Ron Kirk's Crying Game

When he said it was time to end the blame game, he meant that he had won

Nonsense. I believe that as a black man Ron Kirk has exactly the same right as any white SOB to con voters and sell them down the river like fools. My problem is that Kirk throws race at me when I try to argue hydrology with him.

When I wrote a column pointing out that the White House was siding with residents of Cadillac Heights, agreeing it might be better to buy them out rather than wall them in with earthen levees along the river, Kirk called me up. Angry. He shouted at me that I didn't care about the "thousands of black families" in the rest of Southern Dallas who would be protected by those levees.

Simply not true. This isn't about race. It's about where water goes when you spill it. I took the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hydrological topography maps and drove around the area to be protected by the new levees. Not counting Cadillac Heights, which doesn't want the levees, what I found in the protected zone was a bunch of superannuated chemical plants and railroad yards. In other words, the area to be protected is mostly industrial. What black families?

Ron Kirk is pushing for a multibillion-dollar public-works program on the basis that it will benefit black people, even though the people it is supposed to benefit say they don't want it and even though it does not benefit the other black residential areas he says it will protect. But if I point any of this out as a reporter, I'm a liberal racist.

That's a scam. That's all that is.

And Kirk is angry with me because I won't giggle and goo-goo and lie down the way his friends and admirers do down in Austin where he's from.

It's really not all about me. There is a story I have to tell you. It's just an example of the real Ron Kirk. I have known about this for almost four years, but I have never been able to write about it because the person involved was too embarrassed. I called her up last week and said it was time.

Anna Albers is a community activist who has campaigned for years for a buyout for Cadillac Heights. Most of the residents of Cadillac Heights are Latino and African-American. Albers is white. Albers is emphatic in her views and obviously has lots of tenacity, but she is soft-spoken and polite in her demeanor.

In 1998, before the $246 million Trinity project bond election, Albers was invited to a small black church where Kirk was making a speech urging passage of the bonds. When she attempted to question Kirk outside the church, he told her that he didn't have to answer her questions because her side was going to lose the election.

Kirk was upset that Albers had come to the church in the company of black community activists. He said to her--and this is her version of the quote, which I have asked her to repeat to me at least three times over the period of years since it happened--"And now, Anna, you're pimping black men."

She doesn't have witnesses. I faxed a written request for comment to Kirk's campaign headquarters at the end of last week, but I didn't hear back. I do know that a number of female leaders in the community spoke to Kirk about the incident right after it happened to express their displeasure.

I believe Albers. Several years after the fact when I discussed it with her over a sandwich in the cafeteria on the seventh floor of City Hall, her eyes teared up and she begged me not to write about it. She said she doesn't know exactly what Kirk's remark meant.

"I don't know what it means," she said, "but it's degrading. It's racist, and it's sexist, and it's degrading."

It's Ron. And it's all based on the assumption that the best way to manipulate white people is to exploit their racial fear of black people. He goes for the card every time, one way or another.

Does he do it deliberately? Well, now, that's way too psychological for me. Everybody who has dealt with him at close quarters on public-policy issues says he genuinely does not know the details. He says it about himself. He says he's not a detail guy.

So maybe he really doesn't know how the river plan works. But Ron Kirk does know this: He knows what works for Ron Kirk. And if you stick so much as your little toe out in Ron Kirk's road, watch out.

The blame game's not over until Ron Kirk wins.

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