Venable ego-watch
Washington at Valley Forge. Travis at the Alamo. Venable at DISD.
That's right, history buffs. Dallas' own education gadfly Don Venable is the Man with the Stand on the Dallas school board, sacrificing himself and standing by his principles. At least, that's his story.

According to Venable, he had the school board presidency in his grasp, but lost it when he refused to abandon the Constitution and drop a lawsuit against the district.

"I was one vote shy," claims the controversial trustee and longtime DISD court opponent. He had talked to his colleagues, Venable says, and received commitments from a majority--five of them--to vote for him.

Board president Hollis Brashear had held that seat only since December. But because of the re-election of two trustees in early May, the board had to vote again on the presidency. Venable seized the opportunity to begin lobbying fellow trustees to back him. Some seemed ready to do just that.

But then, Venable says, trustee Lois Parrott told him at the 11th hour that she would rescind her vote unless he pledged to drop his civil rights lawsuit against the district. Venable is suing the district for, among other things, his contention that the board violated open records laws. Parrott could not be reached for comment.

"I told her," he says, "I won't sell out the Constitution to be president. This litigation that is going on is all about protecting the citizenry."

Why was he eager to oust Brashear? Venable says the board president has failed to show leadership. "We are not proceeding on the major issues of the district," he says. (Maybe it's because they're busy dealing with scores of piddly issues--like Venable's lawsuit.)

For Brashear, Venable's post-election analysis has little meaning. "Mr. Venable's mission," Brashear says, in an uncharacteristically caustic tone, "is the same as it has always been. He wants to cause confusion and embarrass the board. It is very unfortunate that his constituents have elected a person with no leadership skills that does not care about public education."

Urban jungle
The Swiss Avenue Historic District's battle with a splinter group, called the Swiss Avenue Women's Guild (a.k.a. The Swiss Misses) has moved to a new front--the proposed renaming of Triangle Park at Bryan and Swiss.

The historic district wants it named for Dorothy and Wallace Savage, urban pioneers who fought to keep the district diverse and integrated with the rest of East Dallas. The Misses, not exactly the Rainbow Coalition, don't want it named for the Savages. Art consultant Roxann Landsdowne, of the Misses, told a subcommittee of the Park Board last week that the park shouldn't be named for the Savages because "It's an inner-city park, and that name would have a bad connotation."

Interesting point. East Dallas would have "Savage Park," and then the more fashionable Turtle Creek greenbelt could be re-named "Civilized Park."

Park Board member Rob Parks told Landsdowne he had never heard such a dumb argument in his life, and the subcommittee told the Misses it would recommend that the full Park Board go with "Dorothy and Wallace Savage Park."

Type A
Buzz assumed that Lee Alcorn, president of the Dallas chapter of the NAACP, had enemies deep in the heart of white North Dallas. But we didn't know things had gotten as bad as the recording on his voice mailbox suggests.

"Please do not leave a complaint in this box," the machine states when a caller punches the number for the NAACP leader. "There are other boxes to leave a complaint."

Given his history of loud, sometimes abrasive windmill tilting, no one would ever accuse Alcorn of being fastidious. Apparently, even those in the demagogue biz need to keep things organized.

Cable guile
One of the nice things about being in journalism, besides the occasional free meal, is the chance to take petty personal gripes and blow them up in print.

That was our plan, anyway, after we trekked out to TCI Cablevision's office this week to exchange some old converter boxes for new ones. After waiting 40 minutes in line, we were told they didn't have any.

"But we called first," we complained. (We don't really use the editorial we in conversation, but you get the point.)

"You must have talked to customer service," the woman behind the counter replied. "We don't have any here."

Silly us, calling a TCI customer server for, of all things, customer service.

Buzz was not happy. Buzz was ready for payback. It seemed like a gimme, given the fact TCI announced last week a 2.7 percent increase in its "expanded basic" rate, to $33.50 a month, feeling so self-righteous and entitled just because the number of customer complaints had dropped.

This was going to be sweet. We could slam a cable monopoly at the same time we smacked former TCI foe Mayor Ron Kirk, who sounded supportive of TCI's rate increase at last week's council meeting.

We called Pat Bustos-Robinson, a TCI spokeswoman.
Now, we're not exactly sure what happened after that. Somehow, before we could work up a good head of indignation about TCI's confusing, convoluted rate structure, its history of lousy customer service, and the high cost of cable, Bustos-Robinson managed to turn the conversation to TCI's digital service. It means more channels, she coaxed. More money too, but more channels. Try it, she urged us sweetly.

Our brain, softened by decades of Lucy reruns, fogged, like that of a crack addict or City Council member.

More channels.
We had some point to make here, but it's temporarily eluded us. Besides, we need to call TCI customer service about those old converter boxes, and expect to be on hold a long time.

--Compiled from staff reports by Patrick Williams

To leave a complaint with Buzz, please press one. For compliments and tips, e-mail [email protected].

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams