by Jim Schutze
Wow, Eric Johnson, candidate for mayor in the June 8 runoff election, really has a lot of endorsements. I mean, a ton of endorsements. The list is so long, I can’t even reproduce a screen grab of all the names here. I would need three screen grabs. So why is the hair standing up on the back of my neck?
I have to tell you, in this town, whenever the endorsements for anything start lining up like little magnetized iron filings, I do get the willies. When was the last time you saw endorsements for anyone or anything line up en masse like this in Dallas?
Oh, I do remember now. That’s right. The last time there was an outbreak of mass endorsement like this, it was for the Trinity toll road, the failed highway project along the river that ate up 20 years of public debate and $200 million and then didn’t get built.
Remember? There were so many endorsements for the Trinity toll road, all in the same tone, almost the same words, that you kind of got the feeling that maybe there was something unnatural going on.
Did you see all those Dallas mayors who endorsed Johnson? Ron Kirk, Tom Leppert, Mike Rawlings. They were all mass endorsers of the Trinity River project, too, which, as we learned eventually, meant the toll road. Kirk said in one of his endorsements that a yes vote on $246 million in bonds would create “a system of lakes, tollways and levees that will aid flood control, ease traffic congestion and create an 8,500-acre greenbelt that will be the single greatest economic boost to our city in decades.”
The city listened to those endorsements and voted for the $246 million in tax-supported bonds. I told you here a couple of weeks ago that the $246 million is now officially all gone, spent, no longer with us. Soooo … see any lakes out there? Greenbelt? That’s got me trying to remember some more of those toll road endorsements.
The mass endorsing of the Trinity toll road started in 1998. Many of the same crew who are now endorsing Johnson for mayor told us a great story about how our $246 million in bonds would bring in $1 billion in money from somewhere and transform the city forever.
What a deal. The endorsers said we would put in $246 million and get back about a billion dollars. We’re all rich now, right?We Love Dallas
The money would grow on trees.We Love Dallas
But by 2006, we still didn’t have any lakes. We didn’t have a toll road. The lion’s share of the flood safety work was still undone. And the same endorsers were back, telling us they needed a bunch more money after all.
In 2006, the same people who had told us in 1998 that the $246 million in the 1998 bond package would pay for everything asked us to vote for another $334 million … to pay for everything!Vote Yes! It’s Our Future
Tom Dunning, chair of the Dallas Citizens Council, told us in 2006 we needed to authorize hundreds of millions of dollars worth of tax-backed city bonds because “… many of these projects are long overdue.” But we thought we had already paid for them, a long time ago.Vote Yes! It’s Our Future
Then came 2008. Angela Hunt, then on the City Council, called for a citywide referendum to bring the Trinity River project under control, particularly by dialing back on the toll road. The endorserati went nuts, attacking her ideas and endorsing the “vote no” option to keep the toll road alive.
Former Mayor Tom Leppert, who has endorsed Eric Johnson for mayor, told us we would lose a billion dollars if we voted yes in a referendum to kill the project.Vote No! Save the Trinity
Linda Koop, then on the City Council, told us that continuing to spend money on the toll road “protects taxpayers.” She also said building a new expressway to reroute suburban traffic through the center city would “improve our air quality.” Koop has endorsed Eric Johnson.More recently
EMayor Mike Rawlings, who has endorsed Eric Johnson, couldn’t stop endorsing the Trinity toll road even after the project was toast.Trinity Commons Foundation
So, forgive me. When I see every hungry contractor and developer in town getting in line, every favor-seeking political nebbish, every social suck-up, I do get the willies. Unified zombie endorserati have not been very good for us in the past.