Longform

C'mon Get Happy

Buzz was going to begin our annual look back at the past year this way: Another year has come and gone. Good God, will they never end?

But then something strange happened on the way to press. Reviewing the past 12 months, we became afflicted with an odd, unfamiliar feeling. Could it be that thing we've heard talked about, but always thought was a myth, like Bigfoot or practicing Christians? Could this be optimism?

Maybe it was the several thousand milligrams of antidepressants Buzz gobbled in 2006, or maybe our usual dementia was entering a sunnier phase, but somehow things seemed to be looking up. Perhaps the news was telling us that the time had come to change our outlook. Just consider what happened in Dallas:

After decades of virtual political invisibility locally, hundreds of thousands of Latino demonstrators took to downtown streets in the belief that their protest could affect the course of the national immigration debate. People who don't—or can't—vote acted as though they could make a difference. Now that's optimism.

The Dallas Cowboys signed bad-boy receiver Terrell Owens in the hope that he could help lift the team to the Super Bowl without tearing it apart. Not only that, after years of wandering in darkness and iniquity, the Pokes found something akin to a local messiah. His name was Tony...Tony of Eastern Illinois. Apparently, miracles really can happen.

Mayor Laura Miller announced she is giving up politics to devote more time to her children. Maybe people can change.

Police Chief David Kunkle made local TV reporter Sarah Dodd his fifth wife. Five! Someone, at least, still possesses boundless belief in the possibility of true love.

Democrats swept into power at the Dallas County Courthouse. Lazarus has nothing on those guys.

Seemingly all of Dallas is taking leaps of faith, acting as if the future might somehow be brighter, so it occurs to us that maybe Buzz should jump on the optimism bandwagon, slap a smile on our kisser and begin looking for silver linings. Not immediately, of course. Changing the cynical and misanthropic habits of a lifetime is a big step, and before we take it we're gonna need some evidence that the happy trends of 2006 aren't just a fluke—say, the Cowboys winning the Super Bowl or Kunkle and Dodd celebrating their silver wedding anniversary, whichever comes first. In the meantime, we're going to hang with the whole cynicism thing. See for yourself, as Buzz takes one last look back on 2006:

January-April

Slurred speech: Farmers Branch police Chief Jimmy Fawcett retires after apologizing for using a racial epithet at a meeting of the police department's oral review board, which had gathered in December to consider job applicants, including one potential recruit of Vietnamese descent. "As long as I'm chief, we won't have any gooks working in Farmers Branch," Fawcett allegedly said to board members. Fawcett, a veteran officer with an unblemished record, says he deeply regrets the comment and its reflection on Farmers Branch, which a city spokesman insists welcomes people of all nationalities and races, "as long as they have a green card and aren't, you know, beaners or anything like that."

Mean streets: A survey by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty ranks Dallas sixth in the nation among 224 cities for its harsh treatment of the homeless—a decision flatly rejected by Mayor Laura Miller. "We're doing great things, and they're not considering them at all," Miller tells The Dallas Morning News. "They're only looking at the laws—that's all. It's unfortunate, because I think we're doing such a terrific job in how we're addressing the homeless." That terrific job includes efforts to ban panhandling, raze homeless encampments, rip up donated tents, restrict the places charities can provide food and outlaw shopping carts on city streets—leaving city officials scratching their heads over why the city made only the No. 6 spot on the list. "Jesus, like the mayor said, we're doing the best we can," an unnamed city staffer says. "The law won't allow us to simply shoot the homeless, but we'd make No. 1 in a minute if we could. "

Uncle Sam wants you: An 87-year-old Oak Cliff grandmother receives a letter from the U.S. Army Recruiting Command offering her a $20,000 bonus to enlist in the military, the Morning News reports. An Army spokesman says the letter to Lillye England was the result of an error in processing a large direct-mail recruiting campaign. "It has absolutely nothing to do with finding moro...I mean volunteers...willing to go to Iraq," the spokesman says.

Surfing for cops: Grand Prairie police begin recruiting officer candidates on the city's Web site. Officials say the Internet-based effort is intended to find young recruits who no longer use traditional methods to locate jobs, but it hits an early snag when the first job ad—seeking "strong, well-disciplined individuals skilled in the use of handcuffs and nightsticks"—receives 12,659,832 responses from lonely, middle-aged bi-curious married men, crashing the city's computer servers.

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