Down the Trinity, Where Tom Leppert Misleads While Mike Rawlings Just Pleads the Fifth

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

SHZ_GetOffMyLawn_TitleImageV2.jpg
Before we put the Trinity River toll road story down for another much-needed nap, we have two very important items of laundry to attend to. One is called Tom Leppert. The other is named Mike Rawlings.

First, did former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert, now a candidate for the U.S. Senate, lie or not lie about the project to the people of Dallas in 2007?

Second, what's the real reason Rawlings, a candidate for mayor, a member of the Dallas Citizens Council, won't commit for or against the toll road? Why does he always skitter and wave his hands like he's getting yanked by a neck chain?

leppert and rawlings.jpg
Leppert and Rawlings, separated at birth.
Remember that Leppert and Rawlings both come from the same place politically: the Citizens Council, the private business group that has aggressively promoted this project from the beginning. And from the beginning our problem has been about leadership ducking the hard questions and getting too clever by half with the answers.

In a referendum in 2007, Dallas voters had to decide something about building a major new tolled highway downtown. The question was not whether to build it. It was whether to build it between the dirt embankments or levees that contain the flood waters of the Trinity River twice a year.

Was it a safe idea to put it out there, down between the levees? Would the highway itself flood? Would the extra mass of the highway between the levees push flood waters higher, like a brick in a bathtub, and maybe make the water go over the tops of the levees into downtown and West Dallas? Would sinking big piers into the levees for entrances and exits make the levees erode or fall apart?

Leppert's phrase repeatedly during the campaign for the referendum was "signed off." He said over and over again that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in charge of national levee safety, had signed off on the safety of the toll road.

The Dallas Morning News, a ferocious advocate of the route between the levees, supported Leppert's view and ridiculed people who questioned it. But earlier this week -- almost four years after the fact -- The News in an editorial conceded that Leppert, not The News, had misled the public about the Corps' assurances. The Corps had not signed off.

Leppert then came back in a June 7 story by Michael Lindenberger in The News, insisting that the Corps had in fact signed off four years ago and that the charges of misleading the public were unfair. He told Lindenberger, "The top levels of the corps indicated we could get the project approved."

Leppert thinks he has a way with words: He never says yes or no to a direct question, for example. He says, "I'm very comfortable" with whatever answer he intends to convey.

But in this context his answer is not so clever. The question was: Did the Corps sign off, as in give its approval, to building the road between the levees? His answer means yes.

So what does the Corps say? When it comes to being cutesy with words, the Corps is worse than Leppert. That was one of the most disturbing lessons of The Big Uneasy, Harry Shearer's documentary about the Corps and Hurricane Katrina. Shearer showed in sickening detail how the Corps will dodge, weave and say whatever it has to say to keep its own toes clear of the door.

In the case of the Trinity toll road, Corps officials may have tried to tell Leppert what he wanted to hear (yes, you can) while putting more qualified statements (no, you can't) on the record to cover themselves. As Shearer's documentary demonstrates, it sure wouldn't be the first time.

If that's what happened, the cleansing solvent here is daylight. Leppert needs to name the Corps officials who gave him the assurances he told voters he had received. If the people exist, there is no conceivable reason for their names to be secret. Leppert has every reason to make them public.

The Rawlings matter is almost as disturbing as the Leppert one. I was one of two moderators at a mayoral debate last week. I gave Rawlings what I thought was a chance to clear the air on his position on the toll road. He has been ducking it for months by saying he needs more information about the toll road, even though the damn thing has been intensely debated in this city for 13 years.

Rawlings, a bright man and good with words, weaved and dodged away from my question, saying again he needed more information. But at the end of the debate, former police chief David Kunkle, his opponent, asked him the same question again.

Only better. I listened to Kunkle framing it -- politely, firmly, without a centimeter of wiggle room -- and I thought, "He's a better reporter than I am." Then I thought, "No, wait. He's a cop."

Rawlings ducked and danced even more absurdly. His voice literally went up half an octave, and he started waving his hands in the air like a kid. All of a sudden I had a picture of him in my mind sitting in a windowless room under a naked light bulb saying, "You got nuttin' on me."

