The Good Laura

Or, how Bill Blaydes locked up the Bastard of the Year award

That would be, ah, no. Just like when the guys offered to buy his land. No. Two little letters.

I wasn't there for the council session. I listened to it the next day on tape at the city secretary's office. When I heard Oakley's speech, I was speechless. Not one word Oakley said to that man was even distantly related to the truth. Pierce would have been a pathetic fool to give up the zoning designation he already holds and jump into the political carjacking that Oakley was proposing.

I think even the Harvard Business School would have advised Pierce, given Oakley's proposal, to wave his shotgun over his head and scream, "GIT OFFA MAH LAND!"

Jack Pierce's father started the business he and his family still own and run. Bill Blaydes wants them all gone.
Jack Pierce's father started the business he and his family still own and run. Bill Blaydes wants them all gone.

Which, in a very gentlemanly way, he sort of did.

So what's the good news? Let me tell you what saved this guy. Mayor Laura Miller saw the item on the agenda at the end of the previous week and smelled a rat. And she called him.

Pierce had already given up on even going to City Hall for the meeting. A well-known high-dollar zoning lawyer had already told Pierce to bag it. He said Pierce would never be able to prevail against Blaydes.

Standing out among his manufacturing barns with me, Pierce re-enacted the moment of absolute amazement he had experienced a week earlier when he received the call: "Out of the blue, on my cell phone I get, 'Hi, this is Laura Miller.'

"And I said, 'WHO?' Because I tell you, I'm not political.

"And she gave me 30, 45 minutes. I explained my legal advice. She said, 'Well, Mr. Pierce, you must throw that attorney away.' She said, 'You come down.' She encouraged me to come down. She helped me with advice. 'Wear your working clothes. Just tell us what you just told me.'

"And it was really her encouragement that made me come down. She said, 'Don't worry, you come down.' And I had faith, so I did what she said."

I could tell even on tape that the effect of his appearance was riveting on both the council and the audience, who were there for other issues and knew nothing about his case.

Council member Angela Hunt said, "I, for one, am extremely troubled that we are moving to authorize a hearing to rezone property out from under the property owner.

"This is remarkable to me. One piece of property. That to me seems extremely overreaching."

In his typically very decorous way, council member Mitchell Rasansky took out his razor-edged saber and whacked both Blaydes and Oakley into sushi.

"Let's don't play in fairy-land talk here," he said. "We know how this works." He told Pierce that if he gave up his zoning and threw himself into "the process" at City Hall, as Oakley suggested, he would be dead meat.

But the real hero of the day? Hey, no question. It was Miller. She was everything the city voted for her to be as mayor.

I ran into the mayor in the city secretary's office. Our relations have been strained of late. But you know, two veterans of the newspaper business can still talk about a good story.

She saw that little item way down on the agenda, that odd blurry snippet of bureaucratic lingo. Her years as a reporter came back; her nose twitched; she smelled smoke. She picked up the phone and called that guy, way the hell out on Walnut Hill at White Rock Trail, way down in that hollow by Jackson Branch where nobody even noticed him. That guy who wasn't political. That guy who couldn't even get the slick City Hall lawyers to take his money. That guy who had been told not to even show up at City Hall.

She said, "Come on down." He had faith.

And he won. Ten to three.

He won. I still can't believe it.

Members Blaydes, Steve Salazar and Ron Natinsky voted to screw him. Oakley switched over when he saw how the wind was blowing and voted against Blaydes. Then Oakley left the dais, went down into the audience and spoke with Pierce. Pierce told me Oakley told him he really probably shouldn't give up his zoning after all.

Hey, there's leadership for you, eh?

On the tape when the votes were counted and Pierce won, the chamber erupted in applause. Sitting in his office amid jumbled files and door parts a day later, I asked him who had cheered.

He looked up from his desk and shook his head in amazement. "All those people," he said. "Everybody. All those people who came down there for other things. They knew nothing about my case. They all cheered."

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