Wednesday, July 6, 2022 Jul 6, 2022
83° F Dallas, TX


By Chris Tucker |

You’ve just moved into your new neighborhood, and you’ve been meeting some dandy folks with the most eclectic interests. One man is wild about his company lacrosse team. One fiftyish lady just insisted that you see her collection of bronze-dipped scarab beetles. And a very friendly fellow, who really seemed normal in many respects, revealed after a drink or two around the grill that he was interested in politics! Yes, politics! Even knew which, uh, precinct he lived in. Said something about Dallas’s having a woman for mayor. Talked on and on about writing his senator-a state senator, yet, about some kind of school reform bill they used to have. What an interesting bunch of people!

We’re stretching it a bit, but not much. Suffice to say that one can lead a long and happy life in Dallas without manning the phone banks, licking envelopes, or turning out for those election-eve vigils that can become beery wakes or ecstatic affirmations according to the whims of a handful of voters. There is no intellectual or social disgrace attached to the failure to vote or to know the slightest thing about Dallas politics, so relax. Annette Strauss, who promised to be mayor of all the people, is actually mayor of 56 percent of the 24.8 percent of registered voters who deigned to roll to the polls last April 18. That’s all of 61,978 souls.

And is that so bad? Perhaps not. Optimists might label it a sign of civic health, a gut feeling in the body politic that things are going to turn out pretty nicely whether it’s heads or tails on election day. Maybe this is not apathy, but deep-seated contentment.

Whatever the reasons, it’s clear that Dallas does not much like politics, and we regard the practitioners of that dark art as just one sewer down from grave-robbers- “professional” politicians, that is. You’ll hear that familiar devil-word hurled around at election time. When the inexperienced Jim Buerger (see Millionaire Mayoral Candidates, 1987) was lambasted for political virginity, he turned the slur to his credit, admitting, indeed boasting, that he was no back-room, stogie-munching professional politician (spit twice when you say that).

What we do like, however, is our tradition of the Gentleman Volunteer. It has a kind of Washington-Jefferson gentility about it, really noblesse oblige, this idea of the concerned millionaire who serves the people while retaining his or her roots in the real world beyond City Hall. It’s a pretty notion, it’s given us very efficient government, and we’re not much bothered that it usually limits public service to the wealthy or the self-employed. No marching throngs fill the streets to demand better pay for the council ($50 per meeting) or the state legislature (about $600 per month). Annette Strauss did say she would favor a teeny increase in council pay to help broaden representation, but even a tenfold increase would only kick salaries up to around $24,000 per year, hardly enough to kindle dreams of opulence.

Anyway, if you’re new here, you’ve come at a good time. We just finished an election in April (Strauss won remember), so there’s nothing to fee guilty about not voting for unti November of 1987. In the meantime should you be cornered by a politica animal (as rare as the Amish, but not so easy to spot), just nod politely and mumble these buzzwords before escaping to the hors d’oeuvres.

1. Single-member districts. Don’tget bogged down in the details. Justsay something about “sweepingchanges” and you’ll be okay.

2. The Old North Dallas Oligarchy(sometimes called the Bent TreeMafia, Citizens Council, shadowypower-brokers, etc.). Even if you’dkill to be part of the ONDO, they’re abit out of fashion, so grant that theymade the trains run on time and mugwump it from there. Drop the namesof “Uncle Bob” Thornton, who said,as snooze-inducing editorialists loveto remind us, “Keep the dirt flying”and Robert Folsom (he has enemies,so knit your brow and look concerned). End up with the Raker Metaphor-“lots more players at the tablenow”-or the Inevitable GrowingPains bromide.

3. Partisan Politics. We have two main parties in Dallas, the Democrats and the Republicans. Both are probably listed in the phone book. But when it comes to city politics, we cluck, frown, and generally deplore “injecting” (the sinister verb of choice) party politics into our hitherto pristine doings. When you get the hang of it, you’ll want to loss in dark warnings about the coming of “Ward politics,” which has nothing to do with reruns of “Leave It to Beaver,” or, even worse, “Chicago-style” politics, which could follow a few more injections of that ol” partisan poison. Someone might ask what you mean by “Chicago-style,” so be ready to name a few of the group’s hit songs- “Saturday in the Park,” etc. Eventually someone will say, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and the talk will drift to daylight savings time or someone will remember the babysitter. And that should put an end to that topic.