The Macon City Council approved a contract for a convention center hotel last night, but I doubt the issue has been put to rest.
The most frustrating thing about the hotel issue has been how hard it is to report the facts. I am not a bond attorney. I feel that I, and other reporters, haven't been able to lay bare the facts of the two competing proposals side by side so people could say "That's the best deal."
We've quoted "experts" on both sides. And they disagree. I can tell you, though, that the National Ventures proposal (the one that lost) could easily be filed under "sounds too good to be true" because it promises bond funding that the city would not be liable for.
Some very well thought of attorneys say that can be done. Others question the rationale. In the end council members went with the Noble deal, which they felt more comfortable with, despite admitting that they preferred National Venture's site location.
I take facts seriously, and have to tell you they've been slippery on this issue. I think a lot of that is because high finance and government bonding is complicated, and perhaps overly so.
Government, it seems to me, should be simple enough for the average informed person to understand. Let me tell you, it's not.
Also complicating things has been the great passion the hotel issue has spawned, which is hard to understand. Councilman Alveno Ross gave a thoughtful (if long-winded) speech at last night's meeting, essentially upbraiding people for paying so little attention to most government issues, then coming out en masse over this hotel issue.
It seemed a fair point to me. Why are public hearings on a $100-million-plus city budget empty year after year?
Ross openly wondered why there wasn't a similar public outcry years ago when people's homes were taken to make way for the coliseum and convention center that the hotel will connect to. And why other bonding deals, such as the one that brought Bass Pro to town, haven't gotten this much scrutiny.
Let me go ahead and translate those comments: All of a sudden white people from north Macon are interested in east Macon because there's money to be made.
How much money? That's hard to say. But when National Ventures' head man Bob Schwartz filed a federal lawsuit over the hotel deal, he listed his requested damages (and hence predicted profit) at $20 million.
On the other side, let me assure you that Noble isn't getting into this thing to lose money. Kind of makes you wonder why any government funding is needed, doesn't it?
My point is this: Any time there's a lobbying campaign it's important to ask: Whose interests are at heart here, the public's or the individuals?
I'm not offering an answer - I won't pretend to know people's hearts and minds. I'm saying ask the question when someone asks for your support on this issue, and on every issue.
By the way, Lawyers, Guns and Money is a Warren Zevon song.