No-Bid Love Field Concession Debate Gets Emotional

By Ken Kalthoff
|  Wednesday, Apr 28, 2010  |  Updated 10:45 PM CDT
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Emotions Boil Over at Dallas City Hall

NBCDFW.com

A controversial deal to grant Dallas Love Field food and newsstand concession contracts without competitive bids will be reviewed by a committee appointed by the mayor.

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Emotions Boil Over at Dallas City Hall

A state representative, reduced to tears, defending herself in what some call a "sweatheart deal" out of Dallas City Hall.
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A controversial deal to grant Dallas Love Field food and newsstand concession contracts without competitive bids was derailed Wednesday.

The original plan calls for the airport's existing vendors to get a 12-year extension in Love Field's new terminal. But after an emotional debate at Wednesday's City Council meeting, the majority of the council voted for a new committee to be appointed by Leppert to review the proposal.

The city is renovating the terminal in a $519 million project slated to open by 2014, when the airport's long-haul flight restrictions end. City officials expect a resultant increase in traffic at the airport.

Supporters said the vendors deserved to stay after serving the city airport well during recent hard times. A Dallas City Council Committee had unanimously endorsed the plan.

But Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert led opposition when the measure came up for a final vote of the full City Council on Wednesday.

“We’ve got the responsibility, the special fiduciary responsibility, to make sure that we’re cutting a business deal,” he said. “Our goal is to be transparent and ensure that we’ve got a process that is bid.”

Democratic State Rep. Helen Giddings, of Dallas is a partner in one of the contracts. She was reduced to tears defending herself at the meeting.

“Some of you on this council have contributed, I think, to the tarnishing of my reputation," she said.

Giddings said new reports about the deal unfairly cast her in a negative light.

“We have to make sure that we do not allow the newspapers to lynch people in this town who have done nothing,” she said.

Several council members who endorsed the deal also took personal offense at the opposition.

“No one, no one, can challenge my integrity or my character,” Councilwoman Vonciel Jones Hill said.

“I hate the fact that these evil things have taken place, but they have,” Councilman Dwaine Caraway said.

Supporters said the concession plan had been thoroughly discussed at several public meetings over the past several years.

But Southwest Airlines also opposed it Wednesday, saying that it is still unclear whether the current vendors offer the best possible deal for the airport.

“We do not know,” the airline's Bob Montgomery said. “We have some of the terms, but we need to understand far more before we can jump up and embrace any proposal.”

Several council members who were not on the review committee also strongly supported the mayor’s request for competitive bids.

“If I own a shopping center and my leases expire, I have a right to go out and see what else is out there on the market,” Councilwoman Ann Margolin said.

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