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Who ya gonna call?

Page 6 of 10

But mostly, Bartlett calls his long-time political advisors and mentors--the informal kitchen cabinet that he's had with him for years.

Wealthy oilman-developer Ray Hunt's four lieutenants, key players in Dallas civic affairs, are well-represented in Bartlett's mobile phone records. Bartlett placed 47 calls last year to John Scovell, Walt Humann, Dan Petty and, most of all, Jim Oberwetter, who chaired Bartlett's mayoral campaign.

Bartlett made 70 calls to his top political advisor, Mike Lindley, a consultant to him since 1977, who managed his 1991 mayoral campaign. Next on the mayor's mobile-phone popularity list was Jeanne Johnson, with 43 calls; she's worked as a political consultant to him for a decade. "We just talk through issues with him," explained Lindley. "We're the long-time political advisors."

Chamber of Commerce executives received a mere 24 calls.
And, in perhaps the only truly startling revelation, Bartlett called Meridian Products, the far North Dallas factory he owns--the source of his livelihood, the bread and butter for his table--only 27 times last year.

No wonder his wife works.
Sandra Crenshaw
This councilwoman has no shame.

Councilwoman Sandra Crenshaw seems to spend every free moment in her day on her mobile phone, racking up as many as 736 calls a month--an average of 25 a day, and a third as many calls as Mayor Bartlett and his two drivers make in a year.

Many of the calls are apparently personal. There are many long, leisurely calls, for example, to people like former Grand Prairie councilman Ed Hemphill, an ex-boyfriend of Crenshaw who she says has remained a close friend.

"I take the phone with me wherever I go," she says. "Even if I'm in meetings."

She's not kidding. When I called her last Friday at 8 p.m. on her mobile phone to discuss her phone habits, Crenshaw was not at home. She was at a friend's house, juicing up her city mobile phone with a battery pack. The phone was left on, mind you, so that she could receive calls. For the 30 minutes that we talked, she sat inches away from the phone, which she left cradled in its battery charger, and literally screamed into the phone.

That's obsession.
"I don't think anybody else is on the phone as much as I am. You take a CPA, for instance," she screamed, referring to councilman Bob Stimson. "Most of his activity is in an office--versus the activities that I'm involved in. I do more community meetings, more council meetings. And my district is 69 square miles and 17 miles long so I probably do more mileage than most councilmembers."

Yes, most of this mobile-phone activity is included in the $75 flat rate. And since Crenshaw's life revolves around city hall--she's all but given up her former livelihood as a political consultant and is without a steady income--she has the time to sit on her mobile phone day in and day out, chatting away. Her phone bills from one year rank up there with the thickest of the bunch--372 pages.

Clearly, no one enjoys the mobile-phone perk more than Sandra Crenshaw.
But there are costs to her phone obsession.
First, she makes a habit of calling directory assistance on a regular basis, costing taxpayers an extra 60 cents a clip. Others, such as Donna Blumer, never do it. Councilwoman Donna Halstead does it, but she scrupulously reimburses the city. Crenshaw calls directory assistance up to 22 times a month, then often has the number automatically dialed--instead of doing it herself--racking up an extra charge of 15 cents. This habit adds up to relative peanuts, but it's a wastefulness that Crenshaw would surely avoid if footing the bill herself.

Where Crenshaw really costs taxpayers money is with her habit of taking her phone with her when she goes on city-paid trips out of town--and she goes on them often. Councilmembers say Crenshaw is the master of the political junket. A free trip? A taxpaid excursion? She's outta here--with her mobile phone.

Most councilmembers--Bob Stimson and Barbara Mallory are notable exceptions--never take their mobile phones with them on trips.

"It saves me a quarter," Crenshaw explained, searching for an example that did not cost the city any money. "When I come back from out of town, I can call someone to come pick me up at the airport."

In fact, Crenshaw's out-of-town phone use does cost the city money.
Last year, Crenshaw took her Dallas mobile phone with her to New York, Baltimore, Washington, Austin, Killeen, Hillsboro, Athens, Shreveport, New Orleans, Henderson, and Tyler.

"I probably do a lot more travel than other councilmembers for personal development," Crenshaw says, admitting that this personal development usually comes on the taxpayers' dime. "I go to workshops, conferences, and conventions--to learn about different issues."

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Laura Miller

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