Mr. Mayor, Meet Your Nightmare

Frustrated, fed up, and ready to fight, Laura Miller trades muckraking for a run at City Hall

But, of course, that's not the spin he put on it. Instead, he came up with an alternative use for that parking lot--a bronze steer park, complete with bronze cowboys, a man-made stream, and some rocky landscaping. Crow pitched the idea to the city, offering to get a nonprofit nature organization he chaired called the Dallas Parks Foundation to build it. The organization also helped draft the legal papers that made it impossible for the city ever to reclaim the land to use for something useful.

Although Crow's dream--a place called Pioneer Plaza--was an extremely impractical use of prime public property, Crow gained an important political ally in a woman named Diane Scovell, a former president of the organization that became the Parks Foundation. Scovell was married to--surprise!--John Scovell, who runs Ray Hunt's real estate projects, including another convention-dependent hotel called the Reunion Hyatt.

City officials had the temerity to drag their feet on this--so Hunt simply increased the pressure. In one of the most astonishing documents I have ever culled from city files, Hunt and Scovell devised a list of 23 demands on the city--things they wanted the city manager and city council to do for them immediately, or else. They were mad because the city auditor had just figured out that Hunt and Scovell owed the city about $155,000 for unpaid security fees at the old Union Station building. Hunt's grievance list was his subtle way of saying he wasn't going to pay--and, by the way, you're going to pay for bothering me with this crap. Hunt won his bluff, snagging a check for $440,000 from the taxpayers. And Crow got his steer park.

I will never forget the day the first bronze cow was unveiled at a party in the Dallas convention center. I was still marveling at the weakness of the city council, which voted overwhelmingly in favor of this thing, even though it would cost $200,000 a year to wash the steers. At the convention center cow unveiling, I remember a short, highly groomed, fireball of a woman spinning out of nowhere and coming to a stop just to the right of my face.

"It's so nice to meet you," said the woman, who turned out to be Diane Scovell. As her little lipstick mouth moved, I vividly recall her digging a set of manicured fingernails into the skin of my arm and slinging me around to face her as though I were a badly behaved five-year-old. "You ought to be ashamed of the things you say about people!" And then she was gone, leaving Carol Reed, the public relations diva who was handling the party, standing there in stitches at my expense. (For anyone watching, it was certainly an amusing scene.)

Steer parks. Speedways. Sports arenas.
The list of Projects of the Rich and Famous goes on and on, but there's nothing more shameless than this proposed arena.

We have been calling John Ware's seven-month-long dance with Perot and Hicks a "negotiation." And we have had no reason to doubt that. God only knows what's being said behind closed doors, where the entire arena story has played out.

On the day Kirk wrapped his arms around Perot and Hicks and announced a deal, little was said about how the sausage was made: Yes, Ware was hoarse and the mayor hadn't slept much, but as far as who gave in on what points and how far each side had come from their original demands, no one was saying. And no one's saying now.

Thank goodness for documents. Because the truth of the matter is, there was no negotiation. There was only a cratering--a complete collapse on the part of Ware and Kirk, who just couldn't stomach Perot's threats to start negotiating with the suburbs. When goofball Perot began zooming around the Metroplex in his private chopper, picking up practically anybody willing to say they were the mayor of a town, Ware and Kirk responded exactly how Perot wanted them to--they flat-out panicked. And then they sold the family farm.

The proof is all on paper, and it's a sight to behold. It's contained in a slew of written offers that went back and forth, back and forth, between the city and the teams between March and October. And while none of this material was available on October 3, the day the arena deal was announced, it was quietly and grudgingly made available to the media a few weeks later when the state Attorney General's Office made it clear that the city no longer had a basis for withholding it from the public.

That fat packet of letters--some of the best nighttime reading I've ever done--instantly exposes the lie that Mayor Kirk utters each and every day on the pro-arena campaign. "This is not a good deal for Dallas," Kirk likes to say. "It's a great deal for Dallas."

But the letters prove that Kirk knows better. He and Ware know it's a lousy deal for the taxpayers.

In retrospect, I should have known it all along. On October 6, two days after the arena deal was forged between the city and the teams, I showed up at City Hall for the first time in 10 months, and the first thing I did was walk right up to Ware.

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