By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
On February 22, city staff presented the committee with a detailed version of what had been discussed in April 2009, including the allotment of space, lease terms and capital requirements. The consultants estimated an increase in combined gross revenue for food and retail from $22.1 million with a $3.4 million return to the city in 2008 to $57.1 million and $7.6 million in 2015. The projection included square footage phased in from the space that is set for bids later this year.
"I think this is a brilliant plan the way you set it up and put it together," said vice-chair Sheffie Kadane.
"All I can say is: Don't anybody mess this up before it gets to the council," urged Natinsky.
"Congratulations to you all," said Koop after the committee approved the item to move forward for a full council vote by a 10-0 vote. "We appreciate all of your hard work."
The 10-member committee is composed of five whites, including Koop, Natinsky and Kadane, three blacks and two Latinos. Ann Margolin, who's white and not a member of the committee, attended the meeting and did not voice opposition to the contract extension.
Things were looking rosy for Star and Hudson until Leppert, who's not a member of the transportation committee, checked in.
After hearing the same briefing in front of the full council on March 3 from assistant city manager A.C. Gonzalez, Leppert began asking questions about the contracts. Most notably, he asked Gonzalez how the city could feel comfortable that it's getting the best deal without putting the entire space out for bids. Gonzalez replied that the price for space in the contracts was the industry standard and the consultant agreed, but Leppert countered that the price should be whatever an open market would bear.
"We just don't know, because we haven't bid it out," he said, later expressing his concerns about the lack of transparency and openness.
Leppert was the only council member to comment on the briefing.
Two days before the council's April 28 meeting, The Dallas Morning News published a front-page story detailing Leppert's concerns about the no-bid contracts, and an editorial titled "Ripping off taxpayers" followed the next day, in which the paper cited the "lack of transparency and fiduciary responsibility" surrounding the contracts.
Not to be outdone, metro columnist Steve Blow penned "How ethical is our city? We may find out today" on the day of the vote and referenced the "stout political connections" of those receiving the contracts. A story was also published that day about Southwest Airlines' desire to delay the vote.
Several council members expressed their disappointment with The News at the meeting, including Vonciel Hill, who specifically addressed Blow and the editorial board. "No one can challenge my integrity or my character," she said.
Giddings claimed the paper had impugned her integrity. She also listed her contributions to the community and said some council members had contributed to tarnishing her reputation.
Council member Carolyn Davis only fueled speculation that the contracts were rewards for politicos when she praised Giddings for helping council members find state money and also asked: "How much money has Congresswoman Johnson given to this city? Millions of dollars?"
Davis and Hill were the lone dissenters to delaying the vote and forming an ad hoc committee co-chaired by Natinsky and Medrano. Two days later, The News was at it again. This time, Jacquielynn Floyd's column "Council smart to delay deal that looked fishy" described the contracts as a "quiet, no-debate goodbuddy deal."
Leppert spoke for nearly half an hour on May 20 at the first Love Field Concessions Committee meeting, spraying city staff with rapid-fire questions and statistics in an attempt to discredit any arguments for not putting the contracts out for bids. He claimed the hardship of 9/11 was a "myth," considering concessions dropped just 7 percent from 2000-'01 and increased 50 percent from 2006-'09 after portions of the Wright Amendment had been lifted.
He also said any concerns about operating during construction are overblown because "this construction fix is not a major one," although the current terminal will be demolished and replaced.
Some council members changed their positions—"I don't see how we can get the true market value unless we do bid it out," said Kadane—while Leppert acted like a lawyer cross-examining witnesses in the next two meetings as he continued to take apart the contracts, asserting that they were for a longer period of time than the industry standard and that Star and Hudson were given the most desirable locations. Meanwhile, city staff refused to back down, providing researched answers to Leppert's inquiries and maintaining that the deals were best for the city.
Just before wrapping up the final meeting on June 2, Medrano finally fired back. "I wanted to know why you supported the no-bid Pappadeux contract at D/FW," she said.
"Uh, I'd have to go back and figure out what the situation is," Leppert replied sheepishly. "Um, I'd be happy to check that and answer it. Uh, I don't even know that I did, but let me go back and check. And I would point out that at D/FW...roughly about 95 percent of everything is bid out in an open bidding with terms of 10 years or less."