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Sometimes, something so peculiar happens in politics you just have to stop and ask yourself, “What was that?” Well, something like that has happened in Raleigh.

The Marriott Hotels want a subsidy from taxpayers – $20 million – to build a hotel downtown. At the same time a group of businessmen propose to build a Westin hotel –Raleigh’s first Four-Star Hotel – at Crabtree Valley. The Westin won’t cost taxpayers a penny. In fact, it will pay the city $1.5 million in taxes and create 150 jobs.

You might ask, ‘Do we need both? If businessmen will build a new Westin with their own money is it necessary for taxpayers to spend $20 million to build a Marriott too?’ Or you might ask, ‘Why do we have to subsidize a Marriott at all? If businessmen can build a Westin without a subsidy – why can’t the Marriott?’

Taxpayers subsidizing a hotel is odd. Here’s what’s odder.

Mayor Meeker also says Raleigh needs more money to build roads – the City says it needs $374 million – and if I read the signs right he may be floating a trial balloon about raising taxes or fees or both. There’s no doubt Raleigh needs roads. So, why not just build the Four-Star Westin Hotel at Crabtree Valley and use the $20 million for the hotel downtown to build roads?

For that matter, which is more important, building roads or building a $192 million Convention Center? That $192 million would have paid for half the roads the City needs.

If it sounds like someone has their spending priorities backwards – well, maybe they do.

I would imagine – and this is just a guess – the City Council will be happy to approve building the Westin; there’s not much to be said against a hotel that will pay $1.5 million in taxes a year, create 150 new jobs and which the Dean of the NC State School of Design says is an architectural wonder. And in addition, it’s supported by neighborhood activists.

But here’s a suggestion for the Republicans on the City Council – and Democrats too if they don’t mind an idea offered by a Republican. If the Marriotts (or Paris Hilton either for that matter) want to build a hotel in downtown Raleigh tell them, ‘That’s wonderful.’ But if they ask for a subsidy from taxpayers tell then no.

Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for all – or part – of their hotel. In other words, vote yes to the hotel and no to the subsidy.

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