From Pine View Farm

Conventional Wisdom, Magickal Thinking Dept. 0

I mentioned developer magic last week in conjunction with the scheme of some in Virginia Beach for the city to fund a developer’s construction of a new hotel.

A refresher on how it works: the city gives money to a developer to pull a rabbit out of a hat, magically making tourists favor Virginia Beach over, for example, Ocean City or Myrtle Beach.

The developer disappears the money and the rabbit stays in the hat.

Meanwhile, the hotel sits half-empty, surviving on the city’s guarantees, until comes another developer to promote another “public-private partnership” (see below) to convert the site to condominiums or retail space or something, promising that, like a weekend in the Bahamas, it will restore the magic. &c.

Here’s the latest in the story.

The resident curmudgeon at the local rag tore into this issue yesterday, and she had facts and figures. Unlike City Council’s numbers, they are based on facts, not on developer’s projections. A snippet:

Sanders is the author of academic articles with titles like “Convention Center Follies,” “Convention Mythology” and “Flawed Forecasts.” But what does Sanders know? He’s just a graduate of Johns Hopkins with a doctorate from Harvard, a member of Phi Beta Kappa and a guest scholar for the Brookings Institution.

“This is not an ideological issue for me,” Sanders told me Tuesday. “I don’t oppose public spending on the stuff that makes sense…. But it’s the same script and the same scenario everywhere.”

From coast to coast, in cities large and small, politicians salivate over inflated visions of convention business. They build magnificent facilities and then chase conventions by slashing their fees and pouring public money into ancillary projects designed to give their centers a competitive edge.

After years of studying the convention industry, Sanders says he’s not surprised to find municipalities that are struggling to balance budgets and pay teachers that can miraculously find money to throw at their convention centers. These exhibit halls inevitably come with overblown promises of stampeding visitors, millions in tax receipts, and hotels packed with conventioneers.

Travelers don’t go to cities to visit hotels.

Travelers go to hotels to visit cities.


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