This deal has become almost surreal — the Dallas mayor personally attacking a heretofore well-respected Dallas businessman over a proposed no-bid deal at Love Field.
Here’s an excerpt from this morning’s Leppert email to supporters: “one of the current vendors is spending large sums of money to publicly pressure Councilmembers to approve contract (sic) that would reap his firm millions of dollars. His efforts include a slick, inaccurate mailer urging voters to contract their city councilmember ‘…and encourage them to support my company.’ The unprecedented campaign is not about creating opportunities for others. It’s about protecting a single firm.” (Note: It will take a few seconds for the email to load in your browser.)
Granted, I agree with Leppert’s position on this deal: There’s absolutely no reason to allow a huge, 15-year-plus no-bid contract at Love Field. The whole thing involves public money, and there are plenty of small and large businesses who would love a crack at being vendors at Love Field. A carefully written request-for-proposal will weed out those who aren’t qualified, and I suspect that an open bid process would allow for a much greater revenue stream for the city.
So far, the only reason we’re really heard to allow the two current vendors to continue monopolizing Love Field is that they’re run by well-connected minorities who have done a lot for the city. On the face of it, that argument is just plain dopey, and the argument to open up the bidding seems like it should be a no-brainer for the city council, which could vote on the whole mess as early as Wednesday.
But let’s look at this another way, too: Gilbert Aranza’s original no-bid Love Field deal was endorsed by city staff and approved on a 10-0 vote by the council’s transportation committee a few months ago. So Aranza and the other company, owned in part by U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, had every reason to pop the champagne, and I can understand why they probably feel as if they’re being mistreated by the city right now.
So why is Leppert gutting his former allies publicly? As always, everything seems to point to his plans for a future political career on the big stage of state or national politics. This whole deal of governing locally seems to be wearing on him now that the “all-for-one” days of council votes appears to be ending as a result of the city’s budget crisis.
Why is it OK for Leppert to lobby voters on the vendor deal while at the same time he publicly abuses Aranza for doing the same thing? Aranza is entitled to spend his money protecting his own interests, and I didn’t see anything inaccurate in Aranza’s earlier missive. Really, what’s the difference between what Aranza is doing and what Leppert did with the convention center hotel debate: I recall receiving a couple of pieces in the mail from Leppert touting what I’m confident will be a money-losing monstrosity.
I hope Aranza loses when the council finally makes a decision on this deal. But he has every right to fight for the business, and Leppert needs to stick with the facts if he wants to win this argument.
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