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Open Records E-mails
                             

10/01/7  Heavy Leverage on City Staff

There's just so much honest people can take, and the honest people of Dallas are on over load.  The FBI's City Hall investigations appear to be ending in the promised indictments.  From what the media is reporting, there number of indictments is at least one elected official short.  Will discuss the indictments in another commentary, but --  Our Downtown Betters (the ODB) are using top level City Hall staff as their own resources.   The Vote No! campaign are dismissing all the people who signed the TrinityVote petitions and treating our movement as one woman's agenda.  It's disgusting.  It's dishonest.  It's so ODB.

Let's start with the Vote No!'s attacks on Angela Hunt.  Guess you got their flyer "Don't let Angela Hunt send more than $1 billion down the river ...".   The audacity of the ODB and their political hacks is bottomless.  Their flyer suggests that saying NO to a toll road in a flood plain will cause flooding, when putting that toll road and a new levee (to protect the toll road) will most certainly cause future flood problems.      10/1 Gehrig Salda?:
  
How many ways can advocates for the Trinity River toll road referendum shoot themselves in the foot before the November 6th election date?
   This DMN story
City staffers accused made front page news a day after a DMN front page story on imminent FBI indictments related to City Hall corruption.  Think Dallas' voters are impressed with the antics of Dallas City Mgr Mary Suhm?
   I thought Dumb at DISD did not have a companion, but Dumber exists at Dallas City Hall, she runs Dallas City Hall.  This kind of information gradually sinks into the mindset of Dallas' voters. With just over a month before the election, looks like the Trinity River toll road proponents just gave (today's front page article) toll road opponents the equivalent of a free citywide campaign mail-out that gives Dallas' voters even more reason to vote against the toll road.  
 

My favorite line in the flyer is "A small but vocal group has forced another expensive election, trying to stall the plans Dallas voters already approved." 

I tried to use DalCoElections.org to find out how many people voted for the Trinity Project in 1998, but the archives only go back to 5/1/99.  The City Secretary page on DallasCityHall.com has info on the 1995 municipal races, but not the two big 1998 elections -- the Arena and the Trinity Bond elections.  NEW INFO:  Got the 1998 Trinity bond numbers.  38,016 voted for the Trinity Project - 35,659 voted against.  We are tied up in this billion dollar mess because a "small but vocal group" of 38,016 voted for the Trinity Project in 1998.  Angela Hunt has over 85,000 in her army. 

Guess what I found?

When Ron Kirk won his first mayoral race in 1995, he got 68,967 votes.  In Con Jerk's re-election for Mayor of Dallas, he got a whopping 28,123 votes CITYWIDE.  That's right!  Belo, et al frequently refer to him as the popular former Dallas mayor, but he only got 28,123 votes total.  He dropped over 50,000 voters in 4 years.

More interesting numbers show up in the election archives.  The first time Laura Miller ran to replace Ron Kirk, she got 72,983 votes.  The second time she ran for mayor, she got 52,955 votes.  She only dropped 20,000 votes. 

Sure gives one pause for thought.  Miller is often described as divisive or polarizing, but she got almost twice as many votes in her re-election bid as did Ron Kirk when he ran for a 2nd term.  Guess the Southern Sector vote hasn't been a big factor since the 1998 $$ elections. 

Even more interesting, Tom Leppert just won a very expensive, very difficult election this year over Ed Oakley.  Mayor Leppert only got 49,558 votes.  That's about 3,000 votes less than Miller got in her second election.  Don't say 'well, he was in a runoff and runoffs are low turnout'.  The 72,983 votes Miller got in her first election was in a runoff against Tom Dunning.  She ran against Mary Poss in her re-election race.

When the City Secretary verified over 53,000 voters to put the Trinity Toll Road issue on the ballot in November, there were at least another 30,000 signatures not counted.  This "small but vocal group" that "has forced another expensive election" is a considerably larger group than the group who voted for Mayor Leppert.  Does that mean his election is not valid because less than 20% of eligible voters even turned out to cast a ballot?  

It tells me Mayor Leppert probably does not want Angela Hunt to run against him for mayor in 2011.

But lets move on to Mayor Leppert and the Vote No! campaign forcing City Staff to assist Craig Holcomb and Donna Halstead (both paid lobbyists) prepare their lame campaign speeches.  I did a random scan of the 191 documents secured through an open records request and listed a few in
Open Records E-Mails, but the below e-mail pretty much tells the tale:

Jarrell is a city employee who is coordinating with Craig Holcomb (a paid lobbyist) to pass out literature to attendees at a Music Hall event.  This just sucks!

