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Judge tosses Metro hotel referral challenge

by: COURTESY RENDERING - Artist rendering of proposed Oregon Convention Center Headquarters Hotel.Opponents of Metro's proposed Oregon Convention Center Headquarters Hotel are considering their options after a Multnomah County Circuit Court judge ruled their planned referral of the financing plan illegal.

Judge Eric Bloch ruled the county's decision that its hotel and motel taxes should backstop the $200-plus million project was an administrative action that cannot be referred to the voters. Multnomah County and metro had challenged the legality of the referral drive in court.

In response, Metro president Tom Hughes said, "I am pleased with Judge Bloch's ruling. We have been diligent in our review and approval of a sound proposal, one that imposes no risks to local taxpayers but generates an upside for years to come. It is time to move forward with this important project."

After the ruling, the Coalition for Fair Budget Priorities, which was behind the referral drive, issued the following statement:

“We are deeply disappointed by today’s decision,” said Paige Richardson, a spokesperson for the Coalition. “It has seemed obvious to us from the outset that the County’s arrogant effort to assist Metro in blocking a public vote on their deeply flawed hotel deal is a slap in the face to the voters.

“Today’s ruling, however, does not change the fact that throughout this process Metro and its political allies have gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid public scrutiny and accountability. Our coalition of more than 200 business owners and other concerned citizens continues to believe that the public, more than 20,000 of whom have signed our referendum petitions, should have the final say on this matter.

“Metro has consistently belittled the efforts of first hundreds, and now thousands, of local citizens who seek to have a voice in this matter. We are currently considering all our options to ensure voters have a say regarding this massive corporate subsidy. "