Queen Crank

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

"None of us are politicians, and some of the business people I talked to said you can't be a business leader in Dallas and fight these people," says Dave Capps, owner of Capps Van & Car Rental, which donated offices, billboards, and $20,000 to the campaign. "Some people say if she had not taken such a hard line, we would have done better. I think she did the best she could. She did it from the heart."

In the end, Capps says, the proponents had the money to mobilize young, nontraditional city voters in the Village and elsewhere, and if they lost the last one, they would have come back with another plan the next year.

Reed's analysis of the vote found that the proposal lost among people who regularly vote in Dallas city elections. In the two years since, Reed says, she has consulted on other campaigns in which voters are being asked to approve money for arenas -- most recently in Scottsdale, Arizona, where the hockey team proposed and passed an arena deal last year. "These things are always gonna be close, and the goal is to move past the fact that these guys are rich. You have rich people asking for public money."

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.
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 other words, Boyd was right to hit the "robber baron" theme. It was the intangibles -- her lack of political charisma -- that hurt.

Miller, who went on from the anti-arena effort to gain a seat on the council, says people are wrong to focus on why Boyd fell short. "There is not any other single person in the city that I know that created the amount of excitement over an issue like Sharon did with the arena," she says. "I've never seen the city so engaged in debate and angry. It was exciting, and that was all Sharon."

With no campaigns to fight and no races to run, Boyd has been outside the city's power curve and struggling to make an impact in the years since.

"She's such a junkie. Hardly a Wednesday will pass when I don't have a call on my answering machine and it's Sharon," says Miller, who says she's a regular visitor to Boyd's retooled and frequently updated Web site.

The Web site, a lawsuit, and a bitter split with several old political friends have occupied Boyd since, and she's gotten grouchier and crankier and more personal than ever. "I'm not running for anything, so it's not about me," she says, talking in the somber conference room of one of her law-firm clients. "It's not about 'Please love me.'"

Her performance may amuse her friends, but it has her old allies wondering what she can possibly hope to accomplish. "She needs to get the emotion out of it, and I've told her that," Capps says. "She makes it easier for people to discount her. If you want to do it from the heart, fantastic, but you can go about things a little softer and gentler."

Says another long-time friend who declined to be named, "I know a lot of people who agree with Sharon but don't want to be associated with her because of the tone."

But Boyd's politics these days run on a kind of pure fuel that laps the slower-moving vehicles of moderation. In 1993, says campaign organizer Anna Casey, Boyd was unwilling to go on any sort of attack. "She was very meek compared to now," says Casey, who worked with Boyd on several campaigns. "There's this tendency for people who go against the establishment to be labeled as eccentric, outcast, aggressive, overly hostile. It makes it easier for them to say, 'What's to lose?'"

Cay Kolb, a longtime friend and community activist in Oak Lawn, says, "I think it's frustration. For years, she worked within the system in her party and church and neighborhood, so you have to say there's been this change."

Along with her harsher tone has come a conviction that city politics consists of "good guys and bad guys."

Says Boyd: "I have come to a place in my life where I really do believe there are rights and wrongs, and when someone does something really wrong, you should shun them." She did that last year, when she cut ties with Councilman John Loza, who she had worked hard to elect in 1997 as an alternative to the downtown-business-backed candidate, Brenda Reyes. When Loza voted for the arena, Boyd saw it as a complete and unforgivable betrayal. She cut off Casey too, who had become a close friend, considering Boyd her political mentor.

"I don't have enough time. I'm not gonna waste my time trying to change somebody's mind who has no core values," Boyd says.

Loza, who justified support for the arena project because the taxes don't target his constituents, declined to comment. "Nothing personal, I just don't want to talk about her," he says. Boyd ended up working for Loza's losing opponent, Pete Vaca -- a move that added to her string of lost causes.

"If you're not with her 100 percent, you're not affirming her," says Casey, who has a number of stories about the scores of hours they spent together on campaigns. All but physically absent during her arena debate appearances, Boyd actually has a good sense of humor, Casey says. "We're both very pro-choice, and we were in her car, going somewhere on campaign stuff, and she says, 'Quick, give 'em the finger.'" Casey says she complied without looking, then turned around to see they'd just passed some abortion pickets.

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