Mr. Mayor, Meet Your Nightmare

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

The man looked at me with something resembling sympathy--for a moment, I thought I was actually going to be given the document. But no. Within seconds, a city manager's assistant named Kristi Aday had swooped down on us, forcing herself between me and the male staffer. "We don't have extra copies for the media right now," she said. "We're making them. You'll have to wait."

So typical. Here I'd been covering the arena for almost four years--I knew more about the history, the politics, and the financial details of this arena than most of the elected officials in this room. But, as usual, the city manager wanted to play games--to make it as difficult as possible for a reporter to get public information to the public. It was just another disillusioning day at City Hall.

And it would only get worse as the details of the master agreement emerged.
There were lots of surprises, one of which I'll mention right now, seeing as how no one in town has focused on this outrageous provision. According to Article 1, subsection 11: "The city shall assign at all times a sufficient number of City personnel to the Arena Project who shall, as necessary, be available at the construction site on a full-time basis during the construction of the Arena Project."

Unbelievable. How many hundreds of employees are going to be dispatched to Perot's palace over the course of two long years while dozens of other, more important city projects go unstaffed? Is there no end to this hemorrhaging of resources? Apparently not.

But only Stimson and Councilwoman Donna Blumer had any real concerns. "This is a sad day for Dallas," Stimson said when it was his turn to speak.

I wanted to speak too--God, I had a lot of questions. I'd been scribbling notes to myself for 90 minutes, and I was eager to dissect the legal language of this 44-page document, page by page by page. But I was the vermin on the other side of the rope. I was just another flunky reporter with no standing to say or do anything except sit in my designated spot with my notebook open and my mouth shut.

And for the first time ever, I was mad as hell about my ghetto status. In fact, it was all I could do to keep from jumping the rope and hurling questions of my own.

I realize now that a big part of me has already crossed the line that separates the watchers from the doers. It's a short trip, but I have no idea how I'll feel if I actually get a place at the table.

All I want is a chance to see what I can do--to see if I can make a difference.

Which sounds, I guess, an awful lot like a politician.

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