The $200,000,000 Question: CentrePointe

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Is CentrePointe really coming to Lexwebbington?

from David Schankula & Willie Davis

NUTSHELL: With hotel developments across the country struggling, Lexington’s CentrePointe hotel would be a pro-immigration, pro-gay marriage, pro-porn paradise… but who’s going to pay for it?

Dear Mayor Newebberry,

It’s been a while. How’ve you been?

The city council voted in favor of CentrePointe’s TIF last week, so we figured it was time to read your 90 page plan for downtown Lexington.

We’d like to start by thanking you for the $3,000,000 proposal for “Enhancing Pedestrian Access” — filed under “Section E.” Sure, it’s a fancy name for a pedway but at $3 million that pedway is gonna be pretty fancy. And now, due to your foresight and Lexington’s deep pockets, we will be spared the indignity of walking on the sidewalk.

But it gets better! J.W. Marriott, the hotel you want installed in CentrePointe supports nearly everything we believe in. They’re to the left of Barry Obama, Kathy Stein, and virtually every other liberal bogeyman you could use to scare up votes.

Marriott is pro-amnesty!
J.W. Marriott dropped some serious coin($240,000) lobbying Congress, the Department of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State to loosen immigration laws.

Bill Marriott, Chairman and CEO of Marriott, says:
“Our company supports changes in the U.S. laws that not only create a path to legal status for immigrants, but also protect the integrity of our U.S. borders.”

Amnesty for all. That’s our kind of corporation.

Marriott is pro-gay marriage!
A devoutly religious man, Bill Marriott believes in Christianity’s message of brotherly love. That’s why The J.W. Marriott Company not only provides its employees with a formal diversity program, but was one of the first in its industry to offer domestic partner benefits. And Marriott opposed California’s Proposition 8, the ban on gay marriages! While even Democratic politicians pussyfoot around this issue, Marriott took solid action. Given that Lexington has a very sizable gay population, we think you not only made the ethical choice by bringing them here, but a shrewd business move as well.

Marriott loves porn!
The American Family Council, the Family Research Council and James Dobson’s Focus on the Family have all targeted Marriott in their campaign against smut, demanding J.W. Marriott remove pay-per-view porn from their in-room entertainment. Despite some good advice from a trusted source, they decided to cast the first stone. But Marriott cast that mother right back! Using the unassailable logic that there’s nothing wrong with videotaped sex, provided the participants are consenting, well-compensated, and reasonably attractive, the hotel chain rejected the calls from the moral police.

Not only is porn still available, now it’s coming to Lexington!

Most of us liberal Lexingtonians still think that Centrepointe was a scam invented by the Webb Brothers and that your administration has been a series of gruesome train wrecks, but for your choice of the Marriott, we salute you.

We welcome this major corporate voice for Immigrant Rights, Gay Rights, and not just porn but the kind of porn the porn industry is begging for — the kind you still have to pay money for and can’t just get for free over the internet (contrary to what you might have heard, we support free-market capitalism, provided it involves naked people).

Marriott Going Broke?
There is a downside, however, and it leads to an inevitable question we have to lob your way. Where is the $200,000,000 for the CentrePointe Marriott coming from? Turns out, like most liberals (us included), The Marriott is going broke. Just yesterday, a major corporate stock ratings firm lowered itsoutlook on Marriott to “negative.” The company’s third quarter profits plummeted 28%.

In early October, Bill Marriott told his stockholders, “we reported our third quarter earnings results and also provided observations about business for the rest of 2008 and into 2009. At that time, we expected business in late 2008 and 2009 to decline, but in just the last few weeks our business outlook has further weakened.”

Last month in Syracuse, a $31 million, 175-room Marriott Hotel was put on holduntil, at earliest, Spring 2009. The developer blamed problems in the nation’s credit market. In Fort Wayne, Indiana a 250-room Marriott — cornerstone of a controversial $125 million development — is missing deadlines.

“Because taxes generated by the hotel have already been included in plans to repay some of the city’s Harrison Square expenses,” the Fort Wayne’s News-Sentinel reported, “any significant construction delay could force the city to seek the needed cash elsewhere – further complicating an already tight budget.” That hotel’s developer blamed the delay on “unparalleled market
conditions.”

In Hawaii, Marriott has halted constructionon a $1.4 billion resort project. Marriott’s vice president of corporate affairs blamed “uncertain economic conditions.” It’s unclear when they
might start again. And in Austin, TX, a $275 million, 26-story, 1,000-room Marriott is going nowhere fast. They were supposed to start this year — now it’s sometime in 2009. The Marriott is the biggest of 7 delayed hotel projects in the city.

“The national economic crisis has brought the financing of future hotel projects to a screeching halt,” the vice president of PKF Consulting — a leading hotel-market firm — told the Austin American-Statesman. That city’s paper went on to explain: “The postponement has special irony because of the fierce controversy surrounding the Marriott, which displaced the popular Las Manitas Cafe, a day care center and a folk art store. That set off a citywide debate over preserving local businesses downtown versus the jobs and taxes that development creates.” Hmmmm.

The $200,000,000 Question

But you don’t need the Marriott hotel chain to teach you about economic priorities, do you Mayor Newebberry? After all, the economic crisis that’s crippling identical projects in Syracuse, Fort Wayne, Hawaii, and Austin isn’t going to touch Lexington, right?

But wait… your finance minister is telling the Herald Leader, “There’s just no way to think that Lexington, Kentucky can escape the financial conditions that are being experienced in the rest of the country.”

So what’s one option for making up the city’s revenue deficit? Layoffs!

And you, Jim Newebberry, are prepared for it. You’ve already threatened to close five fire stations and layoff 100 cops.

No wonder you’re afraid to tell Lexingtonians you’re planning to spend $3 million building “pedways” to an empty hotel. Or is it an empty lot? Are you still pretending the hotel will be ready for the Equestrian Games? Progress on this project is moving slower than people caught in the great “pedway” jams of downtown Lexington’s thriving Christmas shopping season.

Seriously, Jim: Where is the $200,000,000 for CentrePointe coming from?

Because reckless spending in a lousy economy has so far created massive debt, potential layoffs, and a gigantic crater in the ground where downtown Lexington used to be. So maybe you’ll forgive us for not assuming you have a meticulous, well-thought out plan. You might as well tell us now. You’ll have to tell the Kentucky state government next month anyway. Unless Marriott backs out before you get to Frankfort.

How is your Marriott the only Marriott in the country immune from the bad economy?

Inquisitively, your loyal Lexingtonians,
David M. F. Schankula and Willie Davis



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