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Good News Dallas
by Special to    Thu, Dec 22, 2005, 03:15 PM

William D. Elliott
Three recent, yet disparate, events occurred illustrating a point about Dallas Mayor Laura Miller. While there are many events to select from Laura’s Miller’s life from which to draw comparisons of all types, these three episode were juxtaposed quite neatly to illustrate the point that Laura Miller has introduced gender equality into Dallas politics. Prior to Laura Miller, only men engaged in the type of foolishness that marked shabby political behavior in Dallas. Now, Laura Miller has engaged in political tactics formerly unknown to local female politicians. No longer can it be said that Dallas female politicians are the fairer sex.

The first event occurred at the corral area of my cattle ranch up near Sherman last Saturday morning. My cowboys and I were standing around talking about our agenda items and life in general. One of the guys was discussing a high-profile woman politician/office holder whose behavior and judgment were being characterized as goofy. One of my younger cowboys whom I employ, not especially known for following newspapers or political stores, particularly from Dallas, said to me, "That lady [referring to the local woman politician who is drawing controversy] is just as crazy and goofy as that crazy mayor of yours in Dallas. What’s her name?"

"You mean Laura Miller?," I said. "Yea, that’s her," my friend said.

"She's not my mayor." I responded.

This story illustrates how much Laura Miller’s reputation has deteriorated among a broad cross-section of voters. By her aggressive behavior as mayor, and her willingness to engage in a rough brand of politics, and earning a general reputation for slick dealing, Laura has now achieved the point where she has singled handedly reduced the image of female politicians to the level of your typical male politician.

The second, ostensibly unrelated event, was the recent report in by Rufus Shaw highlighting the mayor’s veiled racial politics conducted at a level not previously seen by any Dallas mayor, male or female. The aggressive and divisive politics practiced by Lara Miller of a type that we have never seen from a political woman in Dallas, and to a large extent, we have not seen this behavior among political men, or at least successful men. Laura Miller has now leveled the playing field between men and women.

The third event concerned a news article in the Dallas Morning News, in the last few days, critical of Laura Miller’s apparently close relationship with a low income housing developer. The developer it seems is among Mayor’s largest campaign contributors, while receiving from the mayor perks and other benefits that can only be characterized as generous. This kind of "close relationship" has traditionally been reserved for male politicians. Female politicians in Dallas did not play these games. No more.

The fact that Belo Corporation would allow its reporters to write critically of Laura Miller is newsworthy enough, but the journalistic techniques employed in that article on Miller were of the type typically reserved for attacks on male politicians. For those who haven’t noticed, there is a Federal investigation of Dallas housing issues and institutions. In that context, the News was careful to state that no Federal indictment nor US Subpoena has been served on Mayor Miller, at this time. I’m reminded of the sleazy technique of some reporters, "Actor So & So has not been charged with the brutal slaying of his beautiful wife, from whom he was estranged." This type of hit-and-run journalism that we thought did not have a place at the exalted Dallas Morning News, is now being used against our leading female politician - Laura Miller.

These recent events illustrate a key point: Laura Miller has done more for gender equality than anyone in Dallas in recent memory. She has introduced all Dallas voters, and the population beyond, to the idea that a woman politician can be just as shabby and mediocre as male politicians and draw as much criticism. For many years, even decades, feminists have sought gender equality in so many areas of life, and have succeeded in large measure. While there remains a glass ceiling in upper management of large corporations, and there is serious lack of pay equality in lower economic stratas, for much of our society, women and men are in parity.

Thanks to Laura Miller, political behavior of the type that we are accustomed to witnessing in men is now the accepted behavior of women politicians. Political gender parity has arrived in Dallas. Thanks Laura.

This point is not to say that Laura Miller is the first woman politician in Dallas. We have had Annette Strauss, Adlene Harrison, to name just two, among female political officeholders in our town. But with Laura Miller, we have a different breed of woman. Annette Strauss brought our city together. With Laura Miller, we have an aggressive, seemingly angry and mean woman, with a significant ambition - a deadly combination. Usually, our male politicians have been associated with these characteristics.

For a couple of decades in Dallas, men were accused of divisively playing race cards to score political points. Laura Miller is the first female Dallas mayor to have used racial divisions as a positive political strategy. Laura’s hardball strategy has worked for her judging by the voting patters during her mayorial term, so far. When voting patters are shown on city wide maps and compared with all voting in the south section, voting opposite of voting trends in the north, the conclusion is reached that Dallas is racially and culturally stratified. Men were formerly the ones who used to take advantage of these differences in people’s voting habits and ratchet these differences into some political advantage. This did not happen with Annette Strauss. Now, Laura engages in racial stratification with great effect and, to her credit, is quite smooth in doing so. Thanks Laura for lowering the standards of female politics to the lower, more base, common denominator of male politicians.

William D. Elliott is a practicing tax attorney in Dallas, Texas and immediately past Chair of the Board of Directors of the State Bar of Texas.

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