Love's Labor Lost

Here we are at the wheel of a black SUV in the dark of night, splashing through dirt ruts in a driving rain, faking our way past sullen security guards--the height of derring-do, in other words--all of it in search of the fabled Lost Loza.

The Lost Loza? Come now. Search your heart; scan the deepest recesses of memory. You must confess that you know the Loza. First name John?

For years, John Loza, a two-term member of the Dallas City Council, was famous for his stout defense of the neighborhoods around Love Field, the city's aging inner-city commuter airport. Now on this foul night he is missing in action--disappeared from the neighborhood camps. There are even people who claim to have sighted him over on the other side of the trenches, consorting with the airlines.

Fortunately for us, some thoughtful soul has smuggled us an invitation we were not meant to have to an event about to take place here in the bowels of downtown. A scanner image of the invitation--which looks very elegant--was e-mailed to us as a file attachment. A century ago, a man in a top hat and cape might have poked out from around a smoky corner, extended an elegant card with gloved fingers, and whispered in an indistinct foreign accent, "Sir, if you want to know what happened to John Loza on the Love Field thing, attend this event." So now we get a file attachment. We'll work with what we have.

The point is, we must press on regardless and find the Loza. It's our duty. He could be in danger--held against his will! It is, after all, a dark and stormy night.

The thing with the airport is simple. You already know most of this or used to. Love Field Airport was the old one, before they built DFW. Once DFW opened on January 13, 1974, they were supposed to shut the old one down. But before they could scrape Love Field bare, Southwest Airlines came along in the mid '70s and launched a great business, selling jump seats on shuttle flights to Texas cities and beyond. It was enough to keep Love alive.

Throughout the 1980s, as Southwest's business grew and its planes got bigger, neighborhoods in the Love Field flight path fought bitterly for some kind of control over airplane noise. Love Field, after all, was built in the days of the old propellerized bumpety-bumps--planes that were about as noisy next to a modern jet as a baby stroller next to my sputtering SUV, which needs a new muffler.

Slowly but surely, the proponents of noise controls for Love Field persuaded city council members, legislators, and members of Congress that it was wrong to let the airport destroy surrounding neighborhoods. By the early '90s, the noise wars seemed over. Southwest agreed to a set of voluntary noise controls. People in the neighborhoods had been lulled into thinking that the fight was over and Love Field would never grow.

Pat White, a longtime noise activist from Bluffview, which is one of several affluent neighborhoods smack in the footprint of Love Field noise, calls the '90s "a period of equilibrium.

"Southwest had gone to all Stage 3 [quieter] aircraft, and they were using the [quieter] Trinity River departure path. These were all voluntary policies, and there were still problems to take care of, but basically everybody had signed off on it. The Love Field Noise Abatement Advisory Committee hadn't met for years.

"Then all of a sudden this year, all bets are off."

Way off. Early this year, the neighborhoods spied some typically uninformative stories in The Dallas Morning News, tipping them off that the city manager was whispering into the ears of the city council again about major growth at Love Field.

In midsummer, the city manager agreed to create a "task force" to discuss a new "masterplan" for the airport. The neighborhoods immediately hired former city council member Lori Palmer, the best-known pioneer of noise control in Dallas, to represent them on the task force. Palmer discovered that the city manager and consultants were talking in terms of "unconstrained demand" at Love Field leading to a potential growth in overall passenger traffic of 220 percent by the year 2020, with little or no regard for the environmental impacts.

The main impetus behind the staff's dire predictions of blowout growth at Love Field had been the advent of Legend, the feisty start-up airline that began offering fancy business-class service from Love Field last April. In theory, at least, the threat of expansion at Love should have expired when Legend, cash-strapped and unable to pay for jet fuel, grounded its fleet December 2. But it's hard to find anyone who believes Legend's bankruptcy has squelched the prospect of major airport growth once and for all.  

From the neighborhoods' point of view, the events of the last year have made Love Field a problem again. Making it not a problem will take more than the extinction of one small airline.

In the dining room of a beautifully restored house in Oak Lawn, Becky Stannard, another pioneer of noise control, is trying to explain to me how debilitating it was to discover that the noise dragon was poking its nose out of the cave again. "It's very discouraging to devote all of these years of effort and fight these difficult battles in Dallas and then always eventually lose them."

But I miss some of what she is saying, because every few minutes or so the sound of another huge jet rumbles up out of the distance and booms overhead in an ear-numbing, crystal-goblet-tinkling, plate-clattering explosion. It occurs to me that living here must be like sleeping in a bowling alley.

