Oh, I swore I wasn't going to respond to the stuff yesterday by Tod Robberson on The Dallas Morning News opinion blog yesterday, but now "Wylie H Dallas," the scarily well-informed omnipresent pseudonymous blog commenter, has got me all stirred up. This morning he posted an old Steve Blow column from the News in 2009 accusing me of being a tin-foil hat, and that got my juices flowing again.
Damn! I was trying to go for dignity, but once again I fail. Thanks a lot, Wyle H!
This is all about the recent indictment of Dallas County Commissioner John Wylie Price on bribery and tax charges. In the indictment filed last week and made public, Price's role in sabotaging a big rail and warehousing project in his own district, called the Inland Port, is discussed in some detail. The Wylie H Facebook post this morning reminds us that the Dallas Observer was reporting that plot five years ago, two years before the FBI raided Price's home and office for records.
Blow's column, published March 8, 2009 (reproduced below), was part of a drumroll of articles and editorial in The Dallas Morning News insisting that Commissioner Price's call for a de novo planning effort for the Inland Port was perfectly reasonable. They said over and over again that people like Richard Allen, the main developer who claimed Price was sandbagging the development, and me, who reported what Allen said, were a bunch of nutcases.
The recent indictment of Price and three others was the work product of a three-year FBI probe. It argues that Allen's claims were on target.
I can't link you to Blow's column or the key Morning News editorial on the question, because, for some reason, I can't get Google to go there. I'm sure it's my own failing. I had to give up and pay the News three bucks this morning to get a copy of the editorial from their archives. I have reproduced the editorial below as a Scribd document. I refuse to pay three bucks for a Blow column, so I cut and pasted it from Wyle H's Facebook page and have reproduced it below as a Scribd document.
There's a key to solving this puzzle. The FBI has figured out the key. I'm sure you can, too. Price did a lot of small things to slow down the development, but the big poison pill was planning. Richard Allen at the time was trying desperately to explain that to anybody who would listen.
The wealthy and powerful Perot family of Dallas said publicly that they saw the Inland Port in Dallas as a direct competitive threat to a similar project in Fort Worth that they owned. Price had some apparently lucrative links to the Perots through his political consultant, Kathy Nealy, also now under indictment. As I say, the real silver bullet for Price was planning.
Allen had spent five years planning the port -- not meaning that he was in his office at a drawing board cooking up a version of his own fantasies about it. No, no, no. He was out in the field and on the hustings for five years, hammering out deals with all of the affected communities and municipalities touched by the project including Dallas, and he had all of those agreements already in hand. Now in late 2008 and early 2009, it was time for him to start selling large properties to multinational shippers.
Those big companies, he explained to anybody who would listen, would not even consider coming to town unless all of the planning and zoning and infrastructure agreements were already in place, done deals, nailed down -- exactly what he had spent five years doing. When Price got up and said we needed to start over on the planning from scratch, it was the perfect poison pill to shut Allen down and allow the Perots to steal a march on him.
In this effort, Price was joined by the editorial page of The Dallas Morning News and the North Central Texas Council of Governments. And all of them put it exactly the same way, saying with this incredible dead-pan sneer, "Well, what can be wrong with a little planning?" I swear, it's almost scary. Nothing is wrong with a little planning, unless you're planning on biting me in the neck and sucking my blood.
I noticed with some interest in Robberson's deal yesterday that he said Allen had invited him to his office, spread his own documents all over a table and I assume explained to him exactly what was wrong with more planning, that it was a poison pill to kill the Inland Port. But the consistent line from the Morning News over the years, repeated almost verbatim from the editorial page to the news columns even to Steve Blow's folksy personal column in the Metro section, was that anybody who objected to more planning had to be paranoid and a tinfoil hat.
In one of the editorials Robberson does link to in his piece on the blog yesterday, the News said, " "Mr. Allen might see enemies behind every tree, but it's time he realized that the city of Dallas, among others, already has invested significant public funds in the inland port. It would make no sense now to injure a major private investor and blow that investment."
Oh, don't get all wiggy about it. We're only trying to help you, my dear. What could be wrong with more planning? Don't you believe in planning?
At some point in the weave, somebody knew exactly what this was all about. I don't know if the Morning News knew it and lied about it or if they were just stupid and let somebody play them. But I do know that Allen was spelling it out very explicitly for anybody who would listen. He apparently did it for Robberson, who did not listen. Now we know who did listen: the FBI.
Along the way, the News has hit repeatedly on the theme that there was no need to look at those little people behind that curtain over at the weekly paper. In 2011 managing editor George Rodrigue wrote:
"Their staff, which is talented but tiny, can't break many stories. So they sit back, wait for us to do months of painstaking research, and then explode in rhetorical indignation over a sentence that they would have written differently. By constantly claiming to have spotted signs of bias in our work, they may even convince their readers that a sexually oriented weekly tabloid truly is vital to understanding Dallas. One has to admire the effort."
I have said it before and I will say it again today: I would much rather have a couple hookers for advertisers than be one myself.
In the Blow piece reproduced on Wyle H's Facebook page this morning (and below), Blow sets up a kind of equivalency between me and Price -- me, the tinfoil hat at the paper with the sex ads, and Price, the unsavory character. [A resourceful reader has now provided a working link to the Blow column.]
"Schutze's list of co-conspirators seems to include everyone who has ever spoken kindly of an inland-port master plan -- including, of course, the editorial page of The Dallas Morning News."
He concludes, "Maybe it's best for Schutze and Price to pummel each other awhile. They'll be less likely to hurt someone else."
So, yeah, to hell with dignity. I can't avoid pointing out that all of this puts the Morning News squarely in the wrong as having aided and abetted the effort to slow down the Inland Port, and, yup, it does put us in the right.
You know, it's a funny thing about newspaper people. The give-away is when they rise to defend their own team every single time. In any other business, that would be a good thing, I guess. But in this business, the ones who rush to defend their own paper every time, who are loyal to the nth degree and take great umbrage whenever anybody questions their own newspaper's integrity or dignity, tend to be the worst journalists, because they're suck-up company men, and no good reporter was ever a suck-up company man.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.