Queen Crank

Brash and abrasive, political outsider Sharon Boyd snipes at City Hall from her perch on the Internet, but does anyone care?

"She was so savagely treated during that race," recalls Marsha Drebelbis, a Junius Heights neighborhood advocate. "I think after she lost that runoff, she set her jaw and said, 'OK, no holds barred.'"

As a result of the campaign and her Plan Commission days, Boyd became to some of her supporters a sort of shadow council member, someone to call when you're trying to navigate your way through city bureaucracy. "I'd call her when I'd need help. She's very knowledgeable about code violations procedures, on street closings, and just about anything," says Willetta Stellmacher, who until recently owned several apartments and rent houses in East Dallas. A former chorus girl now in her 80s, Stellmacher boasts about having arrested 39 burglars on her own in the space of one year -- an eccentric pistol-packing mama sort to whom Boyd gravitated.

With these pockets of support in the district, Boyd went for a rematch with McDaniel in 1995 and was drubbed again. "It was devastating. We'd worked so hard," says Boyd, brushing a strand of bottle-blonde hair from her face. "I just had to realize this was not gonna be what I was going to do with my life."

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Mark Graham
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Battleground: Sharon Boyd tours the site of the downtown arena that she came within a few thousand votes of defeating in a 1998 referendum.
Mark Graham
Battleground: Sharon Boyd tours the site of the downtown arena that she came within a few thousand votes of defeating in a 1998 referendum.


In late 1997, around the time it became clear the Dallas City Council was going to approve the idea of providing investors and team owners Tom Hicks and Ross Perot Jr. with $125 million in public money for their new arena, Councilwoman Donna Blumer got a phone call. It was Boyd, itching to put up a fight.

Only two council members, Blumer and former Councilman Bob Stimson, had voted against the plan to raise the arena money through "tourist taxes" -- surcharges on rental cars and hotel rooms.

"I said, 'Oh, Sharon, they're gonna do anything and everything; they will spend any amount of money and pull out all the stops to fight it.' She said, 'So? We'll fight back.'"

Boyd began calling people whose names Blumer passed on. An opposition force quickly jelled. "I was amazed at Sharon's energy," Blumer says. They had planned to use Boyd's condo for an early organizational meeting of their group, It's A Bad Deal!, but so many people showed up that they had to move out to the parking lot.

Over the course of the three-month campaign, in which the sports teams chipped in $2.5 million and arena forces outspent the opposition 28 to 1, Boyd emerged as the principal spokeswoman and architect of the campaign. Fairly or not, her style and bottom-line message became as much of an issue as anything else.

"There's this group of rich people who see public money as their private kitty," she says now. "I don't mind paying for someone else's health care at Parkland, but I do mind paying for someone else's entertainment, for some playpen for millionaires."

Boyd framed the vote as a giveaway to people who could afford to pay their own way, to "fat cats" and "robber barons." The proponents turned around the rhetoric, characterizing Boyd as an "aginner" who opposed such things as DART, the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, and the airport. False, false, and false, Boyd says.

"You started hearing the mayor denigrating her...then the rest of the campaign picked up the attack message," Blumer recalls.

"Campaigns always come down not only to message but to messenger; I think we had the better messenger," says Carol Reed, referring to the mayor. "Sharon wasn't easy to listen to. The sports talk shows ended up making incredible fun of her. They didn't need to do that. But she set herself up for a lot."

There was talk of a lack of humor, a whiny demeanor, her piercing voice. And as the campaign wore on, Boyd's shortcomings on the stump became a matter of discussion even in her own camp. "Sharon brought a lot of energy to the campaign, but people were turned off by her abrasiveness," says Greg Mullen, an apartment owner and manager who set up the campaign's Web site. "They thought we could get the same point across without bringing in the personalities.

"There was this meeting about it, and I expressed my view that I didn't want the voters to miss the message. She was becoming a distraction. We encouraged her to take a lower profile. She didn't," Mullen adds.

Boyd says she would have been happy to let someone else handle the speaking engagements, but nobody else stepped up. "It was not fun being the target of their meanness, of being the target of little jerks like [former Mavericks announcer and radio talk-show host] Kevin McCarthy. God, I despise that little sawed-off runt. He's a spokesman for the Mavericks, and he used his show to say these vicious things. All the sportscasters were using their air time to ridicule our cause, although I'd exclude Dale Hansen. He did his best to be more fair and level about it."

By most accounts, Boyd was all her side had. Laura Miller was evolving from Dallas Observer columnist to council candidate and joined the opposition late in the campaign. Blumer's husband had health problems, which limited her role. None of the small-business operators -- car-rental outfits and a mobile-home builder -- were experienced enough to step up.

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