By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Government is government. Business is business.
She is young and urban, not old and suburban, so she's going to wind up at odds with things like a high-speed commuter bypass highway through what should have been a gorgeous downtown park. And she is going to be "liberal" on diversity questions—a designation that has less and less precision the farther down the age scale you go. By the time you get into the 20-somethings, you find lots of liberal non-racists and conservative non-racists—part of what makes the Barack Obama thing so intriguing.
When people listen closely to what Hunt has to say about the prospect of a city-owned hotel for the convention center, they will hear a basically conservative line: In remarks about it so far, she has said that City Hall should tend to the job it's supposed to do—gutters, sewers, sidewalks and cops—and not go off on high-risk private-sector flings like a hotel project.
"It's so much harder to do the mundane," she said to me last week. "Where can we cut? How can we get back to where we can do the basics? Going through the budget is such tedious work. It's so much more fun to do these big projects."
The other side—the side pushed so aggressively by The Dallas Morning News and the mayor—is the one promoting public-sector excursions into private-sector activities. That's why it's so interesting to listen to Hunt's only ally on the council on this issue, Mitchell Rasansky.
Rasansky, a real estate guy himself, doesn't waste a lot of time on philosophy. He says he knows real estate, and he knows that the city council doesn't know real estate. So why get into it?
I could have teased out all these same kinds of issues from the Trinity River debate, with one major difference. All the money was on one side. In the convention center hotel fight, the money is deeply divided.
On one side you've got Robert Decherd, head of the company that owns the Morning News along with a heck of a lot of downtown real estate right next to the place where the hotel would be built. He wants it. On the other side you have Harlan Crow and an alliance of private hotel owners who think a city-owned, tax-exempt hotel will confront them with unfair competition.
In recent days, suggestions have grown stronger that we may see a well-funded petition drive calling for a referendum on the hotel. If that happens, I haven't just died and gone to heaven. I'm in heaven, and they've put me on the admissions desk.
If we see vigorous debate in Dallas with some parity of forces on at least two sides, then the true underlying issues may be illuminated in a brand-new way for Dallas. And I'm actually not talking only about flying teeth and hair-pulling. Go back to the Broadway issue, for example.
Both sides in that fight have strong arguments to make. Michael Jenkins is one of three people who have produced successful Broadway theater in this city since the Summer Musicals began in 1941. But the CPA is a very serious, extremely well-funded new kid on the block. They contend that a little competition will spice the soup, not spoil it.
Strange things happen when rich people fight rich people. Conceivably, I could be forced at some point to choose sides, which would put me on the side of Dallas rich people. I don't even know if I could handle that. That may be the point where I just go get a sandwich board and start letting my beard grow.
The Broadway Brouhaha is not going to produce a referendum, but the Hotel Hoopla might. If it does, who knows exactly how it will shake out, with Harlan Crow behind it? We could wind up with no convention hotel but with City Hall turned into a hotel, to be run by Crow.
In the largest sense—utterly foolish as this may be even to utter—I have to wonder if Dallas might not even be evolving to a new, more truly urban condition. If we've got enough arts mavens to argue amongst themselves and enough moguls to fight each other, then isn't that a sign we're not a hick town anymore?
The Crows, though. I'm just not sure. They have a certain history. The old man, Trammell, was always very independent. Maybe it's just genetic for those Crows to take on the rest of the gang every once in a while.
My real dream? The shimmering vision? One day I want to see a knock-down, drag-out, eye-gouging, head-butting free-for-all between Robert Decherd and oilman billionaire Ray Hunt. Then we'll be on the way to being New York.
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