When the Dallas City Council passed District 14 council member David Blewett's deal to redevelop a significant part of Reverchon Park, they set a dangerous precedent for the city.
The decision, which was a second run at getting a deal done with a private LLC, tells anyone with business before the council that failures can be undone. It tells developers that they can see who voted against their project, lobby the hell out of them, and perhaps get a second shot. It tells them failure doesn’t necessarily mean you have to start over.
Shades of Lincoln Katy Trail
On December 4, 2018, I wrote about how the contentious Lincoln Katy Trail project would be returning to the City Plan Commission (after failing 7-5) for a vote to reconsider. This happened when newbie commissioner Christopher Lewis from District 8 had been convinced by former council member Angela Hunt, then representing Lincoln, to ask for the reconsideration.
When Lincoln came back for the vote to be reconsidered, plan commissioners voted 12-1 (Lewis) against letting it back in. At the time, I noted one other instance when the council had faced a reconsideration vote (when, in 2013, fracking in the Trinity was on the docket – of all things). Council, including then-council member Hunt, said no to a reconsideration.
It’s called integrity when both sides agree that a vote stands. To do otherwise sets a dangerous precedent.
With the reconsideration of Reverchon and ultimate same-night wham-bam passage, the city announced that any vote might not stand. Imagine if this “two bites of the apple” con were allowed in criminal cases where defendants could simply lobby the jury to get the verdict changed.
If there’s reason to rehear either a municipal or criminal case from scratch, that’s called a retrial or a resubmission.
Negating Roles of Commissions and Boards
There’s another, specific reason this musn’t happen with the city council. It negates any denials by departments before them. In a zoning case, it negates plan commission’s role. I would say that in the case of Reverchon, Blewett’s reconsideration overstepped on the Parks board, but they’re so hot to get the deal done, I doubt any change would have concerned them.
This is more than an esoteric argument. Lincoln Katy Trail is staging its comeback and making the rounds in City Hall with the same awful project that failed over a year ago. Let’s recall, it ultimately:
- failed Oak Lawn Committee
- failed plan commission
- failed reconsideration by plan commission
- and failed at city council.
Why now? A new city council and associated plan commissioners. Former District 14 council member and Lincoln roadblock Philip Kingston has been replaced by Blewett. And the statute barring council members acting on cases involving campaign contributors has expired. Lincoln executives and their wives donated at least $4,000 to Blewett’s campaign.
Blewett certainly is starting his first term with a bang while sitting on a city council where the second time around is as good as any.
A version of this story appeared on Candy's Dirt.