By 2020, if the city manager's projection of flights out of Love Field ever came true, Becky Stannard and I would have to forget even trying to have a conversation in this beautiful dining room. By then, I assume this spot would be occupied by a used-tire store.

While she follows me to my car, she mentions that if her husband ever retires, they'll probably move to England. So far, it's the best Love Field noise abatement strategy I've heard.

The specter of enormous growth didn't come out of the blue. The new ballgame at Love Field was propelled by a series of changes in federal law, court decisions, and policies of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in the late 1990s. Basically, the courts and the feds told Dallas that the nation had entered a new era of open competition in the airways. Dallas could no longer use local agreements to hamstring Love Field, a federally regulated airport. Dallas especially could not pass laws or rules or regulations determining who could use the airport or where they could go or what they could charge, all of which would be an illegal attempt to regulate interstate commerce.

A tangle of court cases and congressional action produced one significant casualty--the old "Wright Amendment," a weird product of Texas politics that for years had said that flights originating at Love Field could not go beyond the states adjoining Texas. Vestiges of the Wright Amendment are still hanging over Love Field, but now, especially where 56-seat "regional jets" are concerned, the feds say you can fly out of Love and go where your heart takes you.

But did all of this mean air traffic at Love Field really had to more than double in the next 20 years? If that were true, and once it really dawned on people, the "for sale" signs were going to sprout on lawns like dandelions in a broad swath from the modest residential areas right next to Love Field to a major slice of the tony Park Cities area.

Especially as the year 2000's infamous Summer of Flying Badly began, with horrific delays everywhere, when smart travelers began taking clever little fold-up mini-cots with them whenever they feared they might be passing through O'Hare or LaGuardia, it seemed unimaginable that the federal government was really going to consign a huge chunk of Dallas' most viable residential real estate to ruin for the sake of even more cowboy competition in the airways.

It made even less sense when factored against a drop of almost 6 percent over the last five years in total operations at the regional airport, DFW--an embarrassing number for a region that has pinned its success on the growth of DFW Airport ever since it opened. Various people have tried to slice and dice the decline in traffic at DFW to mean different things, but the most obvious thing it would seem to say is that there is a slackening of overall true demand for airport capacity in the region.

Given that the overwhelming thrust of local, state, and federal policy over the last 25 years has been to push the region's air traffic out of downtown Dallas and into DFW Airport, and since overall demand may be falling anyway, why would we now start encouraging vast new growth at Love Field?

Guess what? We wouldn't. And neither would the feds. In late winter of this year, city council member Donna Blumer sent a long list of pointed questions to the DOT. Taken together, all of Councilwoman Blumer's questions were designed to test a central thesis of what the city manager and city attorney had been telling the council.  

City Manager Ted Benavides and City Attorney Madeleine Johnson had insisted in several briefings to the council that the city's hands were tightly tied by court decisions and changes in federal regulation. The demise of the Wright Amendment, a court finding that Legend Airlines could fly out of Love, and the new federal emphasis on open competition in the airways all meant, the city attorney said, that Love Field was going to have to open its doors and provide facilities for any and every airline that wanted in. Right away.

But Donna Blumer wasn't sold. In her letter to the DOT, Blumer broke it down: Was there anything in the most recent major court decision on Love Field that actually required Dallas to create new gate space at Love Field in order to accommodate new airlines?

Answer: no.

In a letter signed by DOT general counsel Nancy E. McFadden, the DOT told Blumer: "With respect to the construction of new facilities, it is doubtful that the decision can be read as requiring new facilities..."

Blumer asked whether there were any federal statutes or regulations that would require Dallas to expand Love Field.

Answer: no.

"The airport grant statute and contractual assurances do not generally require an airport to build new facilities," the DOT told Blumer.

Finally, Blumer came to a very sensitive question for the local political market. Is there anything in the law that says American Airlines has to be given some really nice gates at the airport?

Many on the city council find a bitter taste to some of the demands made by American Airlines. Especially under former CEO Robert Crandall, American was not shy about the fact that it regarded Love Field as a troublesome brat that should have been drowned in the Trinity River years ago. Along with threatening to sue everybody in Texas if Love Field ever really opened up, Crandall vowed to bring his planes into Love and run Legend Airlines into its grave if Legend ever got off the ground. Crandall's manner--"...and your little dog, too!"--made it hard for some on the council to understand why American, of all companies, should be driving basic policy at Love Field.

The new federal atmosphere does plainly require a form of "equal access" to the airport, meaning that airlines already in place at Love Field may have to squinch over and share the available space with any new airline that wants in. Even Southwest Airlines, in the catbird seat holding 14 of the airport's 22 operational gates, has always argued the airport should be viewed as a kind of public highway, accessible to anyone who wants access.

But American had been pressuring the city not only to give it gate space but to give it gates as good as Southwest's. In fact, in direct violation of its own lease agreements with the city, American was pushing ahead on the expensive renovation of three abandoned gates in the airport's old and empty East Concourse.

In light of all of the pushing and shoving the city had been taking from American Airlines, whose law firm on Love Field issues has Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk as a partner, Blumer asked if it was true, as American kept asserting, that federal law required Dallas to provide American with gates "comparable" to those of Southwest Airlines. Was there really an obscure statute in the federal code that said, "The above provisions notwithstanding, American Airlines must be provided with something fairly snazzy?"

Answer: no.

"The obligation to provide reasonable access without unjust discrimination would not ordinarily require an airport to provide facilities that are comparable to the best facilities at the airport," the DOT told Blumer.

That's not just no, but no, no, no. What Blumer's letter had gotten from the feds was a clear concession that there was no requirement in the law that Love Field add one damned gate to the number it already had--a dramatically different picture from what the city manager and city attorney had been painting in their dire warnings of blow-out growth at Love Field.

So why, exactly, was the city's Aviation Department and its consultant still telling people that the number of gates at Love Field might need to be increased by 45 percent, from 22 to 32?

Everything at Love Field is about gates--the staging areas where passengers are loaded onto airplanes. Even if you want to talk about air pollution or noise control, eventually you can talk only about gates. The main reason you can talk only about gates is that the city has already given away so much of the rest of its regulatory power--a fact that is little known even among city council members.  

Right now, for example, the special citizens task force meeting to consider a new master plan to govern the airport's future is supposed to be treating noise control as one of its major concerns.

The nature and standing of this task force create a little side mystery. Several members of the task force spoke to me for this story. Few of them seemed to know how they had been selected. According to the files of the Aviation Department, made available by the city in response to a Texas Public Information Act demand, the task force members were selected by Alva Baker, a public relations consultant working for the Aviation Department.

The members of the task force are not allowed to vote on issues. A sense of their "consensus" is divined by Assistant City Manager Ramon Miguez, a tense man of military bearing who sits behind a table at one end of the room while the task force meets and who alternately stares at them and takes notes.

This nonvoting group--which was borne of a PR person and whose consensus opinions on issues are apparently sensed bodily by an assistant city manager and then relayed, less than accurately, to the city council--has been under the impression that it has been carrying out an important debate on the key issue of average day and night noise levels associated with growth at Love Field.

In fact, at one point the task force members were supplied with long "Q&A" sheets presenting frequently asked questions and answers from the staff. One question was, "Can we have mandatory noise restrictions at Love Field, i.e., curfew?" The answer is two paragraphs of convoluted bureaucratese that never say yes or no.

A few weeks ago, the neighborhoods were successful in pushing an apparently very reluctant Miguez, along with his apparently very reluctant boss, City Manager Benavides, into accepting a four-month delay in the master plan process to look at noise and other factors.

But was the four-month delay a meaningless victory? What if the city manager knew all along, in giving in to the delay, that the neighborhoods couldn't force any new noise limits on Love Field anyway?

And I should mention here that almost everyone involved with the Love Field master plan process, from airline companies to consultants to the neighborhood groups--even Councilman Loza--spoke openly with the Dallas Observer for this story, with three significant exceptions: Calls were not returned by Ramon Miguez, the city attorney's staff, or American Airlines.

The answer to the question about whether there can be any new mandatory noise controls imposed by the city at Love Field? That would also be no. And for a very unusual reason: The city long ago gave up its right to regulate noise at Love Field.

That's right. The task force can debate noise restrictions until it's blue in the face. Then it can die. Because, even though no one seems very eager to tell them, the city has virtually no ability to impose new noise rules on Love Field.

On December 17, 1986, the City of Dallas signed a contract with Southwest Airlines providing a direct quid pro quo: Southwest agreed that by 1992 at least 65 percent of its takeoffs at Love Field between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. would consist of "Stage 3" or even quieter aircraft.

In return, the city agreed that if it ever in the future enacted anything like a new mandatory noise restriction at Love Field, Southwest could force the city to buy Southwest out of its entire operation at Love Field.

