Dwaine Caraway Bids Goodbye to the Mayor's Seat. Don't Expect a Return Visit.
This was Dwaine Caraway's last day as temporary unelected mayor of Dallas. He is now the former temporary mayor or FTM. But he thinks he's prime material for full-time elected mayor at some point in the future.
That's not true. The reason why it is not true may not be what everybody thinks.
It's not the stuff like his fight with his wife, when the police were called, or his lawsuit against the city, or giving a key to the city to Michael Vick, the dog-torturing professional athlete. Believe it or not, those are all things that could fade over time.
It's not exactly his attempt to gut the city's ethics rules for council members, but we are getting warmer.
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He made up with his wife. Plus, many people admire his wife. He lied about their domestic incident and sued the city to protect her, which can be viewed as gallant. Michael Vick, Michael Shmick. Won't ring a bell six months from now.
But let's do talk about ethics. Caraway slipped his sneak attack on ethics rules into the council's "consent agenda," a routine mechanism the council normally uses only to pass long lists of routine housekeeping issues. Few people even noticed it was in there until we did at Unfair Park, after it had been passed.
That was sleazy, no two ways about it. The city council undid it later. But catching a politician doing something sleazy is maybe on a par with catching a cop snoozing in a patrol car. Shouldn't happen. Does. Let's move on, shall we?
No, the fatal fly in Dwaine Caraway's ointment is not the thing he did but why. In his characteristically and often unintentionally candid manner, Caraway has made it plain on multiple occasions that he carried out the sneak attack as a favor for unnamed "people from the north," whom Caraway has loyally refused to name.
He probably is not lying. It's likely he did carry out the sneak attack primarily to help certain People from the North (PFNs) who needed to scarf up a bunch more campaign money for themselves. He could save some of his own legacy by naming them. But Caraway will never name his PFNs, because he thinks they're the ones who are going to make him a real mayor at some point in his life.
That's sad. There is enormous sadness in the saga of Southern Dallas (SD).
Caraway at today's swearing-in at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center
Photo by Mark Graham
You may be new to Dallas. You may wonder if, when the FTM talks about "people from the north," he may be referring to Canadian Mounties or something. Please let me explain the local lingo.
In Dallas-speak, "people from the North" means rich white people. I don't want to get too far into this, because it's not what we are here to discuss. But I do want to advise you, if you are new to town, that you should not start referring to African-Americans as "people from the south." It doesn't work that way.
You should call black people black people. In Dallas politics, it's really only the rich white people who require a euphemism. That's because FTM Caraway needs to traipse a little lightly around the truth in this instance.
When Caraway agreed to carry the gray water on the ethics deal, he was working the old Plantation Alley, the same rutty lane that black leadership in this city has walked pretty much since Reconstruction, an alliance with the PFNs in hopes of payoffs later.
The payoffs always have been sadly modest. The late Albert Lipscomb, barely in the ground, took free cab rides and small amounts of cash in exchange for votes on the city council in which he sold out minority taxicab owners. Former city council member Don Hill is spending the rest of his productive adult life in federal prison for selling out black middle-class home-ownership in exchange for bribes so small he was still unable to pay his own utility bills after he took them.
Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, whose home and office the FBI searched Monday, helped the Perot interests (Alliance Airport) slow down development of the Inland Port, the biggest best promise of economic hope in SD ever. He deserves his own Rolls Royce taxicab for that one, although there is no evidence he has collected. Or no evidence yet, anyway.
In the meantime, people like Price and Caraway literally fall all over themselves in their rush to vote against anything progressive or even faintly assimilative in local politics, usually because important PFNs have asked them to. Examples would be the 2007 referendum to stop the city from building a dangerous highway in the Trinity River flood zone or the 2009 referendum to bar the city from pledging the city's beleaguered finances to support a new convention hotel downtown.
Just as Caraway could not wait to help the PFNs on those issues, he could not wait to help them with this nasty little assault on the ethics rules. The changes he got through, however briefly, would have allowed council members more leeway to hit up major developers and other companies with business before the council. The complaints I heard were from some of those businesses, who felt they were already paying a stiff enough price for votes.
I believe Caraway bases his dreams of being the real mayor on his record of having done this kind of favor for the PFNs. He doesn't understand -- as leadership in SD has consistently failed to understand over the years -- that the PFNs do not respect them or accept them as equals. That is why the payoffs have always been so measly.
The big payoff will not be the mayor's chair for Caraway, ever. The expression of the PFNs' gratitude will be something more on the order of free cab rides. And even at that, he will need to keep an eye out the window to make sure the cabbie is taking him where he wants to go and not to the pen, which is the usual trick. Ask Don Hill.