- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2006

DALLAS — The mercurial political career of Dallas Mayor Laura Miller is reaching an end, leaving the city to face a period of reassessment and readjustment.

Mrs. Miller, 48, announced last week that she would not run for a second term in May. She said she wanted to spend more time with her husband, Steven Wolens, and their three children.

Never again, she vowed, would she run for public office.

“I ran for the council on a lark, for mayor on a lark. I’ve never been a career politician,” she said.

She leaves behind a city government often paralyzed by a racially divided council and the threat of an FBI bribery investigation of some members.

The feisty mayor has been skeptical and sometimes publicly critical of those who disagree with her priorities and ideas.

Sherry Jacobson, a columnist at the Dallas Morning News, called Mrs. Miller “more of a fighter than a leader,” a politician who seldom built a coalition.

“Mrs. Miller’s propensity to speak strongly and take verbal shots at people might have made good reading in a newspaper or magazine column, but they were bad form for a politician who must lead by persuasion,” Mrs. Jacobson said.

Mrs. Miller’s efforts at building consensus on major issues rarely worked, except for projects already backed by other coalitions.

She spearheaded plans for a vast revitalization of the Trinity River on the city’s west side, and pushed considerable tax incentives to stimulate inner-city development. One of her most prized “wins” was a smoking ban in Dallas restaurants.

She has lost fights against several votes that gave millions of dollars in tax exemptions to billionaires.

Antagonism, distrust and often visceral exchanges emanated almost from the day she joined the council.

Mrs. Miller, who forced the city manager to fire Terrell Bolton, the city’s first black police chief, later called the fired chief “an idiot.”

Former council member Al Lipscomb compared Mrs. Miller to Adolf Hitler as he loudly complained at a council session about a referendum last year designed to make the Dallas mayor’s job more powerful.

Mrs. Miller probably could not have won any popularity contests from the day she won a council seat. A decade ago, she wrote investigative stories in the Dallas Observer weekly about purported illegal actions from some minority council members.

One such article preceded the conviction of Mr. Lipscomb on 65 federal charges of public bribery, extortion and campaign-finance violations. His conviction was overturned on a technicality.

Mrs. Miller said she accomplished much of what she wanted to do, but felt her failure to rally voters to approve a stronger role for the mayor was her biggest loss.

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