Monkey Business

Ted's gone, splitting City Hall and heading off to train young minds in government at the University of Texas at Dallas. Mike's gone, too, leaving DISD and serving on the board of Trammell Crow Co. A-Rod's a Yankee now. And poor Jabari is really gone, up to that happy banana plantation in the sky, God rest his hairy soul. Three of them cashed out and moved on. The fourth just cashed out.

But Buzz is still here, once again looking back on the past year to bring a little historical perspective. While all those other guys couldn't hack it, we soldier on year after year, which leads to an inescapable question: What the hell is wrong with Buzz? Are we an underachiever or what?

Well, yeah. What of it? Ted and Mike climbed to the top of their chosen fields in Dallas and didn't last as long as Buzz. Jabari, a particularly ambitious gorilla, made the "leap of his life" to escape his pen at the Dallas Zoo, and look what happened to him. Buzz and all the other regular Joe apes--e.g. the Dallas City Council--are still around, scratching, enjoying fruit, watching TV and picking nits.

So let's call 2004 the Year of the Underachiever, the time we celebrated all things average. It only makes sense, seeing how America elected George W. Bush to a second term.

But don't feel too bad about it. Remember, he who laughs last...


Bite out of crime: Dallas police release figures showing that the number of homicides in the city in 2003 increased by 20 percent over 2002. Responding to residents' worries about the city's spiraling crime rate, police begin enforcing an ordinance that makes it illegal to take shopping carts from the premises of the businesses that own them. "Well, we gotta do something," interim police Chief Randy Hampton tells reporters. "Homeless winos pushing carts filled with cans are pretty easy to catch, most times. Murderers? Much, much harder." The plan backfires, however, when the city's homeless switch their belongings from shopping carts to baby strollers, leading to a 37 percent increase in reports of untended babies roaming the streets after curfew.

This is a problem?: The search for a replacement for fired Dallas police Chief Terrell Bolton gets under way in earnest, with the list of candidates reaching around a dozen by the end of January. Among the candidates is David Moore, a former Jackson, Mississippi, police officer whose run for the job falters when city officials learn that he has been jailed on charges of impersonating a police officer in Garland, The Dallas Morning News reports. Not just any cop, either: According to Garland police, a belligerent Moore flashed a badge and insisted he was the Dallas police chief. "Dallas cops fake drugs, fake arrests and fake convictions," Moore says by way of explanation. "So what's the big deal about being a fake chief? It worked for Terrell Bolton."

Compassionate conservatives: Pharmacists at a Denton Eckerd drugstore refuse to fill a prescription for a "morning after" birth control pill for a woman who had been raped. The druggists, who are fired by the chain, say the pill could induce an abortion, which they morally oppose. A San Antonio state legislator, his heart brimming with compassion over this outrage, this invasion of privacy and breach of decency, later files a bill intended to ensure that no similar injustices occur--the firings of those poor pharmacists, we mean. State Representative Frank Corte Jr.'s bill, the "Just Lay Back and Enjoy It, You Slut, Act of 2005," would protect the jobs of pharmacists who refuse to dispense prescriptions on moral grounds.

Likely candidate: Robin Jones, a diminutive 34-year-old Mesquite woman, interrupts a thief attempting to steal a television from her garage by whacking the burglar with a shovel. Hearing the news, Dallas City Manager Ted Benavides quickly sends Jones an application for the job of chief of police and announces she's the leading contender for the post. "She's head and shoulders above this pack of stiffs we're looking at," Benavides says.

Gay old time: Administrators at Creekview High School in Carrollton nix plans by the school's theater students to perform a one-act version of the play Six Degrees of Separation at a University Interscholastic League competition, citing complaints from parents who were upset that the original play featured a gay character. "We're just looking for something less contentious and more appropriate for children," a school spokesman says. The students instead perform Hedwig and the Angry Inch after they convince clueless school officials that it's a fable based on a story by famed children's author Roald Dahl.

