Monday, February 4, 2013

Move along, nothing to see here

Last week the Chron ran another story, behind it's pay wall, centering on troubles surrounding the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority, this time talking about how they're being sued by MBIA, their bond insurer, for not collecting enough in revenues (read: taxes) to cover the minimum cash requirements to which they are contractually obligated.

Interestingly, to me anyway, is that the response of the HCHSA is to call MBIA a "second rate" insurance company and basically disparage them.  This brings to light a couple of questions.  One, if MBIA is really a second rate insurer then why did the HCHSA contract with them in the first place?  This seems to be inconsistent with good business practices.  Second, if the MBIA is on the hook for the payments and their really is nothing to see here then why the harsh response from Mr. Friedman?

We've been told during this whole process that there's nothing to be worried about, that the stadiums and land are "not at risk" in the slightest and that there's no way area taxpayers are going to end up on the hook for any of this and that basically we're dealing with zero risk.  OK, I'm willing to suspend disbelief for a moment and accept that proposition on its face, but this still leaves me with one nagging question in the back of my mind that just won't go away.  Namely, if the result of this is going to be the eventual increase of the hotel and cab tax which would then mean higher rates for hotel rooms and cab rides, then isn't their a concern that Houston's already low hotel occupancy rate is going to suffer even more?  And this at a time when the City of Houston is going all-in (again) for convention business?

I'm sure we'll be told that this is no big deal either, that even a 10% increase in hotel/motel costs aren't going to matter much and that what Houston needs to really focus on are improving its amenities to bring in additional business.  OK, but if rates and costs are higher for the traveler then don't the amenities also have to be just that much better?

The entire thing just doesn't make any sense.  It's as if the HSHCA and the other groups are talking out of both sides of their mouth while ensuring us that the coming storm on the horizon is nothing of concern.  The problem is they're doing this while casting nervous glances toward the storm that's not supposed to affect us and getting more and more harsh in their rhetoric.

They may be right, there may be no problem, but I get the willies when no one even addresses the possibility that there is.

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