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Says another long-time friend who declined to be named, "I know a lot of people who agree with Sharon but don't want to be associated with her because of the tone."

But Boyd's politics these days run on a kind of pure fuel that laps the slower-moving vehicles of moderation. In 1993, says campaign organizer Anna Casey, Boyd was unwilling to go on any sort of attack. "She was very meek compared to now," says Casey, who worked with Boyd on several campaigns. "There's this tendency for people who go against the establishment to be labeled as eccentric, outcast, aggressive, overly hostile. It makes it easier for them to say, 'What's to lose?'"

Cay Kolb, a longtime friend and community activist in Oak Lawn, says, "I think it's frustration. For years, she worked within the system in her party and church and neighborhood, so you have to say there's been this change."

Along with her harsher tone has come a conviction that city politics consists of "good guys and bad guys."

Says Boyd: "I have come to a place in my life where I really do believe there are rights and wrongs, and when someone does something really wrong, you should shun them." She did that last year, when she cut ties with Councilman John Loza, who she had worked hard to elect in 1997 as an alternative to the downtown-business-backed candidate, Brenda Reyes. When Loza voted for the arena, Boyd saw it as a complete and unforgivable betrayal. She cut off Casey too, who had become a close friend, considering Boyd her political mentor.

"I don't have enough time. I'm not gonna waste my time trying to change somebody's mind who has no core values," Boyd says.

Loza, who justified support for the arena project because the taxes don't target his constituents, declined to comment. "Nothing personal, I just don't want to talk about her," he says. Boyd ended up working for Loza's losing opponent, Pete Vaca -- a move that added to her string of lost causes.

"If you're not with her 100 percent, you're not affirming her," says Casey, who has a number of stories about the scores of hours they spent together on campaigns. All but physically absent during her arena debate appearances, Boyd actually has a good sense of humor, Casey says. "We're both very pro-choice, and we were in her car, going somewhere on campaign stuff, and she says, 'Quick, give 'em the finger.'" Casey says she complied without looking, then turned around to see they'd just passed some abortion pickets.

Late last year, Boyd began yet another attack on the arena project, filing a taxpayer lawsuit that, if successful, could end up being a big headache for the Arena Group and Ross Perot's Hillwood Development Corp., which is developing acreage around the arena site. The suit alleges that the plan to repay the developers for the project's roads is illegal under state law. Boyd is specifically targeting the tax district created to reimburse the Arena Group $25 million for streets and other improvements -- money that will be raised by new taxes on the new development.

The suit alleges that such a district can only be set up for blighted areas that otherwise would not be improved. "It's a serious lawsuit," says Boyd, who is paying for it herself. "We think the land there would have been developed privately. If they want to put the arena in there, fine, but they shouldn't do it with this additional taxpayer money."

In its legal response, the city takes its sharpest aim at Boyd, all but calling her a bad loser. Boyd, the response says, is an "ardent, steadfast opponent of the new downtown arena" who has no right to continue her opposition in the courts.

James Murphy, a Dallas attorney who filed the suit, says Boyd came to him hoping to press a case against what she has called the "smelly" relationships between the arena interests and voting members on the council. Kirk's wife, Matrice Kirk, continues to hold valuable stock options from one of Tom Hicks' companies, and Councilwoman Veletta Lill's husband works for American Airlines, which bought the arena's naming rights.

Murphy says he thinks the "blight" issue is more compelling legally. "There has been development in the works there for the past five to seven years," he says. "The city is trying to say the area was blighted because there's [chemical pollution] in the ground. We say that's a cost of development." As with most contested civil litigation, the case is crawling through the early stages of discovery. It's yet to become enough of an issue to warrant a city council briefing. Murphy says Boyd has standing to sue as a taxpayer who can force governmental bodies to follow the law. It doesn't matter that she has criticized everything about the arena project, save architect David Schwartz's retro red-brick design. The look offended cutting-edge art critics, but it suited Boyd -- a lover of country music, spaghetti at Sal's, and Elmore Leonard novels -- just fine.

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