"If politics is the art of the possible," editor Marc Eisen writes in the debut of his opinion and analysis column, 608, "the convention center deliberations must be the theater of the absurd. City leaders, we're told, have given birth to a dream convention center and hotel overlooking Lake Monona. One problem: It doesn't have the foggiest chance of being built." Even with TIF, parking bonds, room taxes and other soft money, he explains, homeowners will foot almost $27 million of the project's estimated $46.2 million cost. "Developer Dick Munz shouldn't be blamed," Eisen contends. "To his credit, he has given the city exactly the project it asked for. The real problem is that city leaders, while putting out specifications for a state-of-the-art convention complex, have never committed themselves to paying for what they sought." Eisen points out that the city's "highhanded treatment of John Q. Hammons - the nation's largest Holiday Inn developer - forced him into Middleton where he plans to build a convention center with a new hotel four times the size of the modest meeting space he wanted to build on Madison's west side. Not surprisingly, the city's newest consultant is already warning that Hammons' Middleton facility will drain convention business from Madison's downtown." The proposed project does indeed go down in flames. After a couple more failed attempts to site a downtown convention center, the Monona Terrace proposal survives a stiff challenge to open in 1997. Hammons opens his Holiday Inn in Middleton at 1313 John Q. Hammons Dr. in late 1990, converting it to a Marriott in early 1998; today, his empire includes more than 200 properties.