And Now, Introducing The New, New CCA
Apparently, reports of the death of the Dallas establishment have been greatly exaggerated. In early September, about 60 of the city’s most prominent business leaders emerged from exile and gathered at (you guessed it) the Dallas Petroleum Club to discuss (you guessed it) how the business community could return to its former prominence in city politics.
The faces were as predictable as the rhetoric. Former Mayor Erik Jonsson, John Stemmons, Tom Unis, and Dallas Citizens Council head Alex Bickley were there to represent the older generation of civic leadership. Former Chamber chairman Dave Fox, Mercantile Bank chairman Gene Bishop, and Cullum Companies head Jack Evans spoke for the so-called New Guard. The discussion centered on next spring’s city elections, specifically on rumors that at least six members of the current council – including, at the time, Mayor Robert Folsom – were planning to retire. With the Citizens Charter Association dead, the businessmen were worried that they could easily lose their customary voting majority on the council.
Unis, the former head of the CCA, outlined a plan of action. True, he said, the CCA is dead; and there’s certainly no sense in trying to revive it. But we can do the next best thing: Create a business-funded, citywide political action committee. The PAC could not only provide campaign help to business-oriented mayoral and at-large council candidates, but could aid district-level PAC’s, like Herschel Brown’s organization in East Dallas.
The proposal drew approving nods from most of the older businessmen, but several of the younger ones had some questions. Stark Taylor, the cotton entrepreneur who engineered Folsom’s upset of Garry Weber in 1976, warned the group that such a committee would likely be perceived as a “new, new CCA” by the public and press. In that event, it would be the kiss of death for its endorsees, regardless of the size of its campaign coffers. Unis and several other older leaders agreed, but said, “That’s the risk we’re going to have to take.”
Image may turn out to be the least of the business community’s problems with the PAC proposal. Political action committees have proved to be an effective weapon for businessmen in state and national political races: Essentially, they serve as “laundries” for corporate donations, which are prohibited by federal law. But at the city level, a PAC would have no more clout than an individual donor: The new city election code limits any person or organization from giving a single candidate more than $500. That means the proposed business community PAC could put only a puny $5500 into next spring’s elections, regardless of how much it raised.
At least one principal in the September meeting realizes that problem, but says the businessmen plan to start lobbying the city council soon to loosen the restrictions. That should be plenty interesting to watch, particularly since Folsom could benefit greatly from such an election code revision. In the meantime, it appears that the businessmen will proceed with setting up the PAC, to the extent of hiring a full-time executive director. Even if they arelimited in their activity in city elections, itsleaders say they will consider pouringPAC money into school board and bondelections. As one participant in the September gathering said: “With the demise of the CCA, we didn’t want people to think the business community wasn’t interested in the city any more.” -Jim Atkinson
Power Shifts On Fort Worth Council
It seemed like a wise enough political move last May when Fort Worth Mayor Hugh Parmer tried to extend his own influence by backing candidates in the state legislative races in Tarrant County. He had already assembled a formidable political machine for his own election in 1976. Why not use it to send his friends to Austin?
But now Parmer finds himself facing a run for his own political life.
Among the candidates Parmer pledged to back in the legislative primaries last spring was Jewel Woods, wife of Partner’s staunchest city council ally, Woodie Woods.
Mrs. Woods filed to run against former Mayor Pro Tern Margret Rimmer, a longtime enemy of both Parmer and Woods. But soon after Mrs. Woods filed for office, a court ordered a redistricting plan put into effect in the county, and Mrs. Woods was no longer in the same district with Mrs. Rimmer. Instead, Mrs. Woods found herself facing incumbent State Rep. Tom Schieffer, a friend of Partner’s. As soon as this happened, the mayor recalled Mrs. Woods’s keys to the Parmer machine, and she was left out in the cold. Schieffer beat her easily.
This didn’t sit well with husband Woodie, who for years had consistently supported Parmer’s every move in the council chambers. Now Woods plans to oppose Parmer for re-election.
