Northern Exposure: Dallas "Right to Vote" Insists It Won't "Hamstring" the City. Right.

Unite Here!, the New York City-based labor organization gathering signatures for a referendum on subsidies to developers, tells me it will turn in its petitions tomorrow -- and with plenty more than the required 20,000 signatures. City Secretary Debra Watkins told me this afternoon it isn't clear that will mean the Unite Here! proposal gets on the May ballot.

The city secretary has to certify that all of the signatures are of registered Dallas voters. "I don't know until I get in there and look at them and see what kind of shape they're in and whether I can run smoothly through them," Watkins said.

The deadline for calling the May election in February 25. So Watkins will have eight working days to check 20,000 or more signatures. Even with emergency staff, and even though Watkins has experience with petitions, that's a tight squeeze for the city secretary. If not May, later.

After the jump, United Here! makes its case -- as "Dallas Right to Vote."

Unite Here! wants Dallas to vote on whether any developer subsidy of more than a million dollars should be subject to the approval of voters in a future referendum. As we reminded you yesterday, I wrote sort of harshly about this effort a couple weeks ago, more or less describing it as political extortion tied to an effort by Unite Here! to extract a labor agreement from the city for the planned city-owned convention hotel downtown.

But developer subsidies are a hot-button issue, and Unite Here! has its own case to make, which you can see at its new Web site for the election. An excerpt:

This will not "hamstring" the Dallas economy. What it will do is allow for a transparent, open process for the approval of public subsidies for a small number of projects. If residents think a project is receiving excessive public funds or do not feel the process is accountable to the voters, they will have the right to challenge this at the ballot.
Unite Here! is an amalgam of older unions representing garment and hotel workers. So just remember: Dallas Right to Vote equals Unite Here!

Hey. They've got a case to make. You should look at it. It's good they're turning in the petitions. They say they've actually had them done for some weeks. The longer they held them back, the more I suspected them of using the petitions as leverage in their labor negotiation with the city. Once the petitions are filed, the fight is on. I like fights. So, good.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze