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The Mayor and Me: Round 3 Print E-mail
by Sam Merten    Tue, Oct 23, 2007, 12:26 pm

round_3.jpgEvery time I go to a Trinity-related event, I prepare myself for the potential of walking out with no story because I’ve heard this stuff a hundred times. Sooner or later, there simply won’t be anything worth writing about. So far, this hasn’t happened yet.

If there was ever a time to ready myself to leave an event empty handed, it was at last night’s one-sided forum at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. Vote No! assured victory by not inviting the other side. Since it’s hard to lose when you’re up against yourself, Mayor Leppert brought along his wife Laura, Councilmember Ron Natinsky brought his wife Nancy, and Councilmember Linda Koop’s parents were in attendance. They must have been so proud.

However, even when matched up against themselves, Vote No! still found ways to make me cringe. I’ll get to those in a later post, but I always strike gold when I get a chance to talk with Mayor Leppert. I think it’s probably safe to say I’ve been the most critical of Leppert in the media, and I try to balance that by giving readers the opportunity to come to their own conclusions about him without inserting my opinion in stories like this.

My first installment came after the Vote No! press conference, and Round 2 came after a debate at the Fairmont Hotel. Last night seemed like a good opportunity to get some answers based on the information I uncovered in my first and second NTTA stories, and also hear his thoughts on Vote No! holding one-sided forums and uninviting the Vote Yes! side in one situation.

When the forum was done, I waited for community members to greet and ask Mayor Leppert questions. Most of them just wanted to tell him how great he’s been for Dallas, etc. The guy in front of me actually had some decent questions for him about the increase in cost and Leppert gave him the inflation speech. He replied, “That all makes sense.” Then, just as he was wrapping up, Leppert’s wife ran over and told him he needed to talk to someone else. As the man walked away, he said, “Boy, he’s good.”

Ms. Leppert physically moved him away from me and Leppert then looked for someone else to talk to. Ms. Leppert gave me the stink eye and walked back to where she had been near the doorway, which was approximately 50 feet from where I was standing. I really don’t blame Ms. Leppert. I wouldn’t want my hubby talking to me either. Why ruin an otherwise successful debate against your own side? But I stayed until everyone left and Leppert finally talked to me.

Here is our conversation in its entirety.

Dallas Blog: I wanted to ask you what you thought about…

Mayor Leppert: “Remind me who you’re with again.”

DB: Sam Merten, Dallas Blog. I wanted to ask you what you thought about Vote Yes! not being invited to this.

Leppert: “Probably, uh, there’s a lot of things that they’ve done that I haven’t been invited to.”

DB: What about Councilman Neumann inviting Vote Yes!, then uninviting them on the 29th? How do you feel about that? Don’t you think…

Leppert: “The only thing I’d say is there’ve been a lot of functions I know they’ve had where I haven’t been invited or Dave hasn’t been invited or other folks haven’t been invited to.”

DB: What about the idea of uninviting them? I mean, he extended the invitation…

Leppert: “I’m not going to comment on that because I’m not close enough to know the circumstances or anything else, so I can’t comment on that. I understand they weren’t invited tonight.”

DB: Can you explain how the $1.3 billion breaks down? Who’s paying for what because you say 90 percent…

Leppert: “Sure. The $1.3 billion has roughly about $300 million worth of contingencies in it. The city pays the $84 million number that Ron [Natinsky] played with. Then you’ve got miscellaneous monies that I haven’t added up that are probably, when it all gets totaled, probably about $30 or $40 million. The rest of it is financed through the Tollway Authority. The Tollway Authority goes out, raises bonds, the bonds are what pays for it, and then the revenues from the tolls are what pay for it. There’s nothing different to that. That’s what’s being done all over the world today. It’s a very straightforward, straightforward proposition.”

DB: So roughly a billion you’re saying from the NTTA?

Leppert: “Yeah. Yeah. And the other thing, go, if you want to, and I know there’s a lot of things I’ve asked folks to do that they haven’t done, but if you want to go look at the roads, the road projects, that TxDOT or that you see in this region are doing, eight out of 10 of them are over a billion dollars. That’s what it costs for doing roads.”

DB: Here’s what I want to get at as far as you’re saying the NTTA is going to commit a billion, now what I have done is I talked to the NTTA and they said they’re not on the line for anything. They’re not committing to anything.

Leppert: “Well…would you commit if you had this referendum sitting in front of you?”

DB: But don’t you think to say…

Leppert: “I feel comfortable. They have told me and I’ve asked them the question. Where we’re going, if we can go forward, is this viable? Can you finance the bonds? Yes. And the answer is yes.”

DB: They’ve told you…

Leppert: “Yes.”

DB: They can finance…

Leppert: “Yes.”

DB: A billion dollars worth of bonds?

Leppert: “Yes. That they can make this thing work. That’s what it is. Yes.”

DB: A comment that Mr. Natinsky said…

Leppert: “Well, you’ve gotta give him…”

DB: No, no. It’s something that the campaign overall has said…

Leppert: “And, by the way, that’s fine, but you attributed a comment to me that I didn’t say.”

DB: What comment is that?

Leppert: “I’ll have to pick it back up because I remember reading it, and that’s not what I said.”

DB: OK. Well, let me know what that is.

Leppert: “It is because I got misquoted.”

DB: OK. Well, I would love to…

Leppert: “You got a deal.”

DB: One thing that the campaign as a whole has said is that the city is going to get their $84 million back. I’ve looked at the ILA and it’s very specific that there’s a lot of conditions that need to be met as far as…

Leppert: “Things gotta work out, sure.”