"If the City of Dallas enacts, directly or indirectly, by ordinance, rule or regulation of any kind, any mandatory noise abatement restriction at Love Field," the contract states, "the City of Dallas, upon petition by Southwest, shall purchase from Southwest, at a cost equal to the then present market value, its remaining leasehold interest in the permanent improvements located at the airport constructed by Southwest."

The existence of this contract is certainly known to some of the long-term veterans of the noise wars of the '80s, many of whom fought bitterly against its acceptance by the 1986 city council, but the existence of the contract seems to be unknown to most of the more recent entrants to the fray.

Given all the hours the members of the task force and the members of the Dallas City Council have been devoting to the issue of noise control at Love Field lately, it seems unfortunate the city attorney couldn't have been at least as forthcoming with them about this as her staff has been with mid-level members of the city staff.

This is not, after all, some weird antique provision on yellowing parchment that no one would ever take seriously. In fact, in a confidential memo dated August 14 of this year to Beverly Weaver, an employee of the city's Aviation Department, Assistant City Attorney Ed Perry wrote: "...any noise restriction implemented without Southwest Airlines' approval will cause provisions of the 1986 fleet mix agreement to become effective. This would mean that the city is obliged to purchase Southwest Airline's leasehold interests at Southwest's option."  

So, perhaps the fuller answer to the question for the members of the task force, or, for that matter, for members of the Dallas City Council, would be: "Yes, you can always enact new rules to control noise at an expanded Love Field, but then you will have to explain to taxpayers why they are having to buy Southwest's headquarters from it and why Southwest is leaving town."

Do we see a big yes vote on that one?

The one remaining method, then, of controlling noise at Love Field--the only way--is by controlling the number of gates. Federal law says the city can't pass laws restraining interstate commerce by saying which airline can fly where, how often, or for what price. And the old weird contract with Southwest Airlines means the city can't control noise by passing noise ordinances.

The only way to control traffic is by limiting the number of gates. The rule of thumb is that an airline can stage eight to 10 airplanes out of a single gate on a good day. More gates equals more planes equals more noise. The only way to achieve no more noise is by opening no more gates.

Let's recap: The city is under no obligation to expand Love Field at all or to add any new gates, according to the letter sent to Councilwoman Blumer by the general counsel for the DOT. The only way the city can control noise or environmental factors like air pollution and car traffic to and from the airport is by controlling the number of gates.

But here's the wrinkle: The way the city controls the gates is a very dicey issue. People close to the master plan process, who asked not to be identified because of a need to maintain relations with the city attorney's staff, told me that the city easily could put itself in a bind by handling gates the wrong way. This is an issue that may become even more sensitive now, with Legend apparently leaving the picture, since more airlines may want to rush in to Love Field and pick up the traffic Legend, and perhaps American, may leave behind.

The problem is that the new federal legal environment, however it may have been exaggerated to the council and the task force by city staff, does have in it some mean traps. The toughest of the new rules has to do with fair and open competition at airports. Arizona Sen. John McCain and others in Congress have waged a kind of holy war on local laws that try to protect local pet airlines from competition.

The sources who spoke to me about this issue said the city attorney has told the consultant on the master plan process to watch out for this one: Be ready, the city attorney has warned, for some very aggressive testing by Washington to see if your master plan lives up to the new competition requirements. You don't have to expand the airport, but the DOT had better not look at your new Love Field master plan and decide the whole thing's a cover for doing local airlines a favor.

In fact, that was the announced purpose of the master plan exercise in the first place. With all sorts of new upstart airlines supposedly about to push their way into Love Field, the city needed a consistent, fair approach to the future of Love Field so that it couldn't be accused of tricks to protect or help local airlines.

But while everyone at City Hall was worrying about new federal laws and controlling growth at the airport and all of that stuff, was anyone standing up and saying, "What about the neighborhoods? How are we going to protect the neighborhoods from Love Field?"

From what I'm told, the answer was always yes: John Loza.

Pat White of the Bluffview Homeowners Association, a co-chair of the Love Field Citizens Action Committee, speaks with obvious feeling about the roles she believes Loza and city council member Veletta Lill have played in defending the interests of neighborhoods.

"Three years ago when this was all starting to come unraveled in Washington, on advice from [former] city attorney Sam Lindsay, the city just sat on its hands. Boy, I'll tell you, Fort Worth went to Washington and DFW Airport went there and Kay Bailey Hutchison [now a U.S. senator] went, but the City of Dallas sent no one.  

