Hinojosa vs. Leppert: Why does one always receive a pass?

Over the weekend, the DMN wrote two stories about two Dallas leaders who seemed to have said one thing a few years ago, but today seem to be saying something else.

At DISD, Supt. Michael Hinojosa is on his perpetual hot seat again, this time for saying five years ago when he was hired that his goal was to have DISD win the Broad Prize (a national public school award) in 2010. It was a relatively worthy goal, assuming the main point was to improve DISD enough to put the district in position to win the prize, as opposed to Hinojosa betting his job on winning the award or being forced to walk the plank. Well, last week — five years later — the Broad people announced this year’s finalists, and DISD wasn’t among them. And then Hinojosa said that what he really meant back then was that DISD would win the Broad Prize in 2011 based on 2010 test scores, which obviously aren’t complete yet.

Meanwhile, back at the Trinity, the DMN reports that state highway officials seem to have suddenly found religion on the delayed-forever Trinity Tollway and now are saying that even without the Tollway, they need to move forward repairing the Mixmaster and other Downtown traffic clogs. No problem with any of that, except the highway guys and all of the Trinity Tollway supporters — including Mayor Tom Leppert — told us during the referendum a couple of years ago that without the Tollway, the rest of the roadway improvements couldn’t happen. When the DMN contacted Leppert to explain the discrepancy, he denied there was one and said that despite what we heard him say then (no Tollway, no other roadway improvements), that’s not exactly what he meant.

More after the jump…

See the difference here? Hinojosa said something a few years ago, made a bunch of progress toward achieving what he said, and now he’s being fried in the media for saying what we heard back then wasn’t exactly correct. And Leppert said something a few years ago, got us to approve the Tollway based on what he said, and now is getting a free pass from the media for saying what we heard back then wasn’t exactly correct.

So why is Hinojosa on his way out and fending off attackers, including this helpful advice from the DMN editorial board, and Leppert is on the way up? I’m glad you asked.

There is no more difficult job in the United States than being superintendent of a major urban school district. Just like being manager of a baseball team, the day you’re hired is just one day closer to the day you’ll be fired. People want results, and no matter what you do — win or lose — sooner or later, once-adoring fans become sick of you, and you’re gone.

Hinojosa is going on five years here, and that puts him ahead of most of his successors. But self-proclaimed teachers freely dispense their venom toward him on the DMN’s relatively unsupervised education blog, the Dallas business community tried to mutiny last year and take over the district, and his detractors now outnumber supports on the school board thanks to some poorly thought-out electioneering prior to the last election. Hinojosa is a dead man walking, and unfortunately, it’s just a matter of time before he’s out and we’re all hearing some new person tell us what we want to hear about DISD.

Those lucky enough to be mayor of Dallas, however, seem to be landing a job that comes with a free Teflon suit — say and do what you want, and as long as you’re not caught with your hand in the cookie jar, you’re going to be much-loved as long as you hang around. It worked for Ron Kirk, it mostly worked for Laura Miller and it’s working for Leppert now. Yes, the guy gets things done, but at least on the major issues (the Tollway and the convention center), he sure seems to have taken some liberty with the facts in order to get his way.

Isn’t that the same thing people are angrily accusing Hinojosa of doing today, even as Leppert lays plans to get out of town and run for the soon-to-be-vacant U.S. Senate seat.

I know why we can’t all get along, and never will, but why can’t we treat Leppert and Hinojosa the same way?


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