DB: So to say that the city will get its $84 million back…

Leppert: “That’s not what Ron [Natinsky] said. Ron said if it works out, we’ll get our money back. There’s not a guarantee. Ron would admit that too. And he didn’t say it and I haven’t said it.”

*This was Natinsky’s quote from earlier in the evening.

“Once the project is paid for, we actually get back our $84 million.”

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Comments (11)add comment
written by Mike , October 23, 2007

When the Vote No gang get together for these sessions, it sounds like the blind leading the blind!

written by Herbert , October 23, 2007

DB: Mayor how do like your eggs?

Leppert: Scrambled

DB: Go figure

written by Linda , October 23, 2007

I was there last night and it was, of course, very one sided. Questions had to be submitted on notecards and were carefully screened. I know, because I asked why neither Sandy Greyson nor Angela Hunt, both of whom were in the audience, were given an opportunity to present the YES side.

Thanks to the Dallas Jewish Community Relations Council and Hillcrest Forest HOA, at least North Dallas voters will have an opportunity to hear a real debate with both sides there. Thursday, October 25, 7-8:30 pm, Angela and Sandy vs. Tom and Ron, with SMU Political Science professor Cal Jillson moderating. Jewish Community Center, 7900 Northaven Road, Zale Auditorium.

written by Right Wing Republican Volunteer , October 24, 2007


The Mayor first pretended to not know Sam or who he was with and then somehow specifically "remembered" having been misquoted by Sam and Dallas Blog.

written by Michael M. , October 24, 2007

I'm a YES volunteer, and I attended. It was the political equivalent of a kangaroo court. The only way for the citizens attending to be involved in a two-way conversation was to submit their questions on note cards, which were screened by Ms. Koop.
One of the questions was how much would it cost to repair a flooded toll road. Natinsky took this one, and had their PR person show a cross section of the levee, and proceeded to tell the audience that the park would flood before the toll road. I yelled out, "How much would it cost?", and was reprimanded by Mr. Natinksy ("this won't be tolerated"). So, he proceeds to claim that the toll road will be in a 300-year flood zone, mistakenly informing the audience that that means it will only flood once in 300 years. So, I called out again, "How much will it cost to repair". Well, he never answered the question.
This is a great example of how engineered this meeting was to limit the truth. They didn't even have to answer the questions on the note cards!

written by John McClelland , October 24, 2007

How many of those 300 year floods just occured within 2007? I recall 3 or 4 times this year alone where the river reached the levee system.

This is what happens when you let Councilmembers "play with the numbers". It's time for the Council to have the facts. Not play time.

written by Peggy Sue , October 24, 2007

The church says they were told the event was a Linda Koop Town Hall meeting, not a one sided presentation about an upcoming election. Why mislead the church?

I received a robo call the morning of the meeting from my councilman Ron Natinsky reminding me of the event. He NEVER said it was a Vote No event in the recorded message. Why mislead one's constituents?

Mayor Leppert said twice that night that he has no vested interest in the toll road. Yet he accepted large contributions to retire his nearly one million dollar campaign debt from Toll road advocates. Why mislead the audience?

written by Branden Helms , October 24, 2007

If Mayor Tom said he has no vested interest, he is lying through his teeth. It is no secret he is the Citizens Council pick for mayor. He was elected, thanks to the CC. Members of the CC, like Ray Hunt and the Stemmons family would make a lot of money off the road near the 183/35 split. They want, they use their influence on the mayor, the mayor wants it.

In one of the open records request that Angela did, there was a letter from councilmembers Medrano, Garcia and Salazar stating they were looking forward to working with the Mayor and the CC on the issue.

No vested interest my rear. Even the rest of the council knows it.

written by Gehrig Saldaña , October 24, 2007

Just heard Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert ordered an unscheduled recess in this morning's Dallas City Council meeting. Seems like Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway and political activist Roy Williams engaged in a screaming match over the Trinity River toll road project. Mr. Williams accused black elected leaders of being co-opted by white business interests to support the Trinity River toll road project.

Mr. Williams is quoted in the Dallas Morning News' website this afternoon as saying: "My contention is the White Citizen Council as it was known 20 years ago has had an agenda for the city because they control the wealth in this city," Mr. Williams' comments were towards the Dallas Citizens Council.

Mr. Williams' comments makes one ponder exactly what political mindset there is now in Dallas' black grassroot communities on the Trinity River toll road referendum on November 6th. Perception sometimes becomes reality once the train leaves the station on these kind of expressions.

written by john k. , October 24, 2007

I have always been a toll road and or Department of Transportation highways advocate, but this one doesn't have merit. The right-of-way is wrong although it may not be costly initially. In the long run which is the right way,it's locataion should be to the left or right of the levees.

written by Lake Highlands Voter , October 26, 2007

Sam, are you aware that Mayor Leppert contradicted his own side's statements in last night's debate at the Jewish Community Center?

At last week's Belmont debate, Bob Meckfessal, who seems more credible than the mayor, said that while Trinity project gifts had slowed, they were still being received, even one very recently.

Last night, Leppert was adamant that absolutely no gifts have been received.

When this statement was challenged by the Yes side, he repeated his claim.

Do you know what's going on with this?

It's odd to me that he doesn't know what his own side (and sometime co-debater) said on October 17. Does he not review previous debates?

To me, the issue isn't whether the gifts have slowed or even gone away. It's the mayor's lack knowledge and/or outright untruthfulness about the statement he makes in every presentation.

I wanted to ask the mayor about it, but he ran out of the auditorium before anyone could ask him anything.

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