DALLAS – The issue of race has once again been interjected into a Dallas City Hall controversy. This time, city council member Carolyn Davis and other minority members of the council pushed to approve new contracts at Love Field Airport with the current concessionaire, Star Concessions, and the current retail vendor, Hudson Retail Dallas, without considering bids from other companies. Such a deal could be worth tens of millions of dollars.
Mayor Tom Leppert and several white council members came out against the no-bid process, claiming that the process for contract bidding should be open to any business. Council member Davis, in front of TV cameras, railed against the opposition, saying it was the “blacks versus the Anglos.” She failed to mention that there was a political connection between the companies and some council members.
On August 18, 2010, the city council rejected the no-bid contracts by an 8-7 vote, split among racial lines. Minority council members Carolyn Davis, Delia Jasso, Vonciel Jones Hill, Steve Salazar, Tennell Atkins, Dwaine Carraway (Mayor Pro Tem), and Pauline Medrano (Deputy Mayor Pro Tem) all supported accepting the no-bid contracts. Each had accepted political donations from Gilbert Aranza, owner of Star Concessions.
Before the vote, council member Carolyn Davis (aware the vote would not go her way) blasted the Mayor for not supporting her, and promised consequences for his actions. “You (sic) gonna need my vote on something else…and I’m gonna remember this one,” she said in full view of television cameras. She then claimed that she was the deciding vote on issues Mayor Leppert championed, including tougher ethics rules and building a taxpayer-funded hotel for the Dallas Convention Center. Davis wanted Leppert to return the favor of her support back then by supporting the Love Field contracts now.
Despite the protests by the minority council members, it is clear the only winners in the no-bid contract process are Star Concessions and Hudson Retail. Without competitive bids, the city of Dallas stands to lose millions in potential revenue, and other companies never have the chance to operate at Love Field. In a statement made before the final vote, Mayor Leppert argued that “competitive bidding…helps determine the real value in the marketplace and tells businesses there is a level playing field free from the influence of politicians and those with a vested financial interest.”
Not one minority council member could justify their support of a one-sided deal for one of their political donors. Such a conflict of interest should not have been tolerated by the public, yet many accept it as the way politics are conducted in Dallas.
What is most troubling are Davis’ shameless public remarks. She readily admitted that she votes on issues based not on principle or the best interests of her constituents. Rather, she treats votes as political currency to be bartered. Ironically, one of the issues she voted on as a “favor” to Leppert was for stricter ethics. Obviously, since she doesn’t seem to have any ethics, how she votes on it doesn’t really matter.
The introduction of race into the issue was merely a red herring hiding the true motivation of the minority members: money and influence. The minority council members all share the same political party, as well as many of the same political donors and supporters. Star Concessions one of them, and Hudson Retail has political and business connections to State Rep. Helen Giddings and U.S. Sen. Eddie Bernice Johnson, who share the same party affiliation as the minority council members.
The only thing more absurd than politicians who admit to paying political favors are the voters who continue to support them.
Sources: City of Dallas cable access, Tom Leppert press statement, D Magazine (8/16/2010)