How badly does Mayor Park Cities want to be a U.S. senator? So badly that he has double-crossed his black and brown allies on the city council and is counting on the vote of the one person on the council he has repeatedly stabbed in the back to pass his plan to ban no-bid concessions at Love Field.
This mess, which would be funny if it wasn’t so typical of what passes for political sophistication around here, is all about last year’s conviction of Dallas city councilman Don Hill on corruption charges. Leppert’s handlers need an issue to distance the mayor from the Hill scandal — which any opponent would be an idiot not to bring up — if and when Leppert runs for senator. What better issue than coming out against no-bid contracts? By God, Leppert will thunder on the campaign trail, I didn’t let those people in Dallas waste any taxpayer money with their cronyism and shady practices.
That Leppert has approved no-bid contracts during his tenure on the DFW airport board will be only a minor inconvenience.Hence the mayor’s decision to repay the minority council members, who have done everything he has asked, and then some, by tarring them with the corruption brush. Thanks for voting with me on the Trinity and the convention center hotel. But I need you for something else now.
I understand the council member’s anger (although they’re wrong on the issue). What I don’t understand is why they’re surprised. Leppert has done nothing for them, save for some media opportunities at grocery stores. He has done what almost every Anglo, business-backed mayor has done for as long as I have been in Dallas — used the minority community to pass the Anglo, business-backed agenda. The minority community gets thrown a few consolation prizes, like no-bid contracts, and they think they’re equal partners. They’re not. And, sadly, almost no one south of the Trinity understands this.
All of this is cynical enough. But what’s even funnier — again, if it wasn’t so sad — is that Leppert needs the one person on the council who doesn’t need him to get the no-bid ban approved. That would be East Dallas councilwoman Angela Hunt, who is apparently the deciding vote. Hunt, of course, has been the only council member to stand up to Leppert in the past three years. She led the toll road referendum, she has questioned his tax and spend budgets, and she has tried — without any help from the rest of the council — to hold the mayor accountable for his actions.
I haven’t talked to Hunt about this, but Leppert probably thinks he has her backed into a corner. If Hunt is the good government council member, which she is, then she has to vote with Leppert — regardless of how shabbily Leppert has treated her. Leppert is trying to hoist Hunt on her principles, and assuming she doesn’t have an option. It’s a tactic worthy of the great city bosses of the 20th century, like Dick Daley in Chicago and James Curley in Boston.
But Hunt may have out-maneuvered the mayor. She wants to postpone a vote on the contracts until August, when the council returns from its summer vacation. That gives Hunt a month to come up with a compromise that gets her out from the middle — and, perhaps, to save the council and the mayor from embarrassing themselves any further.