The squeal of all squeals!
Where in this country can you find a pork barrel project that causes squeals all the way to the pig farms in Iowa?
Where can you find a project that was originally estimated to cost $360 million and has ballooned to over $900 million (2009 dollars) and is sure to nearly double that amount?
Where can you find a director for a billion dollar plus water and engineering project that was enlisted from the ranks of the DA's office without so much as a personnel search?
Where can you find a billion dollar plus project that was not funded by bonds and without voter approval?
Where can you find a billion dollar plus project that was started by spending hundreds of millions even though required government money has never been allocated for the federal share?
Where can you find a billion dollar plus project that has no voter input or oversight and that participating governmental entities claim to have no oversight or control?
Well right here in river city - Trinity River city that is. Panther Island, Trinity Uptown, or Central City development - call it what whatever the Trinity River Vision Authority thinks will give it new life and authenticity.
What is it really? It's a huge pork barrel project that has extraordinary costs, incompetent leadership, and no responsibility to the taxpayers (that's YOU)!
So what's happened? Why is this an issue?
It began as a $360 million project that would, according to proponents, achieve over a billion dollars in increased tax base. Sounds like a winner, no? That was, of course, contingent upon following the recommendations of the planners and assuming the project would be funded and completed on schedule. Of the eight financial milestones established in 2005 (after the cost had been re-estimated to increase to $435 million) six are well past their estimated completion dates and the other two had no estimated completion date. The estimated economic benefit was based on ammenities that are not funded and unlikely to be included in the final project. Environmental cleanup of some sites was originally esitmated to cost $22 million. Those costs are now unknown. The same story persists in other aspects of the project.
One of the highly touted benefits of TRV was the increased flood control. Original planning called for using the West Fork of the Trinity River upstream of Henderson Street as a catchment basin. Unfortunately, the planners failed to anticipate the clout of land owners along the West Fork and even though TRWD Director, Jim Oliver, proclaimed that the land would be taken by eminent domain if necessary, it wasn't and it won't be. Instead that requirement has been diverted to Gateway Park and the cost has escalated over $100 million. So much for the power of eminent domain. In reality the cost of flood control had already been estimated at a mere $10 million. Of course this wasn't really about flood control at all, was it?
The 2005 costs were published as $435 million. $217.5 million from the federal government, $115.9 million from taxes in the project area, $64 million from the Tarrant Regional Water District (the water district had just been given the authority to invest in economic development in a law sponsored by Rep. Charlie Geren, former water board member, and passed by voice vote on the last day of the session), $26.6 million from bonds issued by the city of Fort Worth, and $11 million from Tarrant County. At the time, the S-T reported, "I expect costs will easily reach $700 million before it's done," Councilman Picht said after one briefing. "We always underestimate the costs and overestimate the economic benefits."
Another quote from the S-T: ""But what if the money falls short or doesn't come through on time?" "It might take a little longer to do it," said Oliver, with the Water District. "Any time you're relying on federal funds, you're at the mercy of Congress." "Ultimately, Oliver said, backers might seek more local money: from the city, Tarrant County or the Water District, or by borrowing based on future development potential. Toal (James Toal, urban planner now deceased) is confident the money will be there." "The taxpayers will not be left holding the bag," he said."" Oh Yeah! Right!
So how much are the taxpayers commited to pay so far? How about $350 million (give or take a million)? We voted for $5 million in one bond election and $26.6 million in another. A tax increment finance district (TIF) was created in 2003 and expanded in 2005 and expanded yet again and is destined to repay up to $320 million in loans from TRWD for funding Trinity Uptown. So what about the taxpayers not being left holding the bag? Oh you kid! That'll teach you to bend over.
Now you may have a clue why it is necessary to change the TRWD board and elect people who will demand fiscal accountibility and who will return to the long established mission of the Water District to find and protect water resources and to provide flood control ((that's $10 million flood control, not $1 billion flood control) and get the hell out of economic development)).
And how do we do that? It is so simple that it's stunning! VOTE for BICKLEY and VON LUCKNER for Water Board! That's it - Bickley and Von Luckner, Bickley and Von Luckner, Bickley and Von Luckner. There are two board openings and you can vote for two, so vote for Craig Bickley and Michele Von Luckner.