By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Damn, free at last: A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturns the bribery conviction of former Dallas City Council member Al Lipscomb. Lipscomb was convicted in January 2000 of taking cash from Yellow Cab Co. owner Floyd Richards in exchange for favorable votes on matters affecting the company. The appeals panel rules that U.S. District Judge Joe Kendall improperly ordered a change of venue that moved Lipscomb's trial to Amarillo. Citing his age and infirmity, federal prosecutors decline to retry the guilty-as-sin Lipscomb, who served 27 months of a 41-month sentence in home confinement. The decision leaves Lipscomb free to run for office and vote, which he says he plans to do "as soon as someone gives me a little walking-around money."
And the winner still is:Maxine Thornton-Reese defeats challenger Larry Duncan for a seat on the city council in a special election. Thornton-Reese beat Duncan by 16 votes last year, but a state district judge voided that election because of voting irregularities. Election officials take pains to eliminate all questionable ballots this time around, which leaves the final count at two votes for Thornton-Reese, one vote for Duncan.
Try bigger barriers:The Dallas Cowboys erect hundreds of 3,000-pound barriers around Texas Stadium in an effort to thwart terrorist attacks. The effort proves fruitless as terror strikes the stadium when the Cowboys' regular season begins as scheduled.
Strike out:Major League Baseball owners and players reach an 11th-hour agreement that averts what would have been the ninth strike in three decades. Sadly, word of the agreement fails to reach the Rangers' bullpen, which continues a work stoppage that began at the start of the season.
Unfriendly skies:Faced with huge and growing losses, American Airlines announces a new strategy intended to cut costs and lure travelers. Plans call for a simplified fleet of aircraft, schedule changes and a new advertising campaign based on the motto, "Terror-free for 12 months."
September & October
Idol worship: Kelly Clarkson, a 20-year-old Burleson High graduate, bests the competition to win top prize on the Fox talent-search program American Idol. The young singer quickly makes plans to cash in on her newfound celebrity, which she estimates to be worth another 35 cents an hour at her future job behind the counter at Subway.
J.R. redux:David Jacobs, creator of the popular television series Dallas, announces plans for a film version of the program, due for wide-screen release in 2004. Featuring an updated story line to reflect contemporary Dallas, lead character J.R. Ewing will no longer be a grasping, dishonest, conniving oilman, and instead will be a dishonest, conniving and grasping property developer and sports-team owner.
Pay for work: The Dallas Independent School District considers offering cash incentives to teachers to reduce absenteeism among staff, which cost DISD more than $12 million in pay for substitute teachers last year, the Morning Newsreports. "Giving them salaries and expecting them to show up just isn't working," Superintendent Mike Moses tells school board members. If extra cash doesn't do the trick, Moses says, the district may consider more draconian measures, such as saying "pretty please" or transferring recalcitrant teachers to Skyline High.
Oops:A special court created to handle school truancy cases begins work in Dallas, only to have its docket bog down on the first day when Dallas police mistakenly haul a 74-year-old grandmother and 38-year-old balding accountant before the judge for cutting classes. "They looked like kids to me," explains the embarrassed Dallas police officer responsible for the arrests. "Of course, I'm new to this. I was just reassigned here from the narcotics unit."
Viva DART:Dallas Area Rapid Transit pays $52,000 to send 32 representatives, including a dozen board members, to the American Public Transportation Association's annual convention in Las Vegas. The move comes as DART, facing a tight budget, lays off staff and makes plans for higher fares and reduced routes. DART officials defend the travel, saying the agency needs to stay abreast of changes in the public transportation industry, and that they had hoped to relieve the budget woes by playing on the casino floor. "We get a lot of quarters at DART, and Vegas has a ton of slot machines. We thought we might get lucky."
Pray harder next time:Popular evangelist Billy Graham brings his religious crusade to Texas Stadium, where thousands gather to worship, pray and renew their fight against sin and evil. From his office at Texas Stadium, however, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones tells the faithful, "Look, you can pray all you want to, but I'm not agoin' nowhere."
Broken record:Bringing a bit of glory to an otherwise dismal season, Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith becomes the NFL's all-time leading rusher in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The record is especially sweet for the 33-year-old Smith, as he sets it while using a walker.
November & December
Bad dream:One of the nastiest campaign seasons on record comes to an end with Republicans sweeping the Democratic "dream team" in the top races for governor, lieutenant governor and Senate. Banker and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez fell victim to a particularly scurrilous attack by victor Rick Perry, whose campaign featured an ad linking Sanchez's bank to money laundering and the death of a federal drug agent. Sanchez ultimately spent $69 million of his own money on the campaign, a figure that astonishes Austin lobbyists, who note that they routinely buy the governor and half the Texas Legislature "for a 10th of that amount." Political strategists blame the defeat in part on confusion among Democratic voters who voted straight-ticket Republican, thinking they were voting for Sanchez, a donor to George W. Bush, and business-friendly "moderate" Ron Kirk. "Those guys are Democrats? Who knew?" says one exasperated party spokesman.