Whack-A-Mole: The Braniff Operations and Maintenance Building at Love Field


“This is a very solid business deal that requires no money on the part of the city or airport.” – Mark Deubner -Director of Aviation (Love Field)

What Deubner doesn’t say is very important:

It isn’t necessarily the most favorable deal for the city.

Just weeks ago, a motion to do a deal with local car dealer Randall Reed on a lease for the old Braniff Operations and Maintenance building at Love Field was killed by the City of Dallas after a bizarre procedural discussion on how to do it.  Those involved felt that the deal had been killed for a while.

Instead, Director Mark Deubner has decided to insert himself even more into the deal and has a small group of Dallas Councilmen requesting a second bite at the apple to approve a lease deal.  Those councilmen are:

  • Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Erik Wilson
  • Lee Kleinman
  • Rick Callahan
  • Jennifer Staubach Gates
  • Monica Alonzo (who seems confused since she voted to quash the deal just moments ago)

These Councilmen are what I would refer to as the “Business Group” with notable developer (and daughter of Roger Staubach) Jennifer Staubach Gates included.

What will happen is that a motion to reconsider will be placed on the council agenda.  This will be a vote to once again take up debate on the issue and allow yet another vote to authorize a deal with Reed.

We find this suspicious and silly.  Suspicious because this a demand to have another bite at the apple at an alarming pace and without new information to consider.  It is effective a call for a “do-over”.  Silly because each time debate is engaged on this subject, no one ever gets truly warm to the idea of doing the deal.

Most bothersome is the seemingly urgent need to get a vote done on a property that arguably would be a anchor point for the east side of Love Field.  When such urgency seems to be exhibited without good reason, I get itchy.  The prime pusher of this deal is Mark Deubner and, at times, one would think he was more on the side of Randall Reed rather than the city.

Deubner is characteristic of a breed that believes because the word “Director” is in their title, everyone should really just shut up and do what he tells them to do.  (See quote above)  And usually without giving good economic reason.

There are other deals to consider such as a proposal by Flying Crown Land Group who not only has quite a bit of good detail in their plan but also has been barking at the front door to do a better economic deal since before Randall Reed popped up on the scene.

Mark Deubner ignored the Flying Crown Land Group steadfastly even when his brilliant idea was to simply raze the property and let Dallas Business Developers go at it.  His treatment of Flying Crown Land Group has been characterized as “hostile” and has found the Aviation Department treating FCLG with dismissive attitudes designed to ignore the enterprise.

And Deubner seems anxious to ensure that the Dallas City Council (and its Council Critters) remain as ignorant as possible of a federal lawsuit filed against Randall Reed for making off with Flying Crown Land Group’s proposal and ideas (they at one time were partnered to do the development together).

Even some of the proposals made under the Reed name contain images from the Flying Crown Land Group efforts.  (Reed’s group gained access when they partnered for a brief while with FCLG)

It’s alarming to me that that Deubner wants this deal so badly and despite a federal lawsuit naming both Reed and the City of Dallas (Deubner’s efforts at pushing this deal at this moment become exceptionally suspect in light of the lawsuit).  Does the City of Dallas really need to be named in yet another lawsuit surrounding Love Field because of arbitrary and unnecessary behaviors towards businesses who want to be located at the airport? (See the lawsuit filed by Delta Airlines against the City of Dallas, et al for access to the airport)

Lawsuits cost a lot of money and rarely end up in a win for those they are filed against.

When an agency acts as the Aviation Department does under the leadership of Deubner, I want to find out what the economic interests are and get some sunshine on the relationships that exist.  To date, that hasn’t happened.  Deubner has a fiduciary and civic responsibility to hear all appropriate proposals and forward credible ones for consideration.

Even the current proposal is suspect and, I feel, if many saw what was being claimed, eyes would raise more.  For example:

  • The Reed Plan claims job growth of 1,200 in Aviation, Office and Retail sectors
  • $65 Million in annual salaries
  • Aviation and Development/Growth
  • Furtherance of the Good Neighbor Plan Initiative
  • Historical Preservation

I strongly question that Reed’s plan to have a car dealership along with a fixed base aviation operation is going to yield 1,200 jobs as presented.  1,200 jobs requires quite a bit of intense business for a foot print that is simply not that big overall.  Consider how big your own employers are and their footprint in this area.

Furthermore, in an online story by Robert Wilonsky of the Dallas Morning  News, Randall Reed says:

“We’re adding no new traffic,” he says. “That’s what crazy. We’re moving an existing dealership to this location.”

How do you create 1,200 new jobs with a salary total of $65 million by moving existing businesses in to the property?

See what I mean about asking the right questions?

Aviation and Development Growth is good and doing something with this property within historical constraints would be even better for the airport.  How does a car dealership as the anchor business serve this interest?

Furthermore, how does a car dealership make it attractive for other supporting businesses such as restaurants, office space, etc?  It’s rare to see a car dealership co-exist with any other business but another car dealership.

Furtherance of the Good Neighbor Plan Initiative seems to be at odds with the fact that the local neighborhoods don’t want another car dealership.  They want quieter, less impactful businesses in that area.

On the issue of historical preservation . . . I just kind of choke at the idea that a car dealer owner such as Randall Reed really has interest in historical preservation.   Currently, only City of Dallas Landmark status can ensure that building isn’t inappropriately altered.  Today, it only has Federal status and the Reed group hasn’t been communicating with the Texas Historical Commission about its plans nor responding to that same agencies inquiries.

Doesn’t feel like someone who is interested in historical preservation, does it?

We’re at a point where it becomes necessary to realize a few things.

First, just because a Director of Aviation says a deal is a “solid” doesn’t mean its in the interests of the City of Dallas or its citizens or the local neighb0rhoods.  It just means that in his opinion, this is a deal to do.  Deubner has an already lackluster record of management within the city.

Second, public / private partnerships do work in the best interests of everyone far more often than not.  The proposal by Flying Crown Land Group is just that.  In fact, public / private partnerships almost always do yield optimum results for everyone including economic yield to the city.  This city doesn’t have a strong track record of getting the best of developers in deals.  More accurately, development deals done behind closed doors in the city usually have yielded mediocre results at best.

Third, despite Deubner’s insistence that this is the way deals are done, not so much.  When there is strong competing interests in developing properties, an RFP (Request for Proposal) is far more appropriate and never more so than when City property is involved.  How is the city harmed by taking competing proposals from competing developers and examining them in public?

Fourth, why does Deubner (and the City by extension) continue to ignore a proposal from a group with more experience in public/private partnerships and whose proposal makes historical preservation a centerpiece?

Want to hear the oddest part?  Flying Crown Land Group is a not for profit organization that has completed projects.  It doesn’t have an inherent profit motive.  We don’t want to hear this proposal?

I want to hear it.

I have seen many bad results from cities doing deal without sunshine on them but I have never seen a city deal go bad because it was done in the open.  I like business and I think that considering re-development proposals for the East side of Love Field Airport a great idea.  This very space would be worthy of consideration for expansion of flights out of the airport (and it was used for that very purpose by Legend Airlines in the past).

If Reed’s proposal is as firm, sound and smart as Aviation Director Deubner says, then it should be able to  withstand and win a RFP process as well.

And if it can’t, maybe that isn’t the deal the City should be making.



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