Let’s make one thing clear at the start: The city is broke, so any donation — even from a company as flawed as Oncor — is welcome. The problem, of course, is that Mayor Park Cities’ “coup” is the equivalent of hitting Mom and Dad up for gas money. What are we going to do when we need to buy gas again?
More, after the jump:
Talk to people who are supposed to know about these things, and they’ll tell you that Leppert’s biggest liability as a candidate for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate is that he isn’t conservative enough for Texas, especially on social issues.
Hence Leppert’s obsession with pushing the 2010-11 budget through without a tax increase, even if the overwhelming sentiment at most of the first town hall budget meetings was to raise property taxes to restore the worst cuts to the park system. Dallas may offer employee benefits to domestic partners, but the mayor, by God, is holding the line on taxes.
Or, as M Streets councilwoman Angela Hunt told me after the Lakewood town hall meeting (which Leppert attended, much to everyone’s surprise): “My sense is that in his attempt for higher political office he is trying to appeal to conservative Republicans with his stance on taxes. But when he’s long gone, whether it’s to Washington or elsewhere, you and I will still be dealing with the pot holes and the cuts to the library and to the park system. But he’ll be able to brag that he didn’t raise taxes.”
And hence Oncor’s $1 million donation to the park system. The buzzwords that conservative voters love are all there — public-private partnership, seed money, long-term initiative. Leppert is even hopping on conservative heart throb Mike Huckabee’s physical fitness bandwagon; the money is supposed to be used for youth fitness.
We can argue about Oncor’s sincerity in making the donation, though that’s not the issue here. Even a company as widely disliked as Oncor is allowed to burnish its public image. And only a stinker like me would point out that Oncor is a $2.7 billion company, so its $1 million donation is the equivalent of a $40 gift from someone who makes $100,000 a year.
The issue is that it may not be enough to prevent a property tax hike. It’s not enough money, for one thing. And the other is that the normally docile city council, which has followed Leppert around like a small child in search of ice cream for 3 1/2 years, is apparently in full revolt. Or at least as close as it gets to full revolt, if yesterday’s budget hearing walkout means anything. Assuming they stick to their guns, always a question with this group, there may well be enough votes for a small property tax increase.
I’m still opposed to a tax increase. I don’t trust the council to spend it properly, and I trust city manager Mary Suhm even less to administer it properly. But if we do get one, it will be fun to watch how Leppert tries to twist it to his political advantage.