Leave it to Keever

DISD's new leader has ambition and ideas--if anybody'd let him finish a meeting

The press conference was produced by Kirk's hired-gun public-relations guru, Carol Reed, who had proved her mayoral marketing brilliance long ago by staging a Coke-on-the-mountain-type assemblage of folk in the City Hall Flag Room on the day in January 1995 when Kirk formally announced his candidacy. All the bit players were being summoned downtown again for the bail-out-Keever press conference--a warm and fuzzy group to help Kirk get through the riskiest political move to date in his political career.

It was a fragile partnership, this Keever-Kirk axis, and one that could only be attributed to Scovell's delicate mediating and Keever's absolutely unwavering commitment to get City Hall's Mr. Stop-the-Blame-Game to come stop the biggest blame game this town has ever seen, no matter how long it took him or how it was finally pulled off.

"He had run on this issue of race relations, and I was over here getting my butt kicked on a daily basis, and the way I saw it, I had to call on the one person who had the power to help," Keever says. "I had to. What did I have to lose? I was dead."

But with an impossible mission accomplished, a man tries to recover his pride and dignity, which brings us back to the mayor's apparent lack of appetite that night.

It turned out that the meeting--which was surprisingly jovial in tone now that the deal had been cut--had gone on longer than anybody had anticipated, and it was obvious that Kirk wasn't going to get home to either his dinner or his NBA playoff game anytime soon. Which meant he was going to be hungry. Scovell, having more than 20 years experience in keeping mayors and city managers happy, graciously asked the waiter for an extra plate when his enchilada dinner arrived and promptly whacked off a portion of his own meal for the mayor's eating enjoyment.

Before handing the mayor his plate, though, Scovell gave Keever a look--a hint that Keever should throw a symbolic peace offering upon the plate of political sacrifice.

"John just kind of looked at me like I was expected to give up some food, too," Keever says. "And I said, 'No, this is mine--this is my dinner.'"

The Loma Luna dinner is a nearly perfect metaphor for why this city has intractable racial problems, and why we can never fix them.

First we have a bunch of nutty, completely unproductive black hoodlums dressed like they're in a bad Woody Allen movie running around town threatening the proverbial long, hot summer--never mind that this is Texas, where it's already 100 degrees in June--if we don't run the white man out of the public schools.

Then we have the city's first black mayor--a man who, despite his nearly empty public-service portfolio, was overwhelmingly voted into office because his No.1 promise was to stop all the insane racial bullshit. Seven months after the election, he began running as fast as he could away from the DISD race circus--and he's been running from potential controversy ever since. In fact, the only thing Kirk has shown he's willing to pound the table about is the prospect of a new area code for Dallas.

Then we have the DISD's new baby-faced board president, Keever. Here's a guy who clearly has more ambition than sense: Why else run for the city's biggest lose-lose job when the best school board president DISD has probably ever had was just beaten to a bloody pulp, vilified as a racist for demonstratively improving the quality of education?

Keever has not only spent the last month running around the city like a guy with his pant leg on fire, but he doesn't seem to grasp the fact that no matter what he says--and, surprisingly enough, he has plenty to say--no one will be able to focus on the message until he finds a way to get rid of the Nixonesque five-o'clock shadow that makes him look downright shiftless on the 10 o'clock news. (School officials are trying to cajole Keever into applying a bit o' pancake makeup for his official board-presidency photograph; so far he's not willing.)

Then, of course, there's the Dallas trademarked corporate knight in shining armor--the guy who invariably saves the day. This time it was John Scovell who came rushing in; last time, in the middle of the Townview magnet school controversy, it was Pettis Norman; sometimes it's been Schepps Dairy CEO Pete Schenkel or the late TI chairman Jerry Junkins. What in heaven's name would the eighth largest city in America do without a handful of well-connected, self-appointed powerbrokers who somehow find time in their busy schedules to step forward and pistol-whip our dumbass, ego-raging, completely incompetent public officials into submission?

The most bizarre part of it all, of course, is that if everybody would just put forth a little effort--answer the school board president's telephone calls; give the mayor a bite of the cheese enchilada--we might get something accomplished in this city.

The ingredients are all there.
No matter how many times the New Black Panthers--all five of them--call Bill Keever a devil and a racist and demand his resignation, the truth is he's a bright guy. An articulate guy. A guy who has said--and this is significant--that he only wants to be president for one year so he can continue the reform movement just a bit longer and implement some specific changes. And the changes he's talking about are good.

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