By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
For purgatory, press 1 now:Gordon Matthews, inventor of voicemail, dies. Spiritualists in contact with Matthews post-mortem report that his soul is inadvertently shuffled off to limbo when he foolishly presses 0 in a vain attempt to contact an operator while waiting in line at the Pearly Gates.
Mo' money:The Palladium Co. threatens to walk away from plans for a retail and residential development, called Victory, around American Airlines Center unless the Dallas City Council agrees to provide an additional $43 million in streets, parking and public plazas for the private multimillion-dollar project. Opponents complain that the center's original developers, Tom Hicks and Ross Perot Jr., had promised to develop the property as part of the city's agreement to provide $125 million to help build AAC. Supporters counter that further investment is needed to spur downtown growth and that "only a complete idiot would have believed those guys' promises the first time, anyway." Council members agree to consider the demands after receiving dire warnings that a looming shortage of overpriced chinos, cargo pants and casual sportswear endangers the foundation of the city's economy. "Without Victory's retail space, Dallas will be left with only 575 Gaps and 310 Banana Republics," a spokesman for the developer warns. "Do you really want to force residents to drive to Plano to find hooded fleece pullovers, on sale now for $29.95?"
The insider:Running on a back-to-basics platform, former Dallas Observermuckraking columnist Laura Milleris elected Dallas mayor, defeating former department store mannequin Tom Dunning. True to both forms, Miller's first act as mayor is to file an ethics complaint against herself for alleged campaign abuses. The complaint fizzles, however, when Miller refuses to return her own phone calls seeking comment.
March & April
Gone to pot:Former Cowboys lineman Nate Newton pleads guilty to drug trafficking charges. Newton was arrested in late 2001 when U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents discovered 175 pounds of marijuana and $16,000 in the trunk of a vehicle that was in a convoy with a truck Newton was driving. The arrest followed a similar case filed against Newton in Louisiana. Eventually sentenced to 30 months in prison, a contrite Newton vows that he will never again deal weed, or if he does, "I'll get a white boy to drive the damn car. Those punks never get pulled over."
What's in a name: Bowing to complaints of racial insensitivity, school board members in Frisco vote unanimously to change the name of the Frisco High mascot from Coons to Raccoons. Inspired by the decision, trustees in the Park Cities agree to change the name of the Highland Park High mascot to the Caucasians after complaints that the school's previous team name, the Rich Honky Mothers, was equally insensitive.
Reading is fundamental: Southern Methodist University reveals that it is campaigning to become the future home of the George W. Bush presidential library. SMU officials tout the university as a natural and economical spot for the facility, since the existing library "already has a couple of empty shelves and most of the Where's Waldo books."
Somebody say amen: Farmers Branch purchases televangelist Robert Tilton's Word of Faith Church for $6.1 million, intending to turn the facility into the city's first convention center. Work on the center begins when the city brings in three front-end loaders to begin hauling away some 400 tons of discarded prayer requests filling the sanctuary's basement.
Gas and go:In an experimental project, McDonald's says that it will allow customers at five local restaurants to charge meals to windshield-mounted toll tags, used to pay tolls on North Texas roadways. Company officials brag that the experiment is the perfect blend of convenience and marketing: "Gas, grease, oil and the urge to go real fast--those things spell both freeway driving and the McDonald's dining experience."
Sell-out:Frustrated Stars owner Tom Hicks announces that he intends to sell his 50 percent stake in the Victory development in a bid to quell the continuing controversy over calls for more public financing for the project. If that doesn't work, Hicks says, "I'll ball up my widdle fists and hold my bweaf until I turn bwue" to win city council approval.
Getting testy:A scandal over dubious narcotics cases, which broke in late 2001 when WFAA-Channel 8 revealed that dozens of innocent people had been jailed on trumped-up charges involving fake cocaine planted by Dallas police informants, continues to grow. (Much of the purported cocaine confiscated in the arrests later turned out to be pool-hall chalk.) Police Chief Terrell Bolton informs the city council that a new police policy calling for complete lab tests of all confiscated drugs will cost the city $1 million annually. Already facing a budget shortfall, council members balk at the price tag, which will also include training that will teach narcotics officers "how to tell shit from Shinola and their asses from holes in the ground."
Go up, Moses: Dallas school trustees raise Superintendent Mike Moses' base salary from $294,000 to $310,000 and award him an additional $47,000 for unused leave and performance bonuses. Supporters defend the raise as a necessary step to keep Moses from considering a job as chancellor of Texas Tech University and note that as head of DISD, he has added expenses, including the costs of a MAC-10, flak jacket and extra life insurance necessary for visits to Skyline High School.