Hill and Heinbaugh: Issue-Makers

Either Don Hill really is No. 1, or he just shot you with his finger pistol.

Here's some sausage-making for your Monday morning.

On Friday, WFAA-Channel 8 sent reporter Chris Heinbaugh to City Hall to ask mayor pro tem and mayoral candidate Don Hill about the segregation taking place at the Dallas Country Club, which once more became a story last week when The Dallas Morning News revealed that local businessman Kneeland Youngblood's application to become the club's first black member had stalled. Dallas' Only Daily last week ran two stories on the subject: the original story about Youngblood's troubles getting into the 111-year-old Kountry Klub and the Friday follow-up about the memberships of mayoral candidates Darrell Jordan and Tom Leppert.

So Heinbaugh and his cameraman went to City Hall Friday to ask Hill, who'd been quoted extensively in the DMN story Friday, about Jordan and Leppert's memberships at the klub. Hill spoke thoughtfully about "the process of healing," about "strong divisions in this city," about "an unreasonable degree of exclusion" at the klub, about Jordan's being "a good man" belonging to a bad place, etc. Then, as evidenced in the raw video WFAA's posted to its Web site, Heinbaugh went and asked him an incredibly odd question.

Actually, it was more of a odd statement.

"There are some...political operatives, I guess, for lack of a better word, who've suggested you're whipping this up into something it doesn't deserve to be," Heinbaugh said. Seriously? The Belo-employed reporter doing a follow-up to a Belo-employed reporter's follow-up to a Belo-employed reporter's initial story is accusing someone else of "whipping this up into something it doesn't deserve to be"? Hill actually looked a little stunned at the accusation.

But he kept his cool. "First of all, I'm not whipping it up into anything," he said. "The Morning News ran a front-page news story about this, so this isn't my creation. I'm responding to people asking me as a council member, as a mayor pro tem, as a person in this community how do I feel about it."

Look, frankly the whole exchange is kind of odd: Heinbaugh starts out by asking Hill whether this is really even an issue in the first place, then he springs to Jordan's defense by telling Hill, "If you don't have people like Darrell Jordan in there fighting for change, then how will change ever come about?"

If Heinbaugh had read the Friday DMN story, he'd have noticed Jordan has been a member of the klub since "the early 1980s." Yup. D.J. seems to be putting up one hell of a fight there. The guy's a regular Michael Schwerner.

Heinbaugh will most likely claim he's acting as the devil's advocate; if nothing else, he's pushing for the fiery soundbite, which he never quite gets during his lengthy chat with Hill. But Hill's smart about this: He knows, as Rufus Shaw pooh-poohs this morning, that "obviously this club has some issues and mayoral candidate Don Hill will come out looking good with issues like this." But there's no reason to accuse Hill of making an issue out of this.

Oh, wait. I forgot to mention something. I got the link to the WFAA video from the Don Hill for Mayor Web site, where it says, "GOLF CLUB CONTROVERSY: MAYORAL CANDIDATE DON HILL WEIGHS IN." Never mind. --Robert Wilonsky

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky