Is it safe to come out yet? Is this horrifying, recessionary, alien-anal-probe of a year finally—finally!—over?

Whew! It is! We made it through the last year of a less-than-auspicious decade. Let's all get some "I Survived '09" T-shirts and have a party. Maybe while we're all together, we can make plans to ensure that 2010 is a better year. You Observer readers are smart people. Surely you can help with that. At the very least, perhaps some of you can give us tips on how to plan for survival in case things get any worse. We can have some drinks, maybe show a horror flick. How about Plan 9 From Outer Space? The worst movie ever made would surely be an appropriate send-off for one of the worst years Buzz can recall.

We all could use a few grins, and Buzz, for one, certainly needs a better plan for getting through tough times. Our '09 strategy of curling up in a fetal position under a desk with a fistful of antidepressants and a pack of smokes and whimpering "Mommy, Mommy" hasn't been helping so far.

City Councilman Dwaine Caraway targeted blunts and guns in ’09. If he goes after bourbon next, the Observer staff will have to get some new hobbies.
Patrick Michels
City Councilman Dwaine Caraway targeted blunts and guns in ’09. If he goes after bourbon next, the Observer staff will have to get some new hobbies.
Work on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge was halted by high water on the Trinity River. Is it just us, or is that sort of ironic?
Patrick Michels
Work on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge was halted by high water on the Trinity River. Is it just us, or is that sort of ironic?
Police Chief David Kunkle announced he intends to retire in April, having eliminated all crime in the city—at least by the department’s own count.
Patrick Michels
Police Chief David Kunkle announced he intends to retire in April, having eliminated all crime in the city—at least by the department’s own count.
Mayor Tom Leppert scored a win with the citywide vote in favor of a convention center hotel.
Sam Merten
Mayor Tom Leppert scored a win with the citywide vote in favor of a convention center hotel.
Guilty, guilty, guilty: You’d be frowning too if you were in convicted former council member Don Hill’s shoes in 2009.
Danny Fulgencio
Guilty, guilty, guilty: You’d be frowning too if you were in convicted former council member Don Hill’s shoes in 2009.
Wouldn’t it be hilarious if County Judge Jim Foster switched parties and ran for re-election as a Republican? Hint. Hint. Hint.
Brian Harkin
Wouldn’t it be hilarious if County Judge Jim Foster switched parties and ran for re-election as a Republican? Hint. Hint. Hint.

Lucky for Dallas, while Buzz was praying for the sweet release of catatonia, wiser heads were busy making bigger, better plans for a brighter tomorrow. The Dallas City Council, for example, was busy as ever, trying to stitch together the Frankenstein's monster that is the Trinity project. Plans for the route for the new parkway along the Trinity River were creeping along, and the city was getting ready to take delivery of the steel for a fancy river bridge downtown. Things were rocking until the Army Corps of Engineers, those sticklers, pointed out that the river levees were only slightly less porous than SpongeBob SquarePants.

OK, so that's a bad example of the value of plans.

Let's see, what was a better one? Oooh! We know! Culminating years of careful planning and construction, DART opened up its Green Line from downtown to Fair Park. The new rail line was extremely popular for people heading to the State Fair—so popular, in fact, that some of those fair-goers are still there, wandering zombie-like through abandoned Fair Park, waiting to catch a train home from the Texas-OU game.

Hmm. Not a good example either.

OK, try this: Former city council member Don Hill's defense team had a plan to win his corruption trial. His lawyers pointed out that rich, white city leaders received much more money than Hill ever did, and they weren't on trial. Known in legal circles as the "I'm rubber; you're glue" defense, this strategy is akin to trying to avoid a ticket by pointing out to the cop who pulled you over for doing 80 mph in a school zone that other drivers are doing 85. Don Hill, a smart, personable man who could have one day been mayor, joined the ranks of politics' walking dead.

But then that's the trouble with making plans. No matter how carefully you strategize, reality intrudes. Nastily.

