Council Just Loosened Ethics Regulations Restricting Zoning Cases and Contributions

Did you realize our city council was faced with a crisis of too much ethics? Yup. Apparently the council has been staggering under the weight of way too much ethics. So today they approved a proposal to chop those ethics back, specifically by making it much easier for developers and contractors to dish them some moolah when a developer's got a zoning case coming up or a contractor is bidding for a job.

They didn't even have to vote for it one by one. They put it on the "consent agenda" where it was shuffled into the deck with a bunch of other stuff and passed sort of automatically. You might have missed it. Thought you might want to know.

The item on the agenda, the one they passed, started out by reciting a perfectly awful history -- how, in 2009, some damn fool passed a damn Dallas ethics ordinance "to prohibit applicants in designated zoning cases and designated public subsidy matters and persons responding to requests for bids or proposals on city contracts from making campaign contributions to city council members during designated periods of time."

I believe it was called the Don Hill Law at the time. Mr. Hill, you may recall, is a former Dallas city councilman now residing in a federal correctional institution for doing ... well, just re-read all that stuff I just quoted. Basically that's what he did -- took money from people for votes. Which is why they passed the law.

What today's measure did was re-loosen the Don Hill Law a whole lot to allow more people to shift some cash over to a council member shortly before a key vote.

Today's new law makes it so the Don Hill Law "would only apply to the property owner and the principals, executives, managers, family members, and affiliates of the property owner" but specifically would no longer apply to "employees and representatives of the property owner in a designated zoning case or designated public subsidy matter."

Get it? Those clever dogs. It goes like this: "Llewellyn, by law I cannot deliver this envelope full of James Madisons to the mayor myself, because I am the owner of this company, so I need you to stop polishing the limo long enough to run down there and deliver it for me before today's vote."

We could wonder.

Given Don Hill's current straits, why did the council think it was a good idea to make it easier for zoning and contract applicants to get some cash to them? I have my own theory. It's just a hunch. But my college degree, after all, did involve a partial almost-minor in Political Science. I think. And then I have covered City Hall for a hell of a long time. So based on my background and training, my analysis of today's proposal would be this:

They missed the damn cash.

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