City Hall

We Checked and, Yup, Dallas's Flow Control Plan Is Still All About the Benjamins

Back in September, when the city passed its ordinance requiring commercial solid waste companies to dump in South Dallas's McCommas Bluff landfill, the proposal drew an unexpected foe: a group of Paul Quinn College students, led by school president Michael Sorrell, who protested in front of City Hall to remind Dallasites that people actually, you know, live in South Dallas.

It didn't go unnoticed, then, that neither Sorrell nor his students showed up to witness Thursday's preliminary hearing in the legal tussle between the haulers and the city. Why bother? As Sorrell made clear in an interview later that day, from the comfort of his presidential suite on the tattered college campus he's trying to revive, the high-minded blather by both parties only serves to smoke-screen the bottom line: "It's all about money."

But blather they did. The city and the haulers made their case before U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor, who now has a month to decide flow control's fate.

Jim Harris, lawyer for the National Solid Waste Management Association, argued that by changing the rules, "the city is reneging on its 2007 franchise agreement with the waste companies." Which is unfair because, as Republic Waste Services of Texas attorney Patrick Cowlishaw added, "Four years into a 20-year agreement, we're now being told that we can't do this any longer."

The haulers argued that the new law was ultimately a money play and would do irreparable harm to Dallas waste companies.

The city, largely represented by Rob Walters of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher -- to which the city's paying $175,000 out of general funds, because you have to spend money to make money -- claimed that Dallas simply has the right to regulate where trash is dumped. The law would conceivably conserve energy and the environment, he said, all while adding a few bucks -- around $15 million -- to the city's coffers.

The money was presented as an afterthought, of course. And Sorrell and his students, who've seemingly moved on, weren't there to argue otherwise.

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Greg Howard