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How the Trinity-Soaked Sausage Was Made

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So I was talking to city council member Angela Hunt this week -- about a story I'm working on, swear -- and we start chatting about the recent Transportation and Environment Committee meeting down at City Hall. One of the things we both found interesting, as did Schutze in his post about the get-together, was that despite Dave Levinthal being in attendance, there was no story in The Dallas Morning News.

Hunt mentioned that if the DISD had misplaced a billion bucks, as DART's done, The News would be all over it. I agreed. The paper's fascination with the DISD is too much to get into right now, but why they dropped the ball on printing something, anything, from that meeting is beyond me. Perhaps Levinthal had a choice between tracking down porn freaks at the library and writing up something about the meeting. Maybe he was feverishly working on his smoking-ban story. I dunno, but it's strange.

While we're both scratching our heads on that one, we started talking about Bruce Tomaso and what happened at the latest Trinity River meeting. Like me, she's miffed as to how he missed the boat that day. Hunt then says Tomaso sent her a sweet Christmas e-mail. Something like, "I'm going on vacation with my family to New York. Do you know of any toll roads near Central Park?" Classic. Perhaps Tomaso missed his calling. I say it's time to turn in the reporter's cap and go on tour with that stuff. Needless to say, Hunt didn't respond.

So while we're on the subject, I say, "Boy, I'd love to write up something on what happened back in July if you ever want to go on the record."

Ya see, back on July 25, I was talking to Hunt when a piece by Tomaso appeared in The News headlined "Toll road backers failed to itemize $52,000: Amended disclosure by Save the Trinity details individual donors." (Longest headline ever?) The story was basically about how Craig Holcomb, treasurer for the Save the Trinity group, forgot to list $52,000 in contributions, along with some expenditures, on the group's campaign finance report.

In the story, Tomaso wrote, "[Holcomb] amended the group's report, on file with the Dallas city secretary's office, after the omission was brought to his attention by The Dallas Morning News." A reader might wonder why The News would sit on the story if they were the ones to bring it to his attention. The only explanation would be that Holcomb amended it so quickly after hearing about it that there wasn't time to get something in print.

However, this was not the case, as Hunt explained to me. Hunt told me she was being interviewed by Tomaso a week before the story was printed and alerted him to the problem with the finance report to find out if he was aware of it. Hunt said Tomaso told her, "There will be a little something in the paper tomorrow."

Yet there wasn't anything in the paper until a week later, when Holcomb had a chance to file an amendment to his report. Tomaso's story appeared the day after Holcomb filed the amendment with the City Secretary's Office.

"If we hadn't accounted for one-third of our money, all hell would have broken loose," Hunt told me then. And she was right. Tomaso and The News wouldn't have sat on that story for a week while Hunt got her shit together. It would have been in the paper the next day, accusing her of trying to hide her contributors.

When this went down, it was just days before the petition signatures were verified by City Secretary's Office, and Hunt was being extremely careful about what she said and did. The press by Tomaso and the paper was bad enough, and I'm sure she didn't want to add any fuel to the fire.

But now that Tomaso has proved he cannot be objective when covering this issue even after the election, I'm sure Hunt realizes there's no hope left for him, so why not let the cat outta the bag?

Maybe The News will wise up and give the Trinity beat to someone capable of doing the job without bias. Alas, the chances of that happening are about as likely as Tomaso finding a toll road in Central Park.

A wise man once said, "Please, Mommy, when I grow up, don't let me turn into Bruce Tomaso."

Amen, Schutze. Amen.

Update: This in from Dave Levinthal: "Just want to let you know I didn't attend the DART meeting you're giving me credit for attending. I was at my office at City Hall, but covering another story that day."

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