By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
In Sharon Boyd's Net world, a scruffy cast of characters mumbles and bumbles its way through every aspect of the city's affairs. There's "You Go To Hell" Kirk, "Mayor Pre-Tend" Poss, "Send Me Some Money" Loza, "Princess Velveeta" Lill, "Pretty Barbara" Mallory Caraway, "Brain-Dead" Thornton-Reese.
The cartoonish fools act in predictable ways, carrying water for "Our Downtown Betters," giving away the store to "Hicks-Perot-Belo," and making certain that life in the city's neighborhoods goes from bad to worse.
Up the street at school district headquarters, "Lounge Lizard" Rojas busies himself by "taking care of his friends" with massively inflated salaries.
A sort of chapel of the unformed opposition, visited by about 200 browsers a day, Boyd's site is a no-shades-of-gray kind of place where like-minded souls are invited to compose their own vinegar-laced verses, and the politically dispossessed -- from cops in need of a raise to homeowners fed up with strip clubs -- join the chorus. "It's preaching to the choir, but people have to know they're not out there alone," says Boyd, a former city Plan Commission member and twice-unsuccessful Dallas City Council candidate.
The Web site, dallasarena.com, is the legacy of Boyd's latest and biggest stand, the "It's A Bad Deal" campaign. The effort, which she organized and led, came within 1,600 votes in a 1998 referendum of defeating a public financing plan for the new downtown sports arena. The campaign is long past, and the skeleton of the American Airlines Center is beginning to rise along Stemmons Freeway, but Boyd is still fighting the arena project in print, in state court, and on the back window of her red Chevy Blazer, which is papered in yellow-and-black anti-arena-deal stickers.
Her site now opens to the banner "It's Still a Bad Deal," although Boyd's interests these days are far-flung. They include the debate over a new city ethics policy, questions whether Dallas police Chief Terrell Bolton had anything to do with calling off police enforcement at Bachman Lake topless clubs, and just about anything else potentially embarrassing to the current city leadership, from Mayor Ron Kirk on down.
The headlines alone carry the message: "A Dallas Deal: The Master (Arena) Agreement from Hell"; "Judge Creuzot forces 'You Go To Hell' Kirk To Address New Ethics Code"; and "Jr. Sells Mavericks -- Takes Our Money and Runs."
The transcendently cranky tone has Dallas insiders -- the City Hall politicos she targets, their allies, and the political pros who run their campaigns -- dismissing Boyd as an oddball, a crackpot. "Sharon finds herself on the outside because when you're so strident, you're not easy to listen to. The crusader tone wears thin," says Carol Reed, one of Kirk's advisors and the architect of the winning arena campaign. "She's becoming the next Billy Jack Ludwig," says another member of the pro-arena camp, referring to the perennial mayoral candidate. Through six losing campaigns, the pre-Internet Ludwig passed out handwritten tracts on city street corners, gaining a single-digit following.
But given the source, who asked not to be identified, the comparison amounts to wishful thinking. Boyd is grounded enough with neighborhood leaders, political busybodies, Republican party activists, and people frustrated with the city's leadership that she's more than marginal -- although how much more is an issue for debate.
For starters, parts of the city's public-affairs press corps find her Web site irresistible. "It's some of the best reading in town, absolutely. I love her," says Brett Shipp, a WFAA-Channel 8 investigative reporter. "It's comedy and kind of underground and informative; it's one of the first things I go to, and a lot of other people in the newsroom read it too."
Just as significantly, the council's anti-establishment wing -- arena critics Laura Miller and Donna Blumer -- count her as an ally. "She has a lot of people who are very supportive of her as a result of the arena campaign," Blumer says. "She's kept those names as contacts, and when she gets behind a candidate or cause, she has many of them." State Rep. Domingo Garcia calls Boyd a "true maverick, which is a rare species in Dallas. There's a herd mentality in the political arena."
Over the past 10 years, Boyd has gone from quasi-insider to cautious candidate to an obstreperous gadfly who gleefully spins out phrases like "council puppets" and "little jerks." Her longtime political pals, including people whom she won't talk to these days, say she has grown into the outsider role in a particularly Dallas way. Once out of the loop, it's more and more necessary, and even attractive, to screech. Her message, too, falls into a particularly Dallas tradition -- fiscally conservative and small-government-minded at its heart, populist in its application.
Mostly, though, people listen to Boyd simply because she wants to be heard. "I want to be part of the city," she says. "I want a better city than what we have. Those things might make me marginal, and they sure make me weird. It's become eccentric to care."
Looking out from the front door of Sharon Boyd's Oak Lawn condo, it's easy to see why she thinks Dallas has tilted toward the moneyed few. The whole block across the street and down the hill toward Turtle Creek has been cleared of modest houses and apartments. Luxury flats and Mediterranean-style townhouses advertised at $800,000 and more are going up all around her.