"We could never get in to see anyone at City Hall. The city used all this cloak-and-dagger legal stuff and tried to block everything we did. The council did everything in executive session. We tried to get appointments, and we could not get appointments with anyone on the council except John and Veletta."

Lill, normally a strong advocate for neighborhoods, got aced out of the Love Field issue on a conflict-of-interest ruling from the city attorney because her husband flies for American. But Loza, according to City Hall insiders speaking to the Observer on background, stood tall for the neighborhoods, especially in the council's many secret executive sessions.

"He was getting up and yelling and pounding the table in those executive sessions," a source said. "He would say, 'Not one thing is going to happen at Love Field if it means more noise for those neighborhoods.'"

That's why his colleagues on the council were astonished last June when a sign-up sheet came around to their desks with Loza's name at the top, seeking the five signatures necessary to put a certain issue on the council agenda. Loza wanted the council to consider allowing American to use the three gates it had renovated in the East Concourse in defiance of warnings from the city and in violation of its lease agreement.

Even some of the council's usual rollovers for big business seemed appalled. Sandy Greyson, a North Dallas council member known for giving Big Money what Big Money wants, balked at the idea of rolling over for American on this one. "I am committed to seeing a master plan for the airport before we consider opening up any additional gates," Greyson said.

Alan Walne, a Lake Highlands council member normally friendly to business interests, was openly skeptical about Loza's sudden conversion. "I am curious to know what is driving this," he said. "What has changed?"

Eventually Loza persuaded four other council members to join him--Steve Salazar, Donald Hill, Maxine Thornton-Reese, and James Fantroy. If Greyson and Walne seem often to be influenced by Big Money, the four who joined Loza in his effort to help out American Airlines could be viewed as more often influenced by Small Money.

Loza insists that what he was really proposing was that American temporarily be allowed to use its new gates and to serve only the amount of traffic it was already serving at the gates it shares with Continental in the airport's main concourse. And he says the city could have structured a deal with American to shut any other airlines out of the East Concourse.

"I didn't think it was unreasonable for American to propose to fly out of the East Concourse," Loza said.

But sources familiar with the master plan process say Loza's gift to American would have been the worst kind of self-inflicted wound for the city to have suffered at that moment, assuming the city was ever going to make a serious effort to limit the growth of gates at Love Field. Especially if it had been accompanied by some deal slamming the door on anyone else who wanted in after American, the Loza proposal would have brought the competition regulators at the DOT down the brass pole with their boots on.

Even Walt Humann, head of the transportation committee of the Dallas Citizens Council, the private downtown business leadership group, agrees that trying to give three gates to American and then slamming the door shut after them wouldn't have worked well in the long run.

"That would have been a mistake," he says.

A plausible outcome, some observers think, was that either the DOT or some judge in an inevitable lawsuit would have said, "You opened it up for American. Now you can open it up the rest of the way." That would have meant 12 new gates--the full potential of the East Concourse--which would mean 120 more landings and takeoffs a day, an expansion of more than 50 percent in potential traffic at the airport.

It didn't happen. The city council voted to stick with the master plan process instead and wait to make any decision on new gates until after the master plan is complete.

In the meantime, the city's consultant on the master plan--an international airport design company called DMJM--is proposing that the council consider a maximum of 10 new gates at Love Field to serve an estimated growth in traffic of 40 percent by the year 2008. Of course, there is also the possibility, according to what the DOT told Donna Blumer, of opening not one damned new gate. The great irony, given all of the anxiety this process has created in the neighborhoods already, is that the not-one-damned-new-gate option may not be far away from what most of the airlines, with the exception of Mayor Ron Kirk's airline, have wanted all along.  

American Airlines wouldn't talk to me. But American has made its position on growth at Love Field infamously well known, and T. Allan McArtor, CEO of Legend, talked to me a week before the surprise grounding of his fleet. He didn't hint at his problems, but he did give me an especially acid summary of American's position at Love Field:

"If Legend were not here," McArtor said, "American's interest in Love Field would be zero. I think the only reason American wants gates at Love Field would be to try to run Legend out of business."

Southwest Airlines is already so big and successful, its only plausible next move would be to go international, in which case it might well seek some glitzier headquarters than Love Field. In the meantime, Southwest's head real estate person, Bob Montgomery, who represents the airline on the master plan task force, says he doesn't believe that anybody who is now a tenant at Love Field is pushing for big growth.

"There really isn't anyone," Montgomery says, "discounting developers and architects, who is advocating growing the airport at Love Field through the master plan process."

