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Your Opinion: Stop conference center planning

Your Opinion: Stop conference center planning

May 13th, 2012 by Tim Stallman, Jefferson City in News

Dear Editor:

Convention centers lose money everywhere they have ever been built.

The Feb. 7 vote settled the issue on whether the taxpayers of our city wanted a convention center; 61 percent voted no. The convention center issue was the big draw for the no voters. They hated it.

Councilwoman Carrie Carroll says she is "tired of waiting" for the city to act. I'm tired of waiting for her and the rest of city government to respect the voters' wishes, instead of promoting the goals of the downtown business establishment, especially her own.

The Chamber of Commerce is still hurting from their huge loss in credibility at the polls in February, but they are not letting that stop them from promoting their own goals to the detriment of the taxpayers.

At each of the meetings the mayor held recently, the majority of attendees were adamantly against a convention center.

I know how this process will unfold.

First, the City Council will vote to build a small, 20,000-square-foot convention center using only lodging tax money.

Second, within five years when the voters are asleep, the council will quietly vote to use general revenue money to expand the building to 40,000 square feet because someone will claim that the reason it is losing money is that it is too small.

Third, all of the operating and remodeling costs will be taken from general revenue to cover the losses. Then they will ask for another sales tax increase. This entire process is called "incrementalism" and its an old con game similar to having your pocket picked at an airport. It happens in smooth, invisible steps so that you don't feel a thing. You only discover it when its all over and your wallet is long gone. The public will never hear about how general revenue was used until it's a done deal. Our city is not big on transparency as we discovered with the economic development contract with the Chamber of Commerce.

We need to stop this process dead in its tracks, or we citizens will be on the hook to pay for the losses for years to come. Call the mayor and our city council person to stop it. It's your money.

If the convention center is built, I propose we name it the "White Elephant Building" because it will be empty and useless most of the time.