The Search for Mary Suhm Heats Up with Rumors of a Trinity Road Goon Squad
Afterward, members of the AIA were called together for a "little chat" about the Trinity toll road.
Wait. The thing is: I found Mary. I now know where former Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm has been hanging out. It's scary.
But first, the boring news: At the end of last week I covered a deal put on by the Dallas chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Dallas) where a Harvard guy who helped develop the Trinity River toll road plan over a decade ago came back to town and apologized.
Alex Krieger told an audience of transportation wonks at the Latino Cultural Center that he never intended for the proposed road along the river to morph into a big fat honking highway and that we shouldn't do it. It was a pretty good show, if you find traffic projections entertaining. I do, but I hate myself for it. Anyway, I'm going to talk about all that in excruciatingly boring detail later this week in a column. So, that was the boring part.
Here is this week's interesting news. You may or may not recall that a couple months ago I was trying to find where in City Hall former City Manager Suhm still works. A year ago in kind of a head-fake, Suhm pretended to retire as Dallas city manager, supposedly handing the job off to her minion A.C. Gonzalez. Those of us who follow these things closely are all too aware, however, that Suhm is still the Actual City Manager and Gonzalez is the Pretend.
But where in the heck is she? I can never reach her. I get word of these so-called sightings, but by the time I get there she's gone without a trace. So finally at the AIA thing, several knowledgeable persons told me where she has been and what she has been doing.
Suhm apparently has put together a goon squad that's been going around saying Marlon Brando Godfather things to people who have been expressing public doubts about the Trinity River toll road of late. It's her, former City Council member Craig Holcomb and a tall gaunt figure in black robes who has been described to me only as, "the guy who works for Ray Hunt."
I've been telling you about the people turning against the toll road. All kinds of leading figures in the city have been expressing doubts lately about the wisdom of building a 10-lane expressway on the bottom of the bathtub between the flood control levees along the Trinity River, including people who insisted for years that putting a highway on the bottom of the bathtub was the coolest idea they had ever heard of.
If anything, having the Harvard guy stand up at the Latino Cultural center last week and say, not in so many words, "What, are you nuts?" was sort of anticlimactic. Tons of people in Dallas have been coming around to the realization that building a massive toll road along the river downtown will ruin the river's value as an urban amenity, to say nothing of all those poor little people who will drown. And the cleanup, OMG.
But we also know that the Mysterious Wizard of the Toll Road is never going to let it go at that, just because some little people might get wet. After all these years, I still don't know who the Mysterious Wizard of the Toll Road is. I have suspicions. I imagine him to be a gray-headed wrinkly old jowl-flapper like the John Huston character, Noah Cross, in Chinatown, sitting somewhere in Highland Park with a thistle walking stick in one hand and a glass of single malt on the table, banging the floor, yanking on a velvet cord and jabbering, "Where is my toll road, dammit! Bring me my toll road!"
Suhm, of course, has always worked directly for the wizard. A.C. Gonzalez is an errand boy. As I say, I never hear back from Mary anymore, but I did try again last night, pathetically, with my best effort at a friendly email:
"I am told that you, Holcomb and 'the tall guy who works for Ray Hunt' have been going around town as a goon squad," I wrote, "to put the fear of God in people who have been expressing doubts about the Trinity River toll road. Is this true? Can you tell me the tall guy's name? How can Craig Holcomb, who is the nicest guy in the world, be a goon? What have you done to him?"
To my own considerable amazement, Suhm responded this morning with a much nicer message than I probably deserved. She wrote: "Hey, I am headed back from a long weekend with my family. In answer to your questions ... a small group of folks have been giving background and info on tollway as requested. Don't know who the tall guy is. Yeah, CH is nice. And no, I don't think I have done anything to him..."
Doesn't know who the tall guy is. Scarier even. Holcomb (CH) is a former Dallas councilman and hired point person for various wizard projects along the way including the toll road. He attended last week's AIA meeting (They all have to stand up and say, "Hi, my name's Bob, and I'm an architect"), where he made an almost tearful speech in defense of drowning the little people in the bathtub. (more on that in my column this week). His point was, not in so many words, "It won't be THAT many people!"
Holcomb is an honest and decent man, and I was puzzled to hear that he had hired on as one of Mary's goons. And, frankly, if they ever come to my house, and if Holcomb is among them, my unspoken thought will be, "OK, but these are not real goons."
Suhm, however, is the one who does what actually has to be done, as in, you may remember, promising the City Council there would be no gas drilling in city parks and then signing a contract to help a drilling company get permission to do gas drilling in city parks. That's pretty much the spirit in which the wizard is seeking his toll road: "Do what must be done! Just do it! Get me my toll road!"
The notion that Suhm has been reduced to doing this as a road show is actually very significant. It's an index of desperation on the wizard's part. I tell you, I get more optimistic every day. At some point in the near future we will all be looking back saying, "We never actually were going to do that, were we? No!"
But I still haven't actually seen her, which is kind of scary. People should know, by the way, that I sleep with a very mean dog in the room. A sentry.