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New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung (Newspaper) - February 13, 2000, New Braunfels, Texas Page 6A Sunday February OPINIONS FORUM LETTERS NBW HERALDZEITUNG New Braunfels Zeitung was founded 1852 New Braunfels Herald was founded 1890 The two papers merged in 1957 and printed in both German and English until 1958 Doug Tonay Editor and Publisher Margaret Edmonson Managing Editor EDITORIAL Big decisions need good judgment not lots of emotion Big issues big decisions And too important to let emotion get in the way of judgment New Braunfels City Council faces a monumental agenda Monday night Holiday River of Lights a proposed conven tion center and a petition effort trying to kill it and a May bond issue Each of these issues is of vital importance to New Braunfels Decisions made Monday night will influence the future of this city for years to come Sounds daunting doesnt it During the past several months and particularly during the past week a division has been drawn in this community those who support the chamber and those who oppose the chamber The concerns and emotions over the proposed con vention center are spilling over into the proposed bond issue one side of a flier on the anticonvention center petition is ded icated to a campaign against widening Walnut Avenue Suddenly the bond issue and the convention center issue are Not only are these issues muddied for city council they also are confusing for voters who will be asked in May to vote on improving streets and drainage youth sports facilities a communication system for emergency response personnel and other projects Council not only faces the task of making decisions on these v issues but it also must make sure the public is wellinformed so that emotions and opinions about one issue do not spill over and affect another issue Councils decisionmaking process on Monday night needs to go beyond the chamber and its opponents It must involve what serves the best interests of the community It must not involve political ploys and dealmaking to gain favors of one group or another It must involve what serves the best interests of the community It must not involve the intense emotion that seems to have swept across some factions involved in the various debates It must involve what serves the best interests of the community To say councils decisions Monday night will make or break the May bond issue is an understatement Some projects on the bond issue are cantwait items such as the communica tion system We cannot afford to let our emotions override our good sense and thats exactly what might happen if voters angry at council about its decisions regarding any of these issues decide to vote down everything on the May ballot Its time to put down the emotion and drop the verbal weapons so we all can sit down to decide the best coursejbr this city TODAY IN HISTORY BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Today is Sunday Feb 13 the 44th day of 2000 There are 322 days left in the year On Feb 13 1935 a jury in Flemington found Bruno Richard Hauptmann guilty of first degree murder in the kidnapdeath of the infant son of Charles and Anne Lindbergh Hauptmann was later executed In 1542 the fifth wife of Englands King Henry VIII Catherine Howard was executed for adultery In 1914 the American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers known as ASCAP was founded in New York In 1920 the League of Nations recognized the perpetual neutrality of Switzerland merit Get answers before spending money Mondays city council meeting could be a milestone At stake is a pile of tax money The two major issues are whether to con tinue the Holiday River of Lights which has been a financial failure and whether to build a new convention center a Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce pro posal that critics say could be another finan cial drain on the city In three years the city has wasted more than in revenue on a light displays for the Christmas holidays City Manager Mike Shands said three years ago that cars a year would pass through the gates at Cypress Bend Park net ting the city between and a year It took three years to get vehi cles to pass through the display Instead the city spent more than in tax revenue and out of the general fund to subsidize the project After all that a city spokesman with a straight face claims the project was a suc cess because the city put after subtracting the it spent out of the general fund back into the general fund Those figures alone should be enough to get a thumbs down from council but this past month the council split 33 on whether to renew the contract to lease the lights But there is another complication a legal one The law governing tax revenues prohibits the use of those monies for general fund purposes The council is aware of this prohibition and yet at least three members of council think they can just ignore this restriction Councilwoman Juliet Watson admitted to a reporter this past month Its a finagling way to actually get real money in the gener al fund This is the only tax money we see that actually goes into the general Does it bother anyone in the city that this practice might be illegal that the council knows it and yet it is considering continu ing the project Isnt wasting more than half a million dollars on this illconceived pro ject already enough of a mistake Convention Center Proposal On a most basic level spending tax revenue on something tangi ble something the city will actually own the light displays were leased from a New York like a convention center makes much more sense But that would not take much A couple of people who apparently decline to say who all is involved are circu lating a petition against the convention cen ter The rhetoric surrounding the petition is mainly antichamber chatter Petition orga nizers have employed their own spin and the credibility of heir efforts also should be questioned by council The chambers Michael Meek has pushed a bold agenda when it comes to tourism DOUG TONEY When it comes to active and effective cham bers Meek and his staff are some of the best in the business when measured by results But that does not mean the council must roll over and do whatever the chamber wants The council needs to stop reacting to emotions and show some real leadership The Holiday River of Lights is a financial failure but its backers have become emo tionally