So now Parmer has two chances to lose. Woods and Parmer both draw their support from the same “anti-establishment” element in Fort Worth politics. Woods will undoubtedly split the mayor’s support and could easily force Parmer into a runoff with a third candidate. If that candidate is a well-financed establishment contender, he could probably better afford a runoff than Parmer.
But even if Parmer survives the election, he faces another unpleasant prospect. Parmer’s power at city hall stems from his control of five votes of the nine-member council. One of those votes is Woods’s. Parmer’s enemies are already sizing up the council seat Woods will have to vacate to run for mayor. Mayor Pro Tem Jim Bradshaw, Parmer’s arch rival on the council, seems confident that his side can fill Woods’s seat. If that happens, Partner will become politically toothless in a hurry, even if re-elected mayor. Bradshaw, who for two years has led the minority faction on the council, is looking for revenge.
“I can hardly wait to see that bastard’s face,” says Bradshaw, “the first time the new council takes a vote on something and Parmer realizes we’ve got the five votes and he’s got the four.”
– Rowland Stiteler
If You Drink, Don’t Drive (Except in Fort Worth)
If you sometimes take one too many drinks before getting behind the wheel, you might consider moving to Tarrant County.
In the last three years, a total of 11 felony DWI (driving while intoxicated) cases have been filed in Tarrant County. During that same three-year period, Dallas County prosecutors filed 2,928 charges. Last year alone, 948 persons were convicted of felony DWI in Dallas County. While Dallas County is not quite twice as populous as Tarrant, Dallas prosecutors have filed roughly 266 times as many felony DWI cases as their counterparts to the west in the last three years.
The reason is a basic difference in philosophy toward dealing with DWI violators, Tarrant officials say. In Dallas and many other counties, repeat DWI offenders are charged with felony DWI, while first offenders customarily get hit only with misdemeanor charges. A felony can draw an offender a prison sentence, while the misdemeanor charge means only a possible county jail stretch and a fine.
Tarrant County officials, however, file misdemeanor charges even for repeat offenders. When Tarrant County Judge Mike Moncrief questioned the county’s policy toward drunken drivers recently, county legal adviser Marvin Collins explained that the district attorney’s staff placed more emphasis on getting repeat offenders into “rehabilitation programs” than on putting them behind bars.
Collins also said there is a tendency in many of the small municipalities in Tarrant County (there are 37) for police officers to charge a drunken driver with public drunkenness instead of DWI. The county collects the fine for a DWI charge, because that offense violates state law. But public drunkenness is usually covered by city ordinances, so the fine money goes to the municipality in which the driver was arrested. The driver gets a bargain, since the public drunkenness charge doesn’t affect his insurance rates, as a DWI charge would.
OFF THE RECORD
● Look for something called the Fridaygroup to become a behind-the-scenespower in city politics. Composed of 25 to40 business leaders, the group has beenmeeting every other Friday for the pasttwo months to discuss city politics “informally.” Membership of the group hasvaried thus far, but we hear it’s beingspearheaded by Dallas Citizens Councilhead Alex Bickley, Chamber chairmanDave Fox, and United National BankPresident Ted Strauss.
● Been noticing a lot of new bylines inthe Times Herald lately? That’s becausethe paper’s newsroom door has been revolving almost non-stop for the past year or so. The mass departures, according to some observers, are the result of back-biting and heavy politicking on the metropolitan desk. Seems the Herald may have hired more hot-shots than it had room for. Whatever the reasons for the exodus, it has depleted the paper’s star-studded reportorial staff. Among the most notable departures are investigative reporter Hugh Aynesworth, who went to ABC News; Howard Swindle, who went to the Dallas Morning News; and John Bloom, perhaps the best pure writer the paper had, who departed for greener pastures at Texas Monthly. ● Several months ago, the Morning News attempted to buy star sports columnist Blackie Sherrod away from the Times Herald. When the Herald outbid them, Morning News officials decided to import some talent to compete with Sher-rod. The result of their search is Skip Bayless, a 27-year-old sports reporter from the Los Angeles Times. With the title “lead columnist,” he’ll get a heavier paycheck than any of the veterans already writing sports columns at the News. Does this mean columnist Sam Blair is out to pasture? “Well,” says executive sports editor Walt Robertson, “this will give Sam more time for administrative and editing work.”
