|Monday, October 30, 2000||
Volume 66, Issue 50
Low voter turnout isn't all bad
Ed De La Garza
Miriam A. Garcia
We recommend: 'Yes' to new arena
On Nov. 7, Houston voters will have the opportunity -- again -- to vote on whether to give the Rockets a new arena.
The referendum, which failed last year by 10 percent, asks Houstonians to allocate tax funds from car and hotel room rentals to pay for a new arena, in which the Rockets and Comets will play.
The deal is worse this year than last. The taxes are higher, and the amount that the Rockets will be paying -- $7 million a year -- is lower.
But it has been made clear that if the Rockets don't get what they want this time, they'll walk, leaving Houston without a basketball team.
Many voters say that's fine with them: The Oilers did the same thing, and we got another football team. The problem is that Houston ended up paying more to get the Texans than it would have had to pay to keep the Oilers in the first place.
The new deal with the Rockets will, in theory, take no money from the pockets of most Houstonians, because the revenue is supposed to come from tourists.
Some have called it "corporate welfare." The city will use public funds to help support a private business, and this bothers many people. Others see it as the last chance to keep an NBA team in Houston -- because that's what it is.
If it feels like Houston's being held hostage, there's a reason for that. The choice we're being offered is no choice, really. Either we pamper rich players and owners or we lose our basketball team.
There may be a lighter side to it. Proponents of the arena claim it will generate new revenues and a large number of jobs. It will help continue the development of the east side of downtown.
Opponents are afraid that very little of the revenue will be seen by working-class Houstonians and that the new jobs will disappear as soon as the arena is built.
Whatever the case, and however bad the deal is, it looks like it's this one or none at all. If the arena is voted down and the Rockets leave, no one will be any happier. We might get another basketball team in a few years, but we'll still have to build a new arena at that time.
If the vote passes, being a tourist in Houston will become more expensive. More public funds will be allocated to a private business to stop its whining. But at least we'll have a basketball team.
It's not a good deal, but it's the only one Houston can get.