A Hole in Every Pot

A city gone shabby yearns for a mayor to put things right

Vance Miller said, "I think too many people have been trying to fool the people about the current state of affairs."

But it was Richmond, Laura Miller's campaign treasurer, who probably put his finger on what these guys really like about her. He talked about airport lease deals and other City Hall transactions where Miller has whipped up on the city manager for giving away the company store.

"She treats it as her own money," he said.

Tom Dunning says he won't be "out-potholed." He may be wrong about that.
Peter Calvin
Tom Dunning says he won't be "out-potholed." He may be wrong about that.
Dunning is personable one-on-one, stiff as a board on the campaign trail.
Peter Calvin
Dunning is personable one-on-one, stiff as a board on the campaign trail.

OK, that and my mother-in-law and the rocking chair and the afghan: No matter what bad things have passed between us, I have to go out and find a way to get Miller to talk to me for this story.

So I walk up and down in front of her house in Kessler Park with a picket sign that says, "Laura, please come out and talk. I'm sorry." That's from Reporting Book of Hoyle, Rule 3: "Cause family member to say, 'Get out there and find a way to get that person out of our neighborhood.'"

The "I'm sorry" on my sign was for the friendship thing, definitely not for anything in Korosec's thoroughly reported, sharply written story. I have a job that sometimes requires me to be an S.O.B. So now I'm a sorry S.O.B. Like I said, she used to do this job, too.

She came out. She smiled. We shook hands. She said I had a lousy picket sign that you couldn't read from across the street. She took the picket sign, probably for evidence. We met at Cindi's a few days later.

From that meeting, I can tell you one remarkable thing I learned about Laura Miller. When she was in high school in a posh Northeastern bedroom community--her father was a successful national retailing executive in New York--Miller chose not to go out for the cheerleading squad, not to spend her after-school hours rehearsing for the one-act play or hanging out with other kids.

"I took my first job when I was 14 years old," she said. "I was sitting on a stool of a luncheonette in Stamford, Connecticut, on a Saturday, and the Greek diner owner asked me if I wanted a job. I said I was too young to work, and he said, 'No, that's OK, you can work after school and Saturdays.'

"I had no reason to work, because I didn't need the money. My dad was doing well in retailing. But I said sure, I'll do it.

"So I took a job that I had for the next four years. I never missed a day after school. I never missed a Saturday. I'd watch the whole high school football team and the cheerleaders go by every Saturday on the way to the game, and I stood in the doorway in my pinstripe uniform and my saddle shoes waving a dish towel at the team going by, because I was an obsessive workaholic."

I asked her what her dad thought about all this.

"He thought I was nuts. He didn't know why I was working. 'Why are you working? Why are you killing yourself?'"

I think I'm with Dad on this. Where does all this extreme focus and willpower come from? Is it a good thing or is it scary?

We talked a lot about politics and City Hall issues. At one point she looked at me as if I were the crazy person, held out her arms and said, "If I don't get elected, nothing changes."

If the choice is Miller/Dunning, she's right. If Garcia brings a Latino electorate to the polls and pulls off a miracle, she's wrong. He's a big change. She's a big change.

What do I smell in the air? What are the vibes? The vibes are Laura Miller big-time. Without a runoff. And if that happens, and if she comes in on that kind of a wave, I will be happy to work with all of the "Anyone but Laura" people on the city council to help them fashion their own "Laura, please talk to me" picket signs.

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