Schutze

The Lone Mitchell

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"Let me tell you what has really ticked me off," Rasansky told me. "You can check back on city council tapes. At least a dozen times in the last year, year and a half, there's always this money being spent out of the $246 million bond issue.

"I keep asking, 'Now if we approve this, are we going to have enough money for the bridges?' And every time, [Assistant City Manager] Jill Jordan answers, 'Yes,' or [Assistant City Manager] Ramon [Miguez] or [City Manager] Mary [Suhm] says, 'Yes, we have enough money.'

"And guess what! We don't have enough money. So I'm incensed that they..." He paused. "I don't want to use the word deceived. That's bad. That they did not have their facts together the 10 or 12 times that I asked the question. I guess that's the nice thing to say."

There's no question Rasansky's right, as far as he goes. The initial round of bids for the first Calatrava bridge came in at twice what the city had budgeted. And it's the small one. The next two are hanging out there in the fiscal ozone.

But once you open the Pandora's box on the Trinity River Project, you can't stop with the bridges. I don't mean to condescend, but I don't get the impression even Rasansky understands fully where this goes. The vast majority of the public probably do not understand yet the degree to which the whole project has been hijacked to fund that freeway/toll road, whatever it's going to be.

Once you lift the lid on that discussion, I think you have a major excoriation of the city's longtime traditional leadership on your hands. And I'll be there with a folding chair and popcorn to watch. But then my tastes in entertainment are a little twisted.

None of this happens without a very nasty fight first to shun and silence Rasansky. The first move, probably under development as we speak, will be some down-and-dirty swiftboating. A major effort will be mounted to paint Rasansky as a crank.

I even asked one of the city's leading political consultants last week if she thought Rasansky would be painted by his detractors as a Max Goldblatt--the Pleasant Grove hardware store owner, gadfly and certified crank who came within a whisker of forcing incumbent Mayor A. Starke Taylor into a runoff in 1985. Goldblatt's entire platform consisted of championing a Disney-style monorail transit system for Dallas.

But the consultant had never heard of Max Goldblatt. It occurred to me later that when Goldblatt was wrapping up his run for mayor, the consultant probably was wrapping up what I bet was a very successful year of kindergarten. So I guess Rasansky's probably safe on the Goldblatt thing.

But he will be painted as "Mad Mitch," the one in every 14-to-1 vote on the council, the lone wolf, the outrider. I hope they do it. I'll be there with my chair and my refreshments for that one, too, because I think a campaign like that will get him elected mayor.

I talked to Carol Reed, who ran the campaigns of former Mayor Ron Kirk and is running the campaign for the citywide bond program now. She said Dallas has a way of going for the man or the woman alone on a horse on a hill.

It's what Ron Kirk was when he ran for mayor in 1995. When Laura Miller ran to fill Kirk's unexpired second term in 2002, she wore her outsider status like a tiara. Reed told me Dallas goes for the brave loner, as long as the brave loner has something to say.

"People want you to stand up and say what you think," she said. "Say, 'This is a dumb idea,' or 'This is a great idea.' At least stand up and be counted."

Rasansky knows that nobody on the current city council is going to support him in an effort to put the bridges before the voters. "The vote's going to be 14-1," he said. "They're scared to death.

"Thank goodness I make a nice living. I don't depend on anybody for funding my campaign or anything like that."

I think he will run for mayor. Somebody will slime him. That will make him run for sure. And he will run on this issue of a vote by the people on the Trinity project.

I remember Goldblatt. Mainly I remember that the stupid monorail damn near got him elected mayor. I think the monorail was one thing people at least could understand, out of a mumble-talking, never-look-you-in-the-eye City Hall with its hat pulled down and its hands in its pockets.

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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