The Dallas Morning News released a soft-ball piece on Irving’s Mayoral race between the incumbent, Beth Van Duyne, and her opponent, former Mayor and City Councilman, Herb Gears. It focused on the lack of bitterness between campaigns this cycle, in stark contrast to the hotly contested environment just three years ago.
But the 2011 campaign was less about mud-slinging, and more about evidence of mass corruption.
Both as a City Council member and as a candidate for Mayor, Van Duyne had criticized Gears and his merry-band of rubber-stamping council members for incurring excessive debt and wasting taxpayer money.
Irving voters would be wise to remember Bret Shipp’s expose on the fiscal disaster which Gears oversaw and defended. In summary, the city had paid $23 million dollars in unaudited expenses to the Las Colinas Group (LCG), a developer who was hired to build an Entertainment Center (EC).
In the video, Gears isn’t concerned when presented with evidence that LCG-affiliated henchmen were living high off taxpayer money, without making any progress on the projects it was hired to build. Van Duyne made this issue the highlight of her campaign, promising to cut ties with LCG in favor of an alternative arrangement.
Perhaps Gears’ childish indifference had something to do with the fact his campaign received over $500,000 from Billy Bob, who stood to directly benefit from the LCG contract and construction of the EC. Today, Gears admits the contributions looked suspicious in light of the horrible contract, the $23 million in wasted money and his staunch support LCG.
According to the DMN, the glaring conflict of interest “…just didn’t occur to me”, said Gears. “But I certainly understand people’s confusion.” [Emphasis mine]
Even in the face of overwhelming evidence of corruption and taxpayer waste that contributed to a landslide victory for Van Duyne, Gears refuses to admit a conflict of interest, or fess up to any evidence of wrongdoing, instead blaming public criticism on “people’s confusion”.
Following her successful bid for Mayor, Van Duyne championed a non-binding referendum to be placed before voters, to get their input on how the project should be financed moving forward. Unsurprisingly, Gears’ bait and switch regime had changed both the size and scope of the project after voters approved a 2007 proposition to finance a joint Convention and Entertainment Center.
But even with Gears gone and overwhelming support of the non-binding ballot proposition, Van Duyne and her two supporters on the council remained a minority.
The measure was voted down 6-3 in the midst of “boos” from a packed City Hall.
The Gears’ gang followed up with the push for a new developer, ARK, who had proposed an arguably worse development contract than LCG. Interestingly, the terms of the agreement would settle a frivolous lawsuit with LCG, paying them $4 million, even though the City’s attorneys strongly advised against settlement.
I wrote about this issue in detail, shortly after joining Empower Texans in July of last year.
In an effort to resuscitate life into his deceased political career, Gears opened the 2014 campaign season with a promise to eliminate property taxes…but only for seniors. Like most politically motivated policy-proposals, Gears wasn’t concerned with the fiscal consequences or the ambiguity of its legality.
All that matters to Gears is that the policy would benefit seniors likely to vote at the expense of working families, who aren’t.
Van Duyne responded with a pledge to work and reduce tax burdens for all taxpayers. Now it appears Gears has flip-flopped and is promising broad tax cuts for all. Like many politicians, his positions change depending on which direction the political winds are blowing.
I find it hard to imagine that Gears would have the gall to run for public office in Irving; he was soundly defeated three years ago amidst glaring controversy. And without a developer stuffing his campaign account, he’s had trouble raising financing.
But if there’s one thing in life that remains a certainty, it’s that crony politicians will continue to take advantage of historically low turnout in local elections and voter ignorance….unless voters engage.
Irving residents would be wise to make Herb Gears an exception to the rule by turning out in droves.