Truth hurts

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* The city or sports authority would "have the power to issue bonds, notes and other securities deemed necessary to construct new games venues, to repair, expand and improve existing sports venues for use as games venues."

* If and when Dallas does sell bonds to pay for the games, it can pledge as collateral for those bonds "any revenues, taxes and other sources authorized by any other law, subject to such requirements for elections as may be required by other law."

Luce told the council that he did not support Hutchison's memo. Speaking to reporters after the briefing, Luce at first hedged on whether he had ever even seen the memo. But Hutchison himself later told reporters that he and Luce had discussed the memo in a conference call before Hutchison sent it to Reyna in Austin.

Still later in the week, Luce insisted that all of the items in the memo were there merely for discussion and as bargaining points and that nothing had been set in concrete. In particular he insisted that he was not seeking and would not accept compensation for the bid application process.

What was more interesting than Luce's reaction during the council briefing was the defense immediately offered for him by several council members, some of whom actually competed to be first to apologize to Luce for Miller's impoliteness.

Don Hicks set the tone with a remarkable speech in which he appeared to ridicule Miller for naivete, as if everyone else on the council knew that the story about a "private initiative" and no burden on taxpayers was a fairy tale. Miller merely had embarrassed herself and the council, Hicks suggested, by speaking the truth out loud.

"I don't know why Mr. Luce agreed to all this 'not seeking help,'" Hicks said. "I just think we're putting more rocks in his wagon going up a steep hill.

"Now, look people," Hicks lectured, "we're going to have to spend some money on physical plant, marketing, research, and development. You have to spend money to make money."

Council member Larry Duncan followed a while later with a speech in which he, too, suggested everyone already knew that the taxpayers would be tapped in some form or another for this deal and that Miller was merely grandstanding by telling them about it.

There is a striking contrast between that version of things, frankly conceding the taxpayers will have to shell out, and the public line expounded in recent months by the very people seeking the games, especially Mayor Ron Kirk and the Morning News.

The Morning News has editorialized sonorously that there must be a new focus in the city on the needs of the little people--potholes, sewers, curb repairs, and so on. In announcing his bid for re-election last week, the mayor made much of his newfound commitment to basic city services. Even in defending Luce at last week's council hearing, Kirk formulated a theory of the Olympics as a basic city service.

"The Olympics give you an excuse to be doing what you should be doing anyway," he said, implying that everyone's streets and curbs will get fixed as a part of fixing the city up for the games.

But the deficit of "deferred maintenance" in Dallas--all of the repairs that have not been made in recent years while the city focused instead on sports venues--has been put at $3.1 billion in briefings to the council by the city staff. Those are repairs and services needed all over the city.

The budget for the Atlanta games was around $1.7 billion. Miller says she doesn't understand how the city can focus its primary attention on the monumental task of rebuilding itself and at the same time talk about a huge diversion of focus, energy, and tax support to a sports event that will certainly require a concentrated effort near the sports venues.

Luce has said from the beginning that he cannot bind the city or its taxpayers to anything they don't want to do. The city council can't spend tax money without voting to do it, and no local government can sell bonds unless the public votes to approve the sale. He pointed out last week that even Hutchison's memo refers specifically to the fact that nobody can sell bonds to support the games unless the voters approve the sale in an election.

Luce also observed that the Atlanta games budget of $1.7 billion was eventually paid entirely out of private and game-related revenues, and the city of Atlanta was left with some beautiful new sports venues for which it did not, in the end, have to pay.

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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