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Pulse OF THE City

By D Magazine |

Tex Moncrief, GOP Hero

Republicans get ready to %ore the IRS.

Fort Worth oilman W. A. “Tex” Moncrief could become the poster boy for this fall’s expected GOP assault on the 1RS, a campaign that some conservatives hope will result in a radical restructuring of the agency-or its outright death.

Earlier this year, Moncrief gave impassioned congressional testimony, denouncing the September, 1994, raid by 64 armed agents on his business office. After appearing before a committee investigating alleged 1RS abuses, Moncrief called the $23 million he paid to settle the case “extortion.”

In late June, House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R.-Irving) prefigured the Republican strategy when he allowed that political fallout from the raid on Moncrief could doom the nomination of U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins-who approved the surprise strike-to become a federal judge. “If I were he,” Armey said the day after Texas congressional Democrats submitted Coggins’ name to President Clinton. “I would not be packing my bags.”

If that IRS-bashing theme strikes the expected responsive chord among prospective voters, say GOP strategists, expect denunciations of the raid to be a Republican campaign leitmotif.

School Investigation Lurches Forward

Feds call district executives before “Harden” grand jury.

The Dallas schools’ recent scandal-ridden past continues to haunt the district’s surviving administrators.

With their former superintendent, Yvonne Gonzalez, doing federal time for embezzlement, and a former DISD roofing inspector, James Hargrave, agreeing to testify against unnamed top-level school adminstrators in a federal kickback scheme case, the executives’ peace of mind was further undermined in late June when a pair of FBI agents came calling at 3700 Ross Ave. to hand-deliver a sheaf of federal subpoenas to senior personnel.

Each commanded the recipient’s appearance before what quickly is becoming known at headquarters as the Matthew Harden grand jury, so named for the former district CFO who resigned his post under a cloud of suspicion and accusation last March.

“I heard they were handing out the subpoenas like candy,” said schoolboard member Roxann Staff.

To What Lengths Will She Go?

A staged confrontation ?Hi departing City Manager John Ware is being seen by some political pros as ta opening salvo ii Laura Miller’s campaign for mayor.

Miller showed up fop a scheduled June 9th meeting with Ware, trailing a gaggle of local TV reporters, and artfully playing to citizen outrage over Ware’s recent announcement that he ?il cut lis city post to form a new company with mega-investor Tom Hicks. Ware represented the city ii negotiations with Hicks aid others to build the new Dallas sports arena, which ?as approved by voters ii January.

Oak Cliff residents voted heavily in favor of the arena and the Trinity bond issue in May, the two most important items on Mayor Hon Kirk’s agenda. If Oak Cliff. which Miter carried in May with 90% of the vote, were to be equally supportive of a may-aral bid-and if she could gamer support from the same voters who opposed both the mayor’s initiatives-Miter conceivably could squeeze out a win.

“That’s sheer fantasy.” huffs Kit political advisor Carol Reed.

Miter discounted the speculation, too. “I have no plans but to try to figure out my current job.” she says.

I’m From the Government…

.. .and I’m here to help you.

TUNNED BY THE HUGE JUMP [N YOUR recent property appraisal?

You may think the man to blame is Mike Matkin, this year’s chairman of the Central Appraisal District Review Board, whose signature appears, pro forma, on the so-called determination letters sent to those who’ve appealed their appraisals. Matkin, however, is an innocent appointee, one of sixty such volunteer board members who are paid from $50 to $150 a day to arbitrate property owners’ assessment appeals.

The real authority behind this year’s appraisal jumps is Foy Mitchell Jr., director of the appraisal district, as well as its chief appraiser, who hopes taxpayers realize he means nothing personal by jacking up their taxable net assets.

“Our job is not to get the value as high as we possibly can,” says Mitchell. “We get no bonus for bringing in too much value.”

Mitchell and his 248 employees are directly responsible for assigning dollar values to about one million parcels of Dallas County property. In May, new appraisals were mailed to 643,282 residential and commercial property owners. The overall rise pushed the county tax rolls to more than $100 billion, a record.

Nine questions with Mitchell:

How many people hare complained so far?

“We’ve had around 48.000 protests in all,” says Mitchell. “There have been 44,268 phone calls, 7,107 walk-ins, and about 15,000 informal hearings. About 20,000 cases have gone to the review board.”

Is that a lot?

“No. It’s the lighest response we’ve ever had. Last year, when we sent out about 500,000 notices, we had 51,090 responses. When people have disposable income and things are going good, they don’t resent paying taxes so much.”

What’s the most common challenge to an appraisal?

“It’s pretty varied. I had a guy one time who said he had ghosts in his house. As a result, no one wanted to buy it.”

Did you cut him a break?

“No. We’re not experts in the paranormal. His house looked okay to us.”

How often do challenges succeed?

“If you bring in documentation, about 60% of the time. We instruct people in how to be successful at it.”

What’s the average amount of the reduction?

“I’d say about $5,000 for the average home.”

How about your house?

“I don’t live in the district, on purpose.”

Are the protesters ever violent?

“Usually they’re nervous. We try to put them at ease. We’re like ol’ Jack Webb. We just want the facts.”

No one’s ever shown up waving a gun?

