The Oregon Convention Center Hotel: Let the people decide

It’s a classic government argument to justify dumping dollars into a construction project. “It will mean JOBS.” How can you be against jobs?

In the case of the proposed government subsidies for a convention center hotel in Portland, Metro President Tom Hughes has gone even further, arguing at a 2013 Labor Day picnic sponsored by the Northwest Oregon Labor Council that hotel critics are engaging in “class warfare” to “keep families from putting food on their table.”
Good grief! What’s next, accusing critics of  “taking food out of the mouths of babies.”

Actually, what was next was a devious ruling from the Multnomah County elections department that critics can’t go to the county’s voters to seek to overturn the Multnomah County Commission’s approval of taxes to go towards the hotel’s construction.

“The initiative and referendum process is reserved to the people of the county relative to the legislative acts of the Board of County Commissioners,” said Multnomah County Elections Director Tim Scott. “The subject of the Petition filed… relates to the exercise of the Board of County Commissioner’s Executive and Administrative powers.”

“I want to build a hotel,” Hughes said at the union Labor Day picnic. “I want it to be built by union workers, and I want union workers running it.”

And he wants it so bad that he doesn’t want citizens voting on it, calling the decision of critics to seek a public vote “short-sighted and selfish”. A public official is opposing the public having a say.

That reminded me of a statement made by Iroquois Indians to the English in the mid-1700s when they felt the English were not listening to their deep concerns: “You ask us…to have faith in you…But how can we have faith in you and believe in you when by the very actions you have taken you have plugged up our ears and thrown sand in our eyes and sewn our lips together?”

Hughes even fell back again on the jobs mantra, this time upping the ante by throwing in a taunt that the critics didn’t care about minorities. Failure to go ahead with the hotel deal would harm “members of the minority and historically underserved communities of North and Northeast Portland,” he wailed.

The validity of Scott’s decision is now being considered by the Multnomah County Circuit Court. Hopefully, it will do the right thing and let voters have a say.


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