Laura, Mary says you're a phony! Now now, girls.

What she doesn't get to--and what isn't known in the city because it's been virtually blacked out by the Morning News--is that a major new consultant study argues the Miller hotel would in fact devastate the city's existing hotels (See "Vacancy," page 19). The study says a hotel, in and of itself, won't draw new conventions to town. It will only siphon off business from the conventions that already have been booked.

There are problems with the study. For one thing, the people pushing it--PR people and lawyers--are trying to be coy about who paid for it. Presumably an owner or owners of old hotels paid for it, but they won't come forward and be named. So that's a big credibility hickey.

Nevertheless, I keep thinking Poss has her fingers on a good one with this. Miller is not bulletproof. As mayor, she has had to strike her own bargains and sign at the bottom of the page on her own deals. She can be successfully attacked if she has signed off on bad deals. And this could be the one.

Will Miller’s push for a convention center hotel come back to bite her? Not yet.
Mark Graham
Will Miller’s push for a convention center hotel come back to bite her? Not yet.

But Poss' hotel issue goes nowhere with the Realtors. Falls to the floor like a sticky pie tin. Maybe this issue is just too new for her. The campaign season is still young. There is still time for Poss to take this or some other issue and fashion it into a sword.

Even on good issues Poss is haunted by a certain shadow. Does she really get anything? Can she stake a position and stay there? Take historic preservation, which was supposed to be one of Poss' big banner causes. Her original political mentor was the late Dorothy Savage, founding maven of the Swiss Avenue Historic District and an author of the city's original preservation code.

But Poss got into serious trouble with her historic-preservation friends over the infamous (in Old East Dallas) 400-square-foot closet on Swiss Avenue. Two years ago David Dean, a professional lobbyist and newcomer to Old East Dallas, was locked in combat with preservationists over his desire to fatten up his newly purchased Swiss Avenue home by tacking a 400-square-foot addition onto the front for a closet for his wife.

Dean took the fight all the way to the city council and whipped the preservationists hands-down, up one side, down the other and in the mud. With a big assist from Poss, who is a close friend of his wife, Dean left the Swiss Avenue Historic District standing on the corner looking like a 19th-century matron with her hooped skirt pulled up over her head. That's pretty great licks for a lobbyist--the kind of guy you'd want in your corner if you needed zoning for a rendering plant next to a grade school--but a questionable accomplishment for a mayoral candidate.

I live in the Swiss Avenue district but not on Swiss. A member of my own household was very anti-closet. I stayed out of it. I'm not sure how much I even believe in historic preservation. If it's such a great idea, why is it such a gigantic pain in the ass?

But the people who do believe in preservation seem not to believe in Mary Poss anymore. Catherine Horsey, former executive director of Preservation Dallas and now executive director of the Providence Preservation Society in Rhode Island, remembers Poss as talking the talk but never walking the walk when things came to a crunch at City Hall. "Far from having a strong commitment to preservation," Horsey says, "I don't think that there was a single instance of her standing for preservation."

Within Poss' own council district, the people who fought to create a conservation district for the M Streets do not have fond memories, either. "I am very disappointed with the idea that she would portray herself as a strong preservationist," says Angela Hunt, an attorney who was a prime mover in the successful campaign to create an M Streets conservation district.

"Anyone in the preservation community can tell you with certainty that that is not the case. There are people on the council such as Veletta [Lill], such as Laura Miller, who are preservationists and do what they say and say what they mean, whatever the heck her [Poss'] motto is."

Poss doesn't exactly deny the allegation that she sided with Dean against the preservation community in the Swiss Avenue case because of her friendship with Dean's wife. "That's very simple," Poss told me in a conference-call interview. "I actually went in the Dean house before any work was started on it. It appeared to me to have not been swept in over 50 years. It was in deplorable condition. And I think had it been left in that condition for another year or so, it probably would have fallen down.

"The Deans were willing to spend a lot of money to completely renovate the house, but the only way Mrs. Dean would consider making the investment in the house was if she could have a closet. And I think most women in particular understand how important that closet can be."

Sure. In the old days that was where we kept our women.

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