By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Pounders composed a brief for the attorney general telling him why I should not be allowed to read the crossed-out word. I thought it was a very well-written brief. The crossed-out word, you see, identified an extremely major real estate client who was interested in building a large office tower next to or under or somehow in conjunction with the bridge.
Almost everything in the report was about this client. If the city went ahead with the plain old vanilla bridge, Insight Research said, the crossed-out client was interested in building only a 400,000-square-foot building next to it. But if the city built a Calatrava bridge instead, the crossed-out client was going to triple the deal. He -- or she, or they -- would put in 1,200,000 square feet, based just on being next to a genuine Calatrava bridge.
In his brief to the attorney general, Pounders cited Texas law, which says a government doesn't have to reveal the name of someone who is in the middle of doing a land deal with that government.
I sent Attorney General John Cornyn a letter saying I did not believe the crossed-out word needed to be crossed out. We went back and forth a little bit. Pounders wrote more briefs, I wrote more letters. But I don't think my letters were anywhere near as good as Pounders' briefs.
Neither did the AG. He shot me down and said the city of Dallas did not have to show me the crossed-out word.
And you can see the logic. If the deal isn't consummated yet, and if the Dallas Observer publishes the name of the party doing the deal, it could scare the party off and screw up the deal. And since I do know the name of this party, I have to say this does happen to be a party who sometimes has a very foul temper.
Furthermore, it has been my experience that this party, whose name I am going to reveal in a moment, is sometimes very cheap and doesn't always behave well. I've even seen this party drinking too much beer at the ballpark. I have seen this party at the airport in unseemly dress. In fact, you name it, I've seen this party do it: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Hey, if it's not true, the party can just sue me.
Here's the point of the whole thing: Pounders had to cross out the word from the report, and then he had to write multiple briefs for the Texas Attorney General on your ticket, because it was so very important that this party's name not be revealed to you.
To you. The public. It's not really about me. I'm not what counts. I'm just the blabbermouth. It's you who can't know. The argument here was that if you knew who this guy was, it might just scotch the whole deal.
Why am I going to tell you? Because I'm a blabbermouth. It's legal for them to try to keep it a secret. It's legal for me to blab if I find out.
And now, the big moment. The crossed-out client whose secret identity you must not be told is...envelope, please...the client is...
Yeah, you. The public. The crossed-out word was "public." The other word was "government."
They both mean you. You're who's going to build a building next to the bridge. You're going to build 400,000 square feet of public office building if there's just a plain old vanilla bridge. But here's the magic thing: If there's a Calatrava bridge, you're going to build three times that much government office space.
Why would you build a government office building three times bigger just because it's next to a Calatrava bridge? So the government can look at the bridge, dummy.
That's what all that fight was about. That was why I couldn't see the word. Most of Insight Research's predicted tax windfall from the bridge was based on the assumption that some branch of government -- city, county, state, federal, who knows? -- would come in and put an office tower next to the bridge.
That's not what we call genuine private-sector interest, is it?
But, wait: If it's public, doesn't that make it tax-exempt? I tried several times to reach Elizabeth Morris, president and CEO of Insight Research, and I left a long message on her voice mail telling her what I wanted to ask about, but a person in her office finally told me she was really busy and would never be calling me back.
So, anyway, here's the drill: You are going to make money by building a bridge that will be so attractive that you will not be able to resist building a big office tower next to it. The tragedy is that, later on, you are going to find out that your office tower is tax-exempt, so you won't be able to tax yourself to pay yourself back for your bridge.
I wish we had a minaret right next to the river, from which we could broadcast the weary voice of Jack's mother, chanting over and over like a call to prayer, "Jack, where is the money for the cow?"