It's time once again for Buzz to look back on the year that's passed, to recall the noteworthy events of 2002, to pause and reflect and grind out roughly 4,000 words of warmed-over hash served with a side of wise-ass.
All right, let's roll. Here they come, the events of 2002, bubbling up in Buzz's brain.
Um, no, that was just gas. 'Scuse us. Where were we?
Ah, yes. 2002. Lessee, we vaguely remember something about an election or two. And the war on terrorism. Is that thing over yet? And fake drugs. We just know there was something about fake drugs.
Forgive us. We spent the better part of the year holed up in a bunker with a gas mask and a case of Cipro waiting for the other shoe-bomb to drop, so we're feeling a bit out of touch. And frankly, our memory is just not what it was back when we were 39.
That's right. Buzz turned 40 this year.
So you're probably thinking that's not, strictly speaking, a significant event in the life of the city of Dallas. Indulge us anyway. We're old.
At four decades, you find yourself looking back at all the things you hoped to accomplish and seeing how well your real life stacks up. At 16, Buzz had a well-defined list of things we hoped to do by age 40:
1) Retain at least 85 percent of our hair.
2) Win the Nobel Prize for Something.
3) Drop acid.
We batted one for four; obviously, it's time to reassess and come up with a list more tailored to our abilities. So here's Buzz's all-new slate of things we hope to accomplish by the time we're 50:
1) Drop more acid.
2) Don't die.
As you can see, Buzz's ambitions, not exactly Olympian to begin with, have tailed off a bit. But that's fine. With age we've learned that one of the keys to happiness is not to expect too much. And thus, we cleverly arrive at a theme fit for this post-boom age: 2002, The Year of Lowered Expectations.
What do we mean? Well, for instance, we bet that not long ago you expected your 401(k) to provide a happy and affluent retirement.
Or you might have expected that narcotics officers in the eighth-largest city in America could tell the difference between cocaine and powdered chalk.
No, that would be asking too much.
Or perhaps you expected the race for Texas governor to offer at least one candidate worth voting for, or barring that, to possess at least as much dignity as a drunken brawl at a cockfight in El Reno, Oklahoma.
And those Dallas cops. Did they really expect to persuade voters to pass a referendum giving them a 17 percent raise during a recession?
Chalk that one up to naïveté. Of course, ample evidence--or rather the lack thereof--suggests those guys are easily duped.
You get the point: You can't set the bar too high these days, lest you trip over it.
Still, a nagging thought troubles us. Maybe our sights are set too low; a man's reach should exceed his grasp and all that. Why, look at Laura Miller. She started out as a humble (yeah, right) columnist for this paper, and today she's mayor, sitting at the big table with all the grown-ups on the Dallas City Council. If she can do it, then maybe it's time for Buzz to seek our second wind and acquire a little ambition.
We'll get right on that. But first we have to shoo away all these damn talking pink bats that flew into our office...
January & February
I scream, you scream: The NBA fines Mavericks owner Mark Cuban $500,000 for "repeated public criticism of NBA officiating," bringing his total fines for two seasons to just more than $1 million. The latest penalty, which one-time billionaire Cuban paid with loose change found beneath his sofa cushions, comes after Cuban says he wouldn't hire the director of NBA officiating "to manage a Dairy Queen." Capitalizing on the publicity his remark stirs, Dairy Queen brings Cuban in to work a shift at a Coppell restaurant. The stunt backfires, however, when Cuban chest-butts 5-year-old Mary Lou Tate after she orders a Blizzard with both Heath Bars and Oreo cookies. "That kid's an idiot," an unrepentant Cuban later explains. "That's just way too much chocolate. She made a bad call."
No, you take him: Controversy erupts in the race for Dallas mayor when candidate Domingo Garcia, the third-place finisher in the first round of voting, claims that a supporter of fellow candidate Laura Miller offered to help pay Garcia's campaign debt in exchange for his endorsement, valued at $1.95. Miller denies the charge, saying that she in fact offered to pay Garcia to endorse her runoff opponent Tom Dunning.