The question is simple. The toll road. Good idea? Bad idea? He will not answer.

I say he will not answer because he cannot answer. His campaign is supported by huge sums of money from the very people who have pushed this project from the beginning. Watching this grown man dance that night, I realized that Rawlings does not have freedom of movement on this question, which means he will never have freedom of movement on any of the questions that are important to the people who have paid for his campaign.

I like Rawlings. He's impressive. But this is where the rubber meets the road.

I know that Kunkle, as our chief of police, had to sit in meetings for years and listen to Leppert con people about the toll road. There wasn't a thing for him to do about it, because he worked for Leppert. And he's a cop. Good cops don't make end runs.

I think that's why he's running for mayor. It's not an end run. It's right down the middle. He decided to get out there on the field, pick up the ball himself and see how far he could get.

I do not have an opinion about which man should be mayor. You may not believe that, but it's true. I have a lot of opinions about Leppert, but I could be proved wrong in a flash.

Leppert could clear his name by naming names. Rawlings can prove me wrong in every single thing I have said -- and I wish he would -- by coming clean on his feelings about the toll road.

But if they don't, if both Leppert and Rawlings stick to their current course on the toll road, then I think we should all be able to see what that means. It means whatever we've been through for the last 13 years, we've got more of the same ahead.

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The Derelict
The Derelict

why is this even being discussed?  we all know where he stands on the toll road.  He's got 13 years on information and can't make up his fucking mind?  nonsense! he is for it as sure as the sky is blue. 

Stan
Stan

After attending two debates with Mike Rawlings and former Chief Kunkle, I can only conclude that Mr. Rawlings does not understand the job he is seeking.   He does not know what the mayor does or how our city functions.    Mr. Kunkle has the advantage in that he served both as a dept. head and an asst. city manager in Arlington.  He knows how the system works and what is wrong in Dallas.

As for the Trinity River tollroad project, Mike Rawlings is clueless or deliberately stupid.   The facts are in the project is a turkey and it is time for it to die.  Mr. Kunkle understands that it is time to kill this project.   He had no involvement in covering up the facts.  He was the police chief and he had no involvement in the project.

Bettyculbreath
Bettyculbreath

Tom Leppert attended Harverd they don't get facts wrong.Leppert has the utmost respect for Ivy League graduates they are superior in knowledge and brain power.If they said something that happens not to be true its a lie,they're not Sara Palin's.

OED_Denizen
OED_Denizen

Are you serious? Harvard folks make mistakes just like everyone else. Oh, yeah, folks from Yale have the same problem.

Steve C
Steve C

Schutze,

 

You’ve thought this through well or well through andconcluded politicians have lied and covered up.  I’m shocked. But Kunkle worked for our city manager, not the mayor, and both arepublic servants sworn to protect and serve. 

 

In fact you have identified many of the problems with seniorcity staff in your past columns. These are the same city employees you write about, that know more andhave covered up more than Rawlings ever could dream of doing.   You confess Kunkle must have beenpart of the ongoing cover-up in obvious collusion with the city manager and goafter Rawlings.? You conclude that Kunkle sat in meetings and knew what wasgoing on but could do nothing about it because Leppert was his boss?  Don’t our public employees have a duty andresponsibility to the citizens of Dallas to tell the truth? Particularly thosein leadership positions? Is not that the point of a City Manager form of government?  What does this say about Kunkle?

 

Schutze,  youare one of the very few reporters I still read regularly, but your bias on thisone should not have been so transparent; particularly as a debate moderator. Youare giving city staff and Kunkle a free pass when their hands are as dirty asanyone’s.  You make the Kunkle /city staff dirty case with this article and draw a different conclusion. 

 

Kunkle could make an OK mayor and I think Rawlings will be anexcellent mayor. But you are too trusted in the community to be misleading and/orto not shine the light in all appropriate places.

scottindallas
scottindallas

So, you really think the police chief should stand up on an entirely unrelated issue, that was an issue of the vote? 

Rawlings was head of Parks, and they should have some insight about this issue but still can't form an opinion?   That's absurd.  I don't know how you think the world works, but for the police chief to get too heavily involved in the Trinity River Tollroad is absurd.

Watching
Watching

Kunkle was the Chief of Police -- What Trinity Project meetings would he have had a reason to sit in on?  Kunkle is opposed to the Trinity Project.  The same day the DMN broke the news that they had been "deceived" by Leppert, et al and the Trinity Project was not funded or even viable, Rawlings said he would beg, borrow, etc. to get the project done.   Really ought to read stuff before you take Jim S or anyone else to task for opposing the Citizen Council's puppet.

Steve C
Steve C

Jim is my favorite journalist but I was reading Jim above.  Fifth paragraph from the end.

Quote: "I know that Kunkle, as our chief of police, had to sit in meetings for years and listen to Leppert con people about the toll road. There wasn't a thing for him to do about it, because he worked for Leppert. And he's a cop. Good cops don't make end runs."

I too question which meetings he would be in on but did not raise issues beyond the Schutze statement which included Leppart as boss instead of city manager as boss.  Jim makes a good case but leaves out too many bad guys and goes after Rawlings for saying I don't know because I too have been deprived of facts.

Just an aside, I voted against the Trinity 2x and felt it was a corrupt process beginning to end.  I still think something should be done with the Trinity besides a drainage ditch and like Rawlings, would like to see the real facts.  Kunkle speaks in glowing terms about senior city employees that do know the facts. 

I feel very strongly that this column should have addressed a full range of the bad guys involved in the Trinity coverup.

City Hall senior staff was, and is, a huge part of this coverup and of many other city problems that are aided by secrecy. They often know facts that are not shared with city council members or the public willingly. This is a very serious problem. It is hard for me to believe that someone who has been an integral part of this staff secrecy network for many years will correct it. Kunkle has not even hinted that this might be a problem. 

I want a Mayor willing to dig for facts, ask hard questions, share the answers and who comes from outside the knowingly complicit city hall staff structure. This would be Rawlings, not Kunkle.

All the same information just opposing conclusions.

JimS
JimS

Steve C, you make a good case for the culpability of the staff in this thing. I may have over-stated Kunkle's specific knowledge or involvement. The Trinity River Project really was not any of his business as chief of police. I'm connecting some dots here that perhaps I shouldn't, based on what Kunkle says and knows about Leppert now and what he must have known when Leppert was still in office.Other staff members have more serious culpability issues, assuming the city ever gets on top of this issue. Some of them are people I like and respect, but they have gone way beyond the call of duty in defending the project, deliberately deceiving the council and voters, taking sides in elections, etc. That's a live-by-the-sword die-by-the-sword deal. If, for example, we ever get to the point of saying wicked-witch-is-dead on the toll road, I don't see how Mary Suhm, Jill Jordan or Rebecca Dugger survive.They could have played it down the middle and survived. They tried to at various moments. But they didn't try hard enough.I'm sure it's very flattering when the heiress ladies invite you to tea, give you a scone on silver tongs, then tell you what you have to do about the toll road. The trick is not to go to tea.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Don't you think the facts are in regarding the tollroad?  Fact: the NTTA doesn't want to fund it.  So, where's the money coming from.  Remember the levee issue?  Does the toll road do anything to help that?  Or, does it only exacerbate the problem and vastly expand the expense. 

Fully a 1/4 of our city budget is bond money.  Why not void the bond.  The project isn't feasible, the obligation to the project is broken.  Let's pay back the money not spent, or forgo spending that (I don't know if these bonds were issued all at once or if they are issued as funds are needed.) 

I don't know what facts you want to see.  But, I would at least like him to say that "the project seems untenable and that while the voters approved the project, we have to be frank and admit that may have to kill this project."  He's basically saying that we need more study to see if climate change is caused by people, in defense of a bill that offer tax breaks for Hummers.  My point being that the tax breaks for Hummers would be bad irrespective of the climate change question.  We should seek efficiency in gov't, finance and energy, because it makes cents.

David Wilson
David Wilson

Rawlings Inc. just posted a $2.1 million dollar campaign budget. That means his well-heeled donors all expect a properly proportional return on their investment. The toll road is dead, per the News, so it's gotta be something way over the top.

Rawlings Inc. also loaned Rawlings Inc. $100,000 to get to the end of the campaign.

