After Spending All Day Talking Ethics Reform, City Council Punts the Whole Shebang and Wraps It Up With a Freakin' Straw Vote

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As the Dallas City Council reached the end of its painfully long discussion about the proposed ethics reform, Dave Neumann said, "It was productive for the council to go through this briefing, but that's OK."

Yup, the council began its agenda meeting this morning chatting about fine points of the amendments and stopped around 4:30 p.m. That, dear Friends, is the very definition of a briefing, especially when the result is a half-assed straw vote.

It wasn't that there weren't attempts to delay this sucker before the debate took on a life of its own and killed itself. Early on, a motion to defer the item until December 16 was narrowly defeated 8-7. After lunch, a motion to reconsider deferring it failed again -- this time 7-7, with Carolyn Davis out of the room. Strangely, Delia Jasso and Ann Margolin switched sides of the fence. (Jasso had voted against deferring it earlier, and Margolin had voted to defer.)

When everyone woke up and it was time to make a decision, Mayor Tom Leppert conducted straw votes on three of the four components, noting that "at least 10" council members voted in favor of each. The gift-giving component was not discussed. As for how the other three turned out, honestly, it's a little foggy after watching the madness for hours on my computer, but I'll do my best after the jump.

The lobbyist registration component appears to have remained intact. Leppert convinced Angela Hunt to have her amendment requiring zoning applicants and landowners to fill out activity reports considered as a separate item, and it subsequently failed.

The campaign contribution component also seemed virtually unchanged, and the seconding of motions for zoning cases was changed from three to two.

Several of Hunt's suggestions weren't endorsed by her colleagues, including the one requiring meetings with campaign consultants also serving as lobbyists be noted on activity reports with an asterisk.

"Where's the pipeline to corruption?" asked Neumann.

"There's probably only one person on the council that fits that definition," said Ron Natinsky.

Hunt ultimately voted yes in the straw voting, but only because it wasn't a final vote. She had earlier expressed reservations about creating law and passing it on the same day. "I would like to see an ordinance before I vote on an ordinance, and I don't think that's too much to ask," she said.

Despite the tedious and confusing discussions that resulted from the amendments, Leppert said, "At this point, to defer it doesn't make any sense. ... What is on the table is very simple and straightforward."

Vonciel Hill did not vote in favor of the straw votes and expressed her concerns about moving forward without a consensus throughout the day. "I do not understand why today is: Do it now or never."

She also took a shot at Leppert, saying, "I have heard this issue has been on the table for two years. It hasn't."

Five lobbyists spoke to the council, including Willie Cothrum and Robert Reeves, who called the proposed rules an "administrative nightmare." Zoning lawyer Kirk Williams indicated that the council was implementing policies that won't actually serve its intended purpose, causing Leppert to call his comments "disingenuous at best."

Leppert estimated that the council will vote for realsies on November 9 and said he doesn't anticipate another briefing. I'm calling in sick that day.

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