Arresting development: A state law intended to curb the practice of racial profiling by police conducting traffic stops takes effect. Officers no longer will be permitted to pull over motorists simply for "driving while black." Under the new law, police may only stop drivers who break traffic laws, drive erratically or possess black hair and "a really nice tan."
A long detention: Three students at Skyline High School are charged with robbing a teacher at gunpoint before the start of classes. The three are arrested after one of the youths turns in two of his alleged accomplices in hope of collecting a reward. The students, reportedly members of the school's Junior Achiever business club, are given an "A" for enterprise, but their overall grade is lowered to a "D" for being stupid enough to think that a public school teacher has any money.
For purgatory, press 1 now: Gordon Matthews, inventor of voicemail, dies. Spiritualists in contact with Matthews post-mortem report that his soul is inadvertently shuffled off to limbo when he foolishly presses 0 in a vain attempt to contact an operator while waiting in line at the Pearly Gates.
Mo' money: The Palladium Co. threatens to walk away from plans for a retail and residential development, called Victory, around American Airlines Center unless the Dallas City Council agrees to provide an additional $43 million in streets, parking and public plazas for the private multimillion-dollar project. Opponents complain that the center's original developers, Tom Hicks and Ross Perot Jr., had promised to develop the property as part of the city's agreement to provide $125 million to help build AAC. Supporters counter that further investment is needed to spur downtown growth and that "only a complete idiot would have believed those guys' promises the first time, anyway." Council members agree to consider the demands after receiving dire warnings that a looming shortage of overpriced chinos, cargo pants and casual sportswear endangers the foundation of the city's economy. "Without Victory's retail space, Dallas will be left with only 575 Gaps and 310 Banana Republics," a spokesman for the developer warns. "Do you really want to force residents to drive to Plano to find hooded fleece pullovers, on sale now for $29.95?"
The insider: Running on a back-to-basics platform, former Dallas Observer muckraking columnist Laura Miller is elected Dallas mayor, defeating former department store mannequin Tom Dunning. True to both forms, Miller's first act as mayor is to file an ethics complaint against herself for alleged campaign abuses. The complaint fizzles, however, when Miller refuses to return her own phone calls seeking comment.
March & April
Gone to pot: Former Cowboys lineman Nate Newton pleads guilty to drug trafficking charges. Newton was arrested in late 2001 when U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents discovered 175 pounds of marijuana and $16,000 in the trunk of a vehicle that was in a convoy with a truck Newton was driving. The arrest followed a similar case filed against Newton in Louisiana. Eventually sentenced to 30 months in prison, a contrite Newton vows that he will never again deal weed, or if he does, "I'll get a white boy to drive the damn car. Those punks never get pulled over."
What's in a name: Bowing to complaints of racial insensitivity, school board members in Frisco vote unanimously to change the name of the Frisco High mascot from Coons to Raccoons. Inspired by the decision, trustees in the Park Cities agree to change the name of the Highland Park High mascot to the Caucasians after complaints that the school's previous team name, the Rich Honky Mothers, was equally insensitive.
Reading is fundamental: Southern Methodist University reveals that it is campaigning to become the future home of the George W. Bush presidential library. SMU officials tout the university as a natural and economical spot for the facility, since the existing library "already has a couple of empty shelves and most of the Where's Waldo books."
Somebody say amen: Farmers Branch purchases televangelist Robert Tilton's Word of Faith Church for $6.1 million, intending to turn the facility into the city's first convention center. Work on the center begins when the city brings in three front-end loaders to begin hauling away some 400 tons of discarded prayer requests filling the sanctuary's basement.
Gas and go: In an experimental project, McDonald's says that it will allow customers at five local restaurants to charge meals to windshield-mounted toll tags, used to pay tolls on North Texas roadways. Company officials brag that the experiment is the perfect blend of convenience and marketing: "Gas, grease, oil and the urge to go real fast--those things spell both freeway driving and the McDonald's dining experience."
Sell-out: Frustrated Stars owner Tom Hicks announces that he intends to sell his 50 percent stake in the Victory development in a bid to quell the continuing controversy over calls for more public financing for the project. If that doesn't work, Hicks says, "I'll ball up my widdle fists and hold my bweaf until I turn bwue" to win city council approval.
