City Council, Its Feelings Hurt, Defers Vote on No-Bid Contracts at Love Field

The council just wrapped up its discussion of those concession contracts at Love Field -- but there will be no vote on them today. The council -- which is taking awfully personally the suggestion that it's not being very transparent -- has opted to revisit the subject in June after it goes to an ad hoc committee consisting of, among others, Ron Natinsky, Pauline Medrano, Ann Margolin, Mayor Tom Leppert and Southwest Airline officials. Several council members also harangued The Dallas Morning News for even daring to question whether or not it was in the city's best interest to just hand the contracts to Gilbert Aranza's Dallas Love Field Joint Venture and Hudson Retail, in which state Rep. Helen Giddings has a stake. Tennell Atkins especially took issue with attacks on his credibility and was among those voting against deferring the vote.

"This is clealy a difficult and complex issue," said Mayor Tom Leppert, the most outspoken critic of the no-bid contracts. He said yesterday he met with a business looking to relocate to Dallas, and he wants to make sure they don't look at the city council sideways, wondering if it's cutting deals.

"In our positions, we've got the responsibility, a special fiduciary responsibility, to make sure we're cutting a business deal that's devoid of a lot of personal issues," the mayor said. "Public entities, rightly or wrongly, are different. That's why you see at the state and local level a strong preponderance for bidding things out -- to make sure we can look at our citizens and say we've got the best deal and this wasn't a negotiation. ... Perception drives credibility and confidence. We need to make sure we are cutting the best business deal for the city."

"What's done is done," said Ron Natinsky, chair of the council's Economic Development Committee. "We've got to move forward. The intimation this is just some public handout of a contract that prints money, nothing could be further form the truth. These are big contracts -- there is the potential to make money. ... That's what makes America great. But these are commitments that are $10, $12 million -- the city's not funding them. They'll borrow money ... and put it at risk. ... There are huge financial implications."

Natinsky then asked Aranza to speak, since Giddings earlier had been given the opportunity to do so. (She said she had no contact with the council about its decision to give Hudson a no-bid contract. She also said, "We have to make sure that we do not allow the newspapers to lynch people in this town.") Natinsky said he spoke with Aranza last night and again this morning about the council's decision to table the vote; he wanted the former director of the Dallas Citizens Council to "let the public know you're in support" of the plan.

"I have been incredibly disappointed that The Dallas Morning News ... [it is] beyond belief that they could print those types of articles without ever having certainly gotten into the details of the deal that A.C. Gonzalez and the city and members of the council, along with concessionaires at the airport, we've all worked incredibly hard to make this happen. I understand the need to prove we have been incredibly transparent, [but] as [Vonciel] Hill has pointed out, we've had nine meetings if not more with city staff to make sure this is the best deal for the city of Dallas. I believe that what is on the agenda is the best deal for the city of Dallas. I am confident that when this committee completes its work that will be the conclusion of the committee. I am disappointed, however, that a member of this council maybe more gave rise to all of those articles, and I am disappointed anyone on this council would behave in this matter."

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