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Grandpa Jones vs. Dallas

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05/23/04  It's just Chicken Feed to Jerry Jones.

  Are you getting a little tired of our local robber barons using a little of their own money to cajole and pressure elected officials into giving them a lot of our money for their personal use -- public money that should be spent on the public good?

Drive around inside Dallas city limits, and you can itemize hundreds of problems within minutes.  Problems that public monies should be used to fix. 

Last week, Our Mayor who ran on a back to basics platform was on a local talk show.  A cell phone caller said the city looked shabby and described what he was seeing along Lemmon Avenue toward Love Field.  I was on my way to work and still in Dallas when he got on air, but I was in Carrollton before he finished.  His comments emphasized the visible difference between Dallas and Carrollton if you drive North on Dennis/Josey or Webb Chapel.  As soon as you leave Dallas city limits, everything gets nicer, greener, smoother and safer.

Why would anyone invest in Dallas when property and sales taxes are used more effectively just outside our city limits?  As frequently reminds, Grand Prairie pays their police and firefighters more than we pay ours.  Grand Prairie.  Think about it.

We can't pay our cops and firefighters what they could earn in Grand Prairie, partly because our convention business has been in the toilet since 1998 almost immediately after the Hicks/Perot/Kirk arena sales tax was implemented on our hotel/motel rooms and car rentals.

When a convention planner is selecting the locale for an event, all costs of the stay are considered.  Since  mass transit between DFW and our convention center is all but non-existent, conventioneers must rent a car to get around while they are here.  

  Hitting a conventioneer with a 61% surcharge just to rent a car in Dallas and Dallas County certainly sends a poor signal to would be visitors and sales tax generators.  To someone of Grandpa Jones' great wealth, adding another 3% to that 61%  car rental cost (if he were to slum to rent a car and not hire a limo) would be no big deal -- chicken feed.

If you are picking a city for a vacation, and you can fly to Orlando or San Francisco or any place other than Dallas or Houston and rent a car there to drive somewhere to see something unique, why would you pick Dallas or Houston?  It's always hot here in the Summer and can be cold in the Winter, and everything here looks like something you have seen someplace else.  That's because everything here has been copied from something that worked (or almost worked) someplace else and Our Downtown Betters (the ODB) want one, too. 

Given those immediate reasons for going elsewhere, the problem is compounded when a potential visitor or convention planner considers our car rental taxes are already higher than any other city in the country, except Houston.

D-FW's car-rental fees high - and may go higher
07:33 PM CDT on Wednesday, May 5, 2004

By Brad Watson / WFAA-TV
Few places across the country assess higher taxes on rental cars than Dallas and Tarrant counties.
   Now, if a plan in the Legislature to fund a new Cowboys stadium goes through, those taxes will go even higher.
... "Typically, when you call to get a quote on a rental car, you get a certain fee on the car when you actually get your bill," said Stan Smith, a passenger from Illinois. "It can be as much as double that based on all the taxes; it can provide some pretty good sticker shock."
... a study done by Fort Worth-based Travelocity found D-FW rental car taxes rank second among the top ten airports in the nation where the taxes are highest. At D-FW, there's a 61-percent markup from the price.
... At D-FW's rental car center, passengers wondered if Cowboys personify the Old West - or a new tax.

You really need to go look at this chart.  It was prepared LAST YEAR, and does not include the potential Grandpa Jones tax. Car Rental Rates;
Ten Highest Rental Car Tax & Fee Markup
Houston #1 with 71.7% ; Dallas #2 with 61%

At one time, Atlanta was the city the ODB wanted Dallas to be.  They went to great lengths to copy everything Atlanta did, right up to getting us a handsome, articulate and ruthless African-American Mayor who would get all of the ODB's goals accomplished whether it was good for Joe Taxpayer or not.

Now, Atlanta is running out of money to keep going after BIG TICKET extravaganzas that they continue to overestimate as revenue generators. 

Houston spent over $1 Billion to build their three new sports facilities.  Do you have any idea what $1 Billion could have done for the city if it was spent to benefit industries that generate thousands of permanent jobs, not just temporary construction projects or athlete's million dollar salaries or janitorial positions?

