By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Armstrong found Simmons not guilty. (Simmons also beat the rap for his prostitution charge. "Crazy stuff," he says of both.)
Today, he thinks the cops tried to intimidate him, tried to keep him from his hangout. "And I'm old enough to remember the days when you couldn't go where you wanted to go," he says. "But this isn't [then]."
When asked how often he stops by Caddo and Munger, despite the tickets he received, Simmons laughs.
"Every day." --Paul Kix
Been There, Done That
It all sounded so familiar to the reporters here at the Dallas Observer: Young writers decide to go the traditional newspaper route only to discover that the paint-by-numbers journalism world isn't for them, so they quit and go searching for something more fulfilling. But usually it takes a few years in the business for reporters to play out that scenario--we're notoriously slow on the uptake. That wasn't the case for a few University of Texas at Dallas kids, though.
After working for UTD's official student paper for a time, sophomores Neha Chinei (who was a staff writer for the Mercury) and Clarisse Profilet (who served in the Mercury's Life and Arts department) decided they'd had enough.
"It wasn't our type of writing," Profilet says. "It was stifling, really. There wasn't any room for creativity. And I didn't want to go to work for USA Today, either. I just wanted something more satisfying."
Rather than bitching about the paper or quitting and then wasting away on the couch, Chinei and Profilet went with a more proactive approach. After talking to one of their professors, they decided to start their own paper--an alternative publication called A Modest Proposal. That was back in March. Over the next few months they tried to persuade the UTD faculty to fund a new publication. Despite the fact that some were skeptical, the duo plugged along and finally secured funding for their monthly publication from administration higher-ups who were sympathetic to the cause. The first issue came out in October, and another one for November-December was just finished. Still, there are growing pains.
"It was completely worthwhile for us," says Chinei, the paper's "director." Profilet is the editor in chief, and there are a handful of other students dedicated to the paper. "This is the kind of writing I've wanted to do--more opinion, less stodgy. Just more freedom in general. But we've had to work hard to get people to notice us. When we first put stacks of the paper out in the student union, someone kept taking them away. So we'd put them out there again, and they'd take them away again. That went on for a while. But even that was worth it. Since then, we've gotten a lot of feedback from people who are interested in reading something different." --John Gonzalez
Show Us the Money
A city council candidate and principal backer of a charter election for a strong mayor system in Dallas called the Dallas Observer last week to strenuously object to an Observer story characterizing as "improper" her most recent campaign finance report.
In a December 2 story ("Un-chartered Territory") the Observer reported that Beth Ann Blackwood, a District 14 city council candidate, "improperly" omitted the source of $28,000 spent so far by her city council campaign.
The Observer checked with a city official cited by Blackwood and with the Texas State Ethics Commission and has concluded that the description of the omission as improper was not accurate. Instead, the omission should have been described as sleazy and contrary to state law.
Blackwood and her husband, Tom Thomas, both lawyers, told the Observer the $28,000 was money spent from personal funds. Both insisted the law does not require reporting campaign contributions from personal funds, if the candidate does not intend to repay herself.
Tim Sorrells, assistant general counsel to the Ethics Commission, however, says candidates must declare the source of all contributions, including those from personal funds. "There's a special schedule, Schedule G. It's called 'Political Expenditures From Personal Funds,'" Sorrells says.
He said a candidate may show on the report that she does not intend to seek reimbursement but must still declare that she was the source of the funds.
The Observer asked Blackwood what her goal had been in not showing she was the source of the money. She said: "How can anybody not know that that's not your money, when you're required to disclose all the money you get except for what you contributed, and you have to list every signature?"
Born to be on the Dallas City Council. --Jim Schutze