As we mentioned last week, Mayor Tom Leppert spiced up his State of the City address with, among other things, some harsh comments directed toward the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Not only did he claim the corps is "not accountable to the citizens of Dallas," Leppert urged them to "quickly move forward" with any safety issues regarding the levees -- that is, he said, if there really are any. Without much explanation, Leppert just walked away to resounding applause.
The mayor stuck to his prepared script when purposely not calling out the corps directly, citing his frustration with "some of our federal partners," but he did manage to ad-lib City Manager Mary Suhm's irritation with the feds as well.
Naturally, we wanted to know what other agencies he was talking about, especially with rumors circulating City Hall that Leppert could also be upset with the Federal Highway Administration, so we contacted his chief of staff, Chris Heinbaugh.
"The mayor said what he wanted to say in his remarks," he said in a statement.
And that was it.
Suhm says she wasn't consulted about Leppert's comments on Wednesday, but she "thought he might" mention the corps in his speech.
"It wasn't very harsh," she says of Leppert's criticism. "It's just that they need to understand that we've got some issues we need to resolve, and they need to help us. They need to help us quickly."
Suhm doesn't remember the mayor referencing multiple federal agencies in his speech, and when told that Leppert refused to elaborate, she said, "Well, then I shouldn't either, should I? That's a career-ender."
But does she have any issues with any federal agencies other than the corps?
"I think you better stick with the mayor's quote," she tells Unfair Park.
Council member Angela Hunt says Leppert's phrasing was an elliptical way to criticize the corps without directly calling them out. She's bothered by his comments because she claims he's essentially criticizing them for doing their job: keeping the citizens of Dallas safe.
"He is criticizing the Corps of Engineers for being extraordinarily careful in dealing with his grand experiment of dumping concrete into a floodway, and he's angry at them for not giving a green light on the experimental engineering concept of his," she says. "They should be cautious, and if Katrina taught them anything, it's that they should be overly cautious when there's a project that has nothing to do with flood-control safety but has been shoved into a flood-control project."
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