Loose change: Ted Benavides draws criticism from Mayor Laura Miller when he reveals that he has located a little-known Police and Fire Welfare Fund containing $471,000 that he suggests be used to compensate officers who cannot work because they were injured in the line of duty. (In 2003, the Dallas City Council voted to cut supplementary pay for injured city workers, including cops, from 52 weeks to 13 weeks.) An exasperated Miller demands to know how city staff could have overlooked a fund worth nearly half a million dollars. Benavides explains that the money had slipped between sofa cushions and was found when he "tore up" his office looking for a misplaced set of car keys. Responding to complaints from police officers and other people with hearts, city council members later apologize and reinstate the 52-week supplement for injured cops, providing they can show they are still injured. "A sucking chest wound, missing limb, paralysis--that's all we're asking. Taxpayers need to know they're getting their money's worth," Miller says.

Eat this: Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs announces a tough new school nutrition policy that limits portion sizes, caps the amount of fat and sugar that can be served to most public school children and phases out all deep-fried foods. Combs' plan would eliminate unhealthy items such as french fries, heavily sugared snacks and soft drinks, replacing them with more traditional, healthy school cafeteria fare such as mystery meat sloppy joes with mouse droppings, hormone-tainted chocolate milk and macaroni with Korean War-era surplus government cheese.

All choked up: Civil rights leaders angered over the December death of a drug suspect who was asphyxiated when a Dallas police officer applied a "lateral vascular neck restraint"--a.k.a. a choke hold--call for a ban on the maneuver. Police union leaders defend the use of the hold, saying it's effective in controlling violent suspects. "Besides," one union official says, "what's the fun of being a cop if you can't choke the shit out of someone who runs from you?" Use of the restraint is banned in Dallas in coming months, and officers are issued shovels to be used to smack resisting suspects.

Jabari, we hardly knew ye: Jabari, a 350-pound gorilla at the Dallas Zoo, makes what zoo officials call "the leap of his life" and escapes from his exhibit, going on a rampage that injures several visitors, including a toddler. Unfortunately, it turns out to be the last leap of his life, as Dallas police arrive and end the escape by applying a "lateral vascular neck restraint" to the ape, killing Jabari.

What's your damage?: Terrell Bolton files a federal lawsuit against the city, alleging he was wrongfully fired from his job as police chief. The suit claims that Bolton should have been demoted to his previous rank of sergeant rather than dismissed, and his attorney says that Bolton should be compensated at least $5 million for mental anguish he suffered as a result of the dismissal. "Five million bucks sounds like an awful lot of mental anguish for a $2 brain," Mayor Miller responds.

See ya: Like a swallow returning to San Juan Capistrano, Rangers MVP shortstop Alex Rodriguez joins the stream of other rich jerks heading to New York City, becoming a Yankee in a trade worth roughly the gross national product of Guatemala. Rodriguez tells ESPN The Magazine that his three losing seasons with the Rangers left him "overcome with a sense of depression" and that at times he felt the team consisted of him and "24 kids." In response, his former teammates egg Rodriguez's car, put Icy Hot in his jock strap and scrawl "A-Rod is a boogerhead" on his Rangers locker.

Love the sinners: Editors of The Baylor Lariat, Baylor University's student newspaper, are slammed by school administrators after they publish an editorial endorsing gay marriage. Robert Sloan, president of the world's largest Baptist university, complains the editorial is not in line with traditional Christian teachings. "What do those kids think this is, a Catholic seminary?" Sloan asks.


Scot-free: A judge dismisses a criminal indictment against Dallas County Sheriff Jim Bowles that accused him of converting $100,000 in campaign funds to personal use, ruling that Bowles' action was not a crime under Texas law. "Turns out there aren't any criminal laws concerning what Texas politicians do with money given to them," state District Judge Karen Greene rules. "Guess the Legislature just forgot to pass any. How odd."

He feels pretty: The campaign of Sam Walls, the leading GOP candidate for the state House District 58 seat in Johnson County, is dealt a setback when opponents circulate photos of the 64-year-old dressed in women's clothing. Walls remains in the race, contending that his cross-dressing is a personal matter that dates back to his days as a journalism student at Baylor University. Walls is later defeated in the GOP primary. "It's not that Johnson County voters are biased against transvestites per se," a local GOP political strategist says. "It's just that he makes such an ugly broad."

