Sizzle and Stakes

Dallas mayor Laura Miller is hungry to take on the big problems facing the city. She'd better be—because her plate is full.

THIS ISSUE IS ENTIRELY ABOUT DALLAS. If we had done a similar issue 25 years ago—about the time that the current mayor, Laura Miller, made her first trip to the city—many of the stories might have been the same: the Cowboys and their pursuit of the Super Bowl, Dallas women and their pursuit of beauty, Highland Park and its pursuit of the pluperfect life, personal-advice gurus and the pursuit of self-improvement. Indeed, Miller landed smack in the middle of the stereotype on her initial visit, when her father, who was then the president of Nieman Marcus, invited her to come for the store’s “French Fortnight” promotion. She remembers three things about the trip: watching girls in cancan costumes race to a hangar at Love Field to greet a private jet, attending a barbecue at a ranch and standing next to a spit that held half a cow, and arriving from the University of Wisconsin, where she was a student, to discover that the wool wardrobe she had packed was not a good choice for Dallas in September.

But there is more to the story of Dallas than stereotypes. Miller’s improbable career path—from chief critic of city hall as a reporter for the Dallas Observer, an alternative weekly, to a gadfly member of the city council from Oak Cliff to mayor—would not have been possible if Dallas were still (as it used to style itself) “the city that works.” Dallas is the first city in Texas to be surrounded and eclipsed by its suburbs, one of which, Frisco, is featured in this issue. Downtown, once the financial nerve center of Texas, has the highest vacancy rate in the country. No large building project has been undertaken inside the downtown freeway loop since 1985. Property valuations inside the loop declined more than 50 percent between 1990 and 1996; a partial recovery collapsed last year with a 5 percent downturn in values. When Ron Kirk, the

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