Friday, March 31, 2006 5:16 PM
Talking About PoliticsOctober 31, 2005
Filed under: Raleigh — Carter Wrenn @ 4:27 pm
Less than a month after he was reelected with no real opposition, Mayor Charles Meeker is giving Republicans an issue to run against him – and other Democrats – on in the next election.
Tomorrow, the City Council is going to vote on building a new Marriott Hotel downtown. Mayor Meeker wants to build that hotel. And he wants taxpayers to give the Marriott a $20 million subsidy to build it.
At the same meeting the Council is going to vote on a second hotel – a Westin Hotel businessmen want to build at Crabtree Valley. That hotel will not cost taxpayers a cent. Not one penny. There is no subsidy. In fact, that hotel will pay the City $1.5 million in taxes and create 150 new jobs. And, according to press, it has the support of neighborhood leaders.
Now, you might think given a choice between voting for a hotel that will cost taxpayers nothing versus a hotel that will cost them $20 million – the Mayor of Raleigh would support the one that’s free. You’d be wrong.
Mayor Meeker is all for the hotel that is going to cost $20 million – and dead-set against the hotel that will cost nothing.
There are two City Council Districts held by Republicans and three held by Democrats in Raleigh. The three also at-large seats, all held by Democrats. My guess is a majority of the voters in every one of these electorates oppose spending $20 million to subsidize a hotel – rather than spending it to build roads or schools. And my guess is that most voters also have no idea where their council members stand on this issue. Republicans’ responsibility – as the loyal opposition – is to have a debate and tell them.
I helped Tom Fetzer when he first ran for Mayor. Back then – just like today – most of the voters in Raleigh were Democrats. A lot of Democrats had to vote for Tom for him to win. They did because he opposed spending $90 million to build a new Convention Center. Not long ago, when Mayor Meeker and the Democrats on the City Council proposed spending $190 million to build a new Convention Center –Republicans, by and large, went along. They didn’t offer voters a choice.
Now the holes dug (according to the News and Observer 16,000 truckloads of dirt have already been hauled away) and construction has started and even though the costs of steel and concrete are already $4.5 million over budget there doesn’t seem to be much way to stop it.
That Marriott Hotel Mayor Meeker wants taxpayers to pay for downtown is going to use steel and concrete too and it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that means its costs are going up too. And it’s a good bet that higher costs mean sooner or later Mayor Meeker may be asking for a bigger subsidy. More than $20 million.
It’s time for Republicans on the City Council to draw the line and offer voters a choice. They should say Yes to the Westin and they should say to the Marriott Hotel folks – if you want to build a new hotel that’s fine – but taxpayers aren’t going to pay for it. No subsidy. Not one penny. If businessmen can build a Westin with no subsidy, you can build a Marriott with no subsidy too. Then the Republican members of the council should make a motion to spend that $20 million on roads, or schools or to hold down taxes and see if Mayor Meeker wants to vote against it.
That’s what the ‘loyal opposition’ is supposed to do. Not go along to get along – but speak out on issues. Republicans can create a real debate on City spending by saying to taxpayers here’s where we stand and here’s where Mayor Meeker stands and here’s what the difference means to you.
Let Mayor Meeker defend spending this $20 million on a hotel – instead of schools or roads – to voters. If he can win that debate, then more power to him. If Republicans win it they may stop that subsidy and save taxpayers $20 million.
Or if Mayor Meeker – and the Democrats – ignore public opinion and pass it anyway, then Republicans have given voters a good reason to vote for change for Mayor and on the City Council in the next election.
14 Comments »
Costs going up? Gee whiz - look around the country and see how many hurricanes we have endured. Costs are going through the roof on everything. There was no way to anticipate four natural disasters when the costs were calculated for construction.
Blame Mother Nature. Not the politicians.
Growth in the downtown area is thriving with restaurants and stores. A good hotel is also needed.
I am hoping someone can answer my question about roads and infrastructure out by Crabtree.
Comment by Abe — October 31, 2005 @ 7:30 pm
To All - It galls me to ever agree with Carter. But I wouldn’t advise Dems on the City Council to approve one hotel that requires a $20 million taxpayers’ subsidy, then turn down another that is being built entirely with investors’ money. Besides, I like the Glen-Tree project. what’s wrong with a tall building in Crabtree? It’s probably the lowest point in the city.
In response to Abe’s comment above, today’s N&O says the new hotel would have fewer rooms than the old Sheraton, which is now more of an eyesore than ever.