Getting testy: A scandal over dubious narcotics cases, which broke in late 2001 when WFAA-Channel 8 revealed that dozens of innocent people had been jailed on trumped-up charges involving fake cocaine planted by Dallas police informants, continues to grow. (Much of the purported cocaine confiscated in the arrests later turned out to be pool-hall chalk.) Police Chief Terrell Bolton informs the city council that a new police policy calling for complete lab tests of all confiscated drugs will cost the city $1 million annually. Already facing a budget shortfall, council members balk at the price tag, which will also include training that will teach narcotics officers "how to tell shit from Shinola and their asses from holes in the ground."
Go up, Moses: Dallas school trustees raise Superintendent Mike Moses' base salary from $294,000 to $310,000 and award him an additional $47,000 for unused leave and performance bonuses. Supporters defend the raise as a necessary step to keep Moses from considering a job as chancellor of Texas Tech University and note that as head of DISD, he has added expenses, including the costs of a MAC-10, flak jacket and extra life insurance necessary for visits to Skyline High School.
Color bind: An aide for Republican Senate candidate John Cornyn comes under fire for calling opponent Ron Kirk's primary win the result of a Democratic "quota system." (The party's slate included Latino Tony Sanchez for governor; Senate contender Kirk, who is black; and lieutenant governor candidate John Sharp, who is white.) Democratic strategists, who openly refer to the slate as "a dream team," assail the remark as racially divisive. Says one Demo operative: "By 'dream team,' we meant that our guys are...um...really dreamy. We Democrats would never, ever play the race card in politics."
May & June
Getting testes: Mark Cuban threatens to slice off the testicles of D magazine deputy editor Tim Rogers after Rogers writes that Cuban is engaged to girlfriend Tiffany Stewart. Cuban, who previously posed for a photo shoot with Stewart for another magazine, says he fears for her safety if her identity is widely reported, despite the fact that no story can be considered "widely reported" simply by appearing in D.
Our thing: HBO subscribers eagerly tune in to a new series on the cable channel detailing the inner workings of a cult-like organization with a shady history of criminality, drugs, strippers and violence. The show is called Hard Knocks and chronicles the Dallas Cowboys' training camp.
Thanks for nothing: Dallas voters reject a proposed 17 percent pay increase for police and firefighters by a 3-to-1 margin. The defeat surprises public safety workers who had campaigned on a theme of Pay for Excellence. "Without us, who's going to end the scourge of powdered pool chalk threatening the safety of our community?" complains a police association member. In an effort to mollify police, who lay much of the blame for the defeat on Mayor Laura Miller, the mayor pushes for a 15 percent raise phased in over three years. Despite her efforts, some public safety officials vow to campaign against Miller but are chagrined to learn that officers who live in the suburbs--i.e. most of them--aren't allowed to vote in city elections. "There's a law or something against that," says one surprised cop. "Who knew?"
Go and touch: The Dallas Morning News reports that a county judge has thrown out 11 cases filed under a city ordinance banning any touching between topless dancers and bar patrons because the law is too broad. Attempting to make lemonade out of lemons, the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau unveils a new tourism campaign: "Cop a feel in Big D. It's OK!" The CVB reports a 150 percent increase in convention business.
Try liquor: Dallas Zoo officials report that Demba, a female lowland gorilla from Dallas sent to Pennsylvania to mate three years ago, has rejected all advances from suitor Chaka, a resident of the Philadelphia Zoo. Desperate zookeepers ply the recalcitrant Demba with banana daiquiris and Barry White music, only to be stymied by the fact that no self-respecting Dallas female would have anything to do with an Eagles fan.
Victory at last: After months of wrangling and recrimination, the Dallas City Council votes 9-6 to provide $43 million to help develop the 20-acre Victory project. "We was just screwin' witcha," City Manager Ted Benavides tells relieved managers of Palladium, which in June changed its name to Related Urban Development. "You didn't really think Dallas would say no to giving dough to a bunch of rich guys, did you?"
That explains it: The city council votes 13-2 to adopt an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment and such public places as hotels and restaurants. Word of the vote quickly reaches Philadelphia, where a relieved Demba wires home that she's eager to come back to Dallas and "get a little action."
