Before he left office at the beginning of this year, former Mayor Sam Adams was a leading proponent of building a 600-room hotel adjacent to the Oregon Convention Center.
Despite Adams' repeated efforts to find a way to finance such a hotel, the project foundered during the deep recession that plagued his mayoral term.
Now, Adams is the executive director of Portland City Club and critics of the resusitated hotel project say Adams has put his finger on the scale in his administration of a debate on the current incarnation of the project City Club has scheduled for next Friday.
Metro Council President Tom Hughes was scheduled to argue the "pro" side for the $198 million project that the Metro Council approved earlier this month (votes of the city council and county commission are still required before the deal can move forward).
Opponents of the deal, led by downtown hotelier Gordon Sondland, lined up Prof. Heywood Sanders of the University of Texas-San Antonio , perhaps the leading critic of convention center subsidies, to debate Hughes.
Sanders has written and spoken extensively about the failed convention center investments.
But Adams says he won't be appearing at City Club.
In a text message today to Paige Richardson, a political consultant working for Sondland, Adams said Sanders is disqualified from the hotel debate because he's not local.
"Often we have national figures on the City Club stage," Adams wrote. "For debates on local issues, it is the tradition to try and keep the speakers local."
In a statement, Richardson took issue with Adams' decision.
"It's astounding that Sam Adams, as the City Club Executive Director, would offer to have an open discussion on this important project but stack the deck as to who can appear at the debate," Richardson said. "It's no secret that this was one of Sam's pet projects as mayor but we didn't expect him to bring his bias to the City Club."
Updated at 2:15 pm:
After further discussion, Adams says Sanders will be invited to the debate and proponents will now substitute a national expert of their own for Hughes.
"These debates are very fluid," Adams tells WW.
"Sanders will be welcome after all," Adams says, "and the proponents will be represented by Tom Hazinski. He's also a national expert but with a different point of view than Mr. Sanders."
Hazinski is a consultant at HVS, a Chicago consulting firm that has worked on convention projects around the country.
The City Club debate will be held at the Governor Hotel at 12:15 pm on Sept. 6.