The girl can't help it

If you listen to what people in Dallas are saying on talk radio and in line at the grocery store, you can't help hearing a general undertone of disgust and cynicism. Something in last month's 65-count federal bribery conviction of city councilman Al Lipscomb seems to have rubbed the city raw.

Maybe it was the casual, matter-of-fact, almost condoning way prominent city leaders talked about people on the council taking thousand-dollar-a-month cash bribes in envelopes. It seems to have knocked the city for a loop. In their comments, many people are just as furious with the cynical rich whites who corrupted Lipscomb as with Lipscomb himself for feeding at the pig trough and betraying his own people.

Unfortunately, there is often a tone of despair in what people say, as if that's just how Dallas is, how things have always been, and what are any of us going to do about it?

With one exception. The one hopeful thing people say now, when they get really down about Dallas, is, "I wish that Laura Miller would run for mayor."

So what about that?

Miller, who has three young kids and is a cancer survivor, has always said she was going to do her stint on the council and go home. But here's a news tip: She could be talked into it.

That's not what she says. It's my opinion. But you be the judge. Here's exactly what she said to me: "My husband's worst nightmare is that I run for mayor. Steve told me, 'If you do this, you will do it as a single mother.'"

But here's a discount factor: I don't know them socially, but I think she and her husband, state Rep. Steve Wolens, may just talk like that. It's a kind of power-couple hyperbole, like Nixonian love patter.

I said back to her, "So I guess you're not going to consider it because of what you just told me."


I said, "So I guess it's a definite no, like, 'rule it out.' Hmmm?"

Silence. Then she says: "I would love to run for mayor. I would just love it, because I am infatuated with potholes and code enforcement and cleaning up the city. I think people are really tired of the same-old same-old at City Hall. They don't understand why we don't get it together at City Hall."

OK, you tell me: Does that sound like N-O no, no way, get outta here with that, absolutely not? No, I didn't think so either.

Of course, assuming Mayor Ron Kirk doesn't bail out sooner, there won't be another mayoral election for three years. And there is already a designated establishment successor lined up in northeast Dallas council member Mary Poss. So why even discuss the notion of a Mayor Miller?

Here's why Miller looks more formidable now than ever: At a time when the rest of the Dallas City Council has pretty much covered itself in grease in the corruption conviction of Lipscomb, former Dallas Observer columnist Miller and North Dallas conservative Donna Blumer have emerged in the public eye as perhaps the only people at City Hall anybody can trust.

Example: When The Dallas Morning News ran an informal poll on its Web page last week asking people how they graded the Dallas City Council, two-thirds of the respondents gave horrible marks. People who submitted comments to the poll expressed outrage that only Blumer and Miller had called for Lipscomb's resignation after he was convicted on 65 counts of bribery in Amarillo last month, but they were even more angry that Mayor Kirk had gone to court and painted Lipscomb as a paragon of virtue. (Kirk, by the way, angrily disputes that he ever condoned Lipscomb's bribe-taking. "I defended his historical role in the city," the mayor told me. "I never once condoned what he did.")

But judging by the comments on the News' Web page, a lot of people thought Kirk went to Amarillo to tell the jury Lipscomb had done nothing wrong. "I am dismayed at Ron Kirk's backing of Al Lipscomb," one person wrote. Another wrote: "I lost a great deal of respect for [Kirk] when he testified that Mr. Lipscomb couldn't have done anything wrong. Is [sic] he and other council members that naive? And, whatever happened to his wife taking the job with Hicks?"

A common theme among the people who sent in comments was that the rest of the council probably didn't call for Lipscomb's resignation because they are guilty of similar stuff themselves. The comments frequently included descriptions of the city as "saturated with corruption" and plagued by "corruption on all fronts."

In this landscape of slime, Miller looks clean. She and Blumer. They stand out. They offer hope.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze