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Hotel opponents blast county ruling

by: METRO - Artists rendering of proposed Headquarters Hotel.Opponents of the Headquarters Hotel proposed by Metro at the Oregon Convention Center reacted angrily Tuesday to word from the multnomah County Elections Division that they cannot refer part of the financing plan to the ballot.

The opponents, which include a number of downtown hotel owners, want to refer the Multnomah County Commission's decision to potentially fund any shortfall in the $200 million project with visitor taxes levied on other hotels and motels.

But in a Dec. 31 letter, Multnomah County Elections Director Tim Scott said he had determined the commission's action could not be refered to the ballot. Scott said that after consulting with the Multnomah County Counsel, he concluded the action was administrative. The Multnomah County Code only allows legislative decisions to be referred to voters, Scott wrote.

Opponents claim the project will require $100 million public subsidies and that it should be approved by the voters.

"The decision by the Multnomah County Elections Division is a naked attempt to avoid public accountability and to deny the right of the voters to have the final say on this highly flawed deal. Throughout this process, local officials have failed the test of transparency, spending months concealing the terms of the deal behind a wall of self-serving hype. Now Multnomah County is joining in, using an obvious delaying tactic to try to keep their misguided decision to rubberstamp Metro’s scheme from being referred to the ballot," Sandeep Kaushik, a spokesman for the Coalition for Fair Budget Priorities, said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon.

The coalition has approximately 90 days to collect around 11,000 valid Multnomah County voter signatures to refer the commission's action to the ballot. It plans on appealing the decision to the Multnomah County Circuit Court.