on prime city land rented for a song. At that time, headquarters hotel plans were as common, nationally, as huge convention center expansions. Literally every large city was doing one or both, so all would soon be competing for the same limited big conventions. Undeterred, city officials picked a developer and waited, and were still waiting when I cited what Grid, a real estate trade journal, had reported in its April 2002 edition: "Both the city (of San Antonio) and the development team continue to put the best face on the situation, (but) the deal is coming undone." By then, our headquarters hotel plans were 6 years old and the hotel was five years behind on its original opening date. And the travel industry had still not recovered from its post-Sept. 11, 2001, nosedive. After Related Lodging and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. missed its umpteenth financing deadline, the council dropped the developer - but not before vowing to "find other ways" to make the hotel a reality. One year later, city officials are still quietly exploring ways to revive it. They are considering financing the hotel entirely with tax money and handing it over to an operator, and even expanding it from 1,000 to 1,200 rooms to 1,600 rooms. But a newly released study of Dallas' proposed convention center hotel sheds some interesting light on these deals. (It was conducted for Washington-based Citizens for a Sound Economy by Source Strategies Inc., which also provides detailed analysis of hotel occupancy rates and taxes for the Texas Department of Commerce.) After studying development in Texas' largest convention markets over the last two decades, researchers concluded that "headquarters hotels do not generate their own market demand, (but instead) absorb existing demand." Source Strategies also found that if "the investment criteria of a private developer" were applied, subsidies for such boondoggles are "not a sound investment" because "the city would assume massive financial risk for a minimal return." Finally, the research group concluded that "a 'Convention Headquarters' hotel will be financially devastating to the existing hotels in the downtown district, causing extensive loss of revenues, reduced real estate values (and diminished tax base), and in some cases bankruptcies and closures." Of course, what they found concerns Dallas' proposed hotel. What we have been writing for almost seven years is about ours. But I must emphasize a key point made in that study: "Where private enterprise fears to tread, beware!"

03/25/2003
Statement by CSE President Paul Beckner on Madison County Circuit Court Decision in Philip Morris vs. Miles, et al
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Statement by CSE President Paul Beckner on Madison County Circuit Court Decision in Philip Morris vs. Miles, et al

Following is a statement by CSE President Paul Beckner on the Madison County Circuit Court Decision in the case of Philip Morris vs. Miles, et al: "This is nothing more than another hand out to a group of greedy trial lawyers who make a living by exploiting the legal system in order to line their pockets. This is exactly the kind of frivolous lawsuit that hurts American pocketbooks and American businesses and perverts our legal system. "A group of trial lawyers took a claim with absolutely no legal merit and found a known 'plaintiff-friendly' court that was almost certain to rule in their favor. "Suing tobacco companies has become a cash cow for trial lawyers and states. These lawyers hit the jackpot in Madison County, where class action filings have increased nearly 1,850 percent over the last few years. The plaintiff attorneys in this case stand to collect almost $1.8 billion in fees. The state of Illinois will receive $3 billion in punitive damages."

03/25/2003
Stop Lawsuit Abuse in Madison County
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Press Release

Stop Lawsuit Abuse in Madison County

“This is nothing more than another hand out to a group of greedy trial lawyers who make a living by exploiting the legal system in order to line their pockets. This is exactly the kind of frivolous lawsuit that hurts American pocketbooks and American businesses and perverts our legal system. “A group of trial lawyers took a claim with absolutely no legal merit and found a known ‘plaintiff-friendly’ court that was almost certain to rule in their favor.

03/25/2003
Put the word 'protection' back in EPA
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Put the word 'protection' back in EPA

BY Molly Ivins

Boy, we are marching backward on the environment at a truly impressive pace. Between the Senate and the Bush administration, we are advancing to the rear, double time. The Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, fuel efficiency standards, toxic waste -- this is literally sickening stuff. The Senate voted 62 to 38 last week to postpone, yet again, increasing the fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks.

03/22/2003
Breifing - Citizens for a Sounc Economy
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Breifing - Citizens for a Sounc Economy

EVENT: BRIEFING - CITIZENS FOR A SOUND ECONOMY SUBJECT: Citizens for a Sound Economy holds a luncheon briefing on "What does America Actually Think about the President's Economic Plan?" LOCATION: 1302 Longworth House Office Building -- March 21, 2003 PARTICIPANTS: Ed Goeas, president, The Tarrance Group and Paul Beckner, president, Citizens for a Sound Economy CONTACT: RSVP to Paul Hilliar, 202-942-7658; e-mail, philliar@cse.org; Members of the public should contact, Brenna Hapes, 202-942-7629; e-mail, bhape@cse.org; http://www.cse.org

03/21/2003
Tarrance Group Poll Finds Popularity Of Bush Economic Stimulus Plan Grows As Voters Learn More About It
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Tarrance Group Poll Finds Popularity Of Bush Economic Stimulus Plan Grows As Voters Learn More About It

