Holcomb asks, "... can I get a hard copy?"

Dugger coos, "Anything for you."

It's not just these two, and it's not just e-mail. A cabal of city employees and Vote No! campaigners meet regularly for coffee and pancakes. They call themselves, "The kitchen kabinet"—isn't that darling?—or "KK" for short.

If Mayor Tom Leppert wants city employees to stay neutral, why does he send them political polls?
If Mayor Tom Leppert wants city employees to stay neutral, why does he send them political polls?

Donna Halstead, executive director of the Dallas Citizens Council, a private business group that meets in secret (Kool Kitchen Kabinet?) e-mailed City Manager Mary Suhm, giving her a copy of a Vote No! political poll and instructing her to get back with comment.

Mayor Tom Leppert shoved the same poll at Suhm again in an e-mail with a terse note, "As discussed..."

I visited with Suhm about it in her office. She said Leppert had received a request from the Vote No! people about the accuracy of facts in the poll. She said she did not reply to Leppert's request, because she found no facts in the poll on which to comment.

"I didn't send a response back. There wasn't anything to comment on."

So Halstead and Leppert are peppering Suhm with testy e-mails demanding that she involve herself in a political poll, and she simply refuses to reply? I hope that's true.

I have a confession to make here. I got stuck sitting in a chair in a City Hall office some weeks ago, cooling my heels, and whose voice should I hear coming from a nearby cubicle but that of Rebecca Dugger?

It's an unmistakable voice, believe me. Dugger was being interviewed by a reporter about the project—somebody who didn't know much.

Of course I jumped up and left the room, rather than eavesdrop, because I am a gentleman. Oh, wait, I forgot. I'm not a gentleman, am I? I'm a reporter for the Dallas Observer. So in fact I sat right there and eavesdropped like a son of a bitch.

You know what impressed me? I was struck by how honest and neutral Dugger was in that interview. The reporter asked her about one of the mayor's standard lines—that if the toll road goes out from between the levees there won't be any toll road money to pay for digging the lakes.

Dugger said there will be plenty of money for excavation of the lakes, probably from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which will be piling new dirt on top of the levees nearby to make them higher. "We'll have our lakes either way," she said.

She has always been honest with me. But in public appearances Dugger comes across like an advocate for Vote No! with all the standard scare-tactic lines. What if the rich people get mad and refuse to help pay for the fake suspension bridges across the river? Is that enough to de-stabilize Dallas?

Something happens when people get bullied in this town. Pushed, pulled, tugged and nibbled. It all starts at the top and rolls downhill, and the farther down the heap it goes the nastier it gets.

Isn't it interesting that the Morning News, in its recent story about the e-mails, forgot to mention the one in which Leppert pressured Mary Suhm to break the law by consulting on a political poll? Instead the News gave Leppert several paragraphs in which to pontificate about his own virtue.

They quoted him as saying, "My view is everybody is doing their best to play this thing as neutral and down the middle as they can."

Yeah. Except for him. If he wanted Suhm to be neutral, why did he push her to comment on a campaign poll? Heinbaugh told me he would give the mayor a copy of the stack of e-mails I took to Suhm on a Thursday and the mayor would contact me on the following Monday. That was two weeks ago. Never happened.

The line-up of politicians endorsing the Vote No! position is impressive. Carol Reed is a political mastermind. Her goal is obviously to create a kind of social shunning reaction focused on Angela Hunt alone.

Reed still has a hill to climb. In recent debates, former North Dallas city council member Sandy Greyson has been impressive as a spokeswoman for the move-the-toll-road camp. In the audience, giving moral support to the move-the-toll-roaders have been community leaders as diverse as Donna Blumer (arch-conservative) and John Loza (arch-liberal).

But I also think Reed faces a more subtle problem. A certain creeping creep-out factor is at work here. When I look at Carol Reed's line-up, I just don't feel like I'm listening to the speeches at an All-American Labor Day Picnic. It's more like the All-Falsetto Soviet Army Chorus of Everybody Who Can Be Squeezed.

Very impressive. But it makes me want to crawl under my bed and never come out.

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