By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Lies, damned lies, and statistics
For all you arena opponents out there, and judging by our mail and your calls, you are legion, we have some bad news and some good news.
First, the bad: The Dallas Morning News poll showing that 54 percent of likely Dallas voters favored the arena deal has no obvious flaws--except credibility.
Trust us, Buzz tried to find some statistical quirk to shoot holes in the poll, but the DMN's sample of 508 registered voters was in the ballpark to produce a margin of error of 4.5 percent, according to the expert at Southern Methodist University whom we called.
Of course, he noted one caveat--and this is the good news: The poll results are only valid if the Morning News didn't "cook the books."
Now, it would be unfair of Buzz to impugn the honesty of the DMN, but come on. Given Belo's unwavering butt-kissing of Messrs. Hicks and Perot, Buzz has to reach for a salt shaker to swallow anything the paper publishes about the arena. In the story about the poll and a follow-up on Sunday, even our cheerleading Mayor Ron Kirk had a hard time believing that pro-arena forces had such a large edge.
Buzz's own, thoroughly unscientific prediction, based on lunchtime gossip with co-workers and the forest of It's a Bad Deal signs sprouting in our neighborhood: 52-48 against. If we're wrong, we'll send the Morning News' pollsters a six-pack of Lone Star beer.
Liar, liar pants on fire
Of course, Dallas' Only Daily isn't the only one with a credibility problem when it comes to the arena. There's also Mayor Kirk.
In an arena article in last week's Northside People, hizzoner was quoted expressing "great frustration" over the widespread belief that Reunion Arena is not paid for.
"It is too paid for," the mayor said. "I don't know where people get that."
Um, from the city maybe?
"It's not, no," says an anonymous official with Reunion management, before quickly shunting us off to the city controller's office. (Not surprisingly, city staffers weren't exactly eager to go on record on this point.)
It took several calls, but someone finally came up with a figure. Dallas still owes $20 million on outstanding bonds from the construction of Reunion Arena.
Remember, Mayor, you read it here first.
Tell us something we don't know
Apparently, we're not the first to notice the mayor's rather loose grip on facts.
On January 6, the Dallas Mavericks beat the Denver Nuggets in front of a crowd so small, everyone could have left the place at the same time and there wouldn't have been any traffic. It was a clash of the last-place titans, two losing streaks on a collision course with a win. How could you--how could anyone--stay away from such a monumental game? Kirk couldn't, especially with the arena vote just days away. He came out to rally the troops, to sit courtside and root for the home team.
After the game ended with a Mavs win (their sixth of this interminable season), Kirk schmoozed his way out the door. As he was making his way to the tunnel that leads to the locker rooms, Kirk stopped to talk to a Mavericks employee who was holding two shiny, brand-new coup sticks that he had made for one of his kids' Indian Guides tribes. Kirk and this man chatted for a few moments about the YMCA-sponsored program--"Hey, I made my own [sticks]," Kirk said to the gentleman. The two men then traded their Indian Guide names. We couldn't hear what the Mavs man told Kirk, but we heard hizzoner's answer loud and clear.
"My name is Full of Bull."
One was kind of tall, blonde, and dressed tip-to-tail in black--a sleek, rather fearsome get-up that seemed to draw its inspiration from an SS uniform.
The other was shorter, much older, almost matronly, garbed in a suit of fuzzy-wuzzy magenta fibers that a colleague likened to a bathroom throw rug.
One dispensed facts on Dallas' arena project like a flame-thrower, scorching through the various fictions of the Vote YES! campaign.
The other, reading from squiggly crib notes, mustered this stirring argument: "Anytime anybody buys a hamburger...that's going to be tax dollars that come into the city of Dallas coffers."
One is Dallas City Council candidate and former Dallas Observer columnist Laura Miller; the other is former Mayor Annette Strauss. The two opposed each other last Friday in a debate on the arena sponsored by the Dallas Democratic Forum.
Yet some have a hard time telling them apart.
Despite the presence of two Morning News reporters--Christopher Lee and political writer Todd Gillman--to help sort it all out, the News somehow managed to misidentify Miller and Strauss in a large photo that ran the next day. This led to the usual turgid correction in Sunday's paper, which also proved, with the aid of mug shots, that Miller is not the one with the gray skunk stripe running through her hair.
And that's a good thing, because at the debate, it was abundantly clear whose limp pro-arena arguments were stinking up the place.
--Compiled from staff reports by Patrick Williams