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Dallas Mayor Laura Miller Presides Over Her Last Meeting

By Bill Zeeble, KERA reporter

Dallas, TX – Dallas Mayor Laura Miller, at Council Briefing: We're going to start our meeting as we always do with a moment of silence and pledge of allegiance.

Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 reporter: There was no pomp or fanfare at this last briefing led by Mayor Miller. The incoming mayor and council members were quietly in the audience, but it was business as usual. In between budget and public safety discussions, some veteran council members, including Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill had a chance to reflect on Miller's legacy. Hill has championed some of Miller's efforts, and successfully challenged others. He lists her crowning achievement as the Trinity River Plan.

Don Hill Dallas Mayor Professional Tem: Laura took a real lead in reshaping and rrestructing what that vision for it would be and really gave it a vision. What we now call the balanced vision. Her work in that area, she has to really be applauded for that.

Zeeble: Hill said Miller was ahead of the curve on the smoking ban and some other issues, but faults her inability to bring more business into the city, like an entertainment district that went elsewhere. And, the Cowboys' move to Arlington

Hill: She'll not be able to walk from that part of history.

Zeeble: The mayor agrees - in part - with Hill. That's no surprise. At times they've publicly, civilly disagreed, notably on the strong mayor issue. She favored a stronger office, he didn't. Sitting in her office, she said she was most proud of the city's ongoing building boom.

Dallas Mayor Laura Miller: The downtown was strictly moribund when I was elected and I was determined to try to bring life into it and the council has rallied on that issue the last few years. And then of course the Trinity River.

Zeeble: Miller, who's been accused of ineffective coalition building, built one to change the Trinity plan.

Miller: Where I could not build coalitions was on the issue of money. Giving away money.

Zeeble: That's where the football stadium fits in. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wanted a sort of signing bonus. He needed millions in tax breaks to build in Dallas and couldn't get it from the county or the city.

Miller: It's totally incompatible for us to be constantly trying to figure out how to give our tax payer money to developers. And in many cases who really don't need that extra boost.

Zeeble: SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson says dealing with very wealthy people like Jones, Ray Hunt, or Ross Perot Jr, grated on Miller. But he didn't' see that as her biggest negative. More, it was her failure to connect with Dallas' minorities. Her strong personality was weak on listening skills, more forceful on asserting ideas. Jillson said that worked with Repulblican groups in North Dallas.

Cal Jillson, SMU Political Science professor : . But if I go in, boom boom boom and say here are 8 things I plan for your neighborhood uh Top down doesn't work.

Miller: That was a frustration of mine, specially, since I'm a Democratic girl from the north. So you'd think that would be less of an obstacle. But when I was a journalist I wrote some very strong things, and criticized some African American leaders. And then I was very quick to criticize our first African American police chief.

Zeeble: Miller was successfully critical of TXU's plans to build coal fired power plants. Thanks to efforts she helped lead, those plans changed. She wants to stay connected to that effort.

Miller: Washington has done a dismal job addressing air quality. And I think everyone else is going to have to do something despite the Bush administration.

Zeeble: Miller says she doesn't EVER want to run for elected office again, adding her years on the dark side in politics are over, no matter WHAT others may say. An appointed environmental position - like in the EPA - is a different story, but that would depend on unpredictable election outcomes. Cal Jillson doesn't rule anything out.

Jillson: I'm not sure what Laura Miller will do but we will hear from her.

Zeeble: Dallas' new mayor and new city council members get sworn in Monday. For KERA 90.1 I'm Bill Zeeble