The Dwaine Caraway Show

Starring that new breed of politician who wants to root out your crack houses, close down your whorehouses and pull up your pants

So he's the swing. He has promised to swing with his own community. But he owes Leppert. The price.

The night before the meeting, when most council members have left their offices, Caraway sends out a memo saying he wants to delay the appointment. Votes have been polled in advance by the interested parties. A delay will play to the advantage of Leppert and the Citizens Council. If the city council does not delay the vote, the candidate favored by the black community will get in.

So Caraway's delay is a move for Leppert. Normally no one would have seen his memo until morning, when it would have been too late to outflank him. But Caraway gets caught. Someone does see it in time. Overnight and early in the morning, calls go out all over town to the major players in the black community, to Hispanic leaders and to concessionaires who wouldn't show up otherwise for the briefing session.

On March 23, Councilman Caraway surveyed some damage done in his district; in this instance, it was an arson committed by a person who has been given the street name "The Carsonist."
Morrey Taylor
On March 23, Councilman Caraway surveyed some damage done in his district; in this instance, it was an arson committed by a person who has been given the street name "The Carsonist."
Caraway, who believes in working his district from the ground up, ceremoniously breaks ground on March 25 for a East Oak Cliff housing project.
Morrey Taylor
Caraway, who believes in working his district from the ground up, ceremoniously breaks ground on March 25 for a East Oak Cliff housing project.

In the morning when Caraway expects an empty peanut gallery and a cakewalk, he faces instead a roomful of accusing eyes. Caraway's request for a delay is voted down. Leppert tries to delay the vote another way but is aced on parliamentary procedure. So now the council must vote on the nomination of the candidate favored by the minority community, and Caraway must swing.

He reads the room. He sees who is here and lurking in the wings. He must make his move. He is unhinged. He makes a long, angry speech in which he seems to be saying that he won't be pushed around, which would mean that he is going to vote for Leppert's guy and defy this roomful of heavy-hitters from his own community.

"I want to say this about today," Caraway says, shaking his head. "I really am somewhat taken aback that I, as a council member, issued a memo asking for a delay, but yet here is the backdrop from that this morning, putting me on the public spot with the press and everything else."

He free-rants. "This should not be carried out in this form, in this fashion, at this time. It shouldn't be. I would have never and I have never bent to pressure."

He slams the butt of a palm against the table. "I don't want to see this type of process ever again, where folk get on telephones at night and gather people just to be on their side, when it should be all about the people and putting the best person there.

"I want you all to know, whoever wins on whichever side it is, I still want nothing from nobody. I am going to remember this process and how it went down."

It's a voice vote. They all have to say out loud how they are voting. Caraway votes in favor of the minority community's nominee for the airport board, which in effect is a vote against Leppert.

After his long rant vowing that he will not bow to the pressure, he folds and votes exactly the way the pressure pushed him. But it's a fold he can survive. Voting with Leppert would have been fatal.

————

It seems like a simple thing—telling young men to pull up their pants. Obviously it is not. In this world, you can tell people to pull up their pants and find yourself accused of racial perfidy, homophobia and probably a lot more. And some of those accusations might even be legitimate. Life is complicated.

But the underlying accusation leveled against Dwaine Caraway by his critics is simple. It's that he doesn't mean what he says. Forget about his methods, forget about his issues. He doesn't really care. The only thing that's really important to Dwaine Caraway is the Dwaine Caraway Show.

After our day together, after the many phone talks and office visits, I tested that underlying accusation one day without really meaning to. He was talking to me about the importance of the small things—persuading the code enforcement officers to crack down on derelict properties, pressuring the cops to crack down on street prostitution and, yes, trying to create peer pressure to persuade young men to pull up their damn pants.

I played devil's advocate: Are you not betraying the community you grew up in by snitching people out to City Hall? What about the idea that what happens in the 'hood stays in the 'hood?

It was the first time in 10 years of talking to him that I have heard anger in his voice. The idea that you can't call the cops or code enforcement when someone in the neighborhood is doing wrong, he said, amounts to condoning the wrong.

"That's saying the hell with breaking up a family, the hell with having crack babies born, the hell with the future of a crack dealer and those that are getting hooked on it, the hell with ever getting a job and having a productive life.

"I say the hell with whoever condones it. The condoning is what got us in trouble now."

There definitely is a Dwaine Caraway Show. It's interesting. It's complicated. Some of it is total bullshit. But that part was not.

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