Leppert blasts Love Field sweetheart deal

Awhile back, I mentioned that I hoped Mayor Tom Leppert would stick around for for the upcoming city budget year because now that he’s done running big deals like the convention center hotel and the Trinity Tollway past voters, he’s going to have to get down to the actual business of running the city.

Thursday, he did just that.

Leppert is leading the charge against a no-bid Love Field concessions sweetheart deal with companies owned and/or operated by U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, State Rep. Helen Giddings and former Citizens Council chair Gilbert Aranza, according to the DMN in a good story by Rudolph Bush Thursday.

Sure, to regular people like you and me, Leppert’s position is a no-brainer: Of course, it’s idiotic for the city to award a multimillion-dollar contract to sell concessions at the airport on a no-bid basis. It doesn’t take a brainiac to know that a contract bid-out to all-comers is likely to bring more money than one simply awarded to the incumbent concessionaires (see above).

But to some of the councilmen who surround Leppert at the horseshoe say giving a no-bid deal that benefits politicians like Johnson and Giddings makes sense because of all they’ve done for the city as part of their political jobs; they brought us all kinds of federal and state dollars, so of course they deserve a big contract from the city without having to suffer the indignity of actually bidding for it.

So last week, Leppert set up a special council committee to review the deal, and Thursday he took it upon himself to be judge, jury and executioner during the committee meeting, attempting to kill the deal on his own.

He even ferreted out some information that will come back to haunt him if he’s still around when the convention center hotel is completed: City staff originally wanted to bid the contract out, but “some council members” didn’t think that was a good idea. So the city hired a consultant to tell them what the council members wanted to hear (the incumbent concessionaires deserved their deals), and the staff went about trying to make that happen. (Convention center hotel operations clue: The assistant city manager running this concessions deal, buckling to council pressure and hiring the consultant is likely to be the same guy overseeing the third-party manager operating our hotel; what do you think he’s going to do the first time a council members asks for 10 comp rooms for a party?)

Anyway, Leppert is doing the right thing here by making the Love Field deal subject to so much light that even the council reps who argued for a no-bid deal last week are going to have a hard time doing that next week.

I don’t know what the implications of this council-splitting will be on the city’s coming budget battle, but I can tell you this: Some of the people who have been Leppert’s pals up to this point are going to be looking for a soft place under his suit to stick their political knives in a few months.

 


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