By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Lisbon/lesbian. Get it? Democrat Lupe Valdez is sworn in as Dallas County sheriff, becoming the first Latina and first homosexual--as far as we know--to hold the job. News of her sexual orientation comes as a belated shock to her political supporters in the sheriff's office. "What, she's gay?" one surprised deputy asks. "I thought 'lesbian' meant she was from Portugal."
Oh no he dih-unt: Former Dallas City Councilman Al Lipscomb stuns council members when he likens Mayor Laura Miller to Hitler for her support of a ballot measure that would greatly increase the mayor's authority. Lipscomb calls the effort a power grab and compares it to the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust. Widely castigated for his remarks, Lipscomb defends himself by saying, "Hey, if this town can call an old sellout like me a civil rights icon, calling a Jew 'Hitler' doesn't seem like much of a stretch." Councilwoman Dr. Maxine Thornton-Reese defends Lipscomb's analogy. "There is a relationship. You need to study it," Thornton-Reese says, according to The Dallas Morning News, leading Dallasites to wonder yet again what in God's name she is a doctor of and what sort of half-assed diploma mill gave her a degree.
Walk on: Two hundred North Dallas High School students stage a walkout to protest rules enacted by new principal Enedina Townsend that require students to get a faculty escort to go to the restroom or nurse's office. "It's totally unfair," protest leader Kayla Tiffany Ashlee Wilson tells reporters. "Like, my grandpa didn't fight the French in World War whatever so I'd have to tell the world I'm on my period."
But jaywalking is down: Crime-weary Dallas residents get some welcome news from statistics that show crime in the city dropped 4 percent the previous year. The good news is tempered by the fact that the number of murders and burglaries rose in 2004. Police Chief David Kunkle urges residents to be patient, promising that the city will soon "turn a corner" on homicides and burglaries. "At this rate, anyone worth killing and anything worth stealing will be gone in six months or so, and we should see those numbers start to drop."
Last one in, close the door: Members of the Young Conservatives of Texas at the University of North Texas stage a mock roundup of undocumented immigrants--portrayed by YCT members wearing orange T-shirts--to protest illegal immigration. "My grandpa didn't fight the Russians in World War I so this country could be overrun by Mexicans," says protest leader Patrick "Paddy" O'Donahue III. In response, members of the League of United Latin American Citizens hold a mock "catch the redneck" roundup at the Denton campus the following week. That event in turn angers the UNT chapter of the American Indian Movement, which stages its own "why don't all of you go the hell back to where you came from" rally.
Buc-buc-buckaw: Beth Ann Blackwood, leader of the petition drive that placed the strong mayor initiative on the upcoming May ballot, announces she is withdrawing from the race for the District 14 council seat. Blackwood says she wishes to focus her efforts on winning voter approval of the strong mayor measure. "Besides, on the off chance that thing does pass, I'm not sure I want to be on the council," she says. "Laura scares the bejesus outta me already."
The hulks: In this year's installment of "Overhyped Drug and/or Sex Stories That Scare the Crap Out of Clueless Middle-Class Parents," the Morning News reports that nine Colleyville Heritage High School students admitted using banned muscle-building steroids. Colleyville parents move quickly to blame school officials for not monitoring all of the hard-to-detect complex chemicals their students secretly inject. "We thought the violent psychotic episodes, the shrunken testicles, the 75 pounds of muscle and his hairy brow ridge were just part of growing up," one aggrieved mother says. "Why didn't someone warn us that something might be wrong before our son ripped the bumper off his daddy's Escalade with his bare hands?"
With friends like this: Police investigating a "strange odor" at a Grapevine park arrest a 24-year-old Euless man for marijuana possession after the man's dog retrieves a baggie of grass from a nearby creek and brings it to his owner while he's being questioned by a cop. The Dallas police Narcotics Unit, decimated in recent years by a scandal involving fake drugs planted on innocents by police informants, later offers the man $7,500 for the pooch, a Labrador retriever and rat fink terrier mix.
