By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Once a Yankee, always a Yankee. Every once in a while, I get a certain error message in the eyes of native Dallasites too polite to tell me. "ERROR...ERROR...FATAL YANKEE-THINKING ERROR."
I got that look a lot last week when I was going to lunch with people, calling them up on the phone to chat, asking if Terrell Bolton could be a good old boy. I wasn't suggesting that our recently fired police chief was, in fact, a good old boy. I was trying to find out if he could become one, because, as far as I can tell, there are major benefits. I might even put in for it myself.
ERROR...ERROR...YANKEE CANNOT BECOME GOOD OLD BOY. NO MATTER WHAT.
I was right in there with the rest of the mad dogs calling for the firing of the city's first African-American police chief, Bolton, on a variety of grounds. Fake drugs, high crime, hiding the ball, cops out of control, bad morale, weird management style: It all added up to a lousy job.
Now he's long gone, and The Dallas Morning News is publishing a series of top-notch investigative stories showing that Dallas County Sheriff Jim Bowles, a white man, has a long-standing cozy relationship with a jail contractor from whom Bowles has accepted meals and fishing trips and with whom he had some kind of bad-smelling deal to install a driveway at his home. All of which would add up, it seems to me, to the sheriff doing a lousy job, among other more serious possibilities.
But every day...I am talking every single day for the past month...I get phone calls from my fellow mad dogs out there, lobbying me to write something that would exonerate the sheriff. The argument for it goes like this:
Well, Schutze, he's an old guy (75 years), and he probably has stayed at the helm too long, but he just loves being the sheriff, and he's basically a good guy, and all that going to lunch and fishin' at Rockport, you know, that's just sheriff culture from way back. And, Jim, it's not like he thought he was doing anything wrong. He's just, you know, an old country boy. Wink-wink. He's just a good old boy. Wink-wink.
Well, see, wink-wink, tiddlywinks. The winks don't count for me, because I'm a stupid Yankee, and I don't wink right. If Terrell Bolton were a good old boy, would he not still be in office? Wink-wink?
You know, Terrell just loves being the chief, and that stuff with the misleading press conferences on the fake-drugs scandal, shoot, man, that's just City Hall culture. Riding around with his posse in all those limos, c'mon, the man never thought he was doing anything wrong. He's just, you know...Terrell grew up out there in the country back in Louisiana, and he's just a typical good old boy.
I sort of get it, and I sort of don't. In all my conversations, it's like being a good old boy is a get-out-of-jail-free card. You're dumb. You're sloppy. You break the rules. You're over the hill. And because you're a good old boy, those are all the good things about you.
So why wouldn't we all want a card like that? How do you get one?
I went to lunch with Allen Gwinn, who runs the Web page Dallas.org. He has done some really good work ferreting out various kinds of scampery at Dallas City Hall. Gwinn was right out there on the fringe with me calling for Bolton to get the ax. He still sponsors a special page dedicated to anti-Bolton information.
His regular Web page has a special section dedicated to the domestic-abuse conviction of school board member Ron Price, who is black. I have always been extremely suspicious of the way that case went down, and I have real questions about whether Price was treated fairly. But that's a story for another day, and I respect Gwinn's work on it.
Gwinn has another special section dedicated to the heroin conviction in San Francisco in 1952 of former Dallas City Councilman Al Lipscomb, who is black. Gwinn traveled to San Francisco to work on this for his page and came up with some interesting new wrinkles on this very old stiff of a story. He found, for example, that the undercover cop who wanted to bust Lipscomb for selling drugs 52 years ago kept getting foiled because every time the young and resourceful Lipscomb sold him "heroin," the stuff turned out to be table salt. One difference between San Francisco in 1952 and Dallas in 2002, I guess, was that back then they knew how to test the drugs.
But Gwinn also has a section of his Web site dedicated to proving that Sheriff Bowles, the only white guy on the page, is the victim of a political vendetta; that a raid of his office seeking evidence for a grand jury investigation was staged; that the investigation of Bowles is costing the taxpayers a lot of money, and so on.
When I met him for lunch, Gwinn had a stack of documents to show me to prove that Bowles hasn't done all that much wrong. I had already seen all of these documents at least three times in the previous month, along with all sorts of other stuff alleging that Bowles' main opponent in the upcoming election, Danny Chandler, is the spawn of Satan.