DALLAS — A cadre of influential business and political leaders in Dallas have formed a steering committee to support the city council’s decision to issue bonds for a new hotel attached to the city’s convention center.
The move comes as voters in the city face a May 9 referendum on amending the city’s charter to prohibit Dallas from financing, constructing, or owning a hotel.
Longtime Dallas businessman Ronald Steinhart was named chairman of the committee, which is “tired of the negativity and distortions” associated with the upcoming vote.
“Until this week, we weren’t too involved in this campaign,” Steinhart said at a press conference Tuesday. “But this committee was formed because we could no longer sit by as the 'Yes’ campaign bombards our citizens with distorted facts, and questions the honor and integrity of our mayor and city council.”
The committee includes representatives of Dallas’ business elite and is being funded in part by the Dallas Citizens Council.
Anne Raymond, who heads Citizens Against the Taxpayer Hotel, said the mayor and city officials have undermined the group’s efforts to obtain information about the project.
“I wish they were upfront and straightforward about it, but they wouldn’t have sued the attorney general of Texas to the keep documents secret if they were,” Raymond said.
Earlier this month, Raymond joined Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert for a radio debate about the project.
“I think we’re running an educational campaign to inform the taxpayers of the facts,” Raymond said. “The mayor did everything in his power to get these bonds sold before the vote and that’s just wrong. Just as he did with the Trinity [toll road debate] he’s undermining the public trust by withholding the costs and risks associated with this project.”
The city initially planned to issue bonds backed by revenues from a 1,000-room hotel in January, but officials didn’t like the market then, believing they wouldn’t be able to obtain an interest rate of 5.5% or lower.
City officials have said that if they could start construction with bond proceeds before the May vote, the results of the referendum would be moot.
The Citizens Against the Taxpayer Hotel maintain the city’s plan to sell the bonds before the vote is an insult to the 60,000 voters who signed a petition in September to put the referendum on the ballot.
“The negativity and distortions we are witnessing in this election is unprecedented for our city,” according to Joe Alcantar, a member of the steering committee and past chairman of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “We need to stop the negative attacks and keep Washington politics in Washington. A 'No’ vote means more jobs for Dallas.”
The anti-hotel group claims the revenue generated from the project will not be sufficient to cover the debt service on the bonds.
The group is being funded mostly by Dallas real estate magnate Harlan Crow, chairman and chief executive of Crow Holdings, which owns the Hilton Anatole that is about five miles away from the proposed site for the convention center hotel.
In August, the city council created the Dallas Convention Center Hotel Development Corp. to issue the tax-exempt revenue bonds.
Citigroup Global Markets Inc., Goldman Sachs & Co. and Siebert Brandford Shank & Co. LLC will be co-senior managers for the sale of the bonds, if the referendum fails and market conditions improve.
Co-managers include Jackson Securities LLC, RBC Capital Markets, and Southwest Securities Inc.
First Southwest Co. and Estrada Hinojosa & Co. Inc. are co-financial advisers to the city.