By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Q declined to discuss the conditions of his employment, but he did nod assent proudly when I suggested the rate was rumored to be about $200 a day.
Q's job was to grab up copies of the mayor's brochure attacking the referendum, leap from his lawn chair and offer the brochures to people thinking about signing the petitions. As I observed the process at other polling places Saturday, some people who might otherwise have paused to sign a petition were inspired instead to rush off to their automobiles, jump in and lock the doors when suddenly approached by one of the mayor's representatives.
I was not able to watch Q in action, however, because he had stationed himself at a polling place where there were no signature-gatherers for the petition, allowing him to sleep all morning between attempts at finding his mother.
I suggested to him that this was a pretty sweet deal, working as a blocker at a polling place where there was no one to block. He suggested to me that my insight did not make me Albert Einstein. Both he and my son seemed disappointed when I said we needed to shove on.
At another polling place in North Dallas I found some of the mayor's representatives who were at least working for their two bills a day. A young man stationed at a folding table outside the polling place was asking people to sign petitions, and two blockers, a man and a woman, were busily pushing in around potential signers and waving "Sink the Petition" flyers at them. The blockers were able to steer some people off to their cars before the petition guy ever got a chance to speak to them.
I asked these blockers for their names, and like all of them I spoke to Saturday they refused to identify themselves. The gentleman, who was wearing a hairpiece that I initially took to be a hat, told me he did not speak to reporters. When I asked him where he was from, he said, "From zero."
The man from zero.
At another polling place, I tried to chat up a lady who was holding a sheaf of the mayor's flyers in one hand while smoking with the other. I was fascinated, I must admit, by the way she smoked. She was able to consume a whole cigarette in two or three drags, collapsing her cheeks against her skull to create a furrowed-brow cross-eyed suction powerful enough to make the entire cigarette sort of curl up and turn to ash like the fuse on a firecracker. I swear in the very few minutes I was able to get her to converse with me, she smoked three cigarettes.
I wanted her to talk to me, because I hoped to find out how she and the mayor had met. But she hurried off and hid behind a tree. I thought of telling her that her son might be looking for her, but then I thought better.
In an interview before Saturday's election, Craig Holcomb, executive director of the Trinity Commons Foundation, had declined to use the word "blockers" for the people he was hiring to represent him and the other petition opponents. He described them instead as "education technicians."
I have known Holcomb for many years. He is a gentleman and a scholar. I called to warn him, or so I thought, that the people he and the mayor and Harlan Crow have been hiring to represent them might not be living up to their high standards. I told him about the gentleman at Frankford Road who was looking for his mother, and I believe I also mentioned the man from zero. I wanted to tell him about the lady with the amazing midway-act cigarette-smoking trick, but he sort of cut me off.
"The feedback I have received is that they were professional and did a good job," he said.
Well, you know, blow the man down! I was shocked, shocked! It was like I was right back out there standing in front of their breath.
I asked, "Can you tell me anything about what service they worked for or how you recruited them?"
"No," Holcomb answered.
"Why is that?" I asked.
"Because, Jim, I have to take your call for various reasons. I really don't want to expose anyone else who is an innocent bystander to what it is going to ensue."
Well, I just don't know what that means. I guess he must be worried about the mommies. Tell you what. If Laura Miller's side wins, I'm definitely going to the victory party. With a film crew from Cops.