Kunkle's gonna win with less than a quarter million dollar campaign budget, and all those big Rawlings Inc. supporters are going to want their money back fast. At which point Rawlings Inc. will cop a Madoff and run off to Frisco, since he finally agrees with Kunkle that Dallas can't out-Frisco Frisco.

Mark Anthony
Mark Anthony

Kunkle's gonna win?  With 32% of the vote?Do you predict the Rawlings voters will not vote?  Or, perhaps the Natinsky voters will vote for Kunkle, even though Natinsky endorsed Rawlings.

Watching
Watching

After all the stuff Natinsky said AGAINST Rawlings, why would anyone trust anything he would say FOR Rawlings?

Doug in DFW
Doug in DFW

In an ongoing effort to provide a soundtrack to some of Schutze's posts here's Zion I & The Grouch with "I Plead the Fifth." http://www.mediafire.com/?699j...Listen for it at a mayoral post-election party near you.

MattL1
MattL1

I'm not trying to take sides here, but if a leading mayoral candidate can't make up his mind on an issue that's been at the forefront of Dallas' political conversation for over a decade, he shouldn't be mayor.  

This is one of those areas where "I don't know" is NOT an acceptable answer.

Snookie Pie
Snookie Pie

Wake up.  Kunkle's using you and manipulating you.  Remember, Kunkle's main squeeze is Laura Miller.  Laura Miller vehemently opposed TV. 

Asking
Asking

Is that his girlfriend, or what are you calling a main squeeze? Doesn't make sense.

Watching
Watching

Laura Miller vehemently opposed TV?   What does that mean?   I would rather support her "main squeeze" than Rawlings who  was selected by John Wiley Price and will be controlled by John Wiley Price.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Don't know about all that Matt.  Go Mavs, and screw your front running self (wink)  

I didn't get the TV thing either, so kudos.  Don't let your head get big, but I've noted and appreciated your comments lately.

MattL1
MattL1

I believe TV stands for Trinity Vote.  I could be wrong, but that doesn't happen very often.

MattL1
MattL1

I'm up!  I swear!  Just a little tired from last night.  

I'm being neither used nor manipulated.  Just and ordinary citizen.  If Kunkle wanted to use me, I'd question his judgment, as I'm not a very effective tool.  I'm quite the opposite, except for the "tool" part, some (read "most") would say.  

All I can go back to is this: at least he answered the damn question.

Watching
Watching

Do you know what Snookie was talking about?   Is there someone who can translate for grownups?

Nunya
Nunya

I love how Snookie Pie dodges the issue at hand and diverts attention to Kunkle without addressing what you said..

"Hey!! Look over there!!"

Typical.

RTGolden
RTGolden

Again, I have to tip my conservative hat to JimS and even to Montemalone on this one.  It's not a conservative/liberal or Rep/Dem issue.  It's an equation. More wasted money + more useless construction + more city hall lies = less river park, more flooding, more future taxpayer burden. Even the most hideously ignorant Palinite or the most vociferous Clintonista should be able to math this one out.

Jd
Jd

Planned Parenthood   -  Getting results that the Klan never could

zobzerto
zobzerto

If you put a hooded cloak on Leppert in that picture, he would look just like the Emperor in Star Wars, with lightning about to shoot from his fingers.

"And now, young Skywalker... you will die..."

Areid1980
Areid1980

Jim,We get the narrative.  Anything Leppert (and anyone on the right for that matter) did, does, said, or says is stupid and dangerous.  Okay, fine.  But you do know that you're preaching to the choir here; you know that you're in a bubble?  Right?  You do know that don't you?  Why don't you propose some viable solutions?  I'm serious.  If you have them, I for one would be interested.  And if you do have said solutions, then perhaps next time around you'll throw your hat into the ring.  Put yourself up to the same scrutiny that you (rightly) place upon others.

