Year in Review: The (almost) free lunch

One of the many advantages in relying on tourism for a chunk of our local economy is that it’s easy to do our part during a recession simply by selling the unvarnished truth to friends and family in need of a little vacation: San Antonio is a bargain — Segway tour of downtown and La Villita included — even with that extra 1.75-percent hotel tax and 5-percent auto-rental add-on that paid for the AT&T Center and will now seed a host of local amenities thanks to your yes vote last May. Make sure you thank them, too, when they come to town, because it’ll be a while before you can show off the hike-and-bike trails in the Park Segment of the River Improvements Project (breaking ground this spring, god willing) or take them to see the opera at the Bexar County `your name here, big spender!` Performing Arts Center (winter 2013, perhaps). Also partially funded by the $415 million windfall to come: amateur sports facilities, many of them linked to local colleges and universities, rodeo-ground upgrades, the Briscoe Western Art Museum, and the Alameda Theater. Thanks to higher-than-expected visitor-tax revenues, the AT&T Center has been ahead of its payment schedule, which encouraged our leaders to fund more popular public projects with out-of-town boodle. A longer economic downturn than currently predicted could have the opposite effect on this initiative, and suppress fundraising for the matching $$$. (Local philanthropic powerhouse Kronkosky is curtailing capital grants for the foreseeable future, i.e., but the Bexar County Performing Arts Foundation, which must raise at least $32 million, is taking the long view and sounds pretty sanguine.) Maybe City/Council sales team Guerra DeBerry Coody can help its namesake mayoral candidate come up with a recession-proof travel slogan for this spring’s campaign.

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