Police state, Part 1: Despite a 4 percent one-year decline in crime, new statistics show that Dallas is tops in crime among the nation's largest cities for the seventh consecutive year. Chief David Kunkle moves quickly to reassure residents that the department is taking steps to improve the stats. At a press conference, he unveils the department's new "You Probably Had It Coming" program to ticket assault victims who bleed on public sidewalks and the innovative "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You" project, which will change the 911 emergency phone line to an unlisted number.
Return to sender: City Hall extends the deadline for residents to respond to a survey about the quality of city services because too few of the 34-part surveys had been returned. Red-faced city officials soon apologize after learning that the surveys had been mailed postage-due to 600 random residents of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
Police state, Part 2: Members of the Texas House's Civil Practices Committee sharply criticize Dallas for abusing the state's nuisance law. Legislators say Dallas police and attorneys have used the law--intended to close down criminal enterprises such as crack houses--to "intimidate and shake down" legitimate business owners whose properties are overrun by drug dealers, prostitutes and the homeless and who have the temerity to complain. Mayor Miller defends the city's practices, claiming the alleged abuse was part of the city's "Crime Victim Reduction Program." "Look, you can't have a crime without a victim, so we blame them for at least 50 percent of the crime problem," Miller says. "Plus, they're way easier to catch. The idiots actually call us."
Bricks in the wall: Dallas school trustees vote to end paddling. "We believe that smacking students' butts with boards is an outmoded form of discipline in 2005," a DISD spokesman says. "Especially since most of these li'l bastards carry at least shivs and aren't afraid to use them." At the same meeting, trustees agree to require students to wear uniforms through the eighth grade. "If we can't beat them anymore, at least we can break their spirits," the spokesman says. "Besides, one way or another most of the kids educated at our schools end up in places that require uniforms anyway--McDonald's, the Army, prison--so they might as well get used to it."
Unreality TV: Grin & Barrett, a reality show starring Dallas socialite Angie Barrett, premieres. The program tracks the life and shopping of Dallas' "biggest fashion fiend," who in the '80s was convicted of stealing up to $500,000 in merchandise from Neiman Marcus and who nearly four years ago was suspected of assaulting her elderly husband. The program airs between reruns of To Catch a Thief and WWE Smackdown.
Who wants to know? Leaders of Prestonwood Christian Academy, a Plano Christian school, delay issuing a survey they intended for older students after parents complain that some of the questions--about sex, drugs and cheating--are too prying. School officials reconfigure the survey, removing questions that asked students whether they used drugs, where they bought them, was it "good shit," whether they were sexually active and whether they were free Friday nights.
Oh, no. Size matters: To greet the Texas Rangers' new season, Ameriquest Field unveils the Big Dog, a half-pound hot dog smothered in chili and cheese. The $8.50 tube of meat byproducts is a steal at only 25 cents more than a standard ballpark hot dog, and ballpark officials say they hope fans will embrace the big wiener as a way to bring them closer to the team. "Anyone who chokes down one of these hawgs will have a pretty good idea of what it's like to be a Ranger," a team spokesman says.
Dumb Knight: City Councilman Mitchell Rasansky apologizes to the father of a Boy Scout whom Rasansky had jokingly called "Count Dracula" for erecting three bat houses in a North Dallas park. Rasansky, who feared that bats drawn to the houses might carry rabies and attack people, had said the boy, who was trying to earn an Eagle Scout badge, was from "Transylvania." Rasansky's apology comes after laughing fellow council members threaten to light a candle in the council men's room and chant "Candyman" three times while standing before a mirror. "Stop screwing around, you guys," a visibly nervous Rasansky says. "Like, I'm so sure that would work--duh--but just don't anyway, OK? No, I'm not being a baby. You're being a baby, you big baby."
