Baby Mitch

What happened to city council's sharpest fiscal conservative?

So Rasansky thought I meant the $50 million was the shortfall for the whole project, instead of just for the park access roads?

"For the park roads," I said. "We're talking about the park roads."

"No!" he said. "You asked me about the $50 million..."

Mitch Rasansky used to be Mr. Fiscal Conservative. Now he's Mr. Whoopee!
Mitch Rasansky used to be Mr. Fiscal Conservative. Now he's Mr. Whoopee!

"Well," I interrupted, "that's just for the park roads."

"No! That's not for...I just talked to her, Jim! She gave me...You called me and you told me about this $50 million, and I called her, Jim, and I wanted to know, 'What is this $50 million that Jim Schutze is talking about?'

"I said, 'You know I don't remember everything, Mary. Tell me what the $50 million is.' And she said, 'Well, it's for the bells and whistles.'

"She said it's improvements to the bridges and the reunion deck and some additional park roads, and we're adding this whitewater thing that was not in there. So you know these are extras that you always run into."

Nope. That is not how it goes. Multiple elements of the park plan are now enormously underfunded. The city has already shown its hand on how it plans to get them funded. In fact it was Rasansky himself who warned his constituents in a mailer last year that the city had slipped what he claimed was $163 million in Trinity project money into the bond program without ever telling voters that was what the money was for.

I don't know where he got that $163 million. My numbers are straight from Rebecca Dugger and Mary Suhm, confirmed in a meeting I had a year ago with Suhm, Dugger, Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan and former Mayor Laura Miller. In that meeting, Suhm, Dugger and Miller conceded that the city's most recent bond program included $73 million for the Trinity project, even though the ballot language presented to voters never mentioned the Trinity project.

Why is that significant? Because people like former Mayor Ron Kirk and our new mayor, Tom Leppert, are going around promising Dallas taxpayers that they will never have to invest more than the $246 million we voted for the project in 1998. That's simply a lie. We already have invested another 30 percent. They just didn't tell us about it.

After 10 years spent raising money from state, federal and private sources, the city is still short $5.87 million for what it will cost to put water in the proposed lakes.

You know those watercolors they always show with the nice pavilions and boardwalks downtown? They're short $6.68 million just for the cost of the pavilions and boardwalks.

They've done the fund-raising. They've wrung the last drop of blood from the turnip. And they're still short another $4.83 million for construction of the second lake. They're short $5 million for the wetlands.

Here's one I like. They're short $18.83 million for the cost of building "trails."

No roads. No water. No trails. Maybe no lake. Just me, the skeeters and the water moccasins. I ain't goin'.

Oh, but we are definitely going to get that toll road built. When I spoke with Suhm et. al. last year, the shortfall for the toll road—after the state money comes in, after the federal money, after the toll road money—was still $461 million.

And we know exactly how that is going to be paid for and by whom, because the city has shown us. It's going to be paid for by us. We are going to vote bonds for it. And we are not going to know we're voting for it, because those old masters of the tricky ballot language—the same people who forgot to mention the words "toll road" in the initial bond election in 1998—are going to slip it past us.

Here's what I don't get. I thought Rasansky was the wizard on this stuff. When I asked him about his mailer a year ago warning constituents that Trinity projects were being slipped into the bond program, he told me he didn't remember it and would have to "check my files."

For me, there's a human bottom line here, and it is that Mitchell Rasansky is a good man. He's an honest man. And he means well. He cares about his constituents.

But I wind up asking myself the same thing I wonder about the lot of them. How can they really not know this stuff? How can they know it briefly and then forget?

Bells and whistles? Bells and whistles? I hear a whistle, all right. The guy blowing it is wearing a white suit, and he carries a very large net.

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