Jerk the Jerk

At long last, Mayor Miller and the city council give Tom Hicks' chain a good hard yank

To make things even worse, Hicks and Perot have refused to open up their own books on Reunion, in spite of information the council has seen indicating that expenses from the new arena have been improperly charged against the old one. (I tried to reach the Hicks/Perot people but was shunted to Lisa LeMaster, their PR agency. They faxed me some statements, but they never produced anybody with the balls to actually talk to me.)

All of this taken together puts most of the city council in a terrible position politically. Coming off 10 years of unparalleled growth in the tax base, the city is financially hammered, forced to slash basic services and fire employees, losing its bond rating, in a bad mess. The public impression is that a lot of this is happening because they've been giving away the store down there. In the middle of all that, the council gets Reunion back in its face like a big custard pie.

They look like fools.

Several weeks ago a number of committees of the council began trying to get the Perot/Hicks people to come talk to them about it. They never showed up. Even last week when the full council met to talk about it, nobody from the Perot/Hicks outfit even bothered to attend the meeting. It was like: "Aha, suckers, we got ours: Now eat Reunion and die!" The speeches made by individual council members at the full council meeting were devastating, and I'm not talking about the members who remotely could be considered critics of Hicks/Perot. The astonishing thing was the level of bitterness and tone of personal betrayal from people who have been among Hicks/Perot's most staunch defenders and advocates on the council. James Fantroy, one of the African-American members whose district is slated for a sluice of cash, said he would not have voted for the Palladium subsidy had he known then what he knows now.

Alan Walne, a Lake Highlands/North Dallas representative, himself a businessman with a long history of defending business interests at City Hall and specifically of voting for Hicks and Perot, said: "I can't even begin to explain to you how deeply this hit me." Walne said he had sought assurances from former Mayor Ron Kirk before Kirk left office that Hicks and Perot would not try to sleaze out of their five-year commitment. "I was told, as Mayor Kirk could do, in no uncertain terms that that wasn't going to happen.

"I know we heard from the attorneys from the standpoint of legally what's there," Walne said, "and Miss Poss has gone on about what's the legal obligation. But I don't do business strictly on legal obligation. When I give somebody my word in addition to that, that's more binding to me than what the attorneys can prove.

"I am very disappointed that Mayor Kirk couldn't have brought clarity to it and couldn't have made a phone call on behalf of the city to remind everybody what the deal was. And it's going to cost the city 2 million dollars."

Finally Walne said of Hicks and Perot: "I don't want to do business with these people."

The reality is that the council's threat to reopen the Palladium deal could go away. Mayor Miller and East Dallas council member Veletta Lill, a strong supporter of the mayor on this issue, both told me at the end of last week that Hicks and Perot could recapture the votes they need on the council. They could protect Palladium by backing off from their attempt to weasel out of the Reunion Arena management contract.

But think about that one for a minute. It means that Tom Hicks, in a strictly pragmatic and businesslike attempt to save his deal and cover his investors, takes his own sun visor in hand, shuffles back down the beach in his own thongs and says to the mayor, "I apologize. We shouldn't have tried to ditch out of Reunion. It won't happen again."

He does that, he's got his deal back. Guess what. He won't do it. This train wreck is going to keep right on happening, because this Little Leaguer can't make himself apologize to the first baseman the way the umpire told him to. Cannot do it. Not grown-up enough yet.

My next prediction? I'm going with projectile vomiting again, this time when all the people who put money into Palladium realize what is about to happen. Ladies and gentlemen, open your umbrellas!

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