Rah, rah, raw: After a lengthy, contentious debate, the Texas House narrowly approves an education bill vital to the future of Texas students. Nah, not a school finance reform bill--they couldn't pass that if you stuffed them full of prunes, mineral oil and oat bran. Instead, the House approves a bill authorizing the Texas Education Agency to police school districts that allow cheerleaders to get too sexy in their routines. "This is vital," the bill's sponsor, Representative Al Edwards of Houston, insists. "All these pubescent girls in their shorts skirts, twirling and jiggling and doing splits in steamy, lascivious displays, with their pert breasts and creamy thi...Uh, I'm sorry. What was the question again?" The bill fails in the Senate, where a counter-proposal providing $7.5 million for brass poles and mirror balls for "student athletes" garners support.
Careful what you wish for: In a landslide election, Dallas voters reject a ballot proposal to broadly strengthen the mayor's powers (a similar, watered-down version will likewise be rejected in the fall). Proponents of the initiative had promised that it would make city government more effective. "Listen, voters agree: The last thing this burg needs is for those clowns at City Hall to have more effect on the city," opposition leader Pat Cotton says.
Empty suits them: Dallas police credit a program that places empty police cruisers at strategic spots downtown for reducing crime in the Central Business District. "Seeing all these empty police cars gives potential criminals pause," Chief Kunkle says. "In fact, we've found that crime is actually less in neighborhoods with empty cars than in those with increased patrols by real officers. Boy, that's a puzzler. We're still scratching our heads over that one. Huh. Go figure."
Aid and abet: Texas legislators move quickly to close a bureaucratic loophole that had permitted at least 200 registered sex offenders to receive the erectile-dysfunction drug Viagra through the state's Medicaid program. "If these criminals want Viagra, they'll just have to pay for it like me and anybody else," Attorney General Greg Abbott, whose office discovered the snafu, tells reporters. "Not that I use Viagra, heh-heh. I just mean that I have to pay for my own medicines, which definitely do not include Viagra. Not at all. But if it did, I'd, you know, pay for it and stuff. Not that I do."
The searchers: FBI agents search the offices of city council members James Fantroy and Don Hill and low-income housing developer Southwest Housing Development Co., launching a wide-ranging corruption investigation that will eventually involve every current black city official and employee with the exception of Elmer Jefferson, a 62-year-old City Hall janitor. Targets of the investigation--which to date has produced no criminal charges--say the probe is racially motivated, an allegation denied by the U.S. Justice Department. "It's merely coincidence that the vast majority of public corruption cases we investigate involve blacks," an FBI spokesman says. "That, and the fact that politically connected white people in Dallas know how to steal without getting caught. They call it 'real estate development.'"
Stupidity tax: Reagan Greer, executive director of the Texas lottery, apologizes for approving advertisements that falsely inflated the value of jackpots to lure more players. "It goes to truth in advertising and the protection of the consumer," lottery commission Chairman C. Tom Clowe says, according to the Morning News. "When you tell someone you are going to do something in business, you either do it or you don't stay in business very long." In response to Clowe's call for greater truthfulness, the lottery unveils a new "Piss Your Dollars Down a Rat Hole" scratch-off game.
God help us: In a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that Texas can keep a display of the Ten Commandments outside the state capitol. The decision is a welcome victory for the Texas Attorney General's Office, which had earlier tried to settle the lawsuit that prompted the ruling by offering a compromise that would have stricken two of the commandments--those prohibiting theft and adultery--from the monument. "It's not like anyone down here would notice anyway," Attorney General Abbott says.
Un-recalled for: A coalition of southern Dallas ministers announces that they have obtained enough valid signatures on petitions to force a recall vote for Mayor Laura Miller but were canceling the effort, to allow the city to "heal." The drive's leaders, who had refused to return reporters' phone calls during the weeks the signatures were purportedly gathered, decline to allow anyone to actually see the petitions. "Oh, we've got 'em, buddy," says the Reverend S.C. Nash. "Eighty-thousand...no, wait, 90...no, no, I mean 100,000 signatures. Yeah, 125,000 signatures, all boxed up and ready to go. You want me to file them? Huh? You better watch it then, 'cause I will. Yeah, that's right. Watchoo laughing at? Hey! Don't you walk away when I'm talking to you. Come back here!"
