Another Public/Private Potential Boondoggle (But Maybe Not, I Don’t Know)

Did anyone see this in the paper?

The city plans to spin off its convention and entertainment business into its own corporation, a move that could channel an extra $10 million to cash-starved City Hall in the coming year.

The city’s Convention and Entertainment Facilities department currently runs the George R. Brown Convention Center and other city-owned venues downtown. A plan on its way to City Council next week would make the department a separate corporation that does not need council approval for its purchases. About 120 people who work for the department no longer would be city employees and would lose their union protections under the plan.

I’m skeptical of a deal that cedes control of the George R. Brown, Miller Outdoor Theatre, Jones Hall, and the Wortham Center to a private corporation for a mere $2m/year for five years, paid in one lump sum. Even more skeptical reading:

According to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity, a consultant’s report indicates that the new structure could allow the convention business to rake in $3 million to $7 million more a year just on sponsorships. Not having to put sponsorships out to bid would free the convention group to negotiate without the laborious and delaying process of sending deals to the City Council, for example, the official explained.

So we’re going to rent for $2M a year so this group can make at least $3-7M in sponsorships alone (not to mention regular usage fees, etc.).

Has the city looked into how the operations and rules could be changed so the city, rather than a private corporation, could become nimble enough to swing deals like this?

I’m trying to keep an open mind until I can learn more about this—which I’ll have to do quickly, as apparently this will be on the council agenda this week. It could be said that I don’t know enough, or understand enough, to have an opinion. I’ve noticed that doesn’t stop many people on the internet from giving their 2 cents’ worth.

Can anyone shed more light or suggest the right questions to ask? This seems like something that shouldn’t just sneak through.

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2 Responses to Another Public/Private Potential Boondoggle (But Maybe Not, I Don’t Know)

  1. Pingback: Spinning off the convention business – Off the Kuff

  2. Pingback: More on the city’s convention center spinoff proposal – Off the Kuff

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