Mayor Tom Leppert told a packed house that the city council had agreed informally not to vote on the contentious Love Field concessions issue, directing the city staff to come back to council in August, after the summer break, with additional options.
That's huge. Both sides in this bitter battle had wanted a vote on the issue -- whether or not to open up concessions at Love Field Airport to open bidding. Right now the contracts are in the hands of a small group of politically powerful minority owners.
While Hunt was away on maternity leave, the split on the council on this issue was 7-7 -- seven whites on one side, seven minorities on the other.
Now the council's East Dallas maverick is .... baaaack. And both sides have been alternately courting and cursing her, trying to get her to swing their way.
But Hunt wanted a deferral. She's a lawyer and a due diligence wonk. She wanted time to catch up. She's also a new mother. As a matter of fact, Hunt's own mother is sick today and can't baby-sit, so the baby is at City Hall, in Hunt's office, I believe, being looked over by her staff assistant.
Before the council bit into it, Leppert called a 10-minute recess. This is where the real stuff happens. The microphones are off; they've stepped away from the dais; and all we can see out here in the peanut gallery is who's shmoozing whom.
Informal rules apply. Normally we peons aren't allowed anywhere near the dais. But during this kind of non-meeting meeting, certain players are allowed to slide on up there and lean over the rail to talk to council members. If I went up there, for example, the security people would konk me with their flashlights. But other people are welcome. I know my place.
Leppert spends most of his 10 minutes talking to white council members and mayoral loyalists Dave Neumann and Ron Natinsky. They've got nothing to offer. They're already on his side. Leppert ain't swingin' nothin' on this right now.
The glue down there is somebody most people don't even know -- Anna Casey, the political consultant handling all this for concessionaire Gilbert Aranza. She's spending most of her time leaning over the rail at the west end of the dais mumbling to minority council members and giving council member Pauline Medrano in a big whisper-hug. Casey's trying to sell them something.
Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, who is Mayor Leppert's man in South Dallas, drifts toward the west end of the dais, but I think he's just trying to be included. He winds up shmoozing with p.r. man Ken Carter, who is also working for the concessionaires.
Veteran civil rights activist Peter Johnson is way out on the edge the crowd at the west end, tying to weigh in from a distance. I know how it feels, man.
Medrano goes over and talks to Johnson. But that's just a bunch of old-time UAW civil rights movement respect-showing. Johnson is an elder statesman of the Left, and Medrano is the scion of a Democratic dynasty.
I can't see it yet. Can't tell where it's going. All of the selling is to the minority crowd at the west end. The whites are all standing around by themselves, lost souls at the cocktail party.
Hunt. Hunt. What is she up to? She's drifting in and out of the chamber, going back to check on the kid, I guess. She brings back munchies and a big smile. She sure is calm and happy looking. Is that motherhood? Or does she know something?
Ah. Anna Casey has just moved out front. She's whispering to some white guy in a suit. I don't think I recognize him, but he looks like the money. Something must have gotten done. Damn. Hunt sure looks serene.
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Leppert calls them back to their seats and gavels the meeting back to order.
"What we're going to do," he tells the audience, "is ask the staff to come back [in August] and lay out these options. Then what we will do is evaluate these options. Then we will vote in the second agenda meeting, which will be the second week in August."
Deferred. Hunt won.
That's how stuff gets done in a democracy, man. Forget the meeting. It's the shmoozing that counts.