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Wall St. & Business Wednesdays: City Council To Ask If Dallas Cowboys Made Promise To Blacks On Stadium Construction by Sally Claunch and Nathaniel Jones

ARLINGTON - The City Council decided Tuesday to seek a legal opinion on whether a letter sent to a black community leader promises an African-American firm would be hired to partner with a larger firm to build the new Dallas Cowboys football stadium.

City Attorney Jay Doegey was also asked to determine if a promise was made.

Council member Steve McCollum requested the council resolve the matter because "we have a problem that is festering," he said.

At issue is an Oct. 27, 2004, letter from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones that was sent to Cornerstone Baptist Church Pastor Dwight McKissic after he and other ministers met with Jones requesting the partnership on stadium construction.

The letter read, "In our meeting your and your fellow ministers expressed very clear the expectations that you have for our organization and this project. I want you to know that your message was heard and I will uphold my part to meet or exceed your expectations on those important issues."

McCollum said the letter implied Jones' intent to establish a partnership to build the stadium.

"All that was assured in the letter -- these people relied on that," McCollum said. "It would appear to me that Jerry Jones has inadvertently gone outside the fair-share agreement and established an expectation above and beyond the agreement."

Cowboys spokesman Brett Daniels has said that Jones never made such a commitment.

The fair-share aggreement, signed by the city and Cowboys, ensures minority- and female-owned businesses would have a chance to participate in the stadium project. The agreement has no penalties if it is not followed. So far, only one Arlington-based black-owned firm has been hired for the project: D-Tech is being paid about $300,000 for asbestos inspection and abatement.

McKissic is questioning whether the spirit of the fair-share agreement has been honored because no black firm has been selected for one of the three prime contracts: land acquisition, stadium design and construction. A general contractor is expected to be named before the end of the year, said Katrina Keyes, coordinator of the fair-share agreement.

After the council's work session Tuesday, McKissic accused the Cowboys of doing what they needed to do to get enough votes for the stadium measure to pass in November 2004.

"What was your intent," McKissic said. "You've got your votes, and now you're gone."

Some black leaders say minority businesses are getting their fair share.

Earlier Tuesday, African-American Chamber of Commerce President Bob Phanelson told the council's Economic Development committee that so far goals are being met and that any concerns from the community should be brought to the fair-share agreement committee.

Mayor Robert Cluck said the letter did not promise anything and that Jones only promised to consider the request. Cluck added that the ministers should not have gone directly to Jones.

"They shouldn't have gone to them without representatives from the Hispanic communities and other minorities -- they were completely left out of it," he said.

In other business, the council decided to create a Major Sports Complex chapter to the city code regulating the Cowboys stadium and Ameriquest Field. The new regulations would do away with permits required to conduct events in the stadiums' parking lots. Currently the city requires a permit for such events.

The code would also allow people to spend the night at the stadiums in recreational vehicles but limits the stay to seven days in association with a specific event. The rules also allow tailgating at events in designated areas.

The Cowboys asked the council to change rules regarding the parking lots. Currently the city requires parking lots to be made of concrete or asphalt. The Cowboys want the city to allow them to build a porous parking surface or grass lots that would allow for better drainage. The council agreed.

The new rules would prohibit ice chests at the Cowboys stadium, per National Football League regulations, but allow them at Ameriquest Field with size limitations.

The rules also prohibit throwing objects or substances at the venues and any unauthorized ticket sales or scalping in the city. Vendors would not be able to sell their merchandise on public streets or major intersections near the complex.

The council plans to vote on the new ordinances in January.

Sally Claunch can be reached via email at Nathaniel Jones can be reached via email at This article appears in The Star Telegram.

Sally Claunch and Nathaniel Jones

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

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