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Making Dallas Even Better

In Search of Dallas’ Missing Alcohol Sales Tax Revenue

It’s been fun listening to the budget debates over the last couple of weeks: Mayor Rawlings, Lee Kleinman, Jennifer Staubach Gates, Scott Griggs, Rickey D. Callahan, and Philip Kingston politely asking for some minor (less than 1%) tweaks to the budget — and City Manager A.C. Gonzalez responding by threatening to burn the place to the ground.

One thing that never came up, however, was the city’s new mixed beverage sales tax. What’s that? You haven’t heard of it? Well, you’re not alone. I can find no mention of it in either the city’s 2014 audited financial statements or 2016 budget. I also can’t find any record of the City Council ever having been briefed on the matter, notwithstanding the fact the State of Texas is telling us they’ve sent us $8,410,145.63 as our cut, just in the first year-and-a-half. Going back through the financials, I did find something with a similar description, an “alcohol beverage tax.” And wow, look at that: up 52% since 2012!

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City Convention Spending Hasn’t Boosted Dallas Hotel Business

Earlier this week, I wrote about the increasingly dismal state of financial affairs at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, and, as always, I enjoyed learning even more from the comments.

Mavdog suggested I needed to look beyond the center’s declining revenues and increasingly staggering losses and analyze hotel trends throughout the entire city of Dallas, under the theory that the Kay Bailey could be driving significant economic growth in the city’s overall hospitality industry that would more than offset its massive taxpayer subsidies. Amy S. also suggested a comparative analysis with other markets. Both comments were on point. What we needed to do was compare the growth of the hotel market in Dallas with the growth of the hotel market in the nation as a whole. Then, we could charitably attribute some or all of Dallas’ out-performance to a Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau strategy of using the convention center as an “economic engine,” following its DCVB-advocated $130 million expansion in 2003, which then triggered the need to construct a DCVB-advocated $500-million convention center hotel shortly thereafter.

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The Convention Center That Ate Dallas

A couple of weeks ago, after reading that the taxpayer-funded Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau apparently wanted to lend us the letter “D” from their “DALLAS” logo to replace the City of Dallas’ existing letter “D” logo, I got to thinking once again about the outsized influence the DCVB wields over municipal affairs.

Late last year, after Philip Jones, the DCVB’s president, tossed out a plan to have taxpayers pay for a $300 million addition to the convention center, I took a look into the finances and found that it lost $37 million per year before debt service and $54 million after interest expense — amounts that were virtually identical to its losses prior to the opening of the half-billion-dollar city-owned Omni Convention Center Hotel in 2010 (one of the primary justifications for building the hotel was that it would drive more business to the convention center and stop its losses). Some of the most interesting observations, however, came from reader comments to my post. Former city council member and the executive director of the Dallas Arts District, Veletta Lill, made the following observations:

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Update: I’ve Updated the Mike Rawlings Venn Diagram Again

Earlier today, when writing about a claim mayoral candidate Marcos Ronquillo made regarding Mayor Mike Rawlings’ campaign war chest, I had occasion to update the Venn diagram I made a few years ago, in order to keep straight all the different Mike Rawlingses. In the comments, a reader astutely noted I had left off one of the most notable Mikes: Regional Mike. I’ve made the appropriate changes.

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Marcos Ronquillo Questions Mayor Rawlings’ Campaign Contributions

Mayoral candidate Marcos Ronquillo is claiming that Mayor Mike Rawlings violated Chapter 15A-2 of city election law (which, as you all know, pertains to the campaign contribution limit). Because of this, he wants the mayor to return almost $100,000 in donations from a list of folks that reads like the Dallas Social Directory: Ray Hunt, Robert Rowling, Erle Nye, Ruth Altshuler, Bobby Lyle, John Scovell, Rusty Rose, Marguerite Hoffman, Brint Ryan, Boone Pickens, and Barry Andrews, to name a few.

Here is a full list: Rawlings Contributions

A release from the Ronquillo campaign says that Dallas elections manager Brylon Franklin “has suggested … that a loophole may exist that would allow Mayor Rawlings to accept unlimited campaign contributions since he is now an ‘officeholder’ and not a ‘candidate.'”

This brings up two things:

1) Marcos Ronquillo might be more willing to attack the mayor than he has previously suggested, and

2) We now have to update our Mike Rawlings Venn diagram

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