Wide open town

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Not true, I explained to lawyer Kirk--who, it dawned on me, had somehow survived six years as an assistant city attorney and city lobbyist down in Austin without having to learn the state law regarding open meetings. The TOMA, I explained, requires that all governmental meetings be open--though it allows exceptions, all of them narrowly defined.

Also, a city's charter overrides the provisions of the TOMA, according to veteran Houston assistant city attorney Paul Bibler, who can cite chapter and verse on his city's right to ban closed-door meetings altogether.

Kirk then quickly shifted into another gear, another defense of the status quo. "They have a different form of government," he said.

True. They have a strong-mayor form of government--something Kirk can only fantasize about in his current hot pursuit of answering all of Don Carter's financial prayers. Down in Houston, Mayor Bob Lanier can go cut the deal with the private sector, just like John Ware is trying to do, but he still has to bring the deal back to the council for approval. And the minute the council gets its hands on it, it's a public free-for-all.

With that, Kirk had only one thing left to say--the thing that somehow, sadly, has become the mantra at Dallas City Hall, where more and more people just simply refuse to talk openly about important issues.

"The long-term problems we have here in Dallas aren't because we did a land deal or a personnel review in executive session," Kirk said. "The bottom-line is we're going to rebuild this city."

With or without the public's blessing, apparently.

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Laura Miller

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