Forgive, forget: Meeting in Dallas in June, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops votes overwhelmingly to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for priests who sexually abuse minors. Under the policy, abusive priests would be removed from ministry duties, but would not be automatically kicked out of the priesthood. Some church officials criticize the media for what they consider Catholic-bashing. "So a few hundred altar boys took it up the heinie," complains one anonymous prelate. "It's not like we told anyone to go get an abortion."
The heat got to them: Citing a restructuring of its U.S. operations, the Canadian Tourism Commission closes its Dallas office, but officials tell The Dallas Morning News that the decision is not a sign the nation is pulling up the welcome mat for Texas tourists. "People who wear silly hats and big clunky boots, drink bad beer and talk funny will always be welcome in Canada," a commission official says.
July & August
Friend indeed: Dallas County Sheriff Jim Bowles draws criticism from county commissioners after the sheriff awards a $20 million jail commissary contract to a longtime friend, rejecting bids from two competitors that offered far better financial terms. Bowles defends the contract with Mid-America Services Inc., saying the company won the contract on merit, despite its poor bid. "Mid-America has Ding Dongs--you know, those little chocolate cakes? God, I love them things," Bowles says.
Beggars banquet: Mayor Laura Miller and council member Lois Finkelman call on the city council to consider a ban on panhandling on city streets and other public places. Council members move quickly to assure Tom Hicks and Ross Perot Jr. that the ban would not apply to begging in the council chambers themselves, since it technically doesn't constitute a public space.
Damn, free at last: A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturns the bribery conviction of former Dallas City Council member Al Lipscomb. Lipscomb was convicted in January 2000 of taking cash from Yellow Cab Co. owner Floyd Richards in exchange for favorable votes on matters affecting the company. The appeals panel rules that U.S. District Judge Joe Kendall improperly ordered a change of venue that moved Lipscomb's trial to Amarillo. Citing his age and infirmity, federal prosecutors decline to retry the guilty-as-sin Lipscomb, who served 27 months of a 41-month sentence in home confinement. The decision leaves Lipscomb free to run for office and vote, which he says he plans to do "as soon as someone gives me a little walking-around money."
And the winner still is: Maxine Thornton-Reese defeats challenger Larry Duncan for a seat on the city council in a special election. Thornton-Reese beat Duncan by 16 votes last year, but a state district judge voided that election because of voting irregularities. Election officials take pains to eliminate all questionable ballots this time around, which leaves the final count at two votes for Thornton-Reese, one vote for Duncan.
Try bigger barriers: The Dallas Cowboys erect hundreds of 3,000-pound barriers around Texas Stadium in an effort to thwart terrorist attacks. The effort proves fruitless as terror strikes the stadium when the Cowboys' regular season begins as scheduled.
Strike out: Major League Baseball owners and players reach an 11th-hour agreement that averts what would have been the ninth strike in three decades. Sadly, word of the agreement fails to reach the Rangers' bullpen, which continues a work stoppage that began at the start of the season.
Unfriendly skies: Faced with huge and growing losses, American Airlines announces a new strategy intended to cut costs and lure travelers. Plans call for a simplified fleet of aircraft, schedule changes and a new advertising campaign based on the motto, "Terror-free for 12 months."
September & October
Idol worship: Kelly Clarkson, a 20-year-old Burleson High graduate, bests the competition to win top prize on the Fox talent-search program American Idol. The young singer quickly makes plans to cash in on her newfound celebrity, which she estimates to be worth another 35 cents an hour at her future job behind the counter at Subway.
J.R. redux: David Jacobs, creator of the popular television series Dallas, announces plans for a film version of the program, due for wide-screen release in 2004. Featuring an updated story line to reflect contemporary Dallas, lead character J.R. Ewing will no longer be a grasping, dishonest, conniving oilman, and instead will be a dishonest, conniving and grasping property developer and sports-team owner.
