Officials Say Chronicle "Just Wrong" in Story on Future of Astrodome
If everyone has a plan, then no one has a plan
A report came out in last week's Houston Chronicle purporting to detail a "vote on an unspecified plan concerning what to do with the Astrodome." According to John McClain, the board of the Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation was set to approve the plan and shuffle it to the Harris County Commissioners Court. "If county commissioners give their approval," McClain wrote, "the plan could eventually be voted on by the public."
This information was sourced to a "person" close to the situation. It is also incorrect.
"[The Chronicle's report] was just wrong," Kevin Hoffman, HCSCC's deputy executive director, told Hair Balls. "There's a lot of speculation in the community regarding it, but we've been very careful and diligent in trying to get accurate information out."
Joe Stinebaker, the director of communications in the Harris County judge's office, was at least a bit softer in his judgment of the original story
"[They] got it kind of wrong," Stinebaker told Hair Balls.
While we wait for a retraction -- which, hey, might not come; that's the blessing of anonymous sourcing -- we'll try to detail for you what's actually going on with the HCSCC this week. The board will indeed meet this week, coming together to decide the next step on potential movement on the Dome. But there's no "unspecified plan" that the public has thus far been kept in the dark about. Rather, according to Hoffman, the board will be looking for a resolution on a time-frame to have a set of plans to move to the Commissioners Court by June 25th, when the court will hold its annual Capital Improvements hearing.
"This is just the beginning of process -- the process is going to be moving towards having something to present the Commissioners Court" by June 25th, Hoffman said. "We want to have the opportunity to put something before them, something well-thought-out that can either address a public purpose or have some private financing associated [with] the resolution."
While Hoffman did say that there would be a vetting process involved with certain proposals -- they're not simply going to shunt every idea directly to the court -- Stinebaker confirmed that he believed HCSCC would present both private and public proposals on June 25th.
"I think it's a fairly legitimate expectation ... that they're going to evaluate and determine feasibility of privately financed proposals -- to build hotels, to build indoor ski slopes -- and they'll say by June 25th, they'll have everyone's stuff on record," Stinebaker said. "They're also going to collate public use recommendations, how county taxpayers could pay to convert it into an open-air park, or an indoor festival venue. Or, No. 3 -- they could say that it could be torn down."
Once the decision is passed to the court, the HCSCC can wash their hands of the matter. And while the step following remains up in the air -- there are conflicting reports as to whether or not the court would even be able to place the final decision on a referendum for Harris County -- it's clear that there isn't some unsaid plan running the halls of the HCSCC, waiting to be sprung on an unsuspecting populace.
"There's a decent chance that the future of the dome will be put to a vote," Stinebaker said. "Nov. 2013 is the potential earliest date, which is why HCSCC is moving along on the timeline they are."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.