Still, even pessimistic old Buzz has laid schemes. We once dreamed of retiring to a little farmhouse back in Illinois. Even had the place picked out—a small, clapboard home at the foot of a verdant hill, surrounded by cornfields and tall oak and hickory trees. Across the lane from the farm was an emerald green pond on which floated ducks and geese and swans.

Sounds nice, eh? Picture Buzz and the lovely Mrs. Buzz on our own little patch of land, raising chickens, growing a garden.

It was a good plan until one summer—this is a true story, by the way—Buzz went back home to visit the family and decided to take a bike ride by our future Eden. As Buzz pedaled by the farmhouse, we noticed a large, bearded, hardy son of the soil walking between the house and barn. We lifted a hand to wave and noticed the son of the soil was staring intently at us and lurching in an odd fashion, moving his pelvis. A chill ran down our spine as countless zombie films flickered through our brain.

We looked harder.

Is he OK?

What the?

Is he?

Is that?

IT IS! IT IS! OMYGAW! HE'S FLAPPING HIS WANG AT US!

Buzz pedaled faster and didn't look back. Just like that, Gomer the Weenie Waver dashed our best-laid plan.

Maybe it was for the best. In truth, Mrs. Buzz would see us in the cold, cold ground before she ever moved back to the sticks, and the only plants Buzz has ever successfully grown weren't strictly for eating.

So let's give up on schemes and stratagems for 2010 and just see what happens. Like a nice Jewish boy once pointed out, the birds of the air neither sow nor reap, the lilies neither labor nor spin, but they get by (until a cat or a weed whacker gets 'em anyway). So forget planning, we say, and let's all relax, pop a few antidepressants and tread gently, hopefully into the new year and decade.

If that doesn't work, try pedaling faster. And whatever you do, remember rule No. 1 from all horror movies. Don't...look...back.

January-March

How can we miss you?: Democratic Dallas County Judge Jim "Sleepy" Foster announces that he will seek re-election in 2010, much to the mortification of local Dems who hope to field a stronger candidate than the man dubbed "Foster Gump" by County Commissioner John Wiley Price, also a Democrat. Foster, known for being a bit, shall we say, "deliberative" and for occasionally dozing in meetings early in his tenure, says he will "absolutely" run, no matter how many primary opponents he faces. County Democratic officials react to the news by moving the party headquarters to a new location and withholding the address from Foster.

Butt out: Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway proposes banning the sale of machine-made "blunt" cigars in the city. Caraway accuses the maker of the cigars, which are often hollowed out and used to smoke marijuana, of poisoning the minority communities in which they're popular. He also accuses the brand's owner, Altria Group, of infringing on the name of his high school doo-wop band, The Black & Milds.

Suit up: Dallas County commissioners narrowly vote to overturn a 14-year-old ban on the distribution of free condoms by county health workers. Commissioners reject a counterproposal from Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield, who voted for the original ban, that would limit the free condoms only to those at high risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease or those who have already had sex with a prostitute or someone infected with an STD or HIV. "I don't see any point in closing the barn door unless we're sure the horse is going to run out," Mayfield tells fellow commissioners.

Cause and effect: Dallas wins the dubious distinction of being home to the state's largest all-nude nightclub with the January opening of XTC Cabaret, a 25,000-square-foot behemoth on Stemmons Freeway. A spokesman for the club's owner, Rick's Cabaret International, said the company had originally planned to open up in Houston, "but then the county commissioners approved free rubbers for everyone, so we figure what the hey, Dallas is our kind of town."

Making the grade: The Pew Research Center releases the results of a national survey that finds only 24 percent of respondents want to live in Dallas. (Excluding respondents who already live here, the figure was 40 percent.) The 24 percent figure puts Dallas squarely in the middle of the pack when it comes to desirability among the nation's big cities. Mayor Tom Leppert rejects his city's C grade. "Obviously, this survey was taken before XTC Cabaret opened, or we would have scored at least a B-plus," Leppert says.

Surprise!: Sports Illustrated reports that former Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids when he played for Texas in 2003. Rangers owner Tom Hicks tells The Dallas Morning News he is "shocked" by the report. In other "shocking" baseball news, fans are stunned to learn that baseball is played with a ball and a bat, that three strikes is an out and that baseball is, for the most part, kind of boring.