Watching
Watching

Areid - The solution is to let the river be a river.   Leave it alone.   Don't build in its flood plain.  Enforce the levees -- but don't expand them.   Offer homeowners in the Trinity flood plain a buyout.   If they turn it down, they are on their own.   Rivers flood -- not often -- but they flood.   The Trinity will flood more often now because of all the paved over and over-built land north of us.  When the flood plain is dry, people can hike (at their own peril) or do whatever they want.   Don't spend money on trails, ball diamonds or anything else.   Just enjoy the river as a natural park in the middle of the city.   That's a very realistic and viable plan.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

Volunteers have built and maintain the trails such as Buckeye Trail. They are marvelous entries into this lovely forest, which is much nicer than people think. Generally I agree with your thoughts though.

Guest
Guest

Here's a viable solution:

Don't build the road that we can't afford and don't really need.

How's that?

Here are some other solutions for problems that Jim S. has talked about in the paper:

Don't take money from government organizations that require low-income housing if you don't want to provide low income housing.

Don't put up more road blocks to the Inland Port in South Dallas just because Ross, Jr. wants more road blocks put up.

Don't try to run legitimate businesses out of business through strong-arm tactics.

Show us where the Trinity Bond Money has been spent.

Release the stupid 911 call that you're going to have to release anyway (granted, this has already happened at this point).

Release the stupid public records that you're going to have to release anyway because they're public records.

Quit telling everybody that people who are telling the truth are liars. Or, at least, when you get religion four years later, maybe apologize for being such dicks.

By the same token, if you're a reporter, you might want to make a second phone call rather than just "taking someone's word for it"

And, just maybe, if you've actually got the story, you don't hold it because the information in it would contradict what they mayor is saying.

And so on...

Montemalone
Montemalone

The solution is for people to uses their little gray cells, and quit doing the bidding of billionaires.Stop electing wingnut asshats that want nothinf more than to screw everybody that's not a member of their tiny club.

JimS
JimS

I think it's sort of wonderful and awful at the same time that people can construe the Trinity River Toll Road issue as liberal/conservative. For me, it's always about the bathtub. Fill it to the rim with water. Then put cinder blocks in it. Water spills out. Bad. Mom's mad at us. Somebody who's smart help me here with this principle. What is it called? It's about mass displacing mass in a confined space. Damn I wish I had paid attention to something beside that Barbara with the pony tail in 8th grade science. So Areid1980: tell me. Is the Conservative Palin position on this that the water WILL spill out. Or WON'T spill out. I'm dying to know. 

gabbahey
gabbahey

Water Displacement Theory, Jim?

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Don't forget Eddie Bernice Johnson.  She LOVES her some Trinity earmarks!

Watching
Watching

Besides Leppert (GOP in name only), the Trinity Project's biggest backers have been Democrats:  Ron Kirk, Laura Miller, John Wiley Price, Ed Oakley, etc., etc.

Montemalone
Montemalone

The CPP (conservative Palin position) is that god will take care of it. Just ask Jeffress and Goodhair to have a prayer-a-thon.

elbueno
elbueno

This IS scary, Jim. It's hard proof that Rawlings is somebody's puppet! A man should be able to answer a damn question and the fact that this has been his answer over and over again, proves to me that he is not entitled to his own opinion about the matter. 

His answer is crafted to not alienate either side - to not break his allegiance to the CC people who are pushing the plan, but also not lose the votes of the many people who aren't in support of the road. 

If you asked me, I would bet Rawlings, personally, is against the road. Being from the Parks dept. and all, you would assume he holds the establishment of the parks as a high priority. Yet he just. won't. answer.

Frustrating, to say the least...

Watching
Watching

Please -- he was Pres of the Park Bd for a short time.   It was just a resume builder for him.

Netty
Netty

Why are you giving Wick Allison a pass? He pushed the Toll Road as hard as anybody in his magazine (several times), his blogs and even in the Dallas Morning News op-ed page.

Did he owe the Crowes or Hunts - his one time investors - a favor?

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

We all knew Tom was bright as the scarecrow from the wizard of oz, which is to say not much. I just cant understand why people kept believing them time and time again..its time we bring in a man like Kunkle to office, as he's willing to begin the clean-up process left behind by these damned republicans..

Snookie Pie
Snookie Pie

What republicans are you referring to?  Because I worked hard on TrinityVote.  I am a democrat, and I discovered early on that our hardest working TrinityVote volunteers were an equal mixture of both democrats and republicans. 

