Supporters of a $1 billion stadium for the Texas Rangers flocked to the defense of Mayor Jeff Williams on Monday evening after opponents released a secret audio recording on which he labels as “misdirected” and “rabid” those leading the charge against the proposed ballpark.
The recording was made Friday as Williams spoke to members of a citizens group, Action Arlington, venting frustration over what he called a misinformation campaign by opponents with the Nov. 8 election on public funding for half the project approaching.
Citizens for a Better Arlington, the lead political action committee opposing the the stadium, sent the tape to media outlets Monday.
Williams also could be heard saying about some opponents, “You wouldn’t leave your kids with them to baby-sit them,” and that some “do not have the intelligence there to be able to translate that we’re investing money in the entertainment district to make money.”
Faith Bussey, president of the PAC and its opposition campaign, Save Our Stadium, said she “was shaking” as she listened to the recording. “I couldn’t believe he would say those things — not just about us, but about the voters.”
But the supporters of Williams — he’s also the Vote Yes! campaign chairman — weren’t as concerned by what he said as at whom it was directed.
Brian Mayes, campaign manager and consultant for the lead support PAC, Vote Yes! Keep the Rangers, said Williams was speaking strictly about Citizens for a Better Arlington and not about voters in general — which a letter from the group had contended.
“Jeff was very clearly talking about the seven to 10 people leading the [Better Arlington group],” said Mayes, who said Williams authorized Mayes to speak on his behalf. “This is a desperate, last-minute attack on their part, and it just proves they don’t have the character needed to run the positive campaign that Arlington voters deserve.”
Andrea Proctor, co-chairman of the 14-member Action Arlington and who was among those attending the meeting, agreed.
“He was not talking about Arlington voters — no,” she said.
Warren Norred, an Arlington attorney and spokesman for the Citizens PAC, said he believes many of Williams’ remarks referred to a wide swath of potential anti-stadium voters.
“This is why they don’t want us around,” Norred said. “So they can spread their fear-mongering hate speech to anyone who doesn’t agree with them.”
Bussey said she took the part about baby-sitting personally. “People trust me with their kids,” she said. “My husband and I have been involved in children ministries for 10-plus years.”
Bussey said the person who made the recording was “invited” to the meeting and provided the recording to Bussey’s group. The person did not want to be identified, Bussey said.
Campaign finance reporting
The secret recording came to light on the day of the final campaign filing deadline before the Nov. 8 election, which will determine whether the city extends its half-cent sales tax, 2 percent hotel-occupancy tax and 5 percent car-rental tax to pay half the cost of the retractable-roof stadium. The taxes currently are paying down the city’s remaining $155 million debt from its share of AT&T Stadium’s construction cost.
A game ticket tax and parking tax that would help pay the Rangers costs are on the same proposition.
Stadium backers extended their lopsided lead over opponents in political contributions, taking in more than $810,000 in the past 30 days, according to the finance documents.
Over the three filing periods starting July 15, the Vote Yes! PAC has amassed nearly $1.5 million -- the Rangers kicked in more than a third of that -- making this the second-most expensive ballpark election campaign behind the Cowboys Stadium drive.
The PAC recently has launched a series of TV ads to help make its case that without the new stadium, the Rangers likely would leave after the team’s current lease ends in 2024, snuffing out a projected $77.5 million annual economic impact for the city.
The Citizens for a Better Arlington, which calls those claims “scare tactics,” reported raising just $597 during the 30 days since the previous filing deadline of Oct. 1, which marks eight days before the election. The group finished the latest filing period with $724 in the bank vs. their counterpart’s more than $210,000.
“We’re still winning,” said Bussey, the PAC president. “I still believe we are outworking them.”
Bussey said the group has volunteers stationed at six polling places to query early voters. She said about 75 percent of those who responded either said they were voting no or were “positive” about the campaign to defeat the stadium proposition.
Mayes, who runs the Vote Yes! campaign, contended his poll watchers are reporting a much different picture.
“We have more workers at the polls that they do, and the feedback we’re getting from people leaving the polls has been overwhelmingly positive,” Mayes said, though acknowledging a stronger opposition turnout on the first day of early voting, Oct. 24.
The largest Vote Yes! contributions came from Rangers organization and its business associates -- $250,000 from Delaware North Companies Sportsservice Inc., which runs concessions at Globe Life Ballpark, and $60,000 from Ballpark Parking Partners of Houston.
Cellular Systems and Signage LLC of Delaware donated $100,000 twice in October.
The top individual contributors included Fort Worth philanthropist and environmentalist Ed Bass, who gave $10,000; and Todd and Matthew Rainwater, sons of the late Fort Worth billionaire investor Richard Rainwater, donated $20,000 and $5,000, respectively.
Most Vote Yes! contributions from individuals ranged from $10 to $250 and were overwhelmingly from Arlington residents.
The PAC reported expenses of $851,096, the lion’s share of which -- $597,354 -- went to Mayes’ consulting firm, Mayes Media Group, for a wide range of costs including advertising, polling, printing and consulting.
The Citizens PAC spent $3,580 on yard signs and other printing costs mostly by dipping into its cache of $7,688 raised during the previous filing period, July 1 to Sept. 29. The committee spent $2,264.04 during that period, which had an Oct.1 deadline.
Also during that period, Vote Yes! reported contributions of $617,707 -- including $550,000 from the Rangers organization -- and campaign expenses of $564,479.