Don't let the doorknob hit you: A slew of Democratic contenders announce plans to challenge incumbent County Judge Jim Foster in the party's 2010 primary. Foster shrugs off the challengers. "Apparently the party leaders are unhappy with me," Foster tells reporters. "I tried to talk to them about it, but the number I have is disconnected. You wouldn't happen to have the new one, would you?" Among the potential candidates are Dallas lawyer Clay Jenkins, former state Representative Sam Coats and a golden retriever named Skippy. "We're really happy with the way the field is shaping up," Dallas County Democratic Party chair Darlene Ewing says via telephone from an undisclosed location. "All the candidates are really sharp. Well, almost all, and I don't mean Skippy."

Baaad news: The Texas Freedom Network, a group that aims to counter the radical religious right, releases a damning report on the state of sex education in Texas' public schools. Just Say Don't Know: Sexuality Education in Texas Public Schools reveals that 94 percent of districts provide abstinence-only information, and 2.3 percent simply ignore the state requirement for sex-ed altogether. Information that is provided, however, is often inaccurate, misleading and includes religious indoctrination. The report cites an official in one rural school district who claims his students can learn all they need to know about sex from watching farm animals. The report's authors note that Texas ranks third nationally in teen pregnancy rates and second overall in incidents of teen goat-fucking.

Happiness is...: Dwaine Caraway leads a one-day anti-gun drive that offers anyone turning in a working firearm a $50 gift card for groceries from Kroger. The city council member's plan takes an unexpected turn, however, when roughly half those turning in weapons use their gift cards to purchase Black & Mild cigars. "Trading a snub nose for a few packs of blunts sounded like a pretty good deal to me," one participant says.

Tom to the rescue: The Morning News reveals that Mayor Tom Leppert met with state Senator Royce West to discuss potential legislation that would allow the mayor to take over leadership of Dallas Independent School District. Leppert is mum on his proposal, but the mayor has made it clear in the past that improving education is a key goal for his administration. By putting DISD under the mayor's oversight, it's hoped that the district could be provided with the same sort of sound leadership Leppert has brought to City Hall, which in 2009 saw one major corruption trial, a $190 million budget shortfall, layoffs of 900 city employees, reduction in city services and library hours, and unpaid furloughs for civilian workers. DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa defends the district's current management. "Shoot—budget cuts, layoffs and lousy service? We're doing just fine providing that all on our own."

Truth hurts: The city's chief municipal judge, C. Victor Lander, agrees to stop writing a column for the southern Dallas newspaper Dallas Weekly after he comes under intense criticism for a column about District Attorney Craig Watkins in which Lander wrote that "black folks have been cleaning up white folks' messes for hundreds of years, so why should we expect any different now?" Lander apologizes for column, and says he will stop writing because he doesn't want his words to be "misconstrued" as being the actual, literal truth. Lander vows to focus his attention on cleaning up the municipal courts, which have been plagued by a backlog of cases and unpaid fines, a mess that he says was created by decades of mismanagement by a "bunch of half-assed honkies."

April-June

Never say die: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issues a damning report on the state of the Trinity River levees protecting downtown, throwing a wrench into the city's plans to build a toll road between the levees as part of the massive Trinity project. An inspection by the Corps finds scores of problems with the levees, from severe cracking to encroachment by trees, utility poles and bridge supports built into the berms. The report questions the levees' ability to protect downtown from a 100-year flood. Despite the dire news, Mayor Leppert insists the controversial toll road will eventually go ahead. "Listen, I'll stop championing that road when the water flows out of the Trinity and covers my mouth," a defiant Leppert says. A Corps hydrologist notes, "that should probably happen sometime along about next spring."

TEA time: The Texas Education Agency announces it will investigate the beating of a Lincoln High School student by a coach, who used a canoe paddle to strike the boy 21 times. DISD prohibits paddling, although corporal punishment is allowed under state law. The TEA will determine whether the beating crossed the line into child abuse. "Look, 10 or 12 licks is a paddling," an agency spokesman says. "Twenty is a beating, and 21...well, at that point we figure you're pretty much into BDSM and should pay the kid for sex or at least buy him dinner."

Smoke gets in your eyes: A city council-approved ban on smoking in bars and pool halls goes into effect in April. Supporters hail the ban, saying it will stop bar workers and patrons from being exposed to second-hand smoke, though bar owners fear it will put a crimp in their business. "Once that blue haze of smoke clears and our dancers can get a good look at some of our customers, they might want to put some clothes on," a spokesman for XTC Cabaret says.

Rebel yell: Governor Rick Perry draws fire for expressing sympathy with "tea party" supporters calling for Texas to secede from the union. "We have a great union," Perry said, "[but] I understand how someone could feel that way" about Texas leaving the United States. Perry's remarks, however, boost his standing nationally as he takes to Fox News to tout his conservative credentials. A spokesman for the National Governors Association also expresses sympathy for Perry's stance. "We certainly understand where Governor Perry is coming from," the spokesman says. "We have 49 states that feel exactly the same way. About Texas, I mean."

By the numbers: The Dallas Police Department reports that overall crime fell 18.7 percent in the first three months of 2009, while violent offenses declined nearly 20 percent. Police Chief David Kunkle credits aggressive policing for the drop, though the Morning News will report in December that a change in the way the department classifies violent crime might have had something to do with the improvement. For instance, bludgeoning someone over the head with a baseball bat is no longer considered an aggravated assault by the department if the bat in question is aluminum. "Metal bats are for church-league softball and pussies," a department spokesman says. Also, shootings involving guns smaller than a .38 caliber are no longer classified as attempted murder. ("You gotta try harder than that," the spokesman says. "A .22? Pfft. Child's play.")

Help wanted: A job fair organized by local strip club company Burch Management draws hundreds of men and women hungry for work in the recession. "We've got people that are looking for a job that have been looking for jobs for four months," Steve Craft, vice president of Burch Management, tells the Morning News. Among those crowding the fair are three pickup loads of butt-naked day laborers from Mexico offering to "shake their moneymakers" for $80 a day plus box lunches.

Tally me banana: DISD trustees improperly voted last fall to extend the terms of three incumbent trustees, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott rules in an opinion issued in late April. Trustees had voted to cancel this May's elections and extend the terms for Edwin Flores, Ron Price and Leigh Ann Ellis from three years to four, citing cost savings and greater continuity in district management. The decision to cancel the elections came when the board's reputation already was at a low ebb following hundreds of teacher layoffs and an unexpected budget shortfall last year. The move unleashed a storm of criticism. "Where do they think we are, some sort of banana republic?" said an outraged spokesman for the local chapter of the National Education Association. The consul generals of Belize, Guatemala and Costa Rica filed an official protest with the union, claiming the comparison besmirched their nations' reputations.

Row, row, row: Voters narrowly reject a ballot proposition that would have halted the city council's plan to construct a publicly owned convention center hotel. The vote comes as a welcome win for the hotel's chief supporter, Mayor Tom Leppert. Designers of the proposed $500 million facility say it will include many special amenities for conventioneers, including an indoor lake, water taxi and waterfall, depending on how much it rains and how much the Trinity rises.

Rated R for randy: Trustees in the Richardson school district approve a new film on human reproduction for use in the district's health classes after complaints that the old film was ridiculously outdated. "I mean, really, didn't people in the '90s ever hear of waxing?" 17-year-old student Amber Shmeckler tells reporters. "It's like bushwomen of the Kalahari in there. Ick."

Get motivated: Dallas slips to No. 2 on the list of the nation's most crime-ridden big cities. The city's criminals vow to step up their efforts to restore the city's No. 1 ranking, which Dallas had held for six years. "Like they say, we're No. 2, so we'll try harder," mugger Jimmy "Thumbs" Willotson tells a local television reporter before making off with a $30,000 camera and news van at gunpoint. Because of changes in the way the police department records crime, the theft is classified as a "minor disturbance."

