But here is where it all does go. It all goes to construction. It all goes to building new stuff, not taking care of old stuff.

Leppert is the former CEO of an international construction company. He was a candidate with no experience in politics or public leadership, brought forward from political nowhere by the Dallas Citizens Council, a private group with strong ties to public works construction interests.

He honestly believes that pothole repairs are "short-sighted." Libraries are "short-term." Recreation centers "don't build the city."

Mayor Tom Leppert sincerely believes that street repairs and library improvements are shortsighted goals for the city, but big construction projects are worthy investments in the future. It's really a cultural thing.
Brian Harkin
Mayor Tom Leppert sincerely believes that street repairs and library improvements are shortsighted goals for the city, but big construction projects are worthy investments in the future. It's really a cultural thing.

What does? Construction.

Leppert's point of view—the Citizens Council point of view—is not absent of merit. There is a value in new construction. But how much value? How should that value be balanced against the worth of a healthy and sound community?

One of the more compelling citizen speakers at an earlier City Hall hearing on the tax rate reminded the city council that in 2001 The Boeing Company chose Chicago over Dallas as its new corporate headquarters, going to a city with higher taxes than Dallas. As the speaker pointed out, Boeing cited basic amenities and cultural life as reasons for its decision.

I almost hate to mention that, however, because I am sure the Citizens Council types will say we took care of all that with the Calatrava fake suspension bridge. I don't think that's what Boeing was looking for.

This same larger question is beginning to be very important to the public school system. There is a keen awareness in the new anti-establishment coalition on the board that the school district has been too dominated for too long by people whose main interest is building new buildings.

This moment in the city's history may well be a kind of tectonic divide between two legitimate worldviews. On the one hand, you've got the people who agree with me. And then you have the screwballs.

Oh, no, wait, that was totally wrong. I'm trying to be fair. It doesn't come naturally. I can do better than that.

On the one hand, you've got people who really believe that quality of life is about new stuff. (Better? A little better? I'm not even going for 100 percent fair, anyway. Just fairly fair.) And then you have people who believe that the future, the glory and the destiny of the city are in rec centers, in libraries and, dare I say it? Potholes.

How do you do things their way, the pothole way? You take scabby old school buildings. Maybe fix them up a little. You hire great teachers and pile the classrooms full of books. You provide clean, open, safe parks where a working-class family can spread a blanket on the weekend, grill sausage and fly kites.

You keep lots of good cops around. You create well-stocked and staffed libraries that kids and adults and senior citizens can think of as extensions of their own private personal realms.

You put teeth and personnel behind code enforcement (and make it fair, so it can't be used as a political goon squad). And, by God, you fix the damn streets, so people aren't ashamed to drive through their own neighborhoods.

Those values do not make Mayor Leppert's values illegitimate. Values are seldom a zero-sum contest. Nor do those values diminish the importance of having people with business experience at the table.

What Hunt's analysis shows, I think, is not that the values of Tom Leppert and the Citizens Council are no good. It shows that things around here are seriously out of balance.

Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, in the final debate, tried to explain how expensive new big-ticket luxury items such as the Calatrava Bridge and the Woodall Rodgers Deck Park look to people in neighborhoods where the infrastructure is falling down around their ears.

"When you look at Woodall Rodgers in that direction," he said, gesturing north, "it's beautiful. When you look at it in this direction (gesturing south), it's not."

Notice that Caraway didn't say the Woodall Rodgers Deck Park sucks (the line that came to my own mind). He didn't say people who like the deck park are stupid. He really only asked that they have some respect and a little understanding for people who do not see the city's destiny as determined by deck parks.

When all the dust and blood of the tax hike battle has fallen to the ground and the ground is quiet, then we should look at City Hall from arm's length. We should look at the school system. And we should ask ourselves if maybe we need a change of balance.

And then? Grab those skull-flails back up, people!

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