City council wants tax hike; world ends

Well, maybe not exactly the world ending, though yesterday’s “weather event” certainly gave one pause.

Who would have thought that the southern Dallas members of the City Council, who have supported Mayor Park Cities through thick and thin — and who have received almost nothing in return –would have revolted over something as politically sensitive as a property tax rate increase? Throw in M Steets councilwoman Angela Hunt, who is the eighth vote for a tax hike, and we’re looking at paying an average of $70 more a home in property taxes next year.

More, after the jump:

I’m still opposed to a tax increase, despite the council’s refreshing show of independence. This council is too scarred by its past mistakes with the Trinity toll road, the convention center hotel, and the like, to be trusted.

But make no mistake. This is a huge defeat for Leppert, who spent a tremendous amount of his political capital fighting a tax hike. And, in truest Leppert fashion, did he try to build bridges (pun fully intended) with the people who opposed him? Nope. He whined like a kid who had to go to bed without watching his favorite TV show. The thing that most annoys me about Leppert is not the issues we disagree on; rather, it’s that he is such a poor loser.

The key to political success is not winning every vote. It’s figuring out why you lost, and using that information to win the next time. Leppert has never understood this, and it’s one reason why he won’t ever be a U.S. senator. For example, he has gone out his way to punish Hunt, who is the only council member to regularly stand up to him. What if he had been more adult about Hunt’s opposition? Would that have made it more difficult for her to vote for a tax hike?

One piece of advice for Leppert (which he will, of course, ignore). Be careful how you fight this, because you could well turn it into as battle between the mostly white Dallas that lives north of the Trinity, and the mostly black and brown Dallas that lives south of it. Because if Leppert thinks a tax hike is going to be bad for Dallas’ image, he really needs to worry about how the rest of the country will see Dallas if this turns into a racial dispute.

The other loser is city manager Mary Suhm, whose cut and burn budget could have been used as a Leppert senatorial campaign flier. She decided, for whatever reason, to eviscerate the parks and libraries and streets — the things that those of us without gated subdivisions and helicopters care about. If it’s unbelievable that eight members of the council voted to raise the property tax rate, it’s doubly unbelievable that they crossed Suhm to do it.

It may seem odd to the rest of us, but the city manager is practically god-like downtown. Ask a council member about her, and they make Suhm sound like Mother Teresa, Troy Aikman and George Washington rolled into one. Maybe, just maybe, some of them will now realize that she has her own agenda, and it may not be what’s best for the city.

There is still a chance we won’t see a tax hike. Leppert says he has a trick up his sleeve. But whatever happens, we saw something yesterday that shows that democracy, though rarely understood in Dallas, still exists. It was nice to see, actually.


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  • Michael Spain

    Do you have anything to back up the anecdotal demographic statistics you cite regarding those north and south of the Trinity? You may be correct…though things have been changing the last few years. Just wonder if those “mostly” comments are still current. Good article otherwise. Enjoyed the “fully intended” pun.