● One of the first things Superintendent-designate Linus Wright will have to face is a plea from the Classroom Teachers of Dallas against “incentive” pay to teachers in the East Oak Cliff subdistrict. CTD president Ada Williams says the planned $10,000 in cash awards to teachers for good performance is nothing more than a repackaging of merit pay – the bane of all efforts to gain collective bargaining rights. The East Oak Cliff subdistrict, established in 1976 by court order, is considered by many teachers the least desirable assignment; the reward system is intended to keep teachers there and improve student achievement. “We’ll have to battle it,” says Mrs. Williams. “I’m anxious to talk with Linus about that.” CTD claims a strong membership among the 1100 teachers in East Oak Cliff and about half the city’s total 6000 teachers.
● Dallas-Fort Worth Airport Board members who have been trying to lure American Airlines’ headquarters to the airport say airline officials are adamant about one point. They may agree to move near DFW, but the airline will not move onto the airport property. Reason: General Telephone has exclusive rights to serve the airport. American officials insist on using Southwestern Bell service, which they could get by locating a few hundred yards west.
● First the Dallas Tornado soccer club hired new player-personnel director Francisco Marcos, a Portuguese native with scads of contacts in the international player market. Then Kyle Rote Jr. was suddenly and surprisingly sold. Which has led to conjecture that the Tornado 1s at last abandoning its devotion to developing American talent, which has never done them much good in the NASL standings. Not so, say Tornado officials; Marcos is closely affiliated with American soccer and devoted to the cause. The difference, they say, will be an end to the predominance of British players and an increase in other nationalities on the roster. The Yanks, they say, will stay; the Limeys will go.
● Collectors say a 1976 Jimmy Cartercampaign button now brings $10 on thenostalgia market. Apparently someonefeels that same trend will affect “Billy”beer. Shortly after Pearl Brewing Co. discontinued the beer, Dallas liquor storesstarted selling all they could find. Sigel’sLiquor Stores went to El Paso to obtainthe last of the Billy, which sold out assoon as it was put on the shelves here.
● The special section craze that has sweptthrough both Dallas daily newspapers hasspread to Fort Worth. The Fort WorthStar-Telegram has started two special sections, one for Arlington and one fornortheast Tarrant County. The sectionswill run Wednesdays in about 60,000papers.
● You might want to keep your eyes andears on a band called Werewolves. TheWerewolves kicked around the Dallas barcircuit for several years before beingpicked up by producer Andrew Oldham (a former producer of the Stones) and they’re being pushed hard. Their first album for RCA was a moderate success. Their second, scheduled for November release, is an oddity – it was recorded at sea, when Oldham spirited the band off into the Caribbean on a cruiser outfitted with a recording studio. Another Dallas-based band of note is on the LP trail. Phyerwerk, formerly the highly-regarded Pyramyd, has recently released an album on Mercury Records and is back on the Dallas nightclub circuit.
● Yet another Dallas-based publication: Teleido-letler, published by Sherry Ann Lynch and Dudley Lynch of Richardson, is to be a ten-times-a-year newsletter whose “mission is to report authoritatively on the changing world of creativity.” The first issue reports, among other things, a psychologist’s findings about what frustrates creativity, how Texas Instruments promotes creativity, and a business consultant’s advice on managing creativity.
● You can’t blame Mr. and Mrs. JohnBartley of New Orleans for being confused. Their copy of the October D Magazine listed the current goings on atthe Met (La Traviata), the Met (MasterDrawings of Five Centuries), and theMets (vs. St. Louis), but had nothingwhatever to say about the Cowboys or theRangers. Odd, they thought. Upon closerexamination, they discovered that theydidn’t have a D Magazine at all, but acoverless copy of New York with ourcover taped onto the front. Maybe the next Teleido-letter will give a creativity award tothe United States Postal Service.
And Now, Introducing The New, New CCA