We're already breaking our promise, but because we're strangely obsessed with the city's struggle to get a car booting ordinance on the books, Unfair Park probed Angela Hunt regarding the city council's decision to bring the issue back to the Transportation and Environment Committee in August.
To catch everyone up, booting became a hot-button issue in January, prompting briefings on March 23 and June 1 to the council's Transportation and Environment Committee, with an April 20 public meeting held in between. Hunt and Jerry Allen introduced motions at the June 1 meeting, but both later withdrew them when committee chair Linda Koop said she'd schedule a third meeting because there were "too many outstanding questions."
Allen wanted booting companies to continue to use video evidence as an auditing tool if a parking attendant or machine wasn't on site to provide a receipt. Hunt said she had "grave concerns" about putting all the power in the hands of the booting companies and instead moved to approve the staff recommendation to require a receipt, adding an amendment to specify the number of offenses a company can commit before the city can revoke its license.
"I think we should have moved forward at that point -- that's why I made a motion. But that simply wasn't going to happen. It just wasn't," Hunt says. "But, to be fair, I think all of us have been struggling with the budget, and that's been on the forefront. And this has taken a backseat to the budget."
Although solving the city's $190 million budget deficit is everyone's top priority, Koop failed to schedule another committee meeting before the inauguration, passing it on to the Economic Development Committee. The committee on June 16 digested the same PowerPoint briefing seen by Koop's committee June 1, and it unanimously recommended the ordinance previously introduced by Allen -- booting could be justified by the lack of a receipt from an attendant or machine or video evidence.
Of course, by this time, Laura Reed Martin of The Reeds PRC was lobbying council members to allow the use of video evidence because paying attendants or installing machines was a "financial burden" for her clients, the parking lot owners.
"The fact that there's a powerful lobbyist involved in this certainly makes it more difficult. I mean, there's no question about it," Hunt says. "Whether or not that led to the fact that this was on yesterday's agenda, I don't know, but I do know that the fact that one of the most powerful lobbyists in the city is now involved in this on behalf of parking lot owners and booting companies makes it more difficult to pass the ordinance that we need to pass that has real teeth in it."
Hunt says there's no need for Mayor Tom Leppert and council member Dave Neumann, who both use The Reeds as consultants, to recuse themselves when the item comes back for a vote, citing her votes on the convention center hotel despite the involvement of her consultant, Brooks Love, in the anti-hotel campaign.
"I don't think the mayor votes on things based on whether Carol Reed wants him to vote on it," she says. "I do think that does give her greater access to the mayor and some council members, but it doesn't mean they're going to vote that way just because she asks them to. I really don't believe that in my heart of hearts."
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During a conference at Wednesday's council meeting, Leppert and his chief of staff, Chris Heinbaugh, felt some issues hadn't been addressed properly in the ordinance, Hunt says. She claims Leppert raised safety concerns, such as someone returning to a booted car late at night unable to get it removed, and Heinbaugh believed the cost of purchasing machines is lower than the parking lot owners are claiming.
Sean Fitzgerald, president of the Deep Ellum Community Association, says Leppert was impressed when he saw a petition stretching more than 50 feet with more than 850 signatures of people opposing the ordinance recommended by the Economic Development Committee. And Fitzgerald claims Leppert told him after yesterday's meeting that the issue wasn't on his radar until his inbox was flooded with e-mails.
"Yesterday was a procedural victory, but if we lost, basically they would have codified the same bullshit that they're doing now by giving them complete political and statutory cover," Fitzgerald says.
Fitzgerald also sent us some photos of what he calls "problem areas in the neighborhood," which you can see below.Deep Ellum Community Association booting photos