What's the point: The Morning News publishes "Dallas at the Tipping Point: A Road Map for Renewal," an important, serious multipart series about, um, Dallas and tipping. Roads, too, maybe. Possibly maps. Or something. We'll let you know as soon as we find someone who read it.

Spin the wheels: Texas legislators, struggling to come up with a school financing plan, consider a measure that would allow racetracks to offer slot machines, with tax money from the slots going for schools. The plan is later rejected when opponents point out that a Texas public school education is already a crapshoot, and enough gambling is enough.

Dangerous granny: Highland Park police are inundated with calls and e-mails after the arrest of a 97-year-old woman for outstanding traffic warrants. In response, the department changes policy, allowing its officers more discretion in deciding whether to make an arrest in traffic cases. "We hopefully won't be cuffing and jailing elderly grannies anymore," Highland Park Director of Public Safety Darrell Fant tells reporters, "unless, of course, they're poor or driving domestic automobiles."

No place like home: After conducting a nationwide search for a new police chief, City Manager Ted Benavides hires former Arlington Chief David Kunkle to replace Terrell Bolton. Benavides praises Kunkle, a former Dallas cop, for his incisive leadership and intelligence, calling him the best man for the job. "Plus, since he's already here, we won't have to pay moving expenses. We're running out of couch cushions to search, you know." Kunkle's tenure in Dallas suburbs was also considered a plus, since that's also where most of the city's police force live. Kunkle vows he will work to "restore the department's image, improve morale, and, if I'm lucky, persuade our officers to stop framing people."

Straight dopes: A number of Dallas-area teachers are suspended for showing the video of American Nick Berg being beheaded in Iraq. At Northwest High, students hold a sit-in to protest teacher Andy Gerbert's suspension. "We don't know what the big deal is," one student leader of the protest says. "It's not like anyone in the video was gay or anything. Besides, we've seen way cooler stuff on video before, like Texas Chain Saw Massacre, you know, like when that guy with the leather face goes after the guy in the wheelchair with the chainsaw. That was, like, so awesome."

Ted, we knew ye: Ted Benavides announces he is retiring as City Manager, walking away from his post with a pension deal worth slightly less than the gross national product of Guatemala. Benavides tells reporters that his constant battles with Mayor Miller left him "overcome with a sense of depression" and that at times he felt City Hall consisted of him and "15 kids." City council members vow to conduct a nationwide search to find his replacement. "But to be honest, we'll probably start looking in Arlington first. That city's way better run than Dallas, and besides, we need to save on moving expenses," Miller says.

Hardly working: Dallas officials announce the city will fire 32 code inspectors for lying about the number of citations they issued. Officials reassure residents that none of the inspectors issued fake citations but simply lied about how hard they were working. Falsifying violations is a job for cops, not code inspectors, Benavides tells reporters. A representative for the fired workers complains that none of the 32 knew that faking work was against city policies.

East meets West: Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells apologizes for using a racial slur during a news conference. Parcells had told reporters that his assistant coaches, among them quarterbacks coach Sean Payton, commonly use trick plays in training. "Sean's going to have a few...no disrespect to the Orientals, but what we call 'Jap plays.' OK? Surprise things," Parcells says. Parcells later says he was unaware that he was giving offense. "Boy, I feel as dumb as a Polack," the coach says. "Now that I know it's wrong, there's not a Chinaman's chance that I'll ever say anything against the Nips. Me so solly. Heh, heh."

Psych!: The Cowboys break off talks with Dallas County over the team's proposal to build a new stadium in Fair Park in exchange for $425 million in public funding. Team officials say the South Dallas neighborhood was the leading contender for the team's new home until owner Jerry Jones actually visited the area. "There's just a little too much crack and weed on the streets down there," Jones says. "We're talking Cowboys here. 'Lead us not into temptation,' know what I mean?" The Cowboys take their proposal to Arlington, where voters in November agree to the plan to finance the stadium.