Spam alert: Diann Jones, a vice chairman of the Collin County Republican Party, apologizes for forwarding an e-mail that some local judges claimed contained a racist comment. The message, sent to local Republican clubs, described a bill that would have imposed a $50 tax on guns as "another terrific idea from the black house and its minions." Jones says she didn't write the message and didn't realize it contained the comment. Jones slams local judges who passed the e-mail among themselves while at the same time decrying its content. "That was a pretty black-hearted thing to do," Jones complains. Collin County GOP officials deny any racist intent, saying the party welcomes members of all colors "be they white, pinkish, ecru or taupe."

Welcome to Arlington: The new $1.15 billion Cowboys Stadium opens in Arlington, not Dallas, with an inaugural concert headlined by country music's George Strait. Tens of thousands of fans flock to Arlington, not Dallas, to get a look at the state-of-the-art facility, which, as we said, is in Arlington, not Dallas. The Arlington, not Dallas, stadium boasts the world's largest video screen, giving Cowboys fans who pay roughly $32,117 per ticket a chance to view close up the slow-moving train wreck that is known among the team's long-suffering supporters as "December."

Down Hill: The trial of former city council member Don Hill; his wife, Sheila; his appointee to the city Plan Commission, D'Angelo Lee; and two associates begins in Dallas federal court in late June. The five are accused of taking part in a conspiracy to extract bribes from the developers of low-income apartments in exchange for favorable votes on the projects. The months-long trial lifts the veil on the hidden doings of City Hall, where well-connected lobbyists receive fat fees to give clients favorable access to council members. The defense will argue that Hill's actions—which include accepting a $10,000 cash payment late at night in a church parking lot—were no more criminal than the way City Hall business is usually conducted among white council members and lobbyists. Unfortunately for Hill and his cronies, the way City Hall usually does business was just criminal enough for the jury to convict all five defendants on most of the charges against them. The racial overtones of a case in which all defendants are black are set early on when the defense challenges the makeup of the jury and persuades U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn to add a fourth black juror to the panel. That strategy backfires when it turns out that black people are just as adept as white people at recognizing bribery and extortion.

July-September

Doth protest too much: Officers from the Fort Worth police and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission celebrate the anniversary of New York's Stonewall rebellion, considered the modern beginning of the gay rights movement, by raiding the Rainbow Lounge, a Cowtown gay bar. Officials defend the raid as a necessary step to combat the dreaded scourge of adults consuming alcoholic beverages in licensed bars. One man is seriously injured in the raid, which stirs up angry protests from Fort Worth's gay community. TABC agents say they were provoked into heavy-handed action and claim at least one of their officers was "groped" in the lounge. "Oh, it was provoking, all right," an anonymous TABC agent tells reporters. "All those shirtless young men with their chiseled chests and abs, their round, rock-hard bottoms gyrating enticingly to a heavy backbeat, their tight packages pressing so alluringly against their jeans, their pert, shapely lips, their...their...Why, I have an enormous provocation right now just thinking about it." The TABC eventually fires three agents involved in the raid.

Jason lives: Parents of several children attending a Mesquite day camp are outraged after their kids witness a teenage camp counselor kill a mother possum and her babies with an ax. Officials at Camp Crystal Lake say the teen was merely trying to put the animal out of its misery, though they were at a loss to explain why the youth donned a hockey mask before hacking the animal to death.

Scareline: Federal investigators are called in to determine what caused a foot-wide hole to blow open in a Southwest Airlines jet cruising at high altitude above West Virginia. Officials with the Dallas-based carrier praised quick-thinking flight attendants for averting disaster on the flight. While one attendant calmed passengers by singing "Nearer My God to Thee" over the cabin sound system, a second moved quickly to plug the hole with 47 half-ounce packets of salted pretzel bits.

...A warm gun: Gun dealers report a surge in the demand for guns and ammo, spurred in part by fears the Obama administration intends to push for stricter gun control laws. "It's crazy out there," one local gun dealer tells reporters. "We've had a bunch of people so desperate for new guns that they offered to trade Kroger gift cards as down payments on new pistols."