By Mary Jane Credeur
Atlanta Business Chronicle; Updated: 8:00 p.m. ET May 23, 2004

  Atlanta's sports industry has had an impressive eight-year run, having hosted every mega-event from the Olympics to the Super Bowl, the Final Four and two All-Star games.
... bidding on these events takes money, and Atlanta Sports Council officials worry they are exhausting their resources from companies such as The Coca-Cola Co., Bank of America N.A. and Delta Air Lines Inc., which have spent millions of dollars apiece in recent years to help bid on major sports events.
... the Atlanta Sports Council gets no recurring financial support from the city, the state or the hospitality industry,
all of which are direct beneficiaries of the millions of dollars these events bring to the city.
   Sports Council officials hope that will change, and they plan to ask city and state leaders for a slice of tourism or hospitality tax dollars so Atlanta can continue to bid on the most prestigious events in the sports industry.
... Right now, the Sports Council's annual budget of $750,000 is funded entirely from individual and corporate memberships, and revenue from events like the Horizon Awards.
... Stokan estimates the Council
needs about $2 million per year to be able to bid on major events ...
Dean Munro, executive director of the San Jose Sports Authority, said Atlanta could make a "very persuasive case" for public funding.  ... Munro thinks as much as 50 percent of a sports commission's budget should be funded through hotel/motel tax collections, a car rental tax, a liquor tax or other hospitality and tourism budgets.
We're not talking much money at all in the scheme of things when you think about how many visitors and hotel rooms and meals these events bring," Munro said.
... Funding the Sports Council with Atlanta's hotel/motel tax would be difficult because nearly half of the $34 million collected each year goes toward debt payments on the Georgia Dome and the Georgia World Congress Center. The Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau gets about 23 percent of the tax, and the city gets 29 percent.
   Spurgeon Richardson, president of the ACVB, said ... dipping into the hotel/motel tax -- which is down a few million dollars from the boom years of 1999 and 2000 -- is probably not the best solution.
... Not all sports councils receive public funding, and some of them operate on far smaller budgets than Atlanta.
   The Harris County/Houston Sports Authority, for example, gets just $250,000 per year to bid on events, and nearly all of that comes from lease payments from the professional teams that use Houston's newly constructed Minute Maid Park, Reliant Stadium and the Toyota Center.
   Virtually all of the $60 million Houston collects each year in hotel and car rental taxes is used to pay the debt on the three facilities, said Oliver Luck, CEO of the Sports Authority.
... "Since we've spent almost $1 billion to pay for these facilities and we'll be paying on them for years and years, we ought to be very active in recruiting as much business as we can," Luck said.
Last year, the Texas Legislature passed a law that allows the state to give money for bidding on major sports events, based on a formula that essentially rebates the state's estimated tax collections for an event.
? 2004 Atlanta Business Chronicle

There are reasons people are not traveling as much.  Obviously, 9/11 was and will be a major influence on people's travel plans for a long time.  We did have a bit of a bust from the false economy boom we thought we had a few years back, but our current economy is growing.  Still, don't discount the cost of traveling as a major reason many families stay home these days, and convention planners eliminate certain cities from consideration strictly on the cost of getting there, staying there and getting around there.   

For a city with as few tourist amenities as Dallas to hit our visitors with a 61% car rental tax is simply stupid.  To consider adding another 3% to that tax is insane.

  Our Meddling Mayor actually says out loud that her String Thing Bridges will be tourist draws.  Even if you buy that for one minute someone will book a flight to Dallas, rent one of our overpriced cars and drive into town so they can "experience" a Calatraba Bridge that they can see in some other more accessible and less costly city, you are a bigger idiot than anyone who would make such a suggestion.

I am sick to death of politicians just flat out lying to us.  It's as if they believe since we were stupid enough to believe their campaign promises, we are going to buy any other fiction they throw at us.

Professional sports teams are not essential to our lives.  No more so than movies or concerts or art museums.  They are entertainment and not the responsibility of any government to provide.

Clean water, navigatable streets that don't destroy our cars, public safety are essential to our lives and should be the number one focus of anyone at City Hall.

We once had a vibrant convention business that generated millions in sales taxes for us and kept our over-priced restaurants busy and pretty much kept our hotels and motels viable.  The reason we had that convention business was because it was relatively cheap to stay in Dallas.  The impact of the Hicks/Perot/Kirk arena sales tax was immediate and devastating and continues to be a killer for our convention business, and related businesses.