And, please stop falling for the Kunkle campaign propoganda that Kunkle is a democrat.  He only voted in very very few elections.  He did not manage to get out and vote on the TrinityVote issue. 

However, because he, like many people who were also independents and were republican all voted in the democratic presidential primary in 2008....now he tries to pretend he's a Democrat.  Kunke was a complete unknown to any portion of the Dallas Democratic Party, until the day he showed up at our Feb. 2010 DCDP quarterly executive meeting and introduced himself and asked for our support.  Of course, that a was a few weeks after he had gone to the republican party and asked for their support.  Once it became obvious that most of the Republican party would support Natinsky, who was a well-known Republican, then suddenly, Kunkle started pretending he was a Democrat.

Mike Rawlings on the other hand, has long history of voting in Democratic primaries, and has given thousands of dollars over the years to Democratic candidates both locally and nationally.

Snookie Pie
Snookie Pie

whoops...i meant to say Kunkle showed up to the 2011 (not, 2010) DCDP executive meeting.  Which was shortly after he filed to run.

G_David
G_David

You mean Mike Rawlings also goes by the name Joanne, in addition to Snookie Pie?  Weird.  I wonder what he wears around the house.

FactCheck
FactCheck

Joanne, Enough with your many identities on this blog. Kunkle was a non-partisan police chief. He represented EVERYONE in the city and because of that important job he kept his politics private. But to say he never or seldom voted is not true. Shame on you for trying to misrepresent his voting record.

L_Streets
L_Streets

Purely playing devil's advocate here, but isn't Rawlings a Democrat?

Craig
Craig

Yes!  Rawlings is the true democrat.

Kunkle is a non-voter.  But, like so many issues, he embraces whatever he thinks might win him votes.

Montemalone
Montemalone

It's the puppetmasters that are repubs. The Citizen's Council. Business owners.

ElephantMan
ElephantMan

Nope

Craig
Craig

The Dallas County Democratic and Republican parties both know how to check voting in any county in the State.  Kunkle has not be voting Democrat in Dallas or any other Texas County.  Except the 2008 primary.

Craig
Craig

Kunkle lives in DISD trustee Lowe's district when he last ran in 2008.  Now that Trustee position is held by Mike Morath.  But in May 2008, Jack Lowe ran unopposed in a Joint Election, not a DISD election.  Prec. 1229, Kunkle's prec., voted at the church at Glencoe/Ellsworth (5300 block of Ellsworth). 

So, if Kunkle voted in a DISD election, at a school, I'm really concerned even more about Kunkle's voting practices.

FYI:  the last year or so, prec. 1229 no longer votes at that the church.  They voted at Stonewall Elem. and sometimes at Robt. E. Lee Elem. 

But, as I said, back the last time Kunkle's DISD trustee was up for election, May 2008, that prec. voted at a church, not a school. 

Edwinspencerjr
Edwinspencerjr

Sure, FactCheck? Kunkle didn't live in Dallas most of the last 20 years.

FactCheck
FactCheck

Exactly dumb ass. He lived in Arlington for 20 years- that's where you should look. I work the poll at the elementary school where he votes- and I saw him vote in a DISD Board election, the Trinity and the Convention Center Hotel. I never comment on blogs, but I am so tired of the misinformation that is being presented as truth.

Craig
Craig

not according to the news article that was published shortly after they all filed.  Not according to the Dallas County Republican Party, or the Dallas County Democratic Party, or the Dallas County Elections Department.

But, I guess I'm confusing my facts with the real Kunkle, and not the pretend, re-invented for mayoral race, Kunkle. 

He lives in precinct 1229.  You can look it up.

FactCheck
FactCheck

Not true. Kunkle has voted in every municipal and primary election for the past 20 years. He has voted in the past 3 DEM primaries. Check your facts.

Craig
Craig

go check your facts.  Rawlings votes in every single election.  During primary season, he votes in Democratic primary.

Kunkle has piss-poor voting record.  About all he manages to go vote is during presidential.  And, only one occasion in 8 yrs he went to vote in Dem Primary.  2008

Whodunnit
Whodunnit

Major clean-up is needed, for sure. Clean-up=Kunkle; Continuation of Status Quo=Rawlings

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