Comment by Gary Pearce — November 1, 2005 @ 9:21 am
I think we just had an election, Gary, in which the victors argued for more downtown development, and supported the projects you slam. To say that it would be a great issue for the other side to win the next election on is ludicrous. As to the road infrastructure being there, it isn’t. I’ve commuted through the Glenwood/Creedmoor intersection for 21 years (3 of which were by city bus), and the congestion is already intolerable. To say there is no public investment in the hotel ignores the millions spent on the Crabtree Creek flood control structures built upstream, without which the whole area woud be a grassy wetland much of the year.
Comment by Gerry — November 1, 2005 @ 6:07 pm
When is a subsidy not a subsidy?
When it’s a flood control project that only helps less than a square mile of the city.
When it’s a road to nowhere — Edwards Mill Road’s extension from Duraleigh to the RBC center. Again, very little bang for the proverbial buck.
Traffic in the Crabtree area has been made tolerable by the recent road improvements to not only Edwards Mill but North Hills Drive, Lead Mine, and Creedmoor a few years ago. The problem is, all the “easy” improvments have been made. None of the feeder roads can be widened without significant retooling and construction.
But of course that won’t be a subsidy either.
The Marriot “subsidy” includes building a *public* below ground parking deck to support the hotel, convention center and other developments in the area.
The dollars generated by the sale of the land under the existing convention center and lots to its south are magically ignored — all costs, no revenue. To say nothing of the tax revenue and jobs created by everything built on that land, which will be a lot more than GlennTree. Fayetville Street is being worked on to the benefit of the hotel, but its tax benefits by increasing property values (which has already happened) pays for itself.
But instead we should take your advice — don’t spend any money so we don’t increase the tax base, but keep taxes down so the rich can become richer.
Comment by Lincoln — November 1, 2005 @ 9:11 pm
As Peggy says “You cannot make authentic guacamole out of lima beans and Ritz crackers.”
Comment by Hank — November 1, 2005 @ 9:38 pm
What contributions, if any, did these developers / investors for this Crabtree Hotel make to the candidates in the recent Raleigh election. And did either of you have involvement in these elections?
Comment by Abe — November 2, 2005 @ 9:29 am
I don’t really have anything to add to this… but I did want to just chime in and say how excited I am that Pearce and Wrenn have co-launched a blog. Fantastic idea!
Comment by Zach — November 2, 2005 @ 9:47 am
the question I have is if they build this hotel, will the average workaday Tar Heel beable to afford to stay there? Will there be ANYTHING in downtown Raleigh that will draw tourists?
the convention business is declining natinwide as the economy heads south.
Comment by Louie — November 2, 2005 @ 11:11 am
The new office tower in Raleigh is going to have a profound political impact on the next City Council election–and that impact will be bad for business and future development. Believe it or not, Durham actually had a pro-business council 20 years ago with mayor Charles Markham. The Durham council approved the Green Weenie (aka Duke Cuke). In the next election, all the activists such as Wib Gulley had a ready-made issue to run on. The Duke Cuke became the symbol for out-of-control development. It was only when Durham’s economy went into the toilet in the late 90s that the city began to actually welcome development again.
Comment by TDK — November 2, 2005 @ 1:59 pm
I doubt the Crabtree tower will be much of a campaign issue next go around. It had both Republican and Democratic support. So there is not much to make of it.
The downtown hotel, however, could be a slight issue. But some of the Republicans on council voted for it too. John Odom tried to make it an issue this year, until it was pointed out in the N&O that he actually had supported it in the past.
Spending on projects like the Light&Time tower are easier to make into issues, than projects like the downtown hotel which can improve Raleigh’s economy and actually make the city money in the long term.
Comment by Justin — November 2, 2005 @ 3:19 pm
The issue won’t be framed by party affiliation but by those who are of a “no growth” mentality versus those with a more business friendly approach. Hope I’m wrong but I doubt I will be.
Comment by TDK — November 2, 2005 @ 4:14 pm
My question is what happened to Meeker. If Carter got it right, Meeker was opposed to this project. Now he votes for it because of public support for the hotel?? What does this politician stand for beside getting reelected, trees and fees? Maybe this blog makes him nervous.
Comment by CAT — November 3, 2005 @ 5:36 am
I still like the Sir Walter Raleigh hotel, at least it was locally owned. these interloper corporations have ruined the character of Raleigh. and they call themselves “conservative”?
Comment by Louie — November 3, 2005 @ 8:17 am
Meeker voted for both hotels. He did have questions about the 47 story hotel on Glenwood, but they had nothing to do with the level or absence of subsidy. Good lord, it’s a FORTY-SEVEN STORY BUILDING ON GLENWOOD. And it got approved, lickety split. I would hope that someone would have asked a few questions before voting.
Mr. Wrenn is distorting things.
Yeah yeah, surprise surprise.
Comment by Burns — November 3, 2005 @ 12:51 pm