Despite a very
DMN good story, City staffers accused of taking sides on Trinity toll road by Bush, Tomaso & Levinthal, Sam Merten broke this story on DallasBlog.com with Is Dugger a Puppet for Trinity Commons Foundation?.  If you are not a regular reader of DallasBlog.com, you ought to be.  Sam Merten is covering City Hall like nobody else in town.  Dallas Observer named him best blogger of 2007.

Sam Merten

Leppert Talks Trinity with Dallas Blog
by Sam Merten, Wed, Sep 19, 2007

As the city?s director of the Trinity River Project, Rebecca Dugger is the city?s expert when it comes to all things Trinity. With the toll road campaign in full swing, it was only a matter of time before someone took a look into how Dugger was conducting herself during such a contentious debate.

At the end of August, I filed an open records request with the City of Dallas for documents pertaining to Dugger and the Trinity River Project. Some of them were sent on to the Attorney General, but I recently got my hands on the rest (1,441 pages) and a look at some of Dugger?s email communication reveals she is speaking regularly with Craig Holcomb, executive director of the Trinity Commons Foundation. She has attended meetings with him, asked Holcomb for advice and is receiving information from him that she should have known.

I talked with Dugger to go over some of the emails and documents that I found to be disturbing. When I described her as a board member for the Trinity Commons Foundation, I was surprised by her response....

?Their Web site lists me as a board member?? Dugger said. ?Huh, I didn?t know I was a board member.?

I later called Holcomb to get his reaction and he was quick to say she?s an ex-officio (by virtue of office or position) member. ?There?s a difference,? Holcomb said.

When I asked him if he thought it was misleading that this wasn?t on the Web site, he pulled it up and said she was listed as an ex-officio member. However, he pulled up the Trinity Commons Foundation Web site and I was referring to the Save the Trinity! site.

?It says nothing about her being an ex-officio member on this site,? I said.

?Well, it should,? Holcomb said.

?Don?t you think it?s deceptive to have it listed that way?? I said.

?That was inaccurate,? Holcomb said.

I guess I can?t blame Holcomb for the mistake. With how chummy he and Dugger have become, I?m sure he forgets that she?s not part an organization firmly opposed to the Nov. 6 vote and that spent $40,000 on blockers during the May elections.

On July 20, Holcomb sent an email to Dugger with ?HNTB? in the subject line.

I met with them [HNTB] today. They have been hired by NTTA to do the urban design of the Parkway. They would like to be part of the lakes meetings. That makes sense to me as one of our biggest hurdles is getting the Parkway designed. Thoughts?

HNTB is a national firm that handles architecture, planning, transportation and urban design with local offices in Dallas and Plano. This was Dugger?s response:

Hmm?not sure why NTTA has hired someone to do urban design. If so, what are we doing? And what exactly would they be doing (with our ideas)?

But if they?re doing it, then yes, they should be invited IF Trinity Parkway guidelines is an agenda item.

This email exchange is troubling for several reasons. When Holcomb refers to ?one of our biggest hurdles,? there is the implication that they are fighting for the same side in the toll road campaign. Also, knowing the road design was a big hurdle only a couple of months ago is damning news for the Vote No! side.

What?s really surprising is how Holcomb is the one delivering information to Dugger and then she asks him questions about what is going on. She is the director of one of the most important projects in the history of Dallas, yet she is being fed information from someone who has debated in support of the current alignment on several occasions and is the executive director of a foundation that has supported the political efforts against the referendum.
... ?How did you end up meeting with HNTB and finding out they were taking over the urban design for the road?? I asked him.

?I don?t know what you?re talking about,? Holcomb said.

?Well, you found out that they were taking over the urban design and then you told Rebecca Dugger,? I said.

?I don?t remember,? Holcomb said.

?I have an email here that says that is what happened,? I said.

Holcomb?s memory suddenly got better, although only slightly.

?I guess they told me,? Holcomb said. ?I don?t understand what you?re getting at.?

I explained my concern about the email and Holcomb became agitated as I pressed him for an answer. I?m not sure if he just doesn?t like me (probable) or doesn?t like my questions (very likely), but Holcomb can be a hard guy to get a straight answer from. Finally, he surrendered with this.

?Fine,? Holcomb said. ?I guess I knew before she did.?
...After speaking with Dugger and Holcomb, I talked with Angela Hunt for her reaction. She said this email underscores the fact that it doesn?t appear that the City of Dallas and the taxpayers are running the Trinity River Project and it seems to be run by other interests.

