Damaged goods

What do you get for 50 bucks a meeting? Thomas Korosec sizes up the man and woman most likely to succeed Al Lipscomb.

Upset by unfavorable publicity about her involvement with Yellow Cab, Crenshaw brought civil lawsuits over the past year and a half against Channel 11 and Rufus Shaw, who writes a column for the Elite News. In the Channel 11 case, which a judge later threw out, Crenshaw represented herself. She pleaded indigence, asked the court to waive filing fees, and filled in answers about her finances on a required questionnaire.

In the document, which was file-stamped in February 1999, the 46-year-old Crenshaw wrote that she was not employed. "Do not have full emotional stability to sustain concentrated efforts," Crenshaw wrote. She described her occupation as "contract labor for political and government purposes."

In her suit against Shaw, filed last month, she described her occupation as "sales." In her filing for the city council seat filed earlier this month, Crenshaw listed her occupation as "community relations."

Ambush: At a sparsely attended candidates' forum sponsored by KNON-FM, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price began heckling Sandra Crenshaw, with the apparent consent of  the forum's moderators and sponsors. Price, who is backing candidate James Fantroy, was seated with a number of relatives of former council member Al Lipscomb. Crenshaw repaired to an office in the Tommie Allen Recreation Center and dialed 911. When police arrived, debate organizers told them that a little heckling from the audience was permitted and that everything was under control. As Crenshaw put it later, "Everybody knows this was a set-up deal."
Ambush: At a sparsely attended candidates' forum sponsored by KNON-FM, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price began heckling Sandra Crenshaw, with the apparent consent of the forum's moderators and sponsors. Price, who is backing candidate James Fantroy, was seated with a number of relatives of former council member Al Lipscomb. Crenshaw repaired to an office in the Tommie Allen Recreation Center and dialed 911. When police arrived, debate organizers told them that a little heckling from the audience was permitted and that everything was under control. As Crenshaw put it later, "Everybody knows this was a set-up deal."
Candidate Sandra Crenshaw has the friends and organization to make her one of the front-runners in the race for the District 8 city council seat.
Candidate Sandra Crenshaw has the friends and organization to make her one of the front-runners in the race for the District 8 city council seat.

Asked to explain specifically how she supports herself, Crenshaw said that "my family supports me" and that they would continue to do so if she retakes a seat on the council, which pays $50 a meeting for expenses.

In the Rufus Shaw column Crenshaw cited as defamatory in her lawsuit, he, too, questioned how she makes a living. But the swipe that bothered her the most concerned her involvement in the Lipscomb bribery case. "And how about Sandra Crenshaw. How did Ms. Crenshaw manage to escape indictment when she was a longtime close associate of Mr. Lipscomb?"

In her lawsuit, which is pending, Crenshaw alleged that Shaw "...published false statements implying I acted as an informant and in the context of the community in which I live. This exposed me to harassment by admirers of Mr. Lipscomb."

Indeed, when Crenshaw appeared April 11 at a forum sponsored by KNON-FM, Lipscomb's daughter, Yvette Dudley, and other Lipscomb family members were among hecklers who shouted, clapped, or yelled every time Crenshaw spoke -- a disruption egged on by County Commissioner John Wiley Price.

The meeting was obviously an ambush set up for Crenshaw.

Although Dudley would not comment, the suggestion seemed to be that Crenshaw's biggest sin was disloyalty to her dad. "Crenshaw is as bad as the Dallas Observer," Price said in a brief comment to a reporter. Council member Laura Miller was the first to expose the relationship between Lipscomb and Yellow Cab in a column in the Observer in early 1997.

"Crenshaw is so detached from reality that she called me repeatedly at home and City Hall recently," Miller said last week. "She wanted to give me advice on the ethics code. She couldn't understand why I didn't call her back and got so abusive, I told my council assistant to tell her to put all her great ideas in writing. Which she didn't do. She thought that was insulting."

Crenshaw is taking shots these days from all angles, but she has spent enough time politicking and working in the district that she has a network of loyalists, and some Fantroy supporters see her at least as a minor threat.

"You working your list?" Crenshaw asked one old friend the other day. With such a small number of actual voters, a little organization can go a long way in District 8.

And sometimes, it can work as cover.

A week after Price heckled Crenshaw at the KNON forum, Crenshaw brought about a dozen supporters in purple T-shirts to an NAACP-sponsored forum at the Singing Hills Recreation Center. No hecklers showed, which might have been a good thing for them. A young man the size of a pro linebacker had stationed himself on the front row. On the chest of his purple Crenshaw T-shirt were the words "Boo this."

The names Joe Tave and Ruth Steward don't appear in Dallas County's criminal and civil court files. The records show no charges; no lawsuits for bad debts or back taxes.

"Joe Tave is squeaky-clean," one southern sector kingmaker says. "The problem is, he's been squeaky-quiet."

Tave, 56, who holds a master's degree in guidance and counseling from East Texas State University, is a history and government teacher at Spruce High School. He moved to Dallas in 1991 from Odessa, where he worked as a school guidance counselor and as the owner of a lawn-sprinkler business. If elected, he says, he'll leave teaching and restart his business.

"I represent change. There are some very astute voters in the district, and they want change," says Tave, who is quick to add that being outside the district's traditional power circles is a huge handicap. "I hear Fantroy's supporters on the radio say, 'Nobody knows Joe Tave. Who is Joe Tave?'"

Crenshaw, meanwhile, says she "welcomes" him to the district, and has photocopied voting records showing that Tave has voted only twice in city elections since 1993.

Tave, like his opponents, is not one to criticize Lipscomb or back any big ethics push downtown. He says that, from a black perspective, it's difficult to judge Lipscomb's transgressions harshly when so many wrongs have been committed historically against blacks.

"I've lived a certain kind of life, committed to my church and to teaching kids," he says.

Tave was among a group of people who organized Lipscomb's defense fund in early 1998 and raised $30,000. The effort slowed considerably and disintegrated into political infighting once it became clear that Tave was considering running for Lipscomb's seat. "I was labeled an opportunist," he says.

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