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Mayor Tom’s Recipe for Weathering the Downturn: Free Lunch, Recycled Speech

Patrick Michels

One more photo of Mayor Tom Leppert giving a speech about the convention center hotel, and we'll have enough for a free night!

Tom Leppert’s chief of staff, Chris Heinbaugh, had billed the mayor’s speech today before the Dallas Regional Chamber as an opportunity to weigh in on the unfolding financial apocalypse, and what Dallas needs if it’s going to pull through.

Makes sense, given he’d be speaking to an audience collectively worth untold millions less than it was this time last week. TV cameras lined the back wall, anxious for a way to bring a local angle to the national mess.

Instead, the mayor who sat on the Washington Mutual board of directors till there was no more WaMu last week dusted off his State of the City address from last week and regifted it without much detail on what could be done about the local effects of bank failures, lending freezes and other things that are generally bad for business.

“Dallas will outperform other markets,” he promised. “We can weather this economic crisis if, and only if, we transcend politics.”

What the city needs now is leadership and long-term vision, he said, before spending much of his time at the podium rehashing talking points on the convention center hotel. “I see the future being shaped not by our problems, but by our possibilities," he said.

As he did last week, Leppert invoked Denver, Baltimore and even Houston as examples of cities with publicly funded convention center hotels. Like last week, he sprung this little factoid on his audience about Houston: “They’re going to sell that hotel, and you know what they’re going to do with the money?” Pause for dramatic effect. “They’re going to build another one.”

So there’s a thought to comfort any hotel detractors in Dallas: If everything works out, this’ll only be the first of many hotels the city builds.

For a big finish, the mayor hushed his voice and asked the audience to close their eyes, “and tell me what would Dallas look like without DFW [International Airport],” another famous public project. A scary picture indeed. Horror-movie scary.

The upshot: The banking crisis will hit other cities worse than Dallas. Let's not hold up monstrous city projects and bond measures just because Wall Street's in trouble.

Also: Leppert mentioned he'd be in Mexico next week, exploring foreign trade partnerships there. In case you need to reach him. --Patrick Michels

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Patrick Michels
Contact: Patrick Michels