Stadia Boys

A new panel is suiting up to customize the city's sports future in private

Coneway also dismisses the notion that the committee's relationships pose potential conflicts. With any group of this stature, "there are always things one can point to in terms of conflicts," he says. "That doesn't concern me a great deal."

Besides, he notes, the committee's role is purely advisory. The group will make recommendations, but nothing significant will happen without public approval. "Ultimately, it's going to get down to what the people want," he says.

Coneway says the committee will gauge popular sentiment throughout the process. Among other means, he says, the Chronicle has agreed to conduct opinion polls, which the committee will stir into the input mix. And while "creative funding techniques" may preclude the need to spend tax money on stadium projects, if such a need arises, the public will have the final say at the ballot box. "There's a high likelihood that we would need a referendum," he says.

Public involvement is really the key to the whole thing, Coneway concludes. "My attitude is that the more open we can be, the more public interest and support that we can have, the better," he says, "and the more likely the success of our group."

Only one hitch: though the stakes may eventually total half a billion or more, the committee's meetings are closed to the public. And only Coneway and Ben Love can speak for the group. "The rest of us are not supposed to have any comments," says Vince Buckley.

Coneway says it's not that the committee has anything to hide, it's just that opening the meetings could prove a logistical nightmare and disrupt the group's efforts. And the presence of the press might inhibit the ability of the committee to do its job. "We would probably invite Bud Adams to come before this committee, or invite Drayton McLane, or Les Alexander," he says. "That might be helpful to us. Would they feel awkward if they knew everything they said was going to be reported? I don't know."

Still, Coneway adds, he's willing to consider alternatives. "Anything we can do to further our communication with the press, the public, I'm for that, as long as it doesn't get in the way of the work that we've got to do."

Coneway suggested the Press take up the open-meetings issue with Eckels and Lanier. Eckels says he hadn't really thought about it and would entertain a more open arrangement. But he repeated the point that the committee is strictly advisory and that the public will be involved if and when Commissioners Court and/or Council act on the group's recommendations. "There will be ample opportunities for the public to participate," he says.

Asked why the meetings aren't open, Lanier issued this reply through spokeswoman Sarah Turner: "I've asked Peter Coneway to get together with the committee to receive information and testimony from the public and to develop an appropriate means of communication in return."

We were somewhat puzzled by that non-answer, but Lanier was on his way to Washington to tell Congress how much of a burden pro sports has become to the average taxpayer and was unavailable for clarification. "That's the mayor's statement," Turner snapped when asked for a translation. "You should just print it.

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