Well, it's one way to put a positive spin on a series of bad situations. Countdown to Downtown offers a public celebration of food, music and fireworks to counter the rather unfortunate history of the infamous convention center hotel project. To give you some idea of the large public-relations weight placed on the organizer's broad shoulders, let us recap:
In 1997 a federal grand jury indicted a former Houston port commissioner, an aide and two residing and two former City Councilmembers on bribery and conspiracy charges after an FBI sting operation in which two agents posed as investors looking to buy their way into the hotel project. Of the original Hotel Six, three walked free after two hung juries, one was acquitted and two Hispanic leaders, Ben Reyes and Betti Maldonado, were convicted and are serving out their sentences.
Council shelved the original plan for the hotel, now known as the Hilton Americas.
This also just so happens to be the hotel that, lest anything distract from its image as a future lure to convention business, had a section of Dallas Street renamed Lamar to prevent any unwanted thoughts of that other Texas city to the north.
As they prepare to break ground three years after the hotel was originally scheduled to open (now shifted to sometime in 2003), who can blame officials for putting their best face forward? That face happens to belong to Wynonna Judd, whose performance will follow La Mafia's and will precede 12 minutes of fireworks. As a little added PR insurance, the event will double as a salute to Houston's volunteers who came to the city's aid after Tropical Storm Allison. As far as we know, no one can link that catastrophe to the hotel.
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