Jim Schutze’s Dallas Observer article uses e-mail to paint distorted picture of Southern Dallas politics

Before the bodies of Lynn and Rufus Shaw were even cold, Dallas Observer muckraker (I’m sure it’s on his business card) Jim Schutze posted an article at Unfair Park regarding a series of e-mails sent by Mrs. Shaw. According to the article, Schutze attempted to contact Lynn regarding his findings, but hours before her death, she faxed him a statement declining to comment.

The e-mails are between Mrs. Shaw, radio host Willis Johnson, and Mayor Tom Leppert. Schutze said he received the information from “a group of respected black residents and activists, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.” Interesting. He also calls Shaw “the enforcer in a tight-knit group called ‘The Inner Circle’.”

There’s no doubt both Johnson and Shaw were an integral part of Leppert’s “Southern Sector Strategy” in both his mayoral campaign and the defeat of the Trinity referendum. But to intimate (Mrs. Shaw did, not Schutze) that Johnson is in someway the gatekeeper of Southern Dallas was wishful thinking at best.

I don’t think anyone one in the African-American community could imagine “John Price, Don Hill, Royce West, Ron Kirk, or anyone else,” asking for Willis Johnson’s permission to speak with the mayor. That just doesn’t make sense.

The intimation that Shaw and Johnson were at the threshold of contracting dollars has already sent the mayor running to the Hispanic Chamber to clarify his position. It’s also garnered a troubling response from Lulac President Jesse Diaz. In a comment at Unfair Park that is attributed to Diaz, he recalls a dark moment from the Texas Democratic Presidential campaign.

Is this yet another example where the Dallas Hispanic community is playing second fiddle and where Dallas’ black business community is using Dallas’ Hispanic population numbers to pad their business contracts? This is what Adelfa Callejo was alluding to recently.

Funny, I was quick to discount Ms. Callejo’s comments as sentiments of a past generation.

The whole thing reminds me of a movie about the Rat Pack I once saw. In the movie, Frank Sinatra had gotten really involved in the 1960 presidential campaign and was a staunch supporter of John F. Kennedy. In Sinatra’s mind, he played a key role in getting Kennedy elected, and felt that in some way he was owed at least acknowledgment by the Kennedy’s.

When that acknowledgment didn’t come and the Kennedy’s distanced themselves from Sinatra, he became both disillusioned an bitter. He could never figure out why the president would treat him in such a manor.

The characterization of Mrs. Shaw as an “enforcer” -Schutze’s word- makes for a good story but is just not accurate. Who was Mrs. Shaw enforcing upon? There are too many voices (few of whom agree) in Dallas’ black community to rely on an “inner circle.”

Anyway, I can’t fault Mr. Schutze for his timing in releasing the information. That’s what muckrackers do. If he had a heart for that type of thing, he probably wouldn’t be as well recognized for his journalistic prowess. But I’d characterize Mrs. Shaw more as disillusioned than an enforcer. I pray that God will rest her soul as the news media will soon find another punching bag amongst us.

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