- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 8, 2005

DALLAS — Voters Saturday overwhelmingly turned down a referendum that would have done away with the city manager’s position in Dallas and given much more power to the mayor.

Voters rejected the measure 62 percent to 38 percent . With all 14 city council members lobbying against the measure, the defeat of the “strong mayor” concept of city government seemed as much of a referendum on Mayor Laura Miller as on how the city should handle its business.

Voting was much heavier than usual in southern Dallas, which is heavily black, and in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods.

Before entering politics, Mrs. Miller, 47, was an investigative reporter who often wrote about corruption and power-brokering in city politics. The objects of her journalistic scorn often were minority operatives, including former city council member Al Lipscomb, who was convicted in 2002 on federal charges for taking bribes from the city’s largest taxicab company.

In two terms on the council, Mrs. Miller often clashed with the city’s first black mayor, Ron Kirk — whom she later replaced in a special election after Mr. Kirk quit in 2002 to run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate.

When the city’s first Hispanic city manager, Ted Benavides, named the city’s first black police chief, Terrell Bolton, a few years ago, Mrs. Miller said Mr. Benavides should have interviewed other candidates.

In 2003, after serious scandals within the police department, Mr. Benavides fired Chief Bolton. Despite Mr. Benavides’ statement that Mrs. Miller had nothing to do with the Bolton firing, the black community blamed the mayor.

Twice since she won the mayoral position in 2002, black leaders tried unsuccessfully to get enough signatures for a recall against Mrs. Miller and recently have begun a third such effort.

“They can say they just didn’t want so much power for the mayor, but they would have voted down Mother’s Day if Laura Miller had campaigned for it,” said Reuben Millar, 48, of north Dallas.

Mrs. Miller did campaign vigorously for the amendment called Proposition 1 because, she explained, under the present city regulations, no one person is held responsible for important decisions. She has insisted that the mayor, not an unelected city manager, should hire and fire top officials.

After the defeat of Proposition 1, Mrs. Miller said she would work with the council to come up with a new plan to put on the ballot this November. That could prove to be tedious, particularly if Mr. Lipscomb is re-elected to the council.

In Saturday’s election, Mr. Lipscomb — who served several months of house arrest after his bribery conviction before having the conviction overturned by an appellate court in 2004 — led balloting for his former council spot, District 8. He faces a runoff with present District 8 representative James Fantroy.

“The power structure and Miller tried to end his career,” said Mollie Smith, a Lipscomb backer at a victory party for the anti-Proposition 1 group Saturday night. “But Al’s on his way back.”

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