Hard sell: The Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau unveils a new city slogan it will use to market the city to visitors--"Dallas: Live Large. Think Big." Phillip Jones, president of the bureau, says too many people think only of "big hair, J.R. Ewing and Tex-Mex" when they consider Dallas. "That's just not accurate anymore," Jones says. "Dallas hasn't been on the air for years." The new slogan narrowly beats out two other leading contenders: "Dallas: You've Got a Three-Hour Layover. See the City." and "Dallas: Pretty Darn Close to Arlington."


Cabbage patch kids: The state Board of Education is criticized by Planned Parenthood and other groups for considering approval of three health textbooks that omit information on condoms and other forms of birth control and focus instead on abstinence as the only way to prevent pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Conservatives counter that the texts--Mr. Stork Pays a Visit, Our Friend the Hymen and Stop That!--offer all the information Texas students need to know about sex.

Another one bites the dust: A "tired" Mike Moses resigns from his job as Dallas Independent School District superintendent. Moses, praised for his efforts to bring calm and stability to the troubled district, walks away from a salary roughly equal to--you guessed it--the gross national product of Guatemala. Moses departs saying his work with the school board often left him "overcome with a sense of depression" and that at times he felt the district consisted of him and "a whole freakin' bunch of kids."

School's out: Classes for Wilmer-Hutchins High School students are delayed when school officials learn that the dilapidated school building is unfit for occupancy because of roaches, mold and countless repair problems. The delay is the first of a long series of scandals to hit the district, including the indictment of Superintendent Charles Matthews on charges he tampered with evidence in one of 40 or so criminal investigations into the district's finances and management. (Matthews is later fired.) The Texas Education Agency eventually appoints two overseers to clean up the district, who soon report that things are looking up. "Early test scores for high school students are up this year," state-appointed manager Albert Black Jr. reports. "Apparently, having kids miss a few days of classes made them a lot smarter. We figure if we cancel school altogether, we might even produce a few honors students."

Toy story: Prosecutors in Johnson County drop obscenity charges against a Burleson woman arrested last fall for selling sex toys to two undercover officers. State law bans the sale of vibrators and other devices intended to stimulate the genitals, but the county attorney decided to drop the case, citing fear of a lawsuit and "some really tense months at home with a cranky missus, if you get my drift."

Passed on: The Cowboys cut starting quarterback Quincy Carter, reportedly for failing a drug test. "We knew Quincy might have trouble with the test when he kept missing the cup he was supposed to pee in," coach Parcells tells the media. "But he always missed his receivers, too, so we thought it was normal." Jerry Jones says he regrets having to cut the young quarterback. "The Cowboys organization has often worked well with the chemically challenged in the past, but those guys were all good," Jones says. "We can't overlook a failed drug test for someone with a QB rating in the 60s."

Least wanted: Security workers shut down several gates at DFW International after discovering a device they think to be a bomb in the luggage of Polyphonic Spree percussionist Brian Teasley. After learning the "bomb" was a custom-made microphone, FBI agents mistakenly free Teasley, apparently unaware that a microphone in the hands of Spree vocalist Tim DeLaughter is, in fact, a weapon of mass destruction.

Try postcards next time: Authorities with the Joint Terrorism Task Force begin investigating a Pakistani tourist arrested on immigration violations after learning he had videotaped several buildings and landmarks in Dallas. "It was suspicious enough that he was vacationing in Dallas, but actually making videos of downtown? He's either a terrorist or a nut," an FBI investigator says.

Wild pitch: Texas Rangers relief pitcher Frank Francisco is suspended for the remainder of the season after he throws a chair into the stands during a brawl with fans in Oakland, breaking a woman's nose. Two other players and a coach are also punished for taking part in the brawl. In addition to the 16-game suspension, Francisco is also scored for a wild pitch when the chair he tosses misses its intended target.

