Longform

A Hole in Every Pot

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I gave up a long time ago judging other white people on that score. I go to the experts. In weeks of interviews for this story, I found not one black or Hispanic activist who actually knows Laura Miller who would characterize her as racist in any way. If anything, I found a pronounced pro-Miller tilt among many minority grassroots leaders. The cow ate the cabbage and so on.

If the quote made Miller look like a racist, then that impression was wrong.

My treating the quote as on the record and giving it to Korosec was within the rules of journalism. It stretched...no, it broke the rules of friendship. I've been a reporter all my life. I was taught that the first rule in the Reporting Book of Hoyle is: "Friendship, schmiendship." I'm sure Miller remembers that one.

But she cut me off. Wouldn't take my calls. It's not that she called me back and called me a low-down skulking dog racist the way former Mayor Ron Kirk used to. I can handle that. She wouldn't return calls at all, which invokes Rule No. 2, Reporting Book of Hoyle: "Push red button."

The problem is that I know too many people in the community who are taking Miller very seriously. One of them is Will Jarrett, my former boss, former editor of the Dallas Times Herald and of the Denver Post, who went off and made a zillion bucks in the regional publishing business. Early in the election cycle, Jarrett helped arrange a kind of roundtable luncheon just for me at the Prestonwood Country Club (it was so I wouldn't try to come to the real party later).

Quite a group: Bobby McMillan, a business and golf running buddy of former mayors Starke Taylor and Robert Folsom; developer and Republican stalwart Rob Richmond; former head of the Chamber of Commerce and one-time mayoral candidate Forrest Smith; country club developer Vance Miller; and Jarrett.

The general tenor was that the city has fallen under irresponsible stewardship. In fact, when they talked about their impressions of City Hall, I formed a mental image from the children's story Wind in the Willows after the weasels have taken over Toad Hall.

It's money. It's streets. It's lawsuits. It's Bolton. It's a lot of things.

Jarrett said, "I think what's happened here, I think we've spent a lot of time going out and trying to sell the big-ticket items, like Boeing and the arena, kind of like you have a house and you keep trying to put new furniture in it, but the foundation is crumbling. The school thing is awful, and I happen to think this lack of integrity in law enforcement is also awful."

Vance Miller said, "I think too many people have been trying to fool the people about the current state of affairs."

But it was Richmond, Laura Miller's campaign treasurer, who probably put his finger on what these guys really like about her. He talked about airport lease deals and other City Hall transactions where Miller has whipped up on the city manager for giving away the company store.

"She treats it as her own money," he said.

OK, that and my mother-in-law and the rocking chair and the afghan: No matter what bad things have passed between us, I have to go out and find a way to get Miller to talk to me for this story.

So I walk up and down in front of her house in Kessler Park with a picket sign that says, "Laura, please come out and talk. I'm sorry." That's from Reporting Book of Hoyle, Rule 3: "Cause family member to say, 'Get out there and find a way to get that person out of our neighborhood.'"

The "I'm sorry" on my sign was for the friendship thing, definitely not for anything in Korosec's thoroughly reported, sharply written story. I have a job that sometimes requires me to be an S.O.B. So now I'm a sorry S.O.B. Like I said, she used to do this job, too.

She came out. She smiled. We shook hands. She said I had a lousy picket sign that you couldn't read from across the street. She took the picket sign, probably for evidence. We met at Cindi's a few days later.

From that meeting, I can tell you one remarkable thing I learned about Laura Miller. When she was in high school in a posh Northeastern bedroom community--her father was a successful national retailing executive in New York--Miller chose not to go out for the cheerleading squad, not to spend her after-school hours rehearsing for the one-act play or hanging out with other kids.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze

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