Pay for work: The Dallas Independent School District considers offering cash incentives to teachers to reduce absenteeism among staff, which cost DISD more than $12 million in pay for substitute teachers last year, the Morning News reports. "Giving them salaries and expecting them to show up just isn't working," Superintendent Mike Moses tells school board members. If extra cash doesn't do the trick, Moses says, the district may consider more draconian measures, such as saying "pretty please" or transferring recalcitrant teachers to Skyline High.
Oops: A special court created to handle school truancy cases begins work in Dallas, only to have its docket bog down on the first day when Dallas police mistakenly haul a 74-year-old grandmother and 38-year-old balding accountant before the judge for cutting classes. "They looked like kids to me," explains the embarrassed Dallas police officer responsible for the arrests. "Of course, I'm new to this. I was just reassigned here from the narcotics unit."
Viva DART: Dallas Area Rapid Transit pays $52,000 to send 32 representatives, including a dozen board members, to the American Public Transportation Association's annual convention in Las Vegas. The move comes as DART, facing a tight budget, lays off staff and makes plans for higher fares and reduced routes. DART officials defend the travel, saying the agency needs to stay abreast of changes in the public transportation industry, and that they had hoped to relieve the budget woes by playing on the casino floor. "We get a lot of quarters at DART, and Vegas has a ton of slot machines. We thought we might get lucky."
Pray harder next time: Popular evangelist Billy Graham brings his religious crusade to Texas Stadium, where thousands gather to worship, pray and renew their fight against sin and evil. From his office at Texas Stadium, however, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones tells the faithful, "Look, you can pray all you want to, but I'm not agoin' nowhere."
Broken record: Bringing a bit of glory to an otherwise dismal season, Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith becomes the NFL's all-time leading rusher in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The record is especially sweet for the 33-year-old Smith, as he sets it while using a walker.
November & December
Bad dream: One of the nastiest campaign seasons on record comes to an end with Republicans sweeping the Democratic "dream team" in the top races for governor, lieutenant governor and Senate. Banker and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez fell victim to a particularly scurrilous attack by victor Rick Perry, whose campaign featured an ad linking Sanchez's bank to money laundering and the death of a federal drug agent. Sanchez ultimately spent $69 million of his own money on the campaign, a figure that astonishes Austin lobbyists, who note that they routinely buy the governor and half the Texas Legislature "for a 10th of that amount." Political strategists blame the defeat in part on confusion among Democratic voters who voted straight-ticket Republican, thinking they were voting for Sanchez, a donor to George W. Bush, and business-friendly "moderate" Ron Kirk. "Those guys are Democrats? Who knew?" says one exasperated party spokesman.
Selling point: The Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau becomes the center of controversy after news reports reveal that it paid hundreds of dollars in questionable expenses, including more than $600 to a local topless bar for a night out entertaining a customer. Bureau officials defend the expense. "Listen, it's not like we want to go to those places. But if a night out boozing and looking at enormous jugs is what it takes to sell Dallas, then by God we're going to nut up and do it," says a harried spokesman.
What you pay for: The Dallas school district once again leads Texas in the number of poor-performing schools, according to a list compiled by the Texas Education Agency. Of 205 schools on the list, 41 are in DISD. News of the district's performance reaches Lubbock, where regents of Texas Tech University vote to send Dallas a bouquet of flowers and a canned ham. "It's just a little 'thank you' for keeping us from looking like complete boneheads," a university spokesman says.
Peep show: City staff members draft a policy that suggests the use of cameras near park rest rooms and in recreational facilities to curb illegal sexual activity. The Convention and Visitors Bureau offers to help pay for the cameras in exchange for cable pay-per-view rights.
Familiar vision: City council members get their first look at a proposed redeveloped downtown being touted by Mayor Miller. The plan envisions a pedestrian-friendly city center filled with shops, shaded parks and sidewalk cafes. The council is at first awed by the presentation delivered by the city's Inside the Loop Committee until one council member points out that the plan actually consists of aerial photos of downtown Fort Worth.
Selling point II: The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth opens, giving a major boost to Cowtown's campaign to lure tourists by touting the city as a place with both high culture and cowboys. Not to be outdone, the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau unveils a counter-campaign based on the theme, "Visit Fort Worth for the cows. Come to Big D for the udders."
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