Stadium financing is a tourist trap

By Dan Daly; 5/06/04
   The Dallas Cowboys unveiled plans for their new $650 million stadium last week. Naturally, Jerry Jones wants to pay for it with the help of taxes ? hotel and car rental taxes. That is, he wants you and me and a bunch of other folks who merely visit Big D to foot the bill for the Cowboys' retractable-roof palace.
...   There are any number of things in sports that inspire outrage these days ? I won't bore you with a list ? and stadium financing is surely near the top of the heap. Hardly a stadium gets built nowadays without some of the cost, sometimes a fairly large chunk, being passed along to people who don't even live in the city, county or state in question. It's one of the more reprehensible examples of municipal cowardice. I mean, it's bad enough that, say, Seattle, is picking up 75 percent of the tab for the Seahawks' new home ? especially when the club is owned by a multi-billionaire, Paul Allen, and there are so many other uses the funds could be put to.
...  Alas, sandbagging out-of-towners has become standard operating procedure for getting a stadium built. Cities can only soak the locals so much ? politicians do, after all, have to get re-elected ? so they pick the pocket of tourists instead. They're as ruthless as Squeegee Guys, these cities are, except that the money extorted by a Squeegee Guy at least buys you a clean windshield. The money extorted by hotel and car rental taxes buys you nothing (unless you were planning to take in the game). It's taxation without representation, or something like that.
...   Fortunately, we live an area that doesn't stoop to such levels. In Washington, we pay for our own stadiums ? and so does Baltimore, for that matter. FedEx Field, MCI Arena, Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium didn't require a dime of "outside" money, didn't require the fleecing of a single high school field-tripper. Jack Kent Cooke and Abe Pollin essentially sprang for the first two (with Maryland and D.C. contributing modest subsidies), and the Baltimore ballyards were financed mostly with lottery proceeds.
    Let's hope the tradition continues with this plan Mayor Anthony Williams has come up with for a new baseball stadium in the District. The teams around here may not be much to brag about, but the stadiums are ? partly because we didn't go panhandling in the lobby of the Willard to pay for them.

Taxing two unrelated industries to finance business facilities for sports franchise owners is just foolish and wrong.  Our local hotel/motel and car rental businesses were not related to anything that happened at Texas Stadium or Reunion Arena.  Their demise is directly related to the Hicks/Perot Arena.  Granted, nearby restaurants do well when there is activity at Reunion or that other arena, but it is not a city wide benefit.  In Phoenix, the two new sports facilities have actually hurt nearby restaurants because they generate so much traffic that no one goes to those eateries anymore and the sports fans hop in their cars and head back out immediately after the game.

  Grandpa Jerry Jones probably hires a driver when he's out of town or someone picks him up.  If he does rent a car, he would not even notice the tax because it would be such a small amount of money to a Billionaire who Forbes Magazine recognizes as one of the World's 500 richest men.  

Funding a stadium for Grandpa Jerry Jones is as ridiculous as Seattle building a playpen for Paul Allen's hobby.  These facilities are dated almost before construction begins.  Being high flying Billionaires, Robber Barons like Tom Hicks, Paul Allen or Jerry Jones immediately want the latest gadget that some other greedy jerk wheedles out of another bunch of local political hacks.

This is crunch time.  There is no wiggle room for Our Mayor.  She is either with us in opposing this tax which will be the final nail in the coffin of our convention business, or she is the hypocrite that her opponents described her to be when the rest of us were busting our rears to get her elected.

With the exception of a few rocking chair recipients, most of her former supporters are pretty sure where Our Mayor will fall down on the Grandpa Jones tax issue.   We expect her to go South on us, just like what she is trying to do to Northwest Dallas with the homeless shelter she wants on Harry Hines just a few blocks from several low income neighborhoods that supported her for Mayor.

One big backers of the Harry Hines shelter has her own problems own paying her bills and keeping her word.  Before anyone believes Big Red has millions committed from anyone to add to the city's shelter funds, they my want to ask why her rent's always late, if paid at all.  Details, details.

Wasting taxpayer money and lying to taxpayers is apparently the order of the day in Dallas.

  Big Red has the same attitude toward taxpayer money as does Grandpa Jones, and possibly Our Mayor. 

Sort of like those credit commercials where some bimbo or crooks steals someone's identity and credit and goes on a big spending spree.   It's not their money they are wasting.

Besides, it's just chicken feed..  






  Ward politics is the Devil's key to the soul of the city council.  It is how some council members got themselves in trouble in the past.  It is the bait that will get others in trouble in the future. 4/6/8