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.

The unanimity won't last long, thanks to Rojas' management style, which might be politely described as "aggressive" or, less politely, "rabid."

Rojas, who begins work in August, quickly shakes up the district, reshuffling positions, bringing in a half-dozen new high-dollar administrators, and telling the Morning News that the only thing DISD employees have to fear is "their competency or lack of it."

Panic grips DISD's Ross Avenue headquarters. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

Rand Carlson
Chip off the old blockhead
Rand Carlson
Chip off the old blockhead

Rojas suggests administrators read Only the Paranoid Survive, a text on management. Other books on Rojas' reading list reportedly are Machiavelli's The Prince, and Gen. George S. Patton's War as I Knew It.

JuneCan't get there from hereThe DFW Airport board adopts new standards for cab and limousine drivers requiring that they dress nicely, speak English, pass a local geography test, and accept major credit cards. Nearly half of the drivers who take the geography test after the rules go into effect in September fail, many of them stumped by the question "What's the best route to follow when taking a tourist from the airport to downtown?"

"Through Denton," it turns out, is not the correct answer.

"It was a trick question," one driver complains. "They said best, not most direct."

Bridges of Dallas CountyWith Donna Blumer casting the lone dissenting vote, the city council adopts an ambitious, unfunded plan to build five elaborate suspension bridges over the Trinity River. The first of the bridges scheduled to be built, on Woodall Rodgers, gets an unexpected boost in November when an anonymous donor pledges $2 million toward the project. City officials decline to name the benefactor, saying only that the money will be delivered in the form of crumpled $1 bills that are "kind of sweaty and icky."

Endangered species Newly elected members of the city council are sworn in, giving Dallas its first council with a majority of members who are either black or Hispanic. The city spends roughly $50,000 on food, gifts, and entertainment for an inaugural ceremony welcoming the new council. The tab includes $11.95 for a bag of pork rinds, a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and a copy of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue for the council's lone Anglo male, Alan Walne.

CongratsDallas celebrates the Stars' Stanley Cup victory over the Buffalo Sabres. Try as we might, Buzz can't think of anything nasty to say about this.

JulyLost in spaceGOP presidential front-runner George W. Bush faces ridicule over several geographical gaffes, among them confusing Slovenia with Slovakia and referring to Kosovars as Kosvarians. Bush dismisses the criticism, saying that if he doesn't win the White House, he could always make a living as a Dallas cab driver.

Too bad it wasn't a death matchSupporters of Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura wrest control of the Reform Party from Ross Perot loyalists in a 12-round tag-team wrestling match in Dearborn, Michigan.

Checks in the mailDISD scrambles to reissue paychecks to as many as 900 school district employees after the U.S. Postal Service mistakenly routes their original checks to the Washington, D.C., area. Postal officials blame the mishap on a malfunctioning piece of machinery operated by a former Dallas cab driver.

Petty politicsMayor Ron Kirk denies longtime foe Laura Miller a leadership position on any of the city council's nine standing committees. Kirk says the decision was not meant to punish Miller for her frequent, vocal criticism of him. Rather, committee leadership positions are awarded based on expertise, and the council doesn't have a Chicken and Coffee Committee.

AugustNot-so-strange bedfellowsThe Belo Corp. pays $24 million cash for 12.38 percent of the Dallas Mavericks and a 6.19 percent share of Ross Perot Jr. and Tom Hicks' Arena Group. The decision, announced in a short business-section story in the Morning News, prompts a fierce debate among the newspaper's staff after the News' City Hall reporters post a scathing memo blasting both the investment and the paper's lackluster coverage of it. "We believe that the purchase will strengthen the perception among some in the community that the Morning News is not an independent editorial voice in Dallas, especially on controversial civic endeavors," the memo states. The News' editors counter that the daily's coverage will remain as unbiased as it has ever been. Sadly, both sides are correct.

BustedA grand jury decides that Executive Assistant Police Chief Willard Rollins should not face criminal charges for leaving the scene of an alleged minor traffic accident on July 31. Although he avoids prosecution, Rollins doesn't manage to stay out of the pokey. In September he is demoted three ranks to captain and assigned to the night shift supervising officers at the county jail.

Two plus two is sixCity council and DISD trustees approve $40 million in tax breaks for arena developers over the next 10 years. The money will be used to repay The Arena Group for building roads and utilities near the arena. In exchange for the school district's $21 million contribution -- which will be reimbursed by the state -- DISD will receive a $500,000 package of scholarships, free days at the arena for students, and other small inducements. School board members -- remember, these are the people responsible for ensuring that your children can add and subtract -- call this a good deal.

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