Curbing the DDA
Council approves the mayor's appointees, and major DDA projects--roughly 80 percent of its budget goes to building and operating the city parking system--require City Council approval. But Kunselman and Kailasapathy are correct that even as the mayor's support has faded on council, it's flourished at the DDA. Until this past June, its board was chaired by former county commissioner Leah Gunn, a veteran political operative who helped create and defend the Hieftje majority. It's now chaired by former councilmember and Hieftje loyalist Sandi Smith--who can look for support to another council vet, Joan Lowenstein.
"The biggest issue is that the DDA has been politicized," Kunselman continues. "Now it's really a patronage organization that gives out grants of public tax dollars."
Until Jack Eaton's November election, Kunselman, Kailasapathy, and the rest were a minority on council. Now they have the power to change the city's direction--and they're starting with the DDA.
In November, council passed a Kunselman-authored measure that will limit future increases in the DDA's tax revenue. And if it tries to resist the new majority, Kunselman warns, "the city council has the authority to close the DDA."