Cluck, cluck: A boom in the number of urban chicken-raisers in Dallas sends the city scrambling to establish rules for where chickens may be sold or raised. The issue arose when North Haven Gardens scratched plans to sell chicks at the popular North Dallas nursery once a month. A city planning official tells the Morning News that the sale or barter of chickens is prohibited unless it's for educational or scientific purposes. "Well, that's just a Catch-22," one would-be chicken farmer says. "I was going to get some chickens to teach my teenagers about sex, which would be an educational purpose, but then it turns out that I can't have roosters in town. I don't want any damn lesbian chickens."

Blood and suckers: About 3,000 devoted fans of the Twilight series of vampire romance novels flock to the Sheraton Dallas Hotel for Twicon, a convention featuring Twilight merchandise, a ball and actors from the Twilight movies. Fans shell out $255 to attend the sold-out event. "I haven't seen this many overheated virgins in one place since I flunked out of convent school," a female guard working security at the event says.

Sis-boom-bah: Five Lewisville Independent School District cheerleaders are suspended for three cheering events after they're caught using an illegal drug at a private cheerleading camp in August. School officials decline to specify what type of drug was involved, though rumors persist that the incident involved ecstasy. Odd behavior among the teens alerted camp leaders to the alleged drug use. "I haven't seen this many overheated hugs from non-virgins since the last time I was at XTC Cabaret," a camp counselor says.

Excuses, excuses: Dallas City Council adopts stricter attendance rules for its members, requiring council persons to remain at scheduled council or committee meetings for at least half their duration in order to be paid. Under the new policy, council members would be required to obtain an excused absence to be permitted to miss meetings, and "the dog ate my briefing book" and "I slept in because I was up late collecting envelopes of cash in a church parking lot" would no longer be considered legitimate excuses for non-attendance. Council members with too many unexcused absences would be required to stay 45 extra minutes at City Hall and sit quietly and think about what they've done.

More baaaad news: Dallas leads the nation in the percentage of teens giving birth multiple times, according to a review of 2006 data from 73 major cities. Twenty-eight percent of teens giving birth in the city in 2006 already had given birth once. Texas has the highest repeat birth rate among states at 23 percent. Critics blame the figures on Texas' emphasis on abstinence-only education, though local city and school officials say the blame lies with the fact that Dallas is an urban area. "Unlike those more fortunate country kids, our children don't grow up watching cows and goats screw, so they tend to be behind in understanding the birds and the bees," a DISD spokesman tells reporters.

Provocative: Disgraced Colorado preacher Ted Haggard travels to Irving's Calvary Church to apologize for the scandal that ended his popular ministry in 2006. Haggard, who preached often about the evils of homosexuality, was outed when it was learned that he'd taken methamphetamine and had a sexual relationship with a male prostitute. In his apology, Haggard declines to rehash the details of the scandal. "I'd say more, but I'm a little pressed for time," Haggard tells church members. "I'm supposed to meet a friend at the Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth. Can anyone tell me how to get there?"

No boom, no foul: Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, a 19-year-old Jordanian citizen, is arrested by FBI agents in late September after he parked a vehicle loaded with a government-supplied fake bomb in the parking garage of the Fountain Place office tower downtown. Authorities say Smadi was a jihadist devoted to Osama Bin Laden who expressed a desire to kill Americans. Controversy erupts when the Dallas Police Department categorizes the thwarted attack as "illegal parking" for the purpose of crime statistics. "Look, he didn't really have a bomb, so we don't really see how that should count against us," a department spokesman says.

October-

December

Oops: A conservative group led by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich rescinds an "entrepreneur of the year" award given to Dawn Rizos, owner of The Lodge, a popular Dallas topless bar. The cancellation comes just weeks after the group, American Solutions for Winning the Future, rescinded a similar invitation to the president of a porn studio. A red-faced spokesman for the group says the two invitations were sent out in error when a staffer printed what he thought was an invitation list for the awards dinner. The list was in fact Gingrich's most recent credit card statement.

