The other solution is to put any public funding available for a convention center hotel into upgrading and expanding the Lloyd Center Doubletree (the former Red Lion), which has 476 guest rooms and is two light rail stops or a 4-minute walk from the Convention Center. If you want to build an 800-room hotel, it's a lot cheaper to start at 476 instead of at 0.
As Metro considers whether and now expensively to subsidize a hotel across the street from the Convention Center, it might take a lesson from the late Conrad Hilton and a bygone City Council.
Forty years ago I came across Old Father Laquedem clipping an interest coupon from a bond of Metropolitan Hotel Corporation, issued in about 1963. I asked him what Metropolitan Hotel Corporation was. He told me that the city had wanted Hilton to build a new hotel downtown, but Conrad Hilton didn't think it would justify the cost of financing, so the city formed the corporation to issue bonds and re-lend the money to the Hilton organization. I think the bonds paid 4%, which was a reasonable but not generous rate at the time (they weren't tax-exempt). Civic boosters bought them, and the hotel got built.
If the convention center hotel is really going to benefit local businesses, then the businesses that benefit ought to be willing to step up and lend (not give) the hotelier some of the capital to get the thing built, let's say $30 million or so. It should be possible to build the hotel for $250,000 per guest room, plus the land cost, so an 800-room hotel would cost about $200 million to build and require about $60 million of developer equity, so this bond issue would provide half the equity. (The bonds would be subordinated to the developer's first loan, and would be treated as equity by the senior lender.)
And if the public isn't willing to pungle up $30 million by buying bonds, why should it pungle up that much, or more, through a tax levy? Just asking.
Having written the next president's inaugural speech, I turned my attention to what the Democratic National Committee could use for a campaign song. I'd like to suggest that the DNC revive Robert Lamm's 1975 tribute to President Truman, who was born on this day in 1884. Shortly after the idea came to me, I saw the cover of this week's Newsweek, which says it all.