The Magic Touch

Want to know who to vote for? Whatever you do, don't ask Jim.

Crow Holdings, a real estate company run by real estate magnate Harlan Crow, owns a lot of property near Oakley's holdings. Harlan Crow is adamantly opposed to taking the proposed highway out of the river park and putting it near his land. He recently helped fund paid "blockers" to discourage voters from signing a petition for a referendum on the road.

Marquis told me Oakley lived through the years-long debate on a route for the highway. Because Oakley is from Oak Cliff, across the river from downtown, Marquis said, he knows that any attempt to put the highway on that side will be met with cries of environmental racism. He thinks putting it on Industrial Boulevard will kill the redevelopment of that area. He believes the road has to go inside the levees along the river, and Harlan Crow happens to agree with him.

Marquis told me Oakley has been involved in zoning and planning for the area as a plan commission member and as a member of the city council but has never violated the city's rules on conflict of interest.

I'm sure you can smell my own bias here. I'm mad at Oakley for wanting to put that stupid highway through the park. I think his long involvement in real estate in the area right down by the river has given him an overly self-interested perspective. It irritates me that somebody like real estate broker Bob Darrouzet calls me up posturing as Oakley's disinterested defender and then I find out later he and Oakley have partnered on real estate deals.

I admit it: Oakley's relationships with people involved in that land are too cozy for my tastes. But Oakley has the right to say that I'm acting on my bias about the road and that I'm full of it.

He certainly has a right to own property. We want people on the council who have business experience. If I could show him breaking the law, I would have done so by now. What I see as conflict he has a right to view as involvement.

So what about Leppert? Leppert scares me for exactly the opposite reason. The guy comes out of absolutely nowhere. He's the Manchurian candidate, created from raw clay by Donna Halstead, president of the secretive Dallas Citizens Council. And he has all these prepackaged positions on things—like the toll road—from which he will not budge one inch.

But let's say I manage to pry myself loose from the Trinity thing for 30 seconds and listen to the rest of what they are saying. I did listen the other day when KERA broadcast back-to-back interviews with both runoffians.

Leppert was asked what he'll do about crime. He said, "Clearly from a long-term perspective, creating jobs and having a better educational system are very important. I think we need to be conscious of the next level, making sure that our rehabilitation programs and our re-entry programs for people returning from prison are as effective as they can be.

"But if you look across the country at every city that has successfully dealt with this issue, the first step has been that they put more officers on the street."

Leppert said we've gone for two decades without meeting a stated goal of three officers per 1,000 residents, spending money on everything else but never putting our money where our mouth is on this key issue.

They asked Oakley the same thing. He talked mainly about his scorched-earth approach to crime—bulldozing the apartment buildings where poor people live, a stratagem he calls "going at crime at its core."

"Pick any neighborhood," he said. "Go any place and take the area where crime-ridden multi-family exists, and the quality of life and the property values around this area are very low and the quality of living is low. And take out 1,000 or 2,000 of those units and replace them. You begin to get at crime at its core."

What a vision. I see it now—tens of thousands of wretches with their suitcases piled on baby carriages and their grandparents in wheelbarrows trudging down Interstate 45 toward Houston where foolhardy local officials have promised them food and shelter. The Oakley solution.

And Oakley's the Democrat! Just like Laura Miller was the Democrat! Why even have Democrats, if they're all going to run for office on the ethnic cleansing platform?

I told a colleague that I found Leppert's answers on crime interesting and hopeful and Oakley's answers hateful and depressing. He suggested I mention all that in a column as a way of making sure Oakley gets elected.

Not this guy. I'm too smart to make that mistake again.

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