Catch-22: Dallas state District Judge Tena Callahan rules that Texas' ban on gay marriage violates the U.S. Constitution. Callahan's ruling comes in a case involving two men married in another state who are seeking a divorce in Texas. Her ruling prompts outrage among conservatives and intervention from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who vows to appeal. Ironically, if Abbott is successful, the two men would be unable to obtain a divorce in Texas and would remain married. "Well, that's a conundrum, all right," Abbott says. "I guess maybe we should send a few TABC agents round to those gents and see if we can gently 'persuade' them to move their gay asses back out of state."

Lost in translation: The League of United Latin American Citizens calls for an investigation after a Spanish-speaking motorist complains that a Dallas police officer ticketed her for driving while not being able to speak English, which is not against the law. At least 20 Dallas police officers issued similar citations since 2007. Senior Corporal Glenn White, president of the Dallas Police Association, claims the outcry over the tickets was overblown and that the investigation was unnecessary. "It was just an honest mistake. Our officers have nothing against Hispanics. Why, some of my best friends are Mexican. They've nicknamed me 'Pendejo,' which I'm told means 'good friend' in Spanish."

Cleaning house: Reacting to the October guilty verdicts in the Don Hill corruption trial, Dallas City Council passes a sweeping package of ethics reforms aimed at limiting lobbyists' and developers' sway over zoning cases. Under the reforms, lobbyists would be required to file detailed reports of who they lobbied at City Hall, and people who make or spend more than $200 to influence city officials must register as lobbyists. Mayor Leppert, who sponsored the reforms, says the measure will protect innocent, naïve council members from being led down a primrose path of corruption by wily lobbyists and their wicked enticements. "The only other choice here is for Dallas voters to elect council people with some measure of brains, backbone and integrity," Leppert says. "Yeah, like that's gonna happen."

Welcome mat: Dallas officials tout a new program that they hope will bring foreign investment into the city. Under the program, foreigners who promise to invest $500,000 may receive green cards for permanent U.S. residency. Those who invest $1 million get a green card and a toaster. Investors on a shoestring budget may still qualify for green cards if they're willing to "invest" $10,000 in unmarked, non-sequential bills, paid out after 11 p.m. in a church parking lot.

Disorderly conduct: Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price erupts into a fist-thumping, profanity-laced tirade as the commissioners court discusses a $113,000 bill paid to a special investigator looking into allegations of...of...well, something involving local constables. Possibly something involving towing. Or using deputies for electioneering. Maybe something to do with computers. Hard to say. The investigation, pushed by County Judge Jim Foster, has been lengthy and contentious, opening rifts among fellow Democrats Foster, Price and District Attorney Craig Watkins, who attempted to halt the commissioners' inquiry. As Price grew angry during a meeting to discuss the investigator's bill, Foster attempted to restore order by pounding his gavel. Price violently struck the table with his fist and shouted at Foster, "So what? Make me come to order!" The breakdown in decorum shocked political observers, among them, Skippy the golden retriever. "I haven't seen anything like that since the cat got in the kennel," Skippy tells reporters. "If I'm elected county judge, I'll bite ass and take names to restore a little order down there."

Ground zero: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security designates Dallas as one of the nation's top 10 terrorist targets, a measure that entitles the city to $25 million for safety measures. City officials say most of the $25 million will be used to relocate residents in the North Dallas neighborhood near 10141 Daria Place, the home of former President George W. Bush. "Those people are scared shitless and their property values have tanked with this ranking, so it's only fair we do something to help them out," a city spokesman says.

Catholic love: At the urging of Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell, local Catholic leaders launch a number of ads on DART buses intended to lure lapsed Catholics back to the fold. Thirteen buses, at a cost of $359 per ad, carry the message "Catholics Come Home for Christmas." The ads originally were to read "Catholics Come Home for Christmas and Bring the Kids," but the diocese decided to shorten the message for unspecified reasons.

Heigh-ho, Silver, away: David Kunkle announces that he will retire as Dallas police chief in April, ending his five-year tenure as the city's top cop. Kunkle's reign included a boost in the number of cops on the streets and a significant drop in crime statistics. "By our statistical measures, along about April, we will have completely eliminated all crime in the city," Kunkle says. "My work here is done."

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