Yesterday morning I awoke early, and the hatcam mischief was upon me. Not long later I found myself lurking in a corridor at the Crescent, a fancy building, with the hatcam on my head.
Just then, Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston got the big bounce-a-roo, the heave-ho from a meeting of the Dallas Breakfast Club, a fancy club, and guess what! The kick-in-the-buttski was administered by none other than Harriet Miers, who was White House Counsel under President George W. Bush and a rejected nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In other words, Councilman Kingston was told he was not welcome to join the Breakfast Club meeting by a person who was told she was not welcome to join the Supreme Court. Heavy.
When Kingston first walked up, the lady at the name-tag table found a tag with his name and gave it to him, so it looked like he was in. But then Miers came out, stopped him cold, told him to turn in his badge and skedaddle.
The hat cam and I stood about three yards away, because ... it's sort of like nature photography. You don't want to intrude on the natural unfolding of events. But I kept hearing Miers and this guy at her side muttering about "security" over and over again.
Oh, wow. On the one hand, I did not want to see Councilman Kingston frog-walked out of a fancy building by a couple of mall cops, because I don't want to see anyone treated that way. On the other hand, the hatcam would have loved it.
But he left more or less peaceably if somewhat pissed off. I asked him what they were telling him about security.
"They said, 'We're not going to have security escort you out.'" he told me. "They said they were not going to physically remove me, but it would not be good for my image to be in the room when I wasn't invited to be there. My image?
"They said that I was disinvited and I knew it and they didn't like me showing up and they really wanted me to leave. They said it was because they weren't having any candidates in the audience. There were three candidates there. There was [Mayor Mike] Rawlings. There was Chris Jackson, a candidate for District 9, and Mark Clayton, a candidate for District 9."
OK, it was not a coincidence, my being there. Can't fool you. I guess you're Sherlock Holmes or something. No, I had been following this saga with bated breath for a couple days, ever since Kingston told me the Breakfast Club wouldn't let him and Councilman Scott Griggs debate the mayor on the Trinity toll road.
The Breakfast Club is a junior version of the Dallas Citizens Council. It's a prestigious business group whose members put money into City Council races in order to sway certain issues their way.
At yesterday's meeting, Mayor Rawlings and Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan were presenting the pro-Trinity Toll Road sales pitch -- why we should build a 10-lane highway along the river. Don't ask me why a city employee, Jordan, was taking a partisan position on a controversial issue. It's just how they roll. The city manager's office has always worked for the money.
The Breakfast Club had invited Kingston and Griggs to give the anti-toll-road side of the argument in a later meeting set aside just for them. Both Kingston and Griggs told the Breakfast Club they would not appear in that format. They told Ken Benson, who is the head of it, that the issue needed to be debated head-to-head in the same meeting. They said they would take part if the club would change the format to a debate. Kingston tells me Benson refused and said there would be no debate, but he still wanted Kingston and Griggs to appear later to give the anti side.
I left multiple phone and email messages for Benson yesterday but received no response. Same thing with Miers.
Griggs and Kingston said no -- no debate, no show. Benson, Kingston says, asked intermediaries to call him and Griggs and ask them to relent and appear on Benson's terms. They said no again. So Benson apparently decided to proceed with only the pro side of the issue.
A friend of Kingston who is a member of the club called him and asked him to attend as his guest, suggesting Kingston might be able to pitch a couple of good questions at the mayor from the floor. Kingston agreed.
Then Kingston received an email string which contained an earlier email from Benson to Kingston's friend. In that email, Benson says to Kingston's friend, "We would appreciate you doing a friendly dis-invite to Mr. Kingston." The friend did so, reluctantly. Kingston was officially not invited.
Mayor Rawlings told me at the end of the day yesterday that he will not debate anyone on the toll road, ever: "I have made it real clear to people who have asked me that I am not going to debate the tollway situation," Rawlings said.
I asked why.
"There is nothing on the ballot that the citizens are voting about," he said. "It's a public issue that everybody's writing about. I hope my point of view is really clear. My point of view is that we can have our cake and eat it, too, on this. It's just something [debating it] that I decided some time ago that I'm not going to get out there and do."
So here's what happened and how the hatcam mischief came upon me. Kingston told me he thought he needed to man up and at least try to attend this meeting anyway. His own city employee, Jordan, was not only going to take part but would be offering a partisan stand on an issue certain to be the central item of debate in the upcoming May City Hall elections.
And then there is the issue of the kind of thing the mayor and the pro toll road people have been saying lately when they are safe from contradiction. Griggs told me he thinks the people pushing for the toll road are basing their entire campaign on egregious misstatements of fact that need to be called out whenever possible.
"One of the common misstatements they make, for example" he said, "is that we can build a smaller meandering road and not have to build a bigger one until the future. Well, the future is here."
The truth, he said, is that the city is bound by law to build exactly the road that the feds have been studying for decades -- the big honking six- to 10-laner -- or no road at all.
Then there's all that stuff about how people will be able to get to work way faster. An informed opponent who heard that claim would rise from the floor, presumably, to point out that government studies have proven those promises to be fiction.
Griggs didn't go to the meeting because he wasn't invited. Kingston was invited, then disinvited. He told me he thought it was his duty to try to go anyway, but he also told me he thought they might throw him out.
I said nah. Nah. C'mon. A sitting City Council member? They've got the mayor in there and a top city employee saying stuff about the city? And they're not going to let a council member sit in on it? Nah. No way are they going to toss a council member. Nah.
But then in the deep of the night, the hatcam genie visited me and whispered in my ear: "What if they do kick him out, Geronimo, and you're still here in the sack sawing logs without your hatcam on? So you miss it. And the hatcam misses it. And then how do you think the hatcam will feel about you for ever and ever after that?"
I hate the hatcam. No, I love the hatcam. OK, change the subject.
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I found myself lurking, it is true, with the hatcam on my head, it is true, when the Kingston kerfuffle took place. And I was grateful to the hatcam, it is true, for making me go, even at the cost of sleep. And I really still sort of can't believe my eyes. Harriet Miers. Wow. And only a day after we learned of the passing of Leslie ("It's My Party") Gore. The hatcam is a lonely hunter.
(Editor's note: The "action" takes place at the 1:30 mark; if you're prone to motion sickness, you might really, really want to fast forward.)