This morning Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert stopped by Jones Lang LaSalle‘s new Dallas headquarters in Preston Center, where he helped JLL’s Paul Whitman and Roger Staubach (from left in photo) snip the grand-opening ribbon. Then the mayor submitted to a quick interview about the May 9 convention-center hotel referendum, saying he’s “awful happy with the trend line,” but concerned about voter turnout. “What it comes down to is this: May elections don’t have the excitement of a November election with presidential implications,” Leppert said. “So the turnout is the challenge. That’s what makes polling and all that very difficult.” Jump for the Q&A.
Q: So, are you doing anything special to get the vote out?
A: We’re trying to do everything we can to get the vote out.
Q: Some have suggested this vote is really a referendum on you and your credibility. Is there anything to that?
A: [Laughs.] This isn’t about me. And if you look at who’s behind this, you understand it real quick. On one side you’ve got one person who owns a hotel. On the side that says vote no, you’ve got every business organization–and those organizations are taxypayers, they understand what’s at stake, that if we don’t build the tax base, bad things happen to businesses. We’ve got major companies that have stood up and said, vote no. We’ve got 30 hotels that understand this industry isn’t going well, we’ve got unions saying vote no, people like Eddie Bernice Johnson saying vote no. What this is about is the community. Unfortunately, we’re going up against a big checkbook.
Q: Isn’t there any merit in the argument that the deal you’re presenting doesn’t have the right structure to make the project successful?
A: It’s structured in the best interest of the taxpayers. We could go ahead and throw a lot of money into it–money the taxpayers would never see. The way this is structured, it will allow the visitors who stay at the hotel to pay for it, the same way it’s been very successful in Denver, Houston, Phoenix, Baltimore, all of those places.
Q: If for whatever reason the Yes side wins, would you go back and draft a new hotel proposal?
A: We’re working real hard to make sure we go forward on this right now, that we get people to vote no.
Q: Yes, but, if that doesn’t happen, what will you do?
A: We need to get people to vote no. There’s too much at stake.When you change the constitution–when you change the city charter–this needs to be viewed as a forever situation. That’s what’s so dangerous on this. We can’t change the constitution for one person’s interests.