Wednesday's decision by the Dallas City Council to allow Love Field vendors to charge higher prices in exchange for those vendors guaranteeing a higher minimum wage for their workers was standard-issue horse trading. Vendors got what they wanted — the ability to charge 10 percent more than street prices for their wares at the airport — and the city got something it purportedly wants, workers getting paid $10.37 an hour.
The outcome itself is barely noteworthy. How the council got there, and what it means for an increasingly divided City Council moving forward, is a lot more interesting.
That $10.37 is the not-quite-a-living wage supported by the council for contracted city workers. Proponents of the Love Field deal touted the fact that the city was able to get private employers to buy into that wage standard voluntarily. Opponents complained that Love Field vendors — chiefly Star Concessions owner Gilbert Aranza — were getting rewarded for renegotiating a contract they never intended to honor.
Mayor Mike Rawlings cited a Dallas Morning News story that quoted Aranza as saying he knew he would go back to the council for increased prices when he signed a contract saying he wouldn't.
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"What that says is that he entered into a contract knowing he was going to come back and ask for a change. That's not how you do business," Rawlings said. “I’m sure in 10 minutes I can get somebody to take his business. This is about enriching concessionaires. Let’s be honest.”
Rawlings was about as animated as he gets at council meetings, pointedly asking Assistant City Manager Mark McDaniel just how many people Love Field concessionaires employed. Then, in what has to viewed as an upset — or at least a surprise — for a mayor who hasn't been beaten that often in his four years on the job, Rawlings lost, exposing the potential fault lines in the new council.
Scott Griggs, Adam Medrano, Mark Clayton and Philip Kingston voted against the mayor. That's to be expected. The newly elected Clayton, taking over the East Dallas District 9 seat formerly occupied by Sheffie Kadane, is ideologically simpatico with the returning trio. Rickey Callahan, Lee Kleinman and Jennifer Gates voted with the mayor. That was to be expected, too. Callahan, Kleinman and Gates are all on board with the mayor's program, whether it's keeping the Trinity toll road dream alive or protecting the integrity of pricing at the Love Field Whataburger.
The folks who joined the gang of four make things interesting. All four southern Dallas council members — Casey Thomas, Carolyn Arnold, Tiffinni Young and Erik Wilson — voted for the price and wage hike, as did Adam McGough and Monica Alonzo. If the South Dallas members often stick together as they did in this instance, they could play kingmaker — conveniently, four plus four equals eight, a council majority — in the frequent spats between the Griggs/Kingston crew and Team Rawlings, piling up owed favors on both sides.