By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Imagine how bitter the taste of defeat must be for Laura Miller on her wading pool deal, especially since it looked like she had the thing won.
Miller, trying to keep two city wading pools open in poor neighborhoods in southern Dallas, persuaded the ExxonMobil Foundation to contribute $50,000 to the cause, only to have the plan scuttled last Wednesday after the council voted 7-7 to toss the donation into a general parks and recreation fund. The vote, Miller says, followed a little behind-the-scenes lobbying by other council and park board members to persuade ExxonMobil to make their donation an unrestricted gift. (Buzz's mother taught us a two-syllable word for the sort of person who would muck around with another's good deed like that. The second syllable is "heel.")
So, no dough. No pools. Sorry kids, just sweat it out; we've got politics to attend to, though you can take comfort in the fact that the vote was closer even than the final tally. Miller says Mayor Pro Tem Mary Poss had been promising to vote with her on the pool deal for weeks. When they voted, Poss even pushed her vote button in favor of Miller, but the mayor saw it and whispered helpfully, "You voted yes." There was a long pause. The mayor said, "You need to..." (Change it, change it, change it.) Still no reaction from Poss. So the mayor said, "Well, it passes eight to six."
Finally Poss came around. "Mr. Mayor," she said, "my vote was no, but it's reflected as yes." At which point the mayor quickly changed the verdict and announced the measure had been defeated 7-7. "I pushed the wrong button," Poss explained to Buzz, noting that she'd said earlier in the meeting that she intended to vote no. In the Mary Poss political biography, when it is written, this will not be a Churchillian moment.
On the other hand, Buzz can see where she might have become confused, there being two whole buttons to choose from and all. Having a real choice between two alternatives is a rare occurrence for the city council. Maybe next time a vote is close, Poss should just let Kirk push the right one.
As tough as the loss must have been, Miller can take comfort in the fact that the fight is not over. Tim Daniels, a North Dallas father of two who, along with his wife, has done volunteer ministry work with children in the pools' neighborhoods, has opened a bank account for donations to keep the city's wading pools open. The account is at Bank One. You can make donations to Saving City Pools, account number 1583440951. Daniels says he hopes to raise between $50,000 and $100,000 to give to the city. Our advice to him: Get a receipt.
In unguarded moments, Dallas Morning News insiders have long confided that their paper operates on the "Two Rivers Rule": The staff can report any kind of scandal it wants, as long as the scandal takes place at least two rivers away from Dallas. But recent events have made the rule less an inside secret than a public joke.
Two weeks ago, a who's who of the local environmental community gathered at a Park Cities church to hear presentations by two Houston lawyers about what's wrong with the Trinity River Plan. One of them, Larry Dunbar, who also happens to be a hydrologist, electrified the audience by showing how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may have fudged its computer models in order to create a totally fake need for the huge project. Dunbar is one of two lawyers hired by an alliance of groups to pursue state and federal lawsuits against the project.
The Dallas Observer was there, which was no big deal, because we've been covering this stuff from the beginning. But the enviros got all giddy and hopeful when they saw that Victoria Loe Hicks of the Morning News was also covering the meeting. So far the News has refused to report the down-and-dirty controversy over the project in any real detail. The enviros took special note of the fact that Hicks, a respected veteran reporter, stuck around long after the meeting ended and pestered the lawyers for more details.
Next day? Nothing in the News. The next? Nada. The enviro grapevine started humming with rumors that Hicks would have a major piece in the paper Sunday morning.
Finally, on April 12, Hicks had a front-page story about an Environmental Protection Agency report warning that plans to build a highway with the Trinity levees could increase pollution and reduce flood protection. Project supporters told Hicks that the EPA was just "waving a little warning flag" and everything was really jake. The road has to go between the levees because it would simply cost too much to build it outside.
And the opponents? How big did they say that warning flag was? Beats us. They still weren't quoted -- not on the EPA comments and certainly not on the other story about the Corps' figure-fudging.
Two chances in a week for the anti-Trinity people to make the daily, and they bat 0-2.