Recent weeks have produced one of the stranger sights in the endless debate over fake stucco and Raleigh’s downtown Marriott: Kieran Shanahan arguing in the hotel’s favor.

While on the City Council, Shanahan voiced some of the loudest opposition to the downtown convention center — now priced at $215 million — and the hotel that will serve it.

Shortly before he left the council in 2003, Shanahan cast the lone “no” vote over the expensive plan for downtown revival — a plan that forever linked the convention center and the Marriott. He argued that Raleigh had no reliable reason to think the center would draw any people.

“We are building underneath this box a black hole …,” he said at the time. “Anybody who votes for this is mortgaging the future of this city.”

In 2003, City Council member Philip Isley countered, “Kieran, I love you; I’m going to miss you next year. But I think you’re wrong.”

Shanahan replied, “I promise I won’t say, ‘I told you so.’ ”

Now Shanahan’s law firm represents Noble Investment, the Atlanta-based developer that plans to build the Marriott with $20 million in help from taxpayers.

He stood before his old colleagues recently — many of whom have misgivings about the Marriott — and said, “I know this council. I know you’re concerned about money.”

For two hours, he defended the Marriott against every criticism.

“I have noted that irony,” said Mayor Charles Meeker, a lawyer himself. “It shows lawyers can go both ways.”

Isley also picked up the strange vibe, but as a fellow lawyer, he could relate.

“We have to zealously defend our clients,” he said. “I appreciate some of the personal issues Kieran may have about what is going on downtown, and I appreciate how he’s been able to put those aside.”

Times and circumstances change. Council member Russ Stephenson can understand that, having supported the Marriott on the city’s Planning Commission and opposed it since his election to the council.

But now, if Shanahan does get to say “I told you so,” the council will have a ready-made reply:

“Which time?”

CONSERVATION AWARD: Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker has a new plaudit to add to his resume. The N.C. Wildlife Federation has selected its slate of conservation award winners from across the state, and Meeker was named Municipal Conservationist of the Year.

Among his accomplishments cited: He appointed a task force to develop a tree conservation program as a way of reversing a trend of clear-cutting that accompanies development; played an active role in correcting Raleigh’s sewage treatment plant problems; and has taken a stand on a controversial plan by the town of Butner to expand nitrogen pollution in Falls Lake, Raleigh’s drinking-water source.

The Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards ceremony will be held March 11 in Raleigh at the University Club at N.C. State University.

(Compiled by staff writer Josh Shaffer. Shaffer can be reached at 829-4818 or jshaffer@newsobserver.com)