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Monday, September 21, 2009

Is Mayor Adams Ducking HQ Hotel Story?

Posted by Matt Davis on Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 10:58 AM

Mayor Sam Adams has still not responded to our request for comment last Friday afternoon, offering him the opportunity to expand on the prepared statement about the convention center hotel that he put out with Metro Regional Council President David Bragdon and County Chair Ted Wheeler. Mayor, we're not in the habit of quoting statements: It looks a little bit like we'll just parrot any old nonsense. But there's still time to call—25 hours, in fact—if you'd like to comment on the decision to abandon the hotel idea like Bragdon and Wheeler have, in our newspaper. Otherwise we'll make a point of writing that "the mayor refused to expand upon the prepared statement," when our story goes to press. Fair's fair. This morning, the mayor Tweeted a link to Friday's statement:

adamsconventioncenter.jpg

TWIPTIMISM: THIS HAPPENED, BUT NOW, THIS IS HAPPENING...

The Tweet didn't dwell on bad news, mentioning "plan B" within a few characters, which is to gather "visitor industry reps" to discuss bringing more visitor dollars to the region. Adams also linked to this video, produced by Travel Portland:


VIDEO: COST LESS THAN A CONVENTION CENTER HOTEL, WILL PROBABLY BRING JUST AS MANY VISITORS

Videos are all very well. But I've talked on here before about burying bad news. Putting out a statement on a major policy shift at 5pm on a Friday afternoon and then avoiding (even phone!) interviews about it is burying news. Tweeting about a "plan B" on Monday morning is, er, well, optimistic, I guess. So far the only direct quote from the mayor appears to be on Ryan Frank's blog:

"We don't have enough money to go forward to the next phase," said Adams, who had been the project's chief supporter. "I'm absolutely supportive of the decision to stop. It would have been unwise to move forward at this time."

But I'd like to ask a few questions that aren't really answered in the statement. Here are a few that come to mind:

1.If the mayor now supports the decision to stop, why was he such a proponent of continuing with the idea when everyone else wanted to drop it?
1b.Awkward, huh? Are there concerns about voters seeing indecisiveness in the move?
2.According to Metro and the County, there isn't enough money in taxes collected from room rental and car rentals in the region to repay the $5million to $12million it would have cost to continue looking into the Convention Center hotel. So is Portland losing visitors in 2009, compared to 2008? That's not what I remember hearing when Travel Portland presented to council two weeks ago. But if we knew there wasn't going to be enough money in the pot, why did we extend the deadline on this deal again, back in April?
3.What form will the new sit-downs to discuss Portland's visitor strategy take? Who are the stakeholders and "visitor reps" in this process?
3b.Will they be the same people who were pushing for the convention center hotel? If so, how can we trust them to come up with any better suggestions?
4.Where is the data to support these efforts? What work is being done on identifying who comes to Portland, why, and where there might be areas for growth?
5.How will these efforts tie in with Portland's "economic development strategy," which is yet to come up with an implementation strategy?
6.Is there an element of blind optimism in Portland's efforts to lure visitors from around the world? If we book them, they will come?
7.If there isn't an element of blind optimism to these efforts now, was there, ever? What data did we have to suggest that the Nines Hotel would pencil out downtown, for example?

Seven questions. They should only take five minutes to answer on the phone, mayor. There's 25 hours until our press deadline! Please...don't hurt Portlanders' feelings.

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