Get real

Arena shills say only tourists will get soaked by a new tax on rental cars. They're lying.

Pay another $1.69...for a sports arena? No way. "I don't want my taxes to pay for it," Larson says. "Not that I'm against an arena--I just don't think I should have to pay for it. If the teams want it bad enough, let them pay."

Kathy Mead doesn't want to pay for an arena either. She's another single woman on a modest income--a 52-year-old widow who lives in a small apartment one block from noisy Central Expressway.

Each time her battered, 1978 red Mercury station wagon breaks down, she's had to rent a car from Enterprise while it was getting repaired. On November 5, it was a leaky radiator that forced her into a rental car for an entire week--at a cost of $219.99.

"I wonder if any of these team owners have ever rented a car--or paid for it out of their pockets," Mead says. "And who is this councilman saying that working people don't rent cars? If he was pompous enough to make that statement, I wonder what it would take to get him out of office."

Patty Jones is another person Loza ought to meet. "I rent a car every weekend from Enterprise," Jones says. "I'm afraid that if I use my car on the weekends, it won't hold up for work."

Jones is a 29-year-old billing clerk at a private ambulance company in Carrollton. She lives by herself in an apartment on Northwest Highway in Dallas and prays every day that her 1987 Mustang with "well over 100,000 miles on it" gets her to the job.

On her $21,580 annual salary, Jones pays her rent, her gas, her food, her rental car bills, and her tuition at Northlake College, where she is studying real estate--her dream profession. She sends what's left to her 13-year-old son, who lives with her parents in her hometown of Paris, Texas.

That's why she needs the rental car every weekend--to see her son. "As far as job opportunities, I can't get anything going down there [in Paris]," Jones says. "My best friend in Paris works at Kimberly-Clark, but I refuse to work in a factory. I've been here in Dallas off and on since I was 18. I can find a job easy."

Jones knows she needs to buy a new car, but all the costs associated with that are daunting. Although Jones shudders to think what she's spent on rental cars this year, Enterprise's records say it all--$2,003.83. And if an additional 5 percent arena tax had been in effect, Jones would have paid $100 more--to Messieurs Perot and Hicks.

"I wouldn't get any use out of their arena, either," she says. "It's just more taxes to me."

Of course, Enterprise isn't the only game in town. The 5 percent arena tax will also be imposed by every rental company operating at Love Field, where there are thousands of out-of-town business travelers--and certainly some tourists--to soak for the money.

But there are plenty of Dallas residents renting cars there, too, especially on weekends when the rates plummet. For the sake of comparison, I received permission from Bob Hayes, owner of the Avis franchise at Love Field, to review his rental contracts for that same time period beginning November 3. (The number of Avis contracts was so enormous that I limited my review to seven days--Monday through Sunday.)

During those seven days, a whopping 1,177 people rented cars. Only 161 of them were Dallas residents. But the local renters I spoke to--like their counterparts at Enterprise--were people of very modest means. (And I didn't have to dig deep to find them. The four people described in this story were four of only seven rental-car customers I contacted.) These Dallasites are the last people in town who can afford to pay for a $230 million sports arena.

Just meet Kevin Meyers.
Meyers is a 26-year-old employee of a temporary service that supplies clerks and secretaries to local law firms. The service pays him $9.50 an hour, barely enough to eat and cover the rent on his $350-a-month studio apartment above an Oak Lawn garage. It's certainly not enough money for him to buy a car. (He owned an '86 Isuzu until 23 months ago, when the head gasket blew out, leaving him car-less.)

So Meyers takes a DART bus to work each day, and once or twice a month he hops the No. 39 bus to Love Field and rents a compact car--usually at the $19.99-a-day weekend rate--so he can go grocery shopping, take the cat to the vet, or treat himself to an occasional weekend in Austin.

"What's wrong with the arena we have?" asks Meyers, a definite source of steady income for the new arena if the voters approve it next month. "Can't Ross Perot Sr. fork up some dough? I mean, $230 million to the Perots is like, what, two weeks' pay? Seriously. I just think the rich get richer."

And people like John Loza--elected by the little guy, clearly dazzled by the Big Guys--help them do it.

This past weekend, shortly after my conversation with Meyers, I called Loza to give him the opportunity to further opine about the condition of the lowly working man--specifically the thousands upon thousands of them who rent cars and who will soon pay more for the privilege if Councilman Loza gets his way.

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