A clockwork Buzz

1999, the year Bill Rojas brought panic and paranoia to DISD. But was there any other good news? Buzz takes a look back.

Play niceAfter enduring months of criticism from a public weary of endless internecine warfare on the DISD board, trustees hire a consultant to help them build team spirit and reduce the squabbling that has delayed the search for a new superintendent, which began in 1935. According to the Morning News, consultant John Carver recommends that the trustees "eliminate trivia, boredom, and incomprehensible reports" from meetings, "stop rubber-stamping and meddling simultaneously," and "quit bringing knives to board meetings."

A friend in needA federal grand jury issues a 65-count conspiracy and bribery indictment against Dallas City Councilman Al Lipscomb and Yellow Cab Co. owner Floyd Richards. Lipscomb is accused of accepting nearly $95,000 -- including regular monthly payments of $1,000 -- from Richards and his cab companies in exchange for favorable votes on ordinances affecting the companies. Both men initially plead not guilty to the charges. They admit the money changed hands, but deny that the payments were in exchange for votes -- Richards claims he was just helping out a friend. No, seriously.

They maintain this defense with a straight face until two days before Christmas, when Richards pleads guilty to one count of conspiracy and agrees to testify against Lipscomb. The agreement with prosecutors comes just days after U.S. District Judge Joe Kendall orders the trial, scheduled to begin in January, moved to Amarillo.

Why the apparent falling-out among friends? Lipscomb and Richards aren't talking, but Buzz, who lived in Amarillo 15 years ago and still hasn't warmed up, believes that the prospect of 80-mph winds and 20-degree temperatures might have had something to do with it. Given a choice between weeks on the cold prairie or five years in a warm prison cell, we'd sell our own mother down the river. One other possibility: Al gave Floyd socks for Christmas.

Cocktails are still $6In a deal worth an estimated $195 million, American Airlines secures the right to have its name plastered on Dallas' new arena, scheduled to open in 2001. Critics note that Dallas taxpayers, who are contributing $125 million toward the building's construction, won't see any of the money. To mollify them, developers Tom Hicks and Ross Perot Jr. announce that fans attending sporting events at the American Airlines Center will be served complimentary soft drinks and packets of honey-roasted peanuts.

AprilBump and grindDallas City Council member Barbara Mallory Caraway, who is seeking re-election, says she will return a $2,000 political donation from the managers of two local topless clubs after her campaign opponents accuse her of allowing sexually oriented businesses to flourish in District 6. Caraway denies the charge, but notes that she was reluctant to take the money regardless, as it arrived in the form of crumpled $1 bills that were "kind of sweaty and icky." Caraway wins re-election.

Click's hang-ups Dallas police Chief Ben Click, who will later retire, seeks criminal charges against the publisher of the weekly newspaper The Met after it prints an ad for a performance-art troupe that depicts a baby dangling from a meat hook. The case against publisher Rand Stagen is eventually dropped, to the relief of officials at Onesimo Hernandez Elementary, where meat hooks were recently introduced as a disciplinary tool.

Miller chokes chickensOn an 11-4 vote, the Dallas City Council passes an ordinance banning roosters within the city limits at the behest of Councilwoman Laura Miller, who says the birds' incessant crowing is disturbing the peace of her Oak Cliff district and endangering the lives of residents who are unable to hear the sound of neighborhood gunfire and don't know when to duck. Among those voting against the ordinance is Al Lipscomb. Subsequent to the vote, federal authorities open an investigation into rumors that Lipscomb has received regular monthly shipments of a dozen eggs from unknown parties. Lipscomb admits he took the eggs, but denies they influenced his vote, saying they were "merely gifts from [his] many fine feathered friends."

Elderly abusePopular longtime WFAA-Channel 8 anchor Tracy Rowlett signs a $1 million annual contract with rival station KTVT-Channel 11. Rowlett's departure threatens to weaken top-rated WFAA, one of several Belo-owned Texas stations that provide content to TXCN. Residents of Lubbock's Sunnydale Retirement Home send a cable to Gov. Bush, asking him to "please, please send someone who can change the channel."

MayJava jiveAnswering the prayers of Frappuccino fan Laura Miller, Starbucks announces plans to open a coffee bar in Oak Cliff, the first such shop in Dallas south of the Trinity River. In a nod to neighborhood sensibilities and to help clear the neighborhood of unwanted roosters, a Starbucks spokesman says the chain will add a hot chicken sandwich to the usual menu of pastries and croissants.

A touch too cleanOrganizers of a drive to clean up the banks of the Trinity River come under fire after they schedule a reception for volunteers at a dance hall donated by the same local topless-club manager who earlier donated $2,000 to Barbara Mallory Caraway. Critics say use of the hall sullies the event. Hundreds of volunteers show up for the cleanup, many complaining afterward that "it was not sullied nearly enough. We were expecting a lot more sweat and ickiness."

Survival of the fittestDISD trustees vote 9-0 to approve a three-year contract naming Waldemar "Bill" Rojas head of Dallas schools. Rojas will be paid $260,000 annually, making him the highest-paid superintendent in the nation. Parents, teachers, and school officials here applaud the rare unanimous vote, as do staff members of Rojas' previous employer, the San Francisco Unified School District.

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