High Price

May 3, 2011  

By Kyle Spencer
kspencer@smu.edu

It has been like an episode of “The Jerry Springer Show” inside The Dallas Commissioner Court for the last few weeks. Between the alleged racial slurs, angry protesters and a commissioner telling white participants to “go to hell” one would only need to pull up a chair with a drink and some popcorn to enjoy the entertainment.

For the last month the drama over the resignation of Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbet has been the topic around the water cooler. Almost certainly if you’re discussing Sherbet you will hear another name accompany it—John Wiley Price.

The 26-year Dallas County Commissioner of District 3 is one of the most controversial and talked about public officials in the city.

The controversy surrounding Price and Sherbet started back in January when newly elected County Judge Clay Jenkins beat out the incumbent Republican.
Sherbet alleges in an open letters in the Dallas Morning News that Commissioner Price was able to persuade Jenkins to “review” his performance.

“I resigned because of pressure from Commissioner John Wiley Price and Judge Clay Jenkins. I feel certain that the election commission meeting that Jenkins called was for the purpose of termination,” Sherbet writes.

When confronted with these allegations Price has only two words to say, “Bull Shit.”

Price alleges that the reason Bruce resigned was because we was aware of the numerous complaints made against him over the course several years. Price also alleges it was Bruce’s decision to resign because he did not want his flaws as a election administrator to become public.

“I have countless emails in regards to Bruce’s performance, and some are very serious. Polling clerks alleging voting fraud, along with percents in minority areas allegedly that Bruce sent inexperienced people to help out, which delayed the voting process all together,” Price said.

Price of course is unyielding with the pleas of voters to give Bruce his job back along with three of the other commissioners. On Feb. 8 Commissioner’s Court was packed full of Sherbet supporters, many of whom were allowed to give three minutes speeches.

Supporters had plenty of accusations including alleged “back room deals” and “Chicago-style politics” in regards to the “forced resignation” of Sherbet.

One Dallasite said, “I can’t believe we can give a key to the city to a convicted felon, but we got rid of a upstanding man like Bruce Sherbet.”

Roars of applause came from the courtroom. Price, unfazed, set comfortably leaned back in his chair half paying attention and even texting on his cell phone.

“Frankly I don’t give a damn what people think of me. I’ve been commissioner for twenty-six years and there is a reason for that,” Price said. “Did you notice all these speaker were white? Did they even live in my district? They like to use those buzz words because they can’t call me by name in the courtroom or they’ll be dismissed. But if someone has something to say to me I’ll always invite them to step outside”

Price has always been prideful when it came to his ethnicity, the 60 year old commissioner and political activist grew up in rural Forney, Texas. His mother was a maid, and his father a tow-truck driver. Price spent his youth picking cotton while he watched white children go off to school.

“I knew it wasn’t right how I had to stay behind and do hard work while some white kid got his education, but that was how it was,” Price said.

Price’s adolescence helped to shape his views on race in his adult life. Price has aroused local controversy through his efforts to challenge what he perceives to be the status quo of Dallas city politics.

During the 90s, Price and two cohorts white washed the faces on cigarettes and liquor ads in predominately black and Latino neighborhoods. Price’s motives behind the vandalism were the alleged marketing to only minorities by the tobacco and alcohol companies. He struck a deal without the District Attorney and received 75 days in jail. According to terms of the deal the other two gentleman were let off

Another incident involved Price and a windshield wiper. Price and a group of Dallas citizens had organized a protest over the recent killing of a African-American woman who Dallas Police Department alleged was waving a gun on her front porch.

An investigation later determined that not to be true. Price’s group held signs that read “DPD = A White Plantation.” A barricade was set up to guard the protesters, but when a women driving a van decided to go around the barricade Price stood in front of her vehicle and prevented her from going any further. He then proceeded to break her windshield wiper

“That lady saw the barricade and went around anyway, so I confronted her.” Price said. “Was I supposed to let her run me over?”

Over the decades Price’s reputation has made many enemies in Dallas. Price does not hold his tongue when dealing with race related issues. This brazen attitude has lead some people to believe that the commissioner may in fact be a racist.

Daphney Fain, executive assistant to Price, said this a gross mischaracterization.

” I’ve worked with him for eleven years. In that time I have seen the differences he’s made in the community as a whole,” Fain said. “This man would give you the shirt off his back, but to portray him as some sort of hot-headed monster sales papers and makes for good television.”

Fain is not alone in her loyalty to Price, his constituents have supported him through his twenty-six year tenure.

It seems wherever he goes in Dallas entertainment follows. His passion is becoming a rarity in politics. Love him or hate him, his service to Dallas has helped highlight the inequities and injustices in the county. His methods may seem strange but he offers no apologies for anything he’s done or said.

“At the end of the day, I’m fighting for my people. I have a job to do. As long as I get my job done I can go home and sleep. And I do that like a baby,” he said.

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Comments

2 Responses to “High Price”

  1. Jonathan Green on May 4th, 2011 5:15 pm

    In Dallas, we understand how conservative and racist white folks are and will allow whites do govern in their own disrespectful nature and criticize Blacks because the white folks that are dirty and sent countless of innocent black men to prison are out of power. Sucks don’t it?

  2. Tracy Clinton on May 5th, 2011 3:48 pm

    “For the last month the drama over the resignation of Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbet has been the topic around the water cooler.”

    A niggle point: The date on your byline doesn’t jibe with your second paragraph. The state budget or Voter ID or even, hey, Easter plans have been “water cooler” talk the past month.

    A credible piece but old news. Maybe revisit it after the muni elections and tie in analysis of how well the elections were handled in comparison to Sherbet’s tenure to make it relevant?