The day before Mayor Tom Leppert and the city council deferred voting on contract extensions for the food and retail concessions at Dallas Love Field Airport, the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce faxed Leppert a letter urging him to direct staff to "return to the drawing board," according to a public records request filed by Unfair Park.
"Rather, the Love Field Concessions Plan, as proposed, creates for incumbent concessionaires what amounts to an 18-year monopoly, and in the process renders unreachable the goal of any small, local concern of having even an opportunity to be an airport concessionaire at Love Field," the unsigned April 27 missive says.
The chamber seemingly ignores the fact that 46 percent of the concession space in Love Field's new terminal is scheduled for bids later this year. It also argues that there's no question that airport concessionaires throughout the country suffered "a crippling economic setback" following 9/11 -- a position that Leppert has opposed. The mayor has referred to the claims of economic hardships from Love Field's concessionaires as "a myth."
The letter -- marked confidential on the cover sheet -- also says the plan closes the door on the participation of women- and minority-owned businesses. However, the current food concessions are 100 percent minority owned (Gilbert Aranza and Daron Pace) and the retail concessions are 40 percent minority and women owned (state Representative Helen Giddings and U.S. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson).
Update: We attempted to reach Dallas Black Chamber chair Ronald Hay earlier this afternoon, but our phone call was not returned. At 5:58 p.m., Ken Carter sent us what he called "a copy of the revised letter" sent to Leppert on May 11, which we didn't receive in our public information request. Carter is a consultant for Gilbert Aranza, who owns approximately 77 percent of the food and beverage concessions at Love Field. The letter is here; however, we attempted to transcribe it because of the scan's poor quality. (Carter says he's trying to track down a better copy.)
Dear Mayor Leppert,
It has come to our attention that our letter dated April 27, 2010, regarding the Love Field Concession Plan has been misinterpreted.
In no manner is the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce recommending or suggesting that the incumbent concessionaires be denied appropriate extensions of their current operations at Love Field. In fact, the Chamber would assume that any format of the Love Field Concession Plan includes the incumbent concessionaires.
Our letter was and is intended to advocate for greater inclusion of minority and women owned businesses as part of the Love Field Concession Plan.
Ronald Hay, Chairman, Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce
Reginald Gates, President, Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce
Our request -- filed on May 18 and received today -- also revealed 58 e-mails sent to Leppert and council members regarding the contracts, most of which were in response to the series of stories in The Dallas Morning News leading up to the April 28 vote.
Just one of the 58 supported the contracts, with the rest either supporting Leppert's stance against no-bid contracts or asking the council to yank the emergency break on approving the extensions, which most felt were too lengthy or were given to politically connected individuals.
Here are some samples:
This stinks! Remember that the council answers to taxpayers. The city's responsibility is not to be kind to its vendors. This must be a NO vote.
Eddie Bernice Johnson sits on the House Subcommittee on Aviation, and she also holds interests in concessions at DFW Airport. How can a sitting U.S. Congresswoman who sits on the committee charged with regulating airports be "gifted" interests in concessions at the two commercial airports that serve in her district? This is a clear conflict of interest and a lawsuit waiting to happen. VOTE NO TOMORROW
-- Sharon Palmer
The issue of renewing the concessions contract without a competitive bid process reeks, at best, of cronyism and at worst outright misconduct. In the current political climate even the appearance of impropriety would certainly lead me to lose faith in the city council leadership -- what little still exists.
I urge the city council and Mayor Leppert to move forward in the most fair and equitable way possible that allows for competitive bidding and the best price and quality for me, the consumer.
-- John Parker
Do not support open-bid contracts. This will only open up corruption possibilities to many. There is no need to vote for it!!!!
-- Marcella Porter
A concession award without open bidding smells like a Don Hill deal.
-- Ed Weymouth
We have had too much of the Al Lipscomb-Don Hill kinds of things going on in our city.
-- Jackson Salasky
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The residents of Dallas deserve much better than this kind of dirty dealings.
-- Dorothy Green
I think we should look at all of our options. As a member of the Tea Party, we are watching this very carefully.
Allowing local politicians to profit from 12-year no-bid contracts is borderline illegal.
-- Dennis McDaniels