defensive because of the criticism Council is hiding behind the legs of the city governments spin doctors Council also must take an unemotional look at the chambers convention center pro posal Some serious questions need to be asked and the answers better be good before coun cil approves the convention center project The proposal calls for a million complex to attract con ventioneers and their families to New Braunfels Meek says the convention center would provide sales tax revenues to the city during the off seasons The marketing study commis sioned by the chamber says the convention center probably would lose the first year with start up costs figured in The annual operating deficit loss after the first year would be about Supporters argue sales tax revenues which can be used for general fund purpos es at least this plan is legal would more than offset the loss and generate revenue without the restrictions Meek says revenue from sales tax and tax would more than offset the annual loss Here are a couple questions council should consider asking before voting to approve the convention center Because the success in part of the con vention center will be based on the availabil ity of rooms will the number of available rooms be enough The authors of the study said the convention center would boost occupancy during the first and fourth quarters of the year What the study does not say is why it will not have an impact on the second and third quarters The answer appears simple Because during the second and third quar ters April through the vast majori ty of hotel and motel rooms already are filled with tourists and travelers The studys authors also predicted the convention center would be used 228 days a year Take out the week of Thanksgiving two weeks around Christmas and the week of Easter and then take out one day a week for transition between events and about 60 of those occupancy days would have to be during the tourist season Can the convention center be utilized ade quately during those months without the availability of rooms Would the use of the convention center diminish the need and income from the civic center which is owned by the city but oper ated by the chamber What about Wursthalle What would be the financial impact on existing facilities Would some of the events just move to the bigger facility a robbing Peter to pay Paul situation Maybe thats not a bad thing but does it figure in to the total financial picture pre sented by the study and the chamber The studys authors include an overview of comparable facilities South Padre Island Humble Civic Center Piano Centre and the Arlington Convention Center However the sizes of these facilities vary widely and no mention is made of whether any of these venues are reaching the finan cial levels that were predicted And should not that be the real test A bird in the hand is worth two in ithe bush Council needs to do its own research Contact the people who manage or operate these facilities and find out whether those convention centers are delivering to the communities what was promised If so why If not why are they not working Prudence would dictate council find a cou ple of other similar facilities not listed just to ensure that the studys authors did not rely on facilities of which they were already familiar Finally council should consider telling both the Holiday River of Lights folks and the chamber that it will not spend nor com mit the money at all this year The tax regulations do not require the governing entity to spend the money in the year it gets the revenue Meek and the chamber are suggesting holding the money back for two years to help lower the costs of financing the project Council should hold back the money Council should stop wasting it on leased lights from New York and save that portion of the money for a couple years maybe longer But make no promises until all the questions have been answered Just because we have the money doesnt mean it must be spent Council has the time and could have the money if it just had the courage to ask the right questions to get the best bang for the buck Spin doctors would be less effective and petitions would be unnecessary if the coun cil exercised some genuine leadership We do not need a government by referendum We need a representative government in which elected officials have the courage to govern effectively Doug Toney is editor and publisher of the HeraldZeitung He can be reached at LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Base opinions on fact not fears Dear Editor Isnt it ironic that the same political players who only days ago encouraged citizens to overcome their fears of the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce are now trying to motivate those citi zens through fear no less to sign a petition against the construction of a convention center Their tactic is to simply play upon the voters fear of the unknown Forget about the comprehensive plan which addresses the need for a convention center and the PKF study which details the feasibility and funding of the same Debating these would be futile Instead they prefer to take pot shots and hipshoot hoping to sway opinion without the use of logic reason and oh yes fact The central theme of their campaign begins with the words What One bit of advice that has stuck with me most of my adult life is from Norman Vincent Peale who stated we would all live happier and more productive lives if we would delete the phrases what if and if only from our vocabu laries Life is full of risks Making an informed business decision requires diligence and weighing the upside potential against the downside risk Based on the information that has been gathered to date the downside risk of a convention center in New Braunfels is minimal The upside potential is enor mous and includes adding two more seasons fall and spring to our visitor industry a windfall occu pancy and sales tax revenue for the city increased retail sales etc More study is needed Site selec tion management and staffing are some of the issues that need to be worked out Please be open to the idea that the recent presentations by the chamber and PKF are just a starting point Finally please base your opinion of the conven tion center on its own merits and do not allow your personal feelings to be clouded or confused by lumping it with the Holiday River of Lights the proposed bond issue the widening of Walnut or an mdoor swimming pool ;