So, it's about four months after Loza tried to get the council to let American use its illegal gates in the East Concourse, and someone has slipped me this invitation to an event for John Loza. I have been nosing around half the evening trying to find my way to it through all these dinky streets and alleys between Harry Hines and the Stemmons Freeway. The address for the thing, 2707 Flynn Street, doesn't seem to appear on my trusty MAPSCO guide to Dallas, a fact that in itself is beginning to give me the willies.

The inside of the invitation says, "The Host Committee cordially invites you to attend a reception honoring: JOHN LOZA, city councilman, district 2.

The Host Committee? What host committee? Hmmm. It doesn't say. Maybe it's the heavenly host committee.

The inside of the invitation says, "Re-elect John Loza. Building Our Future." Pushing my aging Chevy Blazer down side streets and up alleys through a cold, driving rain, I find myself whispering the phrases over and over: "The host committee...building our future...the host committee..."

And now I am bouncing through rain-filled trenches on a winding dirt road that appears to be taking me into the center of the new American Airlines Arena construction site downtown. Twice I am hailed by skeptical security persons wearing rain-lashed slickers, one in a truck and the other in a shed, but both times I show them that I am wearing a red bow tie and snappy blue overcoat, and I say, "I'm trying to find the John Loza event." Both times they give me instructions, pointing me deeper into the abyss.

It is a dark and stormy night. Have I already mentioned this?

Ah, but here we are, at a chic sales office that looks like a double-wide house trailer designed by an architect, with a big glass front and a porch. I see people inside in suits. Oh, I know what this place must be! This must be the temporary headquarters for the American Airlines Arena.

And now that I'm in, I am just thrilled to be here. Look, right over there in the corner: That's Don Carty himself, CEO of American. And there's Pete Schenkel, Erle Nye, Tom Dunning--all kinds of Dallas Citizens Council types and big-dog business leaders. The host committee! Building our future! Everybody is sipping white wine and listening to some kind of Disneyland jazz on the PA system.

And here comes Councilman Loza, right over to see me. I'm very flattered that he would rush away from the host committee like this just to talk to little old me, although I must say he looks a little flabbergasted. I do wonder what could be wrong.

"It's not often that we get reporters at an event like this," he says.

"Well, I just wanted to see who was here, what's what. It's a very impressive setting."

"Well, it's nice," he says. "It's a little hard to get to, by its very definition."

Yup. Real hard to get to. I hope I didn't lose that tailpipe on my Blazer, or somebody's gonna pay. We smile at each other for a while.

Then he says, "Is this, like, on the record?"  

"Well, yeah."

I tell him that a number of people, both in the neighborhood groups and on the council, were quite surprised when, after defending the Love Field neighborhoods for so long, he tried to persuade the council to open up the East Concourse for American. And I do wonder if this little fund-raising soiree, tucked away in the deepest recesses of the arena property on a dark and stormy night, may serve as part of the explanation.

He tells me that he thinks he has been doing a good job for the neighborhoods. In a conversation on the telephone some weeks later, he tells me in more detail that he believes he can serve the neighborhoods well and give American Airlines a little help too.

"I really don't think it is a problem to the extent that people in the neighborhoods know the work I am doing for them. I'm certainly not going to apologize for the fact that I have one of the leading CEOs of our city backing me."

Um, OK.

What you wind up with, then, at Love Field is a bunch of airlines sitting around with competitive guns pointed at one another's heads, most of them wishing they could be somewhere else, one of them already half dead and none of them with a clear, discernible business interest in big growth. You have a huge swath of the city where residential neighborhoods would be destroyed by blowout growth at Love Field.

But you also have people on the council and people on the city staff who either don't get it or can't be trusted to remember, often for the most ignominious reasons. I don't think for a minute that John Loza let Don Carty throw him a clandestine fund-raiser in the middle of the master plan process because he thought he was going to get anything out of it personally, beyond the usual campaign contributions. I think he just didn't have the guts to tell Carty to stuff it.

And, of course, American doesn't care. They hate Love Field. If it turns out in the weeks ahead that they have succeeded in killing Legend, then watch out, because the next thing they'd probably like to do is burn Love Field the way Sherman burned Atlanta.

Meanwhile, the task of dealing with the new legal atmosphere and also limiting growth is like disarming a bomb. All the city has to do is screw this thing up in one significant detail, and then Washington really will make them open up Love Field.

And here's the truly scary thing: John Loza really is the Love Field neighborhoods' protector. I would almost warn the people in those neighborhoods not to sleep with both eyes shut, but I don't think they've been able to do that for years anyway.

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