Mmm, good: The city council directs library administrators to develop plans to open a café at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library. Library officials say the new café will serve unique dishes to meet the specific needs of its downtown patrons, including pork and beans warmed over a scrap-wood fire, roasted pigeon, braised stray cat au jus and "the coldest 40s in town."


Doctor in the house: Thomas Patrick Remo of Ovilla is charged with practicing medicine without a license after an investigator with the district attorney's office notices his advertisement for free "fantasy" and "couples" gynecological exams in the back pages of a local weekly newspaper. OK, OK... this local weekly newspaper. We're so proud. Remo had set up an office and exam room at a self-storage facility where he posed as a doctor. Investigators' efforts to locate any women who had undergone exams are unsuccessful, prompting Dallas Observer publisher Alison Draper to issue a statement blaming the lack of response on the small size of Remo's ad. "We want to assure all this city's fine dominatrixes, hookers and trannies that Observer ads get results. Remo should have just bought a bigger ad."

Birds of a feather: A judge orders the reinstatement of a 13-year Dallas police veteran who was fired after a background check revealed that she had been arrested for prostitution in Hawaii in 1981. Administrative law Judge Frederick Ahrens rules that the city abandoned its right to discipline the officer because officials had known of the arrest since 1997 but took no action. "Besides, if anyone who ever prostituted him or herself was kicked out of city jobs, the city council wouldn't be able to seat a quorum," Ahrens says.

Abstinence this: Students at Johnson Elementary School in Southlake get an unexpected eyeful when a teacher inadvertently plays them several seconds of a sexually explicit video left in a school VCR. The students had been watching an Election Day video on the three branches of government when the naughty video began playing. "At first, we thought it was just more of the same about what Tom DeLay and the GOP majority are doing to representative government, but then we realized that no Republicans in Congress are hung that well," the embarrassed teacher says. "That's the last time I use any audio-video equipment stored in the teachers' lounge."

Queensberry rules: Management consultants appointed to review City Hall operations issue a report calling for less infighting among city council members and the elimination of "negative and disrespectful treatment of staff, of the private sector and one another in public meetings." Acting on the recommendations, the city council adopts rules of conduct banning "slurs on fellow council members' mothers," "blows with closed fists" and "the carrying of knives and/or straight razors greater than 5 inches in length" at council meetings.

Selling point: Two days before an adult entertainment awards show at the downtown convention center, city officials reveal that they are considering lowering licensing fees for adult businesses from $4,800 to $1,400 as a result of a lawsuit filed by topless clubs. Following the decision, the Convention & Visitors Bureau's Phillip Jones announces that the bureau will alter its "Live Large, Think Big" marketing slogan to "Dallas: Live Large. Think Big. And See Some Nice Titties For Cheap."

Real nice: The National Coalition for the Homeless releases a survey calling Dallas one of the 20 "meanest" cities in the nation in its treatment of the homeless. Following the survey, the city council authorizes spending $300,000 to keep the downtown Day Resource Center open overnight, giving downtown's homeless a place to sleep. The plan is delayed, however, when the city neglects to get a variance to its own zoning rules to allow the center's clients to stay overnight. "We're sorry for the mix-up, but trying to cut through City Hall's red tape and bumbling management is a nightmare," a City Hall spokesman tells reporters. "Frankly, I think someone should fire us."

What, no keno?: Mavericks owner Mark Cuban reveals plans to create a hedge fund that "invests" in wagers on sporting events. Cuban says part of his motivation for creating the fund is to show that investing in traditional markets is just another form of gambling. Unlike traditional hedge funds, however, investors in Cuban's fund will be given complimentary cocktails, and those who fail to make margin calls will face mandatory meetings with "investment advisors" Dominic and Vincent.

Putsch comes to shove: City council candidate Beth Ann Blackwood, president of Citizens for a Strong Mayor, files petitions with 30,000 signatures calling for a May vote on a proposal to strengthen the powers of the Dallas mayor. Under Blackwood's plan, the office of city manager would be eliminated and most of its duties given to the mayor, who would also be authorized to forcibly annex Mesquite in order "to clear a space to the east" for future growth.

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

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