?If you look at the corporations and businesses listed on the Trinity Commons Web site, their supporters are the same companies that are benefiting most financially from this endeavor,? Hunt said. ?It?s troubling to see someone who is the head of that organization having more knowledge and information.?

Holcomb wasn?t the only one put out with talking to me yesterday. While researching another email between Holcomb and Dugger, I spoke with Bob Stimson, president of the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce and former council member. Here is the conversation from July 26:

Holcomb: On August 24 at 11:30 a.m., I am talking to the Oak Cliff Chamber membership meeting about the Trinity. They want visuals. I ain?t got ?em. Can we partner?

Dugger: I would LOVE to partner with you. What kind of visuals do you want? Do you want a whole presentation or just some boards? Do you want me to attend as a backup/visual eye candy?

...?The only thing I did at the Oak Cliff Chamber was at their request, I brought a poster board of the project, set it up, stood by the board before Craig Holcomb?s presentation and answered questions about the project,? Dugger said. ?Mr. Holcomb then gave his presentation and there were probably three or four questions that he couldn?t answer that were technical talking about the floodwall and the flood frequency. He referred them to me and I would answer them in a technical manner and I sat back down. He continued to do his thing for advocacy, but I did not. I was simply there as a technical resource at their request.?

I wasn?t at the meeting, but this kind of excuse is unacceptable. The idea that Holcomb can give a presentation that promotes one side of this issue and have a city employee by his side gives the impression that they are on the same side regardless of what information Dugger is providing.
... I gave a call over to the Chamber to find out if they had extended the invitation to Dugger.

I spoke with Kiyundra, who told me Holcomb was the only invited guest and Dugger attended of her ?own accord.? However, as I was asking her to spell her name and then for her last name, she started to panic and put me on hold. When she returned, she said, ?Never mind; strike that.? She then told me Stimson would be calling me back.

I told Stimson I had a very simple question. Was Dugger invited by the Chamber to speak on Aug. 24? Rather than answer a really straightforward, easy question, Stimson went on the offensive.

?Were you there?? Stimson said.

?No, I wasn?t.? I said.

?Well, you really shouldn?t be reporting on something you weren?t at,? Stimson said.

Stimson, an advocate for the toll road (see his video), continued to attack me with questions about why I was asking about it and why I needed to know. He refused to give me an answer until I explained that I was trying to determine whether the Chamber had invited her or if Holcomb had brought her himself. As soon as he heard that, he said, ?Oh, I invited her.?
... Another communication that concerned me was one between Dugger, Jodi Faulkner (Dugger?s secretary) and Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan from June 28.

From Faulkner to Dugger: George Shafer called. He wants to talk to you about updating Councilmember Carolyn Davis on the Trinity. He had lunch with her today and realized that she knew nothing about the project and she mentioned that Ms. Hunt has already been trying to give her ?an update.? [rest of email redacted]

From Dugger to Jordan: How do you want me to handle this?

George Shafer is a real estate developer and chair of the Texas State Fair. He?s also on the board of the Trinity Commons Foundation.
...
?These emails indicate a continuous effort, a concerted effort on behalf of City of Dallas employees at taxpayers? expense of collaborating with the opposition on a political campaign to effectuate a specific outcome of this political effort,? Hunt said. ?Not only is that in violation of the city?s ethics code, but it violates Texas elections law. I think we should all be troubled by this.?

Indeed, we should be troubled by this.

I also received Dugger?s time sheets from June 6 through Aug. 28, which included 13 hours and a mileage reimbursement for speaking engagements similar to the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce meeting. I asked Dugger if she felt it was ethical to be using taxpayers? money to do the presentations and if she thought she might be coming across as an advocate.

?... It?s part of my performance plan to do presentations on the Trinity Parkway and my bosses haven?t seen fit to tell me not to do it. Again, my marching orders are to give presentations on the Trinity Project.?

...On July 24, Dugger received an email from Daniel Oney, research and information manager for the Office of Economic Development, requesting ?a great overhead photo of the Trinity River Corridor Project.? Dugger sent him a photo and Oney responded.

Rebecca, are you concerned with using artists? renderings on Trinity projects with the potential referendum pending? Maybe it is safer to show actual photos?

Dugger: Yes, I am concerned, but don?t know what else to do. I use this photo in my presentations to various groups, since it is the locally preferred option at this time. Until the actual vote (or in the case that there are not enough valid signatures for an election), we have our marching orders to continue with this option.

We don?t really have any actual photos at this time. Check out the attached though?

