Fudge Factor

District 9 city council candidate Jill Kotvis called me after I wrote a snarky item on the Dallas Observer's blog, Unfair Park, taking her to task for obfuscating charges related to a 20-year-old drunk driving arrest. It was sporting of her to call.

I didn't beat up on her for getting arrested for drunk driving. I beat up on her for allowing her opponent, Sheffie Kadane, to smear her with the charge and then failing to go straight to the charge itself and cleanse the wound by explaining the whole thing.

Part of the problem is that she filled out a questionnaire at The Dallas Morning News in which she slicked around the drunk charge by saying she had a couple of "traffic-related citations in the past."

She insists this was a technically correct answer—you know, traffic, driving, drunk, all related. But by her logic, this response would also have been a technically correct answer covering such past misdeeds as running over a couple of nuns, driving a truck into a couple of crowded playgrounds and possibly also stealing a couple of police cars. I just thought she needed to talk it out—say what really happened.

When she did call me, I was not able to record the call or take notes. She, on the other hand, took pains to inform me she was on a speaker phone with a witness in the room. So what I have to do here, rather than attempt to quote her directly from memory, is paraphrase:

I said, "How come you got a DWI?"

This question was followed by such a long silence that I feared my cell phone had dropped the call. I halloooed into the void and was able to conjure her back up.

She said the incident happened 20 years ago. I said, "How come you got a DWI?"

She said she was going to stick to issues that are relevant to District 9. I said I found her approach and answers very lawyerly and constrained. Should voters not worry, I asked, that she will take a similarly less-than-candid approach to the discharge of her duties if elected?

She said she was not being less than candid and my questions were not relevant. She said none of her supporters has asked her such questions. I said I was a reporter, not a supporter, and it was not up to her to decide what was relevant.

I asked her if she still drinks. She asked me if I still beat my wife. I said no. I said the only people I know who are touchy about talking about their drinking are people who have drinking problems. I asked her if she has a drinking problem.

She said (I remember): "I do not have a drinking problem, and I have never had a drinking problem."

She thanked me for my interest, and I thanked her for her time. I am checking now for missing nuns.

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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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