Former mayor Laura Miller lost the race for District 13 to three-term incumbent Councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates. The election centered on the rezoning of a 14-acre tract at Northwest Highway and Preston Road known as PD-15 and the development of Preston Center at Northwest Highway and the Dallas North Tollway. Known as “the pothole mayor,” Miller approached the election like the journalist she was, researching issues and campaigning door-to-door. The mother of three children — 28, 26 and 23 — Miller helped start The Ladder Project at Congregation Shearith Israel. The program empowers 1,000 congregants to lift one person at a time out of homelessness. Say what you will about the election, but it’s clear that Miller’s campaign research left her knowledgeable about neighborhood issues.
How was campaigning?
I walked door-to-door to 2,500 houses. I loved it. I lost 11 pounds. I’d get a flat white at Starbucks, and I’d start walking at 10 in the morning, and then I’d just keep walking until I had to take a bathroom break. But otherwise, I would just keep going. I loved it because I saw parts of the district I’ve never seen before. You drive on all these highways, Marsh Lane, Inwood, Forest. You’re going 50 miles-an-hour on these big roads and you don’t see what’s two blocks away. It’s extraordinary to see how beautiful these neighborhoods are.
Were you surprised by the election results?
Yes. When you live this development issue [PD-15] for six years every day and you see the daily play-by-play on what’s happening and how it’s being handled by City Hall, you think, “This is just not right.” You feel like you have to act.
Will you still be involved in neighborhood issues such as PD-15?
I don’t think so. I said, “Listen, I did everything I could to try to make these developments better, and it didn’t work. I’m done.”
How did you feel when you lost after all the campaigning?
I felt great that I did it. I loved talking to everybody about their issues. I had this great to-do list that involved alleys, streets and leaks. I’d say hello, and neighbors would walk me through their house and back to their alley. One said, “I moved into my house in 1946, and they’ve never paved our road.” Another said, “I’ve lived here since the 1950s, and I kept asking for my alleys to be redone. My wife uses the alley to walk to St. Rita’s to go to church on Sundays, and she tripped and broke her ankle. For all these years of paying taxes, couldn’t I just have one thing that I wanted? They still haven’t fixed the alley.” You hear stories like that and you’re like, “Wow.”
What are the big issues?
A really great story would be to go and get the 2019-2020 list of bond projects that are going to be worked on — roads and alleys — for the district. My fantasy was to get that list, which I never did as an Oak Cliff councilmember. It’s an important issue because the infrastructure is so deteriorated that people are upset about it. Someone should get that list and see what’s on the horizon for redoing and whether it should be redone. For example, there’s a street called Allister, by Cinemark at Webb Chapel and Forest. It’s a giant loop and full of duplexes. They have had this massive road reconstruction project since November. It was a complete mess when I walked that street, and neighbors said, “We never needed our road redone.” Then you have another street like Dorothy Avenue. Neighbors have been begging for that road to be redone, and it doesn’t get redone. It just begs the question, “What roads are going to be redone and why?”
What else did you find out during your campaigning?
Property crime is a big issue. Everybody has Ring Doorbell. I had so many discussions that way. I’d say, “Hi.” And they’d say, “Hi, we’re at the office. We’re not home.” I’d ask, “Do you want a sign?”
You had a lot of signs out in the neighborhood.
We had a good sign war going. I had these cute Southern Methodist University students that did my yard signs for me. I paid them $15 an hour and they went out and did all the signs on the weekends after they finished studying. I made them promise not to interfere with their exams or with their schoolwork. The first kid I decided to hire had pulled lobster pots in the Atlantic Ocean during the summers. I said, “That’s my kid. That’s a hard worker.”
What are you going to do now?
Right after the election was over, I reached out to the homeless project I was working on with my synagogue. We’re having a big meeting at our synagogue about next steps for the program. We’re going to go into phase two, and I’ll be totally focused on it.