While You Laughed, I’ve Been Preparing. The Zombies Are Here.

People laughed. They sneered. They nodded smugly and dismissively. (But nodded approvingly at my breath.)

And yet for years I’ve carried this <— as my standard load out every time I leave the house. Why?

Because I knew IT would happen. And IT’S happening now.

Zombies. The dead have risen in Dallas County. Good luck, suckers.

Who’s crazy now?

Clang Clang Clang Went the Trolley, Broke Broke Broke Went the Convention Center Hotel…

With headline apologies to Judy Garland (and consequently to Eric Celeste), you can meet me in St. Louis, but it probably won’t be at their taxpayer-owned convention center hotel. No one goes there.

From the Oct. 30 issue of Bond Buyer, we learn that the St. Louis convention center hotel is not just broke, it may be going bankrupt.

Holders of $98 million of senior-lien revenue bonds issued for a St. Louis convention center hotel complex, along with its operator and developer, are scheduled to meet Nov. 11 to discuss the project’s future amid warnings of a $1.4 million shortfall in hotel revenue available for December debt service payments.

“The rapidly declining economic environment has contributed greatly to this previously unforeseen deterioration in the project’s performance” leading to the $1.4 million shortfall in the $3.5 million interest payment owed Dec. 15, wrote A. Thomas Leonhard Jr., president of project developer Historic Restoration Inc., in a letter to bond trustee UMB Bank NA.

At the Nov. 11 bondholder meeting, set up by the trustee at the request of HRI, hotel operator Marriott Corp. will present its financial forecast for the remainder of the year and a budget for next year, which is expected to show further deterioration in hotel operations. HRI also will present a forbearance option for bondholder consideration, according to the letter.

The St. Louis Industrial Development Authority issued the senior-lien revenue bonds in 2000 as part of a complex financing scheme to acquire and renovate the $266 million hotel complex at the city’s convention centers. The 165-room Renaissance Suites opened in 2002 and the 918-room Renaissance Grand opened a year later.

Yeah, it's like that.

Yeah, it's like that.

So let’s talk about the St. Louis convention center hotel complex. The city was sold on the idea of building an attached convention center hotel paid by city-issued bonds — with St. Louis taxpayers on the hook if the hotel didn’t generate enough income — after a study by HVS Global Hospitality Services said it would be a great investment for the city and a Borat-style big success.

This is the same HVS that conducted a study in 2007 for Dallas that says the same thing. But that was after HVS’s 2004 study that said it wouldn’t be viable. So they against it before they were for it.

The St. Louis taxpayer-owned hotel has performed pretty badly, despite the promise from HVS and convention hotel backers that it would bring tons of new conventions to the River City.

In September 2000, a division of HVS International…said the St. Louis convention center accounted for 460,000 room nights in the city annually. “It is expected that with the addition of the subject properties, the city will be able to accommodate over 800,000 room nights in future years,” HVS reported

Instead, from a peak of 500,000 convention room nights in 2000, the total fell to 400,000 in 2003. It is now projected to be 470,000 in 2007.

Read more about that here.

Any of this have any bearing on Dallas?

Well, aside from the obvious — that the projections for the performance of Dallas’ proposed $550 million convention center hotel are wildly optimistic, just like St. Louis’ were — let’s consider how much plumb confidence this will give the bond buying market. (And what a stable market we are in.) The St. Louis city bonds have fallen “deep into junk bond territory.”

The city of Dallas plans to dive headfirst into this shallow pool and start selling bonds to pay for construction of the convention hotel in January, despite the fact it’s a sure thing the issue will go to voters in May and may very well get shot down. This on a project type that has a less-than-stellar track record, and for an industry — conventioneering — which is stagnant and, over the long-haul, shrinking.

Would you buy those bonds? Do Dallas taxpayers want to be on the hook if the hotel doesn’t perform (highly likely) and the bonds can’t be serviced?

St. Louis taxpayers are only on the hook for a portion of the $266 million hotel complex; Dallas taxpayers get the bill for the whole $550 million. Keep in mind that $550 million is a rough reckoning — they don’t even know how big they want the hotel yet, so it’s not exactly a truthsome figure, and there’s no guarantee construction costs won’t go up. Which, come on, a city construction project without cost overruns?

You can jump for the full Bond Buyer report. It’s downright morbid. It’s what the city of Dallas’ future probably holds if Mayor Leppert insists on going ahead with this boondoggle in spite of 60,000-plus citizens who demanded a chance to put this project to a vote. [Read more...]

Friday Roundup: Confidence Men, CPS Abuse, Colt’s Obligatory Human Interest Feature & More

  • You know that godawful trend where every Olympic hopeful has to have a telegenic, heart-wrenching human interest story during the games or they get disqualified? It’s infecting the race for the Heisman Trophy now. Colt McCoy is the latest victim.

Flu Shots: Killing You Softly

Every year, the media, government, and health industrial complex come together to encourage everyone to get a flu shot. They give them out for free.

And you people fall for it. Look, use your head. When the media, government, and industry all come together to tell you to do something, that should set off your radar.

They never have the right shot for the current strain, so it’s pointless.

