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A Tale of Two Mayors

Don't bother me, Pat, I'm working

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When Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory offered to place a wager with Dallas mayor Laura Miller on last weekend's Panthers-Cowboys NFL playoff game, she blew him off quicker than you can say "What's that gnat doing in here in January?"

A few local pundits, of course, declared Miller "chicken" or some other adolescent witticism. Now, we're as happy as anyone else that the Panthers creamed the Cowboys, and we're not privy to Miller's real reason for pissing on McCrory's smalltown promotional idea, but we're guessing that it's because she's too busy being a real mayor as opposed to a suit-with-a-smile. In fact, you couldn't find two more different mayors if you tried.

Miller is one of the more interesting mayors in the country. Coming from a hard-nosed, controversial background in journalism, Miller has developed a reputation as a serious hardass with a reform agenda, real vision and little time for glad-handing -- or McCrory, it seems.

As opposed to McCrory, whose voice carries little influence with City Council, and who has stayed in office largely by acting as a cheerleader for the city's business establishment, Miller is a real force in her city, has emphasized the city's responsibility to "the little guy" (her mayoral campaign was essentially based on filling potholes rather than buying an arena) -- and seems like someone you could discuss serious issues with for a long time before ever hearing PR-speak like "synergy" or "passion."

Before becoming a politician, Miller gained notoriety at the Dallas Observer, that city's alternative newsweekly, where she spent six years as an acclaimed (or despised, depending on your point of view) investigative reporter and columnist. Prior to joining the alternative press, Miller spent two years at D Magazine, the city magazine of Dallas, and before that, she was a metro columnist for the Dallas Times Herald.

Miller was elected to the Dallas City Council in 1998, where she served three terms. During her time on City Council, she often antagonized former mayor Ron Kirk and many of the area's powerful business leaders, whom she accused of being too generous with taxpayers' money on big ticket projects while neglecting the little things. Remind you of any other city's "leaders"? Because of her contentious relationship with the city's elite, the powerbrokers in Dallas tried to discount her candidacy for mayor. Nonetheless, Miller was elected on February 16, 2002, following a bitter campaign in which she was on the receiving end of an intense smear campaign.

As mayor, Miller has continued her no-nonsense approach, wheeling and dealing, canning a police chief in spite of charges that this made her a racist, and emphasizing constituent service while enraging the booster crowd. We should be so lucky, with or without the lame football bets.

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