Take This Job and Shove It

Everybody knows why Laura Miller's not running for mayor. And everyone knows who'll take her place. Yeah. Right. Fine. Whatever.

It's not surprising to read this morning so many takes on Mayor Laura's announcement yesterday, first to KTVT-Channel 11's Sarah Dodd and then later to The Dallas Morning News' Emily Ramshaw, that she's not going to seek re-election. There's the one about how it wasn't Laura's decision at all, but one made for her by husband Steve Wolens, who will surely use his wife's retirement from politics to run for statewide office once again. There's rampant speculation about who will run, about who could win, about who shouldn't even bother. There's this editorial about how she was the right person in the right place at the right time--though, in typical Dallas Morning News hemming and hawing, it was "for better and for worse." (Speaking of wanting it both ways and then offering nothing, there is Steve Blow's take: "It's hard to know what to make of Laura Miller's mayorship at this point," which will comes as news to her supporters and detractors alike.) And then there's the theory that she was going to lose anyway, given how black folks hate her and white folks were turning on her in droves. And then there's the mayor's own pronouncement that she'd accomplished what she could--the Wright Amendment agreement (that Congress still needs to approve before it counts), the overhaul of the Trinity River project (that hasn't even begun construction)--and that it was time to spend time with her kids, who range in age from 16 to 11. And, of course, our own Jim Schutze wrote last night that Miller was leaving because, hell, who wants that lousy job to begin with, having to deal with 14 petulant, whiny brats who have only their own interests at heart and care little about the city as a whole. It's like being the mayor at a nursery school, where every 4-year-old's running around going, "Mine, mine, mine."

There will be much gnashing of teeth and spilling of virtual ink about this subject for the next long while; everyone's going to run for mayor now, possibly even you, and from today till the election in May we'll hear and see plenty of pieces about the phalanx of would-bes and wanna-bes vying for The Worst Job in Dallas. And because it's a job no one in their right mind should really want--at least, not until the mayor's a strong mayor, which was never going to happen with such a strong woman holding the position--it comes as little surprise to some of us that Miller decided not to run again. In fact, she's been considering this for a year--since at least the FBI began its investigation into corruption at City Hall in June 2005, if not before. Schutze and I met with the mayor last summer, and she hinted as much: She might not run, because how could one expect to get anything done at a place of business populated by the greedy, the spoiled, the indifferent and the inept, not to mention the being-investigated-by-the-feds. For a while, Miller even toyed with beginning a blog, which surely would have signaled the end of her political aspirations; one can't spill the beans without spilling a little blood as well. Then she said she was going to run after all. Then, yesterday, she called Dodd to the Preston Hollow manse and said, in essence, take this job and shove it.

When Miller left the Dallas Observer to run for city council in December 1997, we announced her campaign by proclaiming, "Mr. Mayor, Meet Your Nightmare." At the time, she was frustrated about so many things--chief among them, how secretive City Hall was about its dealings with Ross Perot Jr. concerning what would become the American Airlines Center and Victory Park ("Perot Palace," she called the project) and how Al Lipscomb had managed to remain on the council for so long even after taking so much from others in exchange for his vote--and said, "Unbeknownst to the people who dared talk to me, I was contemplating a radical approach to this age-old problem of getting routine information from Dallas City Hall. I was going to stop whining and get even. I was going to run for the Dallas City Council." (You really should go back and read her piece from nine years ago; it's an astounding mixture of rage and optimism.) She won her council seat, then was elected mayor twice. I will leave it to others to speculate whether she could have won a third time, but now it's a moot point. She's out, come this time next year. She'll be spending time with her kids. Or maybe writing the book she talked about doing years ago, when first contemplating the second career in politics. Probably shopping at Whole Foods. Or whatever it is people do when they've had enough. --Robert Wilonsky

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky