Leppert's Jedi Mind Tricks
by Sam Merten    Thu, Oct 4, 2007, 01:30 PM

leppert_jedi.jpgShortly after the July City Council recess, Gromer Jeffers over at the DMN wrote “Tom Leppert is Dallas' clean-up man” and “his predecessors have left a bit of a mess for him.” Jeffers went on to explain that Leppert had to tackle issues left behind by past mayors before he could accomplish any of his goals for the city.

Jeffers cited the city’s push to add an adjoining hotel next to the convention center and the Trinity toll road campaign. Even though Jeffers wrote “continuing the work of former mayors is not uncommon in government,” the tone of his column was there is this smart guy with a “briefcase full of fresh ideas” and how sad is it that he has to spend his time finishing the work of Ron Kirk and Laura Miller.

As he said, this is not uncommon. In fact, how someone is able to deal with the leftovers from a previous administration can say a lot about the new one. I’ve made my position clear on the convention center hotel and as far as the toll road debate, this has proved to be an eye-opening experience for those following the campaign.

Tom Leppert was supposed to change things at City Hall. Tired of the broken promises and letdowns of Kirk and Miller, voters went with the unknown. They chose the anti-Laura Miller. Miller was a journalist, a Democrat, someone with experience on the council and if you didn’t agree with her, well, screw you. Leppert was a big-time CEO, a Republican, someone with no political experience and if you didn’t agree with him, well, he’d find a way to make it work.

It seemed like a good plan. Elect the opposite of what you didn’t like and things will change. And when it came to a runoff between him and Oakley, everyone knew Oakley and the unknown felt like a much better pick. And the third place candidate in the May election, Don Hill? It’s safe to say that would be a total disaster right now.

Mayor Leppert did find time to break the one actual promise he made during his campaign while he’s been mopping up for Kirk and Miller: add more cops without raising taxes. That didn’t work out so well. Not to mention that Leppert didn’t add any cops, City Manager Mary Suhm did. Leppert talked about how Suhm’s plan of adding 200 cops each year was a good starting point, but he wanted to add more. Only 200 cops were added and taxes went up.

As for getting to know the unknown in Leppert, I followed him along the mayoral campaign trail and now on the toll road campaign, the real Tom Leppert is beginning to reveal himself.

At the debate Tuesday at the Fairmont Hotel sponsored by the Dallas Democratic Forum, Leppert exposed himself to me in a way I would have never expected. In his closing remarks, Leppert jumped off the stage and began grabbing people from the audience, telling them he needed their help and to step forward. I was there, sitting in the front row with my pen, notebook and tape recorder in hand. Seeing the opportunity for a unique photo, I also grabbed my camera. Leppert came over to me and asked me to join the others up front.

I balked at the invite and looked down at my materials to suggest I was with the media. He walked away to align the others and as I got my camera ready, he came back over to me, grabbed my arm and pulled me to the front, telling me “I need you.”

Then everyone was lined up in a human simulation of the width of the floodway. I represented a levee and the woman next to me was the toll road. This was supposed to show how tiny the road was in respect to the width of the area it will be placed.

Not a bad idea by Leppert to be honest. It would have made an interesting picture had I not been part of the show.

What my problem here is that Leppert is not used to people saying no to him and this pissed him off. How dare I, pathetic blogger, refuse to take part in his charade? He’s the mayor of Dallas, who do I think I am? Of course, there had to be some satisfaction knowing he had me up there. I’m surprised he didn’t make me the road.

Clearly I was under no obligation to do it and maybe you’re thinking that I’m making too big of a deal out of this. However, Leppert knew I was with the media. I had refused his first attempt, but I certainly wasn’t going to make a scene after he grabbed me the second time.

What I’m getting at here is Leppert is used to being the CEO where everyone kisses his ass. When you don’t kiss his ass, there is hell to pay.

I got my first taste of what I call Leppert’s Jedi mind tricks when I spoke with him after the Vote No! press conference. I’ve not seen him do it in public, but when he speaks to me, his eyes open wide and he waives his hands around like he’s trying to brainwash me. When I asked him if delays in this project had to do with the road being in a floodway, he dodged the question. When I tried to get an answer about leaving Angela Hunt out of a leadership role on the committees, he tried to throw the council under the bus by saying he wanted to reflect what they wanted and Leppert simply was unable to explain how 14 available spots with 14 council members ended up with Hunt getting snubbed.

My refusal to fall under his Jedi spell only agitates Leppert and on Tuesday he was extremely put out with answering very simple questions pertaining to key arguments made on his behalf during the debate. So far, Leppert has failed to explain how the NTTA can build a similar toll road in Frisco for $264 million, but the one in Dallas is at $1.3 billion and rising. The answer is simple. There is one key difference between the roads. One is in a floodway and one isn’t. Yet Leppert wants to waive his hand and say, “It’s inflation.” Then everyone is supposed to walk away and believe it without questioning it.

Leppert’s mind tricks may have been able to work on the council members, but people like Angela Hunt, Sandy Greyson, Donna Blumer and now Sam Coats are out there exposing him. It’s ironic that someone who ran his campaign on a bunch of vague ideas about improving Dallas is now attacking the opposition because they don’t have a plan for where the road will go. It’s also funny that someone elected to be the anti-Laura Miller and Ron Kirk is now out there campaigning for their road while they sit on the sidelines.

On Nov. 7, Leppert can finally get down to business and start going through his “briefcase of fresh ideas.” For his sake, I hope there is a new place to put the road in there.


