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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Invest in people, not hotels

I know you have to spend money to make money. But you have to spend it wisely. And dropping $200 million in scarce public dollars on a hotel in the hope of attracting more conventions is not wise investment now.

First let's stipulate that the Boston Convention and Exposition Center has been a far better investment than many of its critics predicted and that it has actually returned a small profit on taxpayer dollars poured into the hulking Seaport structure.

That was an investment made in better times, when state coffers could afford to pay for education, public safety, human services and a behemoth building and the infrastructure, like hotels, to pay for it. But even then, taxpayers ponied up their cash -- and continue to do so with higher cab fares, car rental surcharges and sky high rates to park in the area.

Now we're looking at a call for an even bigger convention center because somehow the hulk isn't big enough. And of course, that means more hotels -- never mind the fact the public ponied up for a Mass Pike "slingshot ramp" to make it easier to reach Back Bay hotels (and support high-priced cabs!).

In better times, there might be an argument. But the clearest sign this idea should be a non-starter now is the fact there appears to be no interest among private investors to come to the table. Locally we have no better indication of the dried up market than the Menino Crater in Downtown Crossing.

And if we need additional reinforcement, we need only look to this week's sneak move by Fidelity Investments to uproot 1,100 jobs and reduce its Massachusetts workforce by nearly 50 percent -- after receiving taxpayer largess to boost employment by 25 percent.

Legislators are promising yet another tough year as the end of federal stimulus help means deep cuts -- cuts likely to come in education and caring for our sickest and neediest residents.

That's a much better place to put my tax dollars than in trying to lure a conventioneer to Boston in 2020.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

New source of revenue, the manicure/pedicure car on MBTA trains. The operators have the experience. Then add maybe massage cars. John Q Public can even get a happy ending.

March 21, 2011 12:15 PM  

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