God help him: In an emotional appearance on talk radio, city council member James Fantroy, named in an ongoing FBI corruption investigation, likens himself to Jesus Christ, another innocent crucified for standing up to authority. Fantroy says his opposition to the failed strong mayor effort prompted the FBI investigation, a claim the FBI denies. Reached during an appearance in the form of a Christ-shaped oil stain in a driveway in McAllen, the King of Kings says he is appalled by the comparison. "Me H. Christ, is this guy kidding?" the Prince of Peace asks. "Listen, pal, have someone hammer some 16-penny nails through your feet and we'll talk. I can't believe I died for that Bozo's sins."
But you pay them to leave: Dallas Plan Commission member Ralph Isenberg threatens to go on a hunger strike after federal immigration authorities refuse to reverse a decision to deport his wife of one year, a Chinese immigrant who pleaded no contest to a prostitution charge in 2001. Isenberg, who admits spending about a million dollars on women as his first marriage crumbled, says he has found true love with his new bride, the mother of their infant daughter. "Besides, hot Asian women willing to spend time with a nebbishy guy like me aren't exactly a dime a dozen," a distraught Isenberg says. "Usually, it's more like $150 for a half-hour."
Give where it hurts: The W.W. Caruth Jr. Foundation Fund of the Communities Foundation of Texas awards the Dallas Police Department a $15 million, three-year grant to fight crime. Chief Kunkle announces the first installment will be used to purchase 200 life-size inflatable police dolls, which will be installed in faux non-functioning police "cruisers" positioned around the city to deter crime. "We thought about hiring some more real cops, but they cost a fortune, and besides, the fake ones work tons better," Kunkle says. The remainder will be used to pay off court judgments arising from the fake-drug scandal and various chokehold- and pepper spray-related citizen deaths.
Ebenezer Miller: At a community meeting, Mayor Miller suggests that Dallas consider enacting an ordinance that would allow police to ticket people who give money to panhandlers. The idea receives a chilly response. "Penalizing charity as a way to discourage beggars seems a bit hard-hearted," local resident Harold Fleenor says. "If we really want to end homelessness and panhandling in this city, we should do it the old-fashioned, compassionate Dallas way: Send the cops in to roust them and trash their belongings, arrest them for having shopping carts, ban temporary soup kitchens downtown, tear down their cardboard box shelters, that sort of thing."
They fart, the dog runs away: City council members threaten disciplinary action against City Secretary Shirley Acy for lapses in her office that allowed council members to fail to disclose instances in which they had financial interests in issues brought before the council. The Morning News reports that council members neglected to file the required forms in at least half the cases in which they were required by state and local law. "This is a black eye for the city," council member Dr. Elba Garcia says. "If only the city secretary had told us when we were voting on things that could potentially line our own pockets, we'd be much, much more honest. Damn you, Shirley Acy!"
Priorities: Thousands of Texas schoolchildren face a year with worn, outdated textbooks after state legislators fail to agree on funding for new books. Speaker of the House Tom Craddick blames the situation on a lack of time to deal with myriad pressing educational issues. "We take our responsibilities to Texas schoolchildren very seriously," Craddick says. "Why, on that sexy cheerleading bill alone, House members spent many hours reviewing videotapes of routines, trying to come up with reasonable rules. Many, many hours."
Hunka-hunka: The State Fair of Texas unveils a life-sized statue of Elvis Presley carved from 800 pounds of butter by New York artist Sharon BuMann. Fairgoers marvel at the lifelike rendition of The King, posed singing to three hound dogs. "You know, towards the end there, Elvis was about 90 percent butterfat his own self. Add a coupla pounds of bennies in there, and he'd probably just git up and walk," Elvis fan Lurleen Jenkins says.
No shit: A Dallas cab driver is sentenced to five years in prison for sprinkling his own dried, ground feces on pastries at a Fiesta grocery store in East Dallas. Employees at the store had uncovered the tampering after hearing complaints of a foul odor in the bakery department. News of the case causes all of Dallas County to temporarily lose Internet access as local e-mail servers are overloaded by office workers forwarding messages with the story and attached jokes about the incident--none of which will be reprinted here. (Christmas is a season of miracles: Buzz has found a level of humor to which even we will not stoop. Or squat.)