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written by HSH , October 04, 2007

Sam -- it's funny you say that his eyes open wide and he starts waiving his hands around like a Jedi master. I experienced the same thing with him during a mayoral runoff forum. I approached him about Dallas's water usage and the fact that, earlier that day, the East Texas delegation to the Texas House had managed to throw a huge monkey wrench in the way of Dallas building new reservoirs across East Texas. I told him that Dallas area residents were the largest water hogs in the state and gave him the exact numbers from the Water Quality Board and asked didn't he think we should push harder on conversation if we are going to flood people's property? He then insisted I was wrong and basically told me I was completely unable to understand how water usage was measured. He then gave me the "I'm an engineer" speech. I again told him what had happened that day in the Leg and repeated the numbers. He got mad and walked away.

I ended up voting for the guy (exactly because of "the devil we know" argument). Your observations are right on target.

It will be interesting to see how he handles defeat on November 7th.

written by East Dallas Eccentric , October 04, 2007

Sam, haven't you ever met anyone from the Park Cities before?

written by Mike , October 04, 2007

Leppert IS: arrogant, condescending and dishonest. Leppert IS NOT: an engineer.

I wouldn't be surprised to see the SOB resign on Nov. 7th, to which I'd say good riddance.

written by Gehrig Saldana , October 05, 2007

Sam: Thanks for giving clarity to the cost differential on how the NTTA can build a similar toll road in Frisco for $264 million, but the one in Dallas has a current and growing price tag of $1.3 billion. Main difference? the proposed toll road in the Trinity Park Project is in a floodway and the toll road in Frisco isn’t.

It would be in everybody's best interest to understand there are 81,000 reasons why a referendum will take place November 6th on this issue. Regardless of where one stands on this issue, clarity, honesty and integrity will go a long way in securing not only the votes of a majority of those 81,000 citizens who signed the petition but also the vote of Dallas' remaining eligible voters.

That said, you don't score points toward your side when you have to wake up to front page Dallas Morning News coverage sheding light on the partisan politics flowing out of Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm's office on this issue. To top that off, the current FBI indictments related to corruption at Dallas City Hall don't add up to a successful run at voter trust.

written by Bobbi , October 05, 2007

I have been saying all along that Leppert, being a former CEO, is going to go hard on this vote using the only way he knows how -- the CEO way.

"I'm right and you are all wrong." "I have the experts and you don't understand." "This is the math and you flunked math."

This was entirely apparent, with Ms. Lill echoing the condescension, at the last debate they paired up at. These people have no idea that the freight train of populace uprising is coming right at them.

written by Roger Herrera , October 05, 2007

I still want to be Dallas Mayor.

written by Branden Helms , October 06, 2007

I'll run on vague campaign promises of protecting parks from tollroads and one free something or another for every eligible Dallas voter.

written by Don Van Slyke , October 06, 2007

Sam, Thanks for standing up for Dallas. As I am sure that you know, Jedi Mind Tricks only work on weak-minded people.

written by UHG! , October 06, 2007

Sam, the reason he does not want to answer your questions is because you have no respect for the challenge he faces and he has zero repect for you. You only want it your way, which is whatever makes you feel like you work for the NYT. Get over yourself and do your job and maybe you can become a REAL journalist. Look to Barta if you want to know what a good journalist is supposed to look like.

written by Objective Observer , October 07, 2007

I'm glad I'm not the only one to realize that everything Sam writes is about Sam. Thank goodness he's not as important as he thinks he is. Too bad his distortions and hatchet jobs clog up an otherwise intellectually honest blog.

written by dave c. , October 07, 2007

Sam. I think you are doing a great job. You have done all you could to be fair and you have been lied to and disrespected at every turn.

"UGH" and "Objective Observer" and the people they work for can't stop the truth or power of your writing so they have gone to attacking the messenger mode. Same thing they are doing to Angela Hunt and Jim at the Observer too.

I am very impressed with your writing and have been amazed at the information you have brought to light. Keep going! Dallas needs you and Dallas needs the truth. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

written by Don Van Slyke , October 08, 2007

Sam, You are doing a great job.

"UGH" and "Objective Observer" are attacking the messenger because a rational argument is more difficult.

written by Sharon Boyd , October 08, 2007

Ugh and Observer must be part of the Vote No! team. They can't beat anyone with the facts, so they try to marginalize those who do have the facts. Attacking Angela Hunt and now Sam Merten are not going to stop Dallas voters from voting YES to keep their honking tollroad out of our river floodway.

written by Richie Sheridan , October 13, 2007

Dave Neumann, the City Council Chair of the Trinity River Corridor, met with me on Thursday. He was interested in finding out more on the fourth bypass alternative "in case" the "Vote Yes" won. This is gthe alternative that the Morning News has been ignoring, and the one that mayor Leppert, in a sound bite, rules out. "I'd do it in a minute, but it's too costly."

I felt the meeting went very well. I thought he'd cut me short, and be snotty, but instead Councilman Neumann was very cordial and attentive, and there were some good laughs along the way.

What really interested Mr. Neumann was the reclaiming of about 60% of Dallas floodway for the creation of a true Central Park, and San Antonio River walk park. How much would a strip of non-flood land 1600 ft. wide (two strips combined onboth side of the river) and 7 miles long be worth? Would the Perots, the Hunts, the Crows, etc. be interested in developing this "Gold Coast" property?

The fourth bypass highway alternative will also provide over 800 year, to 1500 to 2000 year flood protection, at a much lower cost than what is in the budget...$155 million?

So whatever it's constructed cost, we would have to subtract it's flood protection value, and it's non-flood land value for the creation of a World Class park.

The cost of the 4th bypass highway might be less that the other three, and resolve the conflict, answer too both sides.

I stated to Mr. Neumann at the meeting outset, "I'm looking for a Solomon."

As I left his office, in the "Seinfeld" way, I said, "Goodbye Neumann!" He got a good laugh ourt of it!

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