The question at hand is really about where these so-called marching orders are coming from. Dugger claims it?s from the council, yet in all the documents I received, I found very little (if any) communication between Dugger and any council member. However, she talks a lot to Holcomb and also has been seeking information from Marcus Wood of the Mixmaster Business Association. Wood is also a board member of the Trinity Commons Foundation.

So the question begs to be asked. Is Dugger representing Dallas citizens in her role as director of the Trinity River Project or is she representing the Trinity Commons Foundation?

...If you believe the latter, then as Hunt suggested, the city?s ethics code and Texas elections law have been violated. It also proves something most of us already knew. City Hall isn?t run by the people; it?s run by special interest groups like the Dallas Citizens Council and the Trinity Commons Foundation.

This is what makes Hunt so unique. While everyone else is bowing to the real powers of City Hall, she stays true to the mission of why she ran for council -- to represent the citizens who don?t have a voice. Thanks to Hunt, Dallas voters will have their chance to stand up and take back the Trinity River Project, which has been taken hostage by the Trinity Commons Foundation.

You really need to read Merten's story in its entirety.  It is frightening to see how things really work at City Hall. 

  For a long time, those of us who care about this stuff were pretty sure Dallas Taxpayers rate low on the totem pole at City Hall.  This campaign regarding the Trinity Toll Road has removed any doubt as to who owns City Hall.  Remember last year when Mayor Miller had the nerve to question a $6.3 million tax rebate for Ray Hunt to encourage him to build his corporate headquarters where he was already going to build it -- already had the land, already had the plans.  Most of the council members were outraged that Mayor Miller would make this tax giveaway public.  You would have thought it was Miller doing something wrong instead of city staff stealing from Dallas taxpayers.  That's what happened!  When you take $6.3 million out of the general tax revenue, it means regular Dallas taxpayers must make up the difference.  Those with the gold rule!

A side note to that handover to Ray Hunt by Ed Oakley and Bill Blaydes (who were the most vocal against Miller), they both are gone from Dallas political office. 

I've got mixed emotions about all of this city staff involvement with the Trinity Toll Roaders.  If Mary Suhm says she won't help them, she probably is out of a job.  It only takes 8 council members to remove her from her job.  Since 14 council members are for the Toll Road, she's in a very bad place.  From reading the e-mails and Merten's story, there doesn't seem to have been any reluctance on Rebecca Dugger's part to assist Craig Holcomb and the Vote No! gang.

Like former council woman, Princess Velveeta Lill, many City Hall staffers don't need to be bribed with money.  They love getting to hang out with the movers and shakers.  They love getting to do favors for Our Downtown Betters.  No need to shell out large or small dollar bribes when a lunch invitation is enough to win their support and assistance.

Don't assume all City Hall employees are playing Dugger's game or supporting the Vote No! campaign.  There are many City Hall staff who see the Trinity Bondoogle as a diversion of scarce city tax dollars.  There are many City Hall staff who know the project is only a major real estate deal for the ODB.  They know the council and top management are much more beholden to ODB interests than to Joe Taxpayer.

I am more optimistic than ever that TrinityVote  will prevail in November.  Those of us who signed the petitions must get ourselves and our neighbors back to vote in November.  The Vote No! gang are spending their money chasing after Chamber endorsements, but the membership of those groups are not necessarily Dallas residents. 

Ironically, this afternoon I got a "push poll" call.  When he started out about how/if I was going to vote in November, I cut him off with "I'm voting YES to remove the toll road from the Trinity River floodplain."  He asked "You mean you would vote for a new plan?"  I repeated my statement.  He said "thank you" and hung up. 

This entire issue of city staff using City Hall resources (including employee time) to assist Craig Holcomb and Mayor Leppert sell the Vote No! campaign is about whether there has been a violation of the City's Ethics Code.  There is no doubt.  They did the same thing during the Basketball/Hockey Arena political fight.  They did the same thing during the original Trinity Project vote in 1998.  There's a big difference in then and now -- it's called local blogs.

Thanks to people like Allen Gwinn and Sam Merten, information that was once denied to regular Dallas citizens is now available to us.  The ODB and City Hall officials (elected or employed) no longer can get away with dirty tricks and under the table assistance to each other.

After the election is over in November, somebody should be looking for a job some place else.  Rebecca Dugger has clearly crossed the line.  If she didn't know she was violating the City's Ethics Code, she is stupid.  Rebecca Dugger may be a lot of things, but she is not stupid. 

sb

                                        

    





                            

 

  Ward politics is the Devil's key to the soul of the city council.  It is how some council members got themselves in trouble in the past.  It is the bait that will get others in trouble in the future. 4/6/8