What are they really doing? They’re tagging you with RFID microchips and simultaneously taking genetic samples for the DNA database. The bonus is killing off the young and the weak, or at least making them sick enough to have to go to the doctor, ensuring a merry Christmas for the health care field.

So there you have it. In My Humble Opinion.

“Since the Great Depression” Must Die

You can’t hear a stump speech or read a blog post without someone showing the economic and historical vacuum that runs rampant — “worst crisis since the Great Depression.”

Oh, please.

The third quarter of this year was the first one with negative growth since 9/11. And that was just a contraction of 0.3 percent. Less than analysts feared. Unemployment is up only 1 percent over the past year to 6 percent. The bottom of the market seems to be in sight, which means there’s only one way to go from there. And the claim of a shrinking middle class is a myth.

Meanwhile, unemployment in the Great Depression was 25 percent in the worst years. In the Carter years, unemployment was almost 8 percent by the end of his term, inflation was 12 percent, and interest rates topped 20 percent.

Doom and gloom sells papers, but the negative perceptions from doomsday writing only exacerbates the problem. What we’re in is more like the dot-com bubble break, or maybe the market crash in 1987. Both of which we overcame most riki-tik.

Lighten up. And when you hear the media or worse, pols, selling you fear and anxiety, remember what H.L. Mencken said:

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed — and hence clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

James Ragland: Pot Calling the Kettle Black

Metro columnist James Ragland posts about the Watauga shooting where a homeowner confronted a robber and got hurt. You never want to judge one of these until all the facts are in, but suddenly Ragland gets all Mycroft Holmes on us.

Another readers says the whole story’s fishy because the homeowner and the neighbor — who both happen to be hurt, by the way — reportedly didn’t provide a detailed description of the assailant. Hmmmm.

What? OK, to be fair, Ragland’s just giving some credence to the commenter’s point, but still.

You know who else never provides detailed descriptions of suspects? The Dallas Morning News. And the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. And pretty much every print daily out there. Seriously — they’ll describe a suspect’s clothing, height, weight, hat, and build, but conspicuously absent is always one identifying trait.

Thursday Roundup: BailoutSleuth Rules, Lots of Guns, Halloweenies & More

  • Mark Cuban has something going right here with his new blog: a close-up look at what’s happening behind the federal bank failout. Skip to here to see all the fun stuff the government won’t let you know about how the $850 billion is being spent.
  • There’s a special hell for people who take a fun holiday like Halloween and turn it downright creepifying.
  • I’m punting on this one. Yeah, but no, but yeah, but…

Personal note: Since October 1, I’ve written close to 14,500 words for print publications — features, columns, and magazine briefs. I’m just about out from under water. This may have been my best freelancing month yet. Here’s to November being just as busy, which will mean a very Merry Christmas indeed.

How Sprawl Saved Dallas From The Worst of the Real Estate Bubble

Urban yokels like to complain about urban and suburban sprawl, but it turns out one of the reasons the DFW has been spared from the national real estate bubble is because — with the exception of the forwardDallas! plan — Dallas and the surrounding ‘burbs aren’t saddled with onerous “smart growth” regulations.

That’s the takeaway from this report from Wendell Cox at newgeography.com.

Jump for the highlights of the report. (h/t Hit and Run) Three cheers for sprawl.

[Read more...]

And Then There’s The Case for Not Voting…

Read it here. Which I lean to more and more.

Money shots:

Defending non-voting in bars across this great land, I often hear the ultimate “shut up”—that if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain about politics or society. The reality is the exact opposite: By voting, you are playing a game whose rules are that the majority vote winner gets to control the reins of government, in all its unspeakable power. If you complain about the results of the game you chose to play, you’re just being a sore loser—or winner.

But what if you believe that neither “winnable” candidate deserves power? Or that the whole game of majority-rule giving someone all the powers of the modern American state to wage war, arrest, tax, and regulate is inherently illegitimate? Then, don’t vote, and complain all you want.

The best part, though?

So, this [election day], do the right thing for America: go to work and do a good job. Clean up some garbage on your street. Help a neighbor out. Call your mother, for goodness’ sakes.

Did Your Rep Help Cause the Financial Crisis? Something to Carry to the Voting Booth

Via WashingtonWatch.com, here’s a list of Texas representatives who voted for the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2001, which “contained a provision preempting state regulation of financial derivatives under gambling or ‘bucket shop’ laws. The result less than a decade later was the out-of-control market for credit default swaps that has caused so much financial, and perhaps economic, chaos.”

TX-4 Hall, Ralph (R)
TX-8 Brady, Kevin (R)
TX-9 Lampson, Nicholas (D)
TX-10 Doggett, Lloyd (D)
TX-13 Thornberry, William (R)
TX-15 Hinojosa, Rubén (D)
TX-16 Reyes, Silvestre (D)
TX-18 Jackson-Lee, Sheila (D)
TX-20 Gonzalez, Charles (D)
TX-21 Smith, Lamar (R)
TX-28 Rodriguez, Ciro (D)
TX-29 Green, Raymond (D)
TX-30 Johnson, Eddie (D)

Vote accordingly.