Playing Land Grab-Ass

Categories: Schutze
Ed Oakley was all for taking a man's land, till he realized, ya know, people aren't gonna react well to that. Which, come to think of it, is very mayoral.

Well, well, well. I am getting quite a bit of response to my column in this week’s paper version of Unfair Park about Mayor Laura Miller and Hollywood Door Company. The column tells how the mayor saved an old family company from a City Hall plot to seize its property using a twisted form of the zoning laws.

First off, I need to point out that my original source for this story was Republican activist Sharon Boyd, who happened to hear this saga unfolding when she flipped on her radio to catch part of a city council session. She called me immediately with an urgent emergency news bulletin: “Turn on your radio! Laura’s doing something good!”

Boyd and I, both your basic Miller fans, have been on hard times lately trying to cope with herroner’s role in the Trinity River toll road referendum fight. She has joined real-estate mogul Harlan Crow and the Dallas Citizens Council in coming out against voting. Sharon and I, opposite sides of the aisle as we may be, both find the anti-voting thing a little too Sovietski.
Isn’t voting just what we Americans do?

But speaking of Sovietski, Dallas city councilman Bill Blaydes was going to use an apparently fictional claim of neighborhood opposition to try to force the unwilling sale of nine acres owned by Hollywood Door Company on Walnut Hill Lane and White Rock Trail to some developer buddies of his. Miller saw it coming and shamed the rest of the council into shooting Blaydes down.

But I need to offer an additional explanation here. Councilman Mitchell Rasansky had at least as big a role in spotting this as Miller, and the two of them, in fact, researched the issue and helped bring it to light. I did mention Rasansky in my column, but I did not fully explain his role.

My failure to do so was my own fault. Miller in no way tried to take credit for this. Quite the contrary, I think I was a little bit lucky to get her to talk to me at all. My own wife said later, “She spoke to you?” And by the way, I’m not clear whose side of that my own wife was on.

A last note: The guys Blaydes was trying to steal this property for are developers he and councilman-mayoral candidate Ed Oakley have done countless bottomless favors for, including dishing them millions of dollars in city bond money for their project. Oakley tried to get them their own private TIF (big fat tax break), but the deal was so transparently wrong that even our party-hearty city council couldn’t swallow it.

In this case, Blaydes tried to use a fake zoning issue as a tool for what really would have amounted to “a taking” -- the unjust acquisition of property without compensation. This is an example of what happens when individual councilmembers get into these huggy-kissy tax-break love affairs with real-estate sharps. There’s just no audit trail on the favors, and the campaign contributions and the who-knows-what that goes back and forth.

Look, I know Tom Leppert, the other candidate in the June 16 mayoral run-off, is a stalking horse for the Dallas (no longer scary chalk-white) Citizens Council, and the Citizens Council is really just another lobby group for real-estate developers. I’m just hoping Leppert, based on his career as a big-shot CEO, has a line somewhere that can be crossed.

You know, as in, “Oh, no, no, we’re not going to use zoning and planning to help you get your property in the first place, and then give you millions of dollars in bond money, and then also give you millions more in economic development money, and then also give you hundreds of millions in tax breaks, and then also use a totally fraudulent zoning case to force a guy to sell you even more land at less than what his land is worth to him. Why are we not? Because it crosses the line.”

Blaydes and Oakley? What line?

Bottom-line in the response I’m getting about Mayor Laura? People are saying, Yeah, she may be bull-headed on stuff. But she has integrity. When she leaves, she takes that with her. --Jim Schutze



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