“Knock on wood. Nor in all my 17 years here have we ever had to throw anyone out of the office. One time I remember someone threw a paperweight or something. We just had our attorneys write him a nice little letter, saying, ’If you do that again, we’re going to the DA. Don’t do that.’”



A pun is the lowest form of wit, It does not tax the brain a bit. – Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

Had the celebrated Dr. Johnson been forced to read A.H. Belo’s flagship daily, his take on the ignoble pun surely would have been even surlier. Morning howls of anguish and indigestion have risen up from breakfast tables ail around Dallas over these recent Morning News headlines and captions.

How the Drive-in Restaurant was Born

Curbside Kirby.

From the early 1920s until the air-conditioning boom in the 1950s, the drive-in restaurant was Dallas’ favorite hangout on sultry summer evenings, thanks to Jesse G. Kirby, a local candy and tobacco salesman. With financial backing from Dr. Reuben W. Jackson, a local physician, Kirby opened the Pig Stand, the first drive-in restaurant in the United States, on the old Fort Worth Pike on the west side of town.

Kirby hired teenaged boys to

hop on the running boards of cars pulling up to the curb to deliver barbecued pork sandwiches and cold soda pop. The terms “carhop” and “curb service,” evolving from the modus operandi of Kirby and his imitators, became firmly ingrained in the pop culture jargon of mainstream America.

By the mid-20s, Kirby had opened Pig Stands on N. Zang, E. Grand, Greenville, Maple, and McKinney. During World War II, females replaced the male carhops and they proved so popular with the hom-honking set, the women were impossible to dislodge at war’s end. According to local legend, the fried onion ring was born when a cook at a Dal las Pig Stand accidentally dropped an onion ring in a vat of chicken-fried steak batter.

After Kirby’s death in 1926, Dr. Jackson took over the chain, except for No. 4 on Greenville Ave., which the Kirby family held onto and later converted to Kirby’s Charcoal Steaks, which became another Dallas institution. The Pig Stand chain expanded throughout Texas then across the country from Florida to California.

The last Pig Stand in Dallas. No. 50 at the corner of Abrams and Northwest Highway, closed in 1985, the victim of high rent and changing tastes.

The Unexpected Texan

Dallas’ eccentric expatriate holy man.

hOak Cliff neighborhood remember Raymond

Angona as a slender, intelligent and highly spiritual kid. An altar boy at St. Cecilia’s Catholic church, Ray used to lead discussions of religion and the meaning of life among his fellow members on the Bishop Dunn high school football team,

“Ray was like a magnet to people ” says family friend Ann Davis.

“He kind of marched to a different drummer.”

It was therefore no great surprise to Davis that likable Ray Angona, now 51, recently popped up as the enigmatic Charan Das, a wandering ascetic who speaks in the first-person plural, in the on-line pages of Salon Magazine.

Freelancer Anne Cushman’s piece, entitled, “The Saddhu From Texas,” opens on a cold 1985 November night in Santa Fe, N.M., with Angona, a total stranger, | arriving unannounced at Cushman’s door. “He was barefoot,” she writes. “He wore only a swath of brown cotton around his waist and a brown wool shawl. A sharp wind fluttered his matted dreadlocks.”

Angona’s unlikely journey oui of North America’s capita) of conspicuous consumption to a peripatetic life as a Hindu Saddhu, a sort of monk without a monastery, began in earnest in 1969 with a trip to India following graduation from UT-Austin.

He has since been seldom seen in the United States. There was a year spent studying neurochemistry at the University of Rochester, and a brief marriage-his wife told his mother, Angela Angona, . that Ray was “a sweet spiritual man,” but that she just couldn’t live with him. Otherwise, Charan Das has spent much of his time pursuing his religious education in the holy Indian city of Benares, sometimes living in a cave.

In 1996, he came home to Dallas for Christmas, and to celebrate his 50th birthday with his family, including his younger sisters Patti and Kay. The Saddhu was last seen headed for somewhere in Russia.

Long accustomed to her son’s long absences, and resigned to his silences, Angela Angona says she no longer worries whether Raymond is okay.

“I just give him to God,” she says. “He takes care of him.”

Looking Back

Faith and females in the Dallas past.

Three new volumes of local history recently have arrived from two Texas university presses.

TCU Press has issued A Light in the Prairie, a history of Temple Emanu-EI, the first and most prominent Jewish congregation in North Texas.

Author Gerry Cristol, the archivist at Emanu-EI since 1973, traces the Jewish settlement of Dallas to 1858 and the advent of Alexander Simon, a dry-goods merchant in partnership with the brothers Walter and William Caruth.

Cristal then follows her congregation’s fortunes as they built temples first on lower Commerce, then South Ervay, and finally Harwood, before settling at Emanu-EI’s present site, 17.7 acres at the intersection of Hillcrest

and Northwest Highway, purchased from the Caruth family in the 1950s.

From Texas A&M Press comes two histories of Dallas women. Pauline Periwinkle and Progressive Reform in Dallas, by Jacquelyn Masur McElhaney, focuses on the career of reformer Isadore Miner Callaway, a turn-of-

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\par }}neer days of Margaret Beeman Bryan, the future metropolis’ First white female resident. Enstam goes on to explore women’s contributions to Dallas’ growth and development up to Texas’s ratification of the 19th Amendment-universal suffrage- nearly 80 years later.

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