Burn It All Down

Buzz looks back on 2012 before the memories go where they belong: up in smoke.

No, wait. Our bad. Mike Miles didn't start as DISD's new superintendent until July.

The plume turned out to be pig blood discharged into the creek by a Columbia Meat Packing Co. plant, whose owners soon were up a different sort of contaminated creek. In March, the city's board of adjustment voted unanimously to revoke Columbia's certificate of occupancy, closing the operation.

City officials called the loss of the 11th Street plant a small price to pay to ensure that the Trinity remains a vital natural resource untainted by anything other than its usual wholesome load of PCBs, e. coli bacteria, heavy metals and the occasional city-made, potentially lethal concrete whitewater feature.

Emily Niland

"If there's any blood to be spilled in that river," a City Hall spokesman told reporters, "it's gonna be done by us."

Speaking of Blood in the Water

Much like a lazy river of pig blood, the FBI investigation into allegations of corruption and financial misdeeds by Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, southern Dallas' self-proclaimed "man downtown," meandered on its slow-rolling course in 2012, hitting the occasional snag and cresting in a flood of claims and counterclaims that threatened to drown a raft of commentators in a tide of misguided, overwrought similes.

Year two of The John Wiley Price Saga: The Chickens Come Home to Roost (And, Man, Are They Pissed) centered on a running tug-of-war between federal authorities and Price over $229,590 in cash that FBI agents confiscated from Price's home in 2011, plus $230,763 from a questionable land deal involving Price and his assistant Dapheny Fain. The feds claim the money was obtained illegally, though Price has not been charged with any crime. Price counters that he has perfectly good explanations for having nearly a quarter million dollars in his home safe, which he will provide as soon as he can remember what they are.

The Dallas Morning News uncorked the latest details of possible misdeeds by Price in November. The paper found a 10-year-old outsourcing contract for information technology services at the county, showing that Price broke protocol by insisting on private meetings with the companies bidding on the contract. FBI affidavits cited by the newspaper claim that the winning bidder paid Price's longtime political consultant Kathy Nealy more than half a million dollars during the past decade. Nealy, in a move that Price's defenders says is "just a coinky-dink," gave Price hundreds of thousands of dollars during the same time frame.

The county's computer operations, meanwhile, remain what IT experts call a "royal clusterfuck." (Please excuse the technical jargon).

Explanations for why an IT firm seeking a professional services contract would give money to a political consultant, or why a political consultant would send similar amounts of money to politician employing her, are not forthcoming. Federal agents say, however, they became suspicious of the deal when they noticed the winning IT firm's engineers all had AOL email addresses.

What a Dick-ey Move

The year's news wasn't entirely bad for Price, as 2012 brought about the retirement of County Commissioner Maurine Dickey, one of two remaining Republicans on the commissioners court and Price's longtime political nemesis.

Although she won praise for her service from both Republicans and Democrats, Dickey's departure was marred by a jarring note in her swan song. In October, as the commissioners approved domestic-partner benefits for county employees on a 3-2 party-line vote, Dickey objected to being photographed by an audience member and referred repeatedly to the photographer as a man.

The person taking the snapshots was C.d. Kirven, well-know LGBT activist, core member of GetEQUAL Texas and the proud owner of a vagina.

"I think she has issues with my look," Kirven later told the Observer.

Dickey protested that she had made an honest mistake. "To be fair, the gentle ... ah ... person looks — what's the word those people use? — very Dutch, though I don't know what being Dutch has to do with being gay. Is Dutchland a gay country? I just don't know. AOL won't let me read all those naughty web page thingies."

They Don't Like Mike

Mike Miles, the man soon to join Waldemar "Tin Cup" Rojas and Yvonne "Prisoner No. 3213" Gonzalez in the pantheon of great Dallas school superintendents, took the helm at DISD in late spring. Miles, who made his name as a dynamic, fast-moving school reformer in Colorado Springs, set a new DISD record by dynamically and fast-movingly pissing the bejesus out of large swathes of the city before he even formally assumed the post in July.

Miles' rocky journey began in May, when he hired fellow Coloradoan Jennifer Sprague as the district's communications director at an annual salary of $185,000. The move drew the ire of reporters chagrined to realize that their own communication skills are worth roughly one-sixth that amount. In an absurd defense, Miles blamed the controversy on shallow sexists who question Sprague's professional qualifications simply because she is an attractive woman with lustrous blond hair, a flawless complexion, firm, full ...

Wait, what were we talking about?

Oh, yeah, Miles. Yeah, that guy just really pisses everybody off — increasing the number of six-figure administrative salaries, lengthening teachers' works days, and dismissing a critical audit as a "witch hunt." Which, look, it may be. The problem for Miles is, so far he looks like a floater.

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