A Tarrance Group/Citizens for a Sound Economy poll of 1007 registered voters conducted March 4-6 (+/-3.1%) showed: -- "Awareness of the President's economic plan has not yet penetrated the American public as the public has been focused on the U.N. inspections and the pending war with Iraq. Currently, 53% of American voters have heard something about the President's economic plan; and initial support for the economic plan is 44% favor to 37% oppose. However, once people hear the facts about the plan, support moves 13 points to 57% favor." -- "In most cases, voters have not heard the specifics of the plan; however, once they are given the facts, most Americans like the plan and find the proposals to be 'good ideas.' As one reviews the data, a few items jump out. First, there is virtually no gender gap among married men and married women. These married voters find most of the proposals in the plan to be very appealing and helpful financially to their families." -- "Second, there is a married gap. Throughout the entire survey, married voters have a very separate opinion of that of single voters; and married voters are very positive towards the economic plan. Throughout the data they show high favor towards the proposals. Single voters however, are much more skeptical and tend to lean to a more Democratic position." -- "46% of voters feel the country is headed on the wrong track, while 38% feel we are headed in the right direction. Voters in the Northeast are the most skeptical (54% wrong track) while voters in the South Central region are more positive (53% right direction). Women are more reflective of the total population with 47% saying wrong track and 34% saying right direction; yet, men are evenly split on this matter with 44% wrong track to 44% right direction." -- "When asked to rate the current state of the economy 17% say it is good, 42% say it is just fair and 40% feel the economy is poor. Those most likely to say it is just fair tend to be younger voters, minority men, dads, white married women with children and Republican voters. Retired women, minority women, Independent and Democratic voters, and labor union members tend to rate the economy as being poor." -- "Yet, even with a plurality saying the economy is currently poor, people have a fairly positive view of the future. Voters are optimistic as over a third of voters (34%) feel they will be better off financially a year from now, and 44% say they will be in the same shape financially. These are not daunting figures, as they show a populace who feels the economy will turn around. This opinion stems some from the fact that 16% say they are better off financially than they were last year, and 56% say they are doing the same financially. Only a quarter (27%) say they are worse off." -- Fifty-three percent (53%) of voters disapprove of the way the Democrats in Congress are handling the economy (31% disapprove "strongly"). Nineteen percent (19%) are unsure and 27% approve of the job they are doing. Those who are the most likely to approve of the job they are doing are younger voters, and more Democratic leaning constituencies such as African Americans, Latinos (37%), and Democrats." -- "In examining the generic Congressional ballot, the Republicans have a 5- point lead with 44% choosing the Republican candidate and 39% choosing the Democrat. Seventeen percent (17%) are undecided. Republicans are doing well among the self-employed, women at home (54%), white men, and among married voters with whom they have a 17-point lead (50% Rep to 33% Dem). The Democrats are doing well among younger voters, African Americans (86%), and single voters. Seniors are split with 40% choosing the Republican, 37% choosing the Democrat and 22% being unsure. " -- "President Bush currently has a 58% job approval rating (41% "strongly" approve), and Republican voters have the intensity with 87% saying they approve, while 66% of Democrats disapprove of his job. Blue collar workers are very supportive of Bush with 63% saying approve; and union members are split with 43% saying approve to 50% saying disapprove. Working men overall support Bush with 64% and voters ages 35 to 44 support him with 64%. However, seniors are split 49% approve to 41% disapprove (this is driven by retired women)." -- "Voters are currently split on their initial opinion of how President Bush is handling the economy - 49% approve to 43% disapprove. South Central voters (65% approve), voters ages 30 to 39 (57% approve), and married voters (55% approve) are the most positive of how Bush is handling the economy. Even the pre-retire group of 50 to 59 year olds approve of how Bush is handling the economy by 11-points (52% approve to 41% disapprove). Labor union members tend to be more negative with 58% disapprove." -- "At the end of the survey, voters were asked again to give their opinion on how President Bush is handling the economy. The results are 58% approve to 37% disapprove - an improvement of 9 points."

03/21/2003
Roadkill
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Press Release

Roadkill

In Congress, the House and Senate Transportation Committees are spinning out of control. Unfortunately, it’s American taxpayers that are getting hit head-on. The man behind the swerving wheel is House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska). Setting the stage for a clash with President Bush and his own party leadership, Chairman Young wants to push through a 5.4 cent per gallon increase in federal gas taxes to help pay for a massive $375 billion highway bill.

03/20/2003
Raising Taxes Makes State Fiscal Crisis Worse
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Press Release

Raising Taxes Makes State Fiscal Crisis Worse

© 2002 Copley News Service, 3/19/2003 State governments are in a fiscal crisis not entirely of their own making but certainly exacerbated by their extravagance. According to recent estimates, states face combined budget deficits of $100 billion during the rest of this year and next, due in the main to a stagnant economy. But that is no excuse to raise taxes.

03/19/2003
This Week on Capitol Hill
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Press Release

This Week on Capitol Hill

President Bush’s economic growth and jobs creation plan is under attack from both sides of the aisle. Both chambers’ moderate Republicans concerned with the deficit and the price of war and reconstruction are looking to significantly alter the size of the tax cut during this week’s budget process. Chances for economic growth and future balanced budgets will we be severely handicapped if Congress fails to approve a budget conference report that carves out room for the entire $726 billion tax cut package. Presently, both resolutions prescribe for the entire tax cut and controls federal spending, but Democrats and moderate Republicans are doing their best whittle away at the tax cut.

03/19/2003
The Limits of Lawsuits
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Press Release

The Limits of Lawsuits

The litigation crisis in America has reached a milestone. In the wake of three decades of asbestos litigation—a trail marked by bankruptcies, hundreds of thousands of lawsuits, multibillion-dollar judgments, and real victims who have yet to be compensated—even the American Bar Association and some trial lawyers are admitting that something might be wrong.

03/19/2003

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