Profile: Harriet Miller for Dallas District 102

August 15th, 2006

When Harriet Miller took on Tony Goolsby last time, she did it with one hand tied behind her back.

Goolsby is a 17-year incumbent (see: Entrenched) in Dallas County’s District 102. Historically, it’s been solidly Republican turf – doing around 60 percent for the R’s in the last two statewide elections. So, maybe that’s why the Democratic Party didn’t get behind Miller when she ran against Goolsby in 2004.

It’s not that people didn’t think she was a good candidate. Everyone agrees Miller is sharp, committed, thoughtful… you know, really qualified. Folks just didn’t think she stood much of a chance in that district. So, the party structure didn’t step up to the plate.

Undeterred, Harriet went door to door, talked to voters, shook out some key endorsements, and with a modest $80,000 managed to snag 47 percent of the vote. Folks, that’s a frog’s hair margin in a race like this.

Post-game analysis of the race went something to the effect of…

Republicans: Yikes!

Democrats: Doh!

Party gurus on both sides say they won’t make the same mistake twice. Miller is getting plenty of attention this time. She’s been campaigning hard for several months now and announced last month that she’s raised almost $200,000 so far – well on her way to her $300,000 goal.

The R’s, likewise, are circling the wagons. After 17 long years, Goolsby is what’s known around the Capitol as “furniture,” a do-nothing legislator. But he’s a dependable vote for the Perry/Craddick regime – routinely getting top scores with wing-nut groups like the Texas Eagle Forum and the Young Conservatives of Texas. No surprise, Goolsby scrapes the benthos when it comes to environmental votes. He pulled a 23% on TLCV’s 2005 Scorecard and 12% in 2003.

So, the Republican leadership would really like to keep this guy around. Problem is, his constituents are waking up to the fact that he isn’t doing them any favors. And ol’ Tony – bless his heart – isn’t doing himself any favors either. …Which brings us back to furniture.

In a February front page story, the Dallas Morning News reported that Goolsby used campaign contributions to furnish his Austin dwelling with discount furniture made by Texas prison inmates – some big box shopping that isn’t available to your average taxpayer.

Goolsby compared these questionable expenditures to an employee discount saying, “I used to have a nephew who worked for a beer company, and he got once a week two six packs of beer.”

In what can only be seen as a concerted effort to outdo himself, Goolsby said, “We’re all born the same way, but we’re not equal. Everybody gets perks.” …We’ll stop here while you go back and re-read that one. …Needless to say, Goodman’s high-minded musings inspired a flood of letters to the paper chastising him for his arrogance and greed.

Goolsby’s over-developed sense of entitlement doesn’t stop there. Last session, he filed a bill restricting Port Isabel’s ability to annex any property on South Padre Island. Question: What’s a guy from Dallas doing filing bills on local matters hundreds of miles away? Answer: Turns out he has a vacation home on Padre (we don’t have details on its furnishings).

The Brownsville Herald was unimpressed, “ … in the legislature, he (Goolsby) was elected to represent the people of Dallas, and any legislation he proposes in South Texas gives the appearance of being for his own personal benefit, since he represents no one else in this area.”

But enough on the case against Goolsby. Let’s talk about why Harriet Miller is the right choice for conservation-minded voters. When we sat down and spoke with Harriet, she listed clean air, funding for state parks, and a plan to promote renewable energy in Texas as some of her key campaign initiatives.

Asked why she decided to run, Miller said, “I have to give Ann Richards some credit for this response – I was the only state Rep candidate last cycle that she endorsed. She said, ‘Harriet you’re running because you can win.’ While I can understand that that can sound a little flip, I appreciate it because it is coming from Ann. I’m running first and foremost because I care about our children and families.”

On renewable energy, Miller’s ideas are bold and innovative. “The nation looks to Texas for its expertise and experience within the energy industry. With skyrocketing prices for gasoline, natural gas and electricity, we must expand our energy options – not to mention lessening our dependence on foreign oil.”

“I believe the Renewable Portfolio Standard should be increased, maybe even doubled,” Miller says. “The benchmark the Legislature set was pretty much where the market was going anyway. We are Texans–we can do better than that. Lawmakers didn’t “reach” for anything.”

“Texas needs to look to the future and make a definitive decision to take control and lead this nation’s renewable energy efforts,” she says. Miller proposes that UT and A&M should partner with the leading energy companies here in Texas to form an ambitious Renewable Energy Lab – similar to what they did with high-tech in the late ’80s and early ’90s – so that Texas can continue to dominate future energy research and development and create good paying jobs right here in Texas.

“I’ve talked about forming public/private partnerships with some of the energy companies to expand opportunities and do creative things with wind, solar, and bio-fuels – to try and maximize our research potential,” she says. “Texas can and should be a world leader on renewable energy.”

Miller has also joined elected officials in calling for a halt to Rick Perry’s quid-pro-quo fast tracking of TXU’s permit application for 11 new coal-fired plants – facilities that would likely kill any chance of getting Dallas/Ft. Worth air quality back into compliance with federal standards.

Miller’s concerned about the water situation in Dallas as well. “In Dallas, water conservation is still not the priority it should be,” she says. “It is not in the forefront of the consciousness of the average person in Dallas. I think a state legislator would be in a good position to articulate this issue and educate people – bring it to the forefront.”

Cities and citizens need to do their part on efficient water use, Miller says. But there are key changes we need to make to state water planning as well. She’s particularly critical of the “rule of capture,” that bizarre turn of the century law that says a property owner can suck as much water as they want out of an aquifer, no matter the impact on surrounding users or the long-term health of the resource.

Miller also points to advanced use of rainwater harvesting as means to meet future water needs. It’s reflective of her overall way of thinking. Give her a minute, and Harriet Miller will start talking about ideas. Big ideas about the future and how to do the most good for the most people. …And that, friends, is exactly the breath of fresh air that District 102 could really use.