Vote On Wright May Come Quick

A quick vote could follow Wednesday's scheduled Wright amendment news conference, but some say it's too soon.


Jun. 13--The Dallas City Council could vote as early as Wednesday on a proposal to lift controversial flight restrictions at Dallas Love Field, the same day Mayor Laura Miller is slated to unveil the compromise with Fort Worth.

But while some of her colleagues say they'd welcome a quick vote following Wednesday's scheduled Wright amendment news conference, others say it's far too soon -- and that the weeks of negotiation between the mayors of Dallas and Fort Worth and the cities' home airlines have left far too many people in the dark.

"That's asking for an awful lot of work to be done on a huge issue in the next 48 hours," council member Gary Griffith said Monday.

For Ms. Miller, the last several days have been all Wright, all the time. She announced Wednesday's news conference on Friday, after deliberating with Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief for almost five hours.

The day before, she'd briefed nearly all of her council colleagues on the general outline of their agreement -- which city officials say is a multiyear phaseout of the Wright law, coupled with a reduction in Love Field's gates to limit growth at the inner-city airport.

And she spent most of the weekend back on the phone with Mr. Moncrief, before calling City Manager Mary Suhm on Sunday to place a vote on a Wright resolution on Wednesday's council agenda.

Ms. Miller's office says the vote is on the agenda as a formality. Like Wednesday's news conference, it will only happen if the two mayors reach a consensus on the 1979 Wright amendment, which limits most commercial service from Love to a nine-state region.

Ms. Miller declined Monday evening to comment on any Wright amendment negotiations and didn't answer questions about whether there will be a council vote on Wednesday.

She wrote by e-mail that she and Mr. Moncrief were "continuing to make progress."

But several council members, officials from Fort Worth-based American Airlines and Dallas' Southwest Airlines, and grass-roots groups on both sides of the repeal debate say they don't want to be rushed into a vote, particularly when they're still unclear on the terms of an alleged agreement.

On Friday, Dallas officials -- who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the negotiations -- said the resolution Ms. Miller briefed them on calls for an eventual repeal of the Wright law, as well as pressuring American Airlines to give up its gates at Love Field.

Phasing out limits

The officials said the agreement would recommend phasing out the flight restrictions over nine years, reducing the immediate impact on American's operation at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. And it would call for capping the number of gates at Love at 20 and limiting Southwest to between 15 and 18 gates. Remaining gates above the 20-gate limit would be closed permanently or demolished to allay fears about noise and traffic congestion from increased flights.

The compromise would also allow immediate through-ticketing, permitting passengers to fly anywhere in the U.S. on a single ticket if they stop in a state within the Wright perimeter.

Ms. Miller, who said Friday that there was no formal deal and that negotiations were still fluid, spent Monday in and out of meetings with Mr. Moncrief, American's chief executive Gerard Arpey, and top officials from Southwest. She also met with former City Council member Lori Palmer, who is representing Love Field-area neighborhoods.

A Republican aide on Capitol Hill said Reps. Michael Burgess of Flower Mound and Kay Granger of Fort Worth also sat in on some of the meetings.

Mr. Moncrief could not be reached for comment Monday. But officials in the Dallas mayor's office said negotiations would continue today, the day before Ms. Miller's anticipated announcement at noon at D/FW Airport's Grand Hyatt hotel.

In March, the North Texas congressional delegation asked the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth to craft a local solution to the flight restrictions.

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