In this week's paper version of Unfair Park, council member Angela Hunt and political consultant Pat Cotton spoke out loud and proud concerning Mayor Tom Leppert's recent command to stop the broadcast of the afternoon open-microphone session at council meetings. And despite agreeing last week to discuss the matter with the full council in January, Wednesday's feed was cut off, which didn't make Hunt happy, so she did something about it.
Leppert's decision to change the council rules was "offensive," Cotton says, because he made it unilaterally. "That's an example of his attitude, which is: 'Don't get in my way. I want to do things my way, and I don't care what the public thinks about it or even what my colleagues think.'"
Cotton says she was surprised to hear Leppert take credit for making the change at the December 3 council meeting after dodging responsibility in The News because "he was trying to protect Dwaine [Caraway]." She claims Caraway is the only one other than Mitchell Rasansky that gets attacked. "Dwaine is the one that everyone attacks because he is such a buffoon. He puts on a performance with makeup and all. He just acts the fool all the time."
Leppert's responsibility is to remove speakers that use offensive language, but Cotton says he often times doesn't. "And the fact that he won't just makes him look like a chicken."
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Hunt says she didn't like having to read about a significant rule change in the paper and continues to criticize Leppert for not discussing it with the council first. "It's easy to dismiss transparency if you forget who you work for," she says. "But if you keep in mind you're working for the people coming down to speak to you, who are voting on referenda and paying their property taxes every year, if you keep that at the forefront, you will not and cannot be supportive of a behind-closed-doors government that excludes the public, and we're seeing that too often."
Hunt and Cotton both say Leppert's decision about the speakers is part of a disturbing pattern of behavior that includes plans to begin construction on a publicly owned convention center hotel April 1 even though a referendum on the issue will take place May 9. "Cutting off speakers, ignoring referenda, creating a mammoth boondoggle of a convention center hotel with total disregard for what the citizens and voters of Dallas may want: All that to me just really flies in the face of a responsible democratic government," Hunt says.
As noted in the story, I contacted Chris Heinbaugh, Leppert's chief of staff, to get a comment, but the mayor offered "no response" to these questions submitted via e-mail. --Sam Merten
1. When you were asked by The Dallas Morning News regarding the decision not to broadcast the afternoon open-microphone session, you refused comment regarding whose decision it was. Why did you not accept responsibility?
2. What city staff members were given the directive not to broadcast the afternoon open-microphone speakers?
3. Why did you make the decision without consulting the full council?
4. You mentioned that several council members expressed concern regarding the afternoon speakers, yet Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway was the only one who spoke up at the meeting. How much did his contempt for the speakers factor into your decision?
5. Aside from apparent concerns from council members, what are your concerns regarding broadcasting the afternoon speakers?