I grew up in Chicago, where it was always easy to tell the political good guys from the political bad guys. If Mayor Daley was in favor of something, the every God-fearing Chicago resident knew to oppose it with all of his heart, soul and might.

In Dallas, on the other hand, politics are not nearly as clear-cut. This presents a real problem for those of us trying to figure out what’s best for East Dallas and Lakewood.

There have been dozens of issues in the past decade, from redistricting to zoning to taxes, where the way has often been murky and the path has frequently been unclear.

We could have used Mayor Daley to guide us, for instance, when the City Council was debating whether to allow all sorts of airplanes to land at Love Field. Yes, it would have been more convenient (and tickets probably would have been less expensive) if American and United and the rest were given landing rights.

On the other hand, we would have had to endure the increased noise (my house is among many in the approach pattern) and, more importantly, we would have acquiesced in allowing the City Council to renege on an agreement with a neighborhood.

This is hardly the kind of precedent we want to establish. So what’s a neighborhood activist to do?

I asked advice from an old friend of mine, Knuckles Kowalski (so-named because his patronage job was to attend Chicago city council meetings and rap Democratic alderman on the head when it was their turn to vote). Knuckles, who has been casting ballots three or four times an election for as long as I can remember, put everything in perspective.

“Why did ya always get mad at Hizzoner?” Knuckles asked. (Mayor Daley, incidentally, was never called Mayor Daley. He was always “Hizzoner” or “Da Mare”.)

“Because he didn’t care about the city,” I said. “He had his own agenda.”

“Well, den, dere’s your answer,” Knuckles said. “Just find somebody who aggravates ya da way Da Mare did. Then all ya have ta do is oppose everything dis guy votes for. Den you’re set.”

This was a revelation.

What’s even more astonishing is that we’ve unknowingly had this litmus test under our nose for the past two years.

Who will be our political weathervane? None other than East Dallas’ councilman, Glenn Box.

I’m hard-pressed to think of an issue on which Box hasn’t driven a major portion of his constituency crazy. He even managed to alienate fellow 10-4-1 supporters during the redistricting rumpus with his Genghis Khan-like posturing. (And he still doesn’t see anything wrong with spending $3 million of our tax money to defend an indefensible position.)

And who didn’t appreciate Box that much more when, after apparently agreeing to vote for a 14-1 compromise plan that protects East Dallas, he said he hoped no compromise could be reached?

This is a man to pin our hopes on.

So the next time the political news is mixed, and the correct position seems as hard to find as a solvent savings and loan, don’t despair.

Just check to see how Councilman Box voted. And then support the opposite position.

It’s the only sensible thing to do.

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