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Who ya gonna call?

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Stimson did write one reimbursement check to the city in March 1994 for $7.77 in long-distance charges. He didn't write a check again until January 1995, four days after I requested his mobile phone records. This time the check was for $48.17--for personal calls he made on trips during January, April, and November 1994. That includes the New Mexico trip plus subsequent trips to Houston, Austin, and Killeen.

If Stimson wins the Better Late Than Never Award, he also wins the Heckuva Nice Guy Award. The number-one recipient of mobile phone calls from Stimson last year--317 of them--was a former Oak Cliff neighbor of his named Agnes Bates. A sweet 83-year-old World War II widow who never remarried, Ms. Bates now lives alone and in failing health in an apartment house in Oak Cliff. "Bob's a fine person," she told me. "He calls me every morning and every night from the car to check on me. He worries about me so."

Charlotte Mayes has the habit of calling directory assistance for numbers readily available for free in the phone book--those of places such as Toys 'R Us, Frigidaire repair service, Mont-gomery Ward, Best Buy, and the International House of Pancakes. She also has a habit of mashing the button that automatically dials the number for a small extra charge. She particularly loves to call IHOP and the Owens Country Sausage restaurant in Mesquite--perhaps their breakfast sausage changes daily.

Larry Duncan's mobile-phone use is as low-key as you would expect from the populist from Pleasant Grove. He doesn't make a lot of calls. He does not call directory assistance. He mainly calls his council office and his home, where he bases his private business. Duncan uses his mobile phone to call constituents (good to see somebody does). And he also regularly calls Cliff's Printing, which does his council mailings, district newsletters, and stationery.

He also likes Pizza Hut.
Donna Halstead is the reimburser. She reimburses the city for all her charges, including the $75 flat fee, in checks issued by her well-known campaign chairman, Ray Hunt lieutenant Dan Petty.

It is good that Halstead pays her full mobile phone bill each month because it would certainly raise the hackles of some of her conservative North Dallas constituents if she didn't. Of the councilmembers, her bill is easily the most amusing to review, with calls to Bifano Furs, the NorthPark Neiman Marcus, the Royal Oaks Country Club, and Chiarelli's hair salon.

Halstead's mobile phone only proves what her fellow councilmembers have long said about her--that she's a faithful vote for Ray Hunt and his varied interests, such as a new sports arena. It's no accident that Petty is her campaign chairman. She also called Petty 44 times at his office and home.

More intriguing, however, is Halstead's deep and abiding phone connection with public-relations guru Lisa LeMaster. LeMaster is the spin doctor extraordinaire, who Ray Hunt himself favors to handle touchy matters, such as the Pinnacle Park auto racetrack. Halstead called LeMaster on her mobile phone 96 times last year.

Halstead's only other telling phone connections are to three major Republican figures from her area of Lake Highlands, from whom she seeks frequent counsel: Dallas County Judge Lee Jackson, former Dallas city councilman Dean Vanderbilt, and 101st State District Court Judge Jay Patterson. Halstead used her mobile phone to dial the three men 218 times last year.

Finally, Halstead adores directory assistance--more than any other councilmember. She let operators do the walking 116 times last year.

For all his squeamishness about the release of his phone bills, Craig McDaniel's mobile-phone bills are distinctly unrevealing.

His favorite numbers are those of his council office (where, like Sandra Crenshaw and Chris Luna, he is based full-time), his partner and roommate Ron Ruggless, and fellow councilmember Luna--McDaniel's political mentor and the man most likely to influence his vote.

Chris Luna, like Halstead, reimburses the taxpayers for his entire mobile phone bill. Like Halstead, he pays for it out of his campaign account. In fact, it was only last July that Luna even began using a city phone. Before that, he had his own mobile phone, which cost him about $200 a month; he paid for it with personal and campaign funds.

"I wish I could say it was some great altruistic reason that I don't have the taxpayers paying for my mobile phone bill, but it's just plain old laziness because I don't want to have to sit down and separate all the city calls from the personal ones," Luna told me last week, speaking on his mobile phone.

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Laura Miller

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