By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
This is one of the worst deadline pickles I think I have ever encountered in my 200 years as a newspaper writer. I am writing this at the end of the week before the Trinity toll road election. The results from the election will come in about an hour after our last, ultimate, final drop-dead deadline for getting anything in the paper. So what do I do?
I'll tell you what I do. I do what newspapers have done from time immemorial. I write two versions. One in case Vote NO! wins, the other in case Vote YES! wins.
Only problem: Because we are a weekly, I can't sub one in for the other depending on the last-minute tally. So I've got to ask for your cooperation here as a reader.
If, by the time you pick up this paper or read this online, the votes have been counted and Vote NO! has won, please read only the first version of my column. Do not, I repeat, do not read the second version.
On the other hand, if Vote YES! has won, I must ask you to go directly to Version Two. I'm serious as a heart attack about this. You are NOT to read Version One.
I never said vote yes. NO! WAIT! Listen to me a minute. A lot of people said I said to vote yes, but that was all a bunch of propaganda. There has been a lot of misunderstanding about me, and I feel very hurt about it, frankly. That's why I'd like a little kindness for a change.
From the beginning I was solidly on the side of The Dallas Morning News editorial page. I think they're just a crackerjack bunch of folks.
Yes, I did repeat a lot of the Vote YES! arguments in my column, but I'm sure you got that, right? You snapped to it right away, right? It was satire!
If I may say so in all modesty, I think a lot of the credit for this outcome probably goes to yours truly. I don't mean any disrespect at all to our mayor, Tom Leppert, who fought the good fight, or to Carol Reed, the political consultant who ran the Vote NO! campaign for the Dallas White Citizens Council, but I honestly don't think they were going to make it without an assist from me.
So where do we go from here? Well first thing, no more damn hippies. The people have spoken. I think we need to get the green-space hippies the hell out of town. I recommend that Rod Dreher over on the News editorial page add the damn green-space hippies to his list of Muslim-Mexican illegal aliens that need to be deported.
Rod, a personal note here: By pretending to be their friend, I was able to penetrate the inner circle of the green-space hippies, and I have a list of their names I would be more than happy to betray to you. All I would ask in return is that you write a little something attesting to me being an intellectual.
Second thing: roads, roads, roads. I will not rest—I shall not allow myself a moment's respite–until we have toll roads through all of our parks. I would like to see a great big mother of a toll road right across White Rock Lake, with giant fans to blow the exhaust from the 18-wheelers right in the faces of all those green-space hippies out there in their damn sailboats.
Hey, hippies: Anybody ever tell you about the invention of the gasoline engine? Maybe you oughta get one.
And finally, what about this crap with the elections all the time? Let me tell you something right now: I am sick of elections. If people want to vote, let them move to France and eat little French pastries and get ugly yellow custard all over their hippie selves.
What I liked in this whole Trinity toll road debate was that our professional hired government employees–Dallas Trinity Project Director Rebecca Dugger, North Central Texas Council of Governments transportation planner Michael Morris–just dove right in there and told us how to vote. No shyness. No Miss Prissy Two-Shoes about it. Just do it!
So why do we need to keep spending all this money on elections? We've got a government. It knows what to do. Let's loosen up the reins and let 'er romp.
Remember: If Vote NO! won, you are not authorized to read this version. You may read this version only if TrinityVote Vote YES! won.
Is this suhweeeeet or what? Is this not unbelievable? Is this not the impossible dream come true? Yes, I probably do deserve a lot of the credit. Hey, I was just doing my job. But as The Dallas Morning News pointed out in its Metro front profile of me with a very nice photo making me look kind of handsome at my desk, I more or less thought up the whole thing.
I would like to point something else out to the News at this point. If I can kill entire public works projects with one flick of my magic pen, think what I can do to old, tired newspapers! Ouchski!
I know this wasn't just about media and I shouldn't just dwell on that aspect, but damn! What exactly can The Dallas Morning News editorial page get done in this town anymore? (Reminder to reader: If Vote NO! won, you are not supposed to be reading this.)
Huh? Could they endorse everybody going to bed at night and then waking up the next morning? Could they even get people to do that? I don't think so.
They poured every ounce of juice they had into this thing, and they didn't get their way. So I ask again: What is the word of The Dallas Morning News editorial board worth these days?
On the other hand, how about us? Huh? Hey, how 'bout that Dallas Observer? I guess we know who rules this town now. I want you to imagine me standing on my desk right now, waggling my index fingers and doing a little hoochie-coochie dance, singing "WE WILL...WE WILL...ROCK YOU."
So sweet! So sweet! I'm gonna DIE of sugar.
Maybe the Morning News editorial page could try coming out in favor of Mom and apple pie. No, no, big mistake: I'm afraid we'd see moms getting turned out of their homes all over town with apple pies smushed in their faces. Better wait on that, Morning News.
(Hey! You're not reading this if Vote No! won, are you?)
And how about that mayor we've got? The thing I worried about most during the whole campaign, I can tell you now, was that the Vote NO! side would snap to what a lump they had in Tom Leppert and bring former Mayor Laura Miller out of whatever attic they had her locked up in. See, North Dallas actually likes Laura Miller, unlike Leppert, who by the end of the campaign was starting to remind everybody of the Riddler in Batman comic books.
Miller could have turned this thing around and might even have won it for Vote NO! But no. Carol Reed and the White Citizens Council stuck with the Riddler.
I have some campaign advice for the Riddler in the unlikely event that he plans to continue his fledgling career in politics. It's one thing to lie, as when you kept insisting that a vote against the toll road would cost the city a billion dollars. It's quite another thing to keep telling the same lie after your own house-organ newspaper, The Dallas Morning News, has exposed the lie, along with KERA-90.1 FM and, need I mention, the Dallas Observer.
Campaign Strategy 101: After you get caught flat-footed in the lie, suspend telling the lie. Do not utter it again. I know they told you to stay "on message." But you don't want to wind up looking like you're the captain of the Titanic shouting over the rails at the lifeboats, "No problem with icebergs!"
Version Three? Yeah, I was just kidding about only two versions. There is a Version Three, and it's about things that will be true no matter which side won.
In the battle between the two camps, we all got focused on the wrong side of the levees. By now you know what levees are, right? Not a brand of jeans. Levees are the big dirt berms along the river that are supposed to hold the floodwaters in so they won't ravage downtown.
Our flood risk here is in some ways worse than what New Orleans faced in Katrina. The failure of the flood control system in New Orleans ravaged residential neighborhoods. If our levees break, the resulting flood will rampage through downtown and all the most expensive real estate in the city, to say nothing of the threat it will pose to human life.
With the toll road or without the toll road, we still do not know how our system of downtown flood control will be affected by excavation and building in the floodway, whether we're building a toll road or building lakes and kayak courses.
Whoever won last Tuesday, I predict that someone among the victors will start calling for a full-steam-ahead construction project in the floodway.
Obviously I hope Vote YES! won and that what we are building is a park, not a road. But guess what. I could see myself getting crosswise with the parksters just like I did with the roadsters, if what they want to do is expose downtown to flooding. That's not sour grapes or a refusal to accept the will of the voters. It's physical reality.
It ain't over yet. Not for me. Not for us. Not for anybody.