Here don't come the judge: President Bush nominates former Dallas City Council member Harriet Miers to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Dallasites familiar with Miers' service to the city praise the nominee, saying she will bring vast experience and a keen legal mind to the court. "Harriet never really said much at the council meetings, never really made any big proposals or engaged in any debates worth mentioning. Didn't even show up that much, really," council contemporary Max Wells recalls. "But she always brought these homemade cream cheese brownies to the council Christmas party. Man, those things were tasty. Those other eight guys are in for a treat." Miers later withdraws herself from consideration after religious conservatives in the Senate discover that the brownies were actually store-bought, not made from scratch.
Those party animals: The Smithsonian National Museum of American History acquires the first machine used to create frozen margaritas by Dallas restaurateur Mariano Martinez. It's unclear, however, when the machine will be placed on exhibit. "Dishplay it? Whaddya mean dishplay it?" curator Rayna Green replies to a reporter's question at a news conference announcing the acquisition. "Hey, know what? Know what? You're cute. Lesh go take the Shpirit of Shaint Louish for a li'l shpin. Woo! Ohmygaw, I think I'm gonna hurl."
The gnat and the bull: Mayor Miller roundly criticizes city staff and her fellow council members over their approval of a $6.3 million tax abatement for the construction of a new headquarters for Hunt Consolidated Inc. Miller, a frequent critic of oil man Ray Hunt and his hunger for public subsidies when she was a columnist for this paper, calls the deal "a stickup game with a toy gun." Asked for his response to the mayor's vitriol, Hunt replies, "Laura who?"
Spacey immigrant: Peter Mayhew, the actor who portrayed the character Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies, becomes a U.S. citizen at a ceremony at the Arlington Convention Center. Members of the Young Conservatives of Texas at UT-Arlington stage a protest outside the ceremony as Mayhew takes the Oath of Allegiance. "Luke Skywalker didn't risk his life destroying the Death Star so this country could be overrun by hairy Wookies from Kashyyyk," protest leader Jed Moore says. "Next thing you know, we'll be up to our asses in Gungans from Naboo, like Jar Jar Binks. Man, I hate that guy."
AWOL: The city bills former council member John Loza $3,100, part of his council salary he must return for missing more than 10 percent of scheduled meetings. The Morning News suggests that current council members James Fantroy and Don Hill may also be on the hook to return money because of excessive absences. Mayor Miller says that may not be the case, however. "You know what? I'm all for fiscal responsibility and devotion to duty, but I think we might be able to let these guys slide on this," Miller says. "In fact, if they stop showing up altogether, I'm pretty sure no one's going to complain."
Can't dance, don't ask them: The NBA announces a new dress code that requires players to dress in "business casual" wear at off-court league events. League commissioner David Stern says the code, which bans such items as sunglasses and heavy gold medallions worn outside clothing, is intended to improve the NBA players' image as bad boy partiers. "This is just a start," Stern says. "Next, we plan to go after things like those Mavericks television commercials with Mark Cuban and his players dancing like arthritic lumberjacks. Dude, those guys make us all look like big doofuses."
Sounds fair: Police Chief David Kunkle reveals that Dallas is on track for a 20 percent reduction in homicides. As of December 8, Dallas tallied 195 killings, though three of those deaths may be subtracted if grand jurors rule they were justifiable homicides. "Frankly, shooting three people because they shorted you on an eight ball sounds pretty darn justified to me, but we'll have to wait and see what the grand jurors decide," Kunkle says.
Pipe dream: Former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin is arrested in Plano for possession of a drug pipe and plastic baggie containing marijuana residue. Irvin, who says he gave up drugs and turned his life over to God, claims the paraphernalia belong to a friend who left a rehab program and came to Irvin's house on Thanksgiving. Irvin's claim is a milestone in the U.S. war on drugs, marking the 2 millionth time a suspect found with drugs or drug-related items was "just holding it for a friend."