Best Of 2009 People and Politics
Click here to read more and see who won best Sportscaster, Morning News Show, Hot Local Celebrity, and more.
Readers’ choice: Dave Lieber, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Critic’s choice: Don Young
The old phrase “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog” applies perfectly to community activist Don Young, a small guy with a lot of fight in him. Young has been looking over the shoulder of the gas drillers in Tarrant County since they first arrived, constantly letting news media and the public know what’s going on. He’s tireless in his efforts to protect Fort Worth from the negative impacts of urban drilling. The town could use more like him.
Thing Tarrant County Needs
Critic’s choice: Late-night pizza
OK, there are more serious things this county needs, like better roads and a ban on Tasers and an entertainment district for young people. But dammit, why can’t we get a good slice of pizza at 3 a.m. on a Friday night? Other big cities do it, and last we checked Fort Worth is a big city. Please, isn’t there some entrepreneur who could figure out how to make a profit on late-night pies? We’d promise to show up frequently.
Readers’ choice (Anchor or Reporter): Deborah Ferguson, KXAS/Channel 5
Critic’s choice (Anchor): Brendan Higgins, Channel 5
Over the last few years, we’ve watched as sleepy-eyed Channel 5 anchor Brendan Higgins slimmed down and turned his hair into a short, silvery spike that would suit a Philip K. Dick anti-hero. He’s now comfortably ensconced in Channel 5′s highly rated morning show, where his rumpled, groggy persona fits perfectly. Happily, he’s sacrificed none of his self-deprecating snarkiness. Call him the James Spader of North Texas news.
Critic’s choice (Reporter): Scott Friedman, Channel 5
Investigative reporter and occasional anchor Scott Friedman has been with Channel 5 a little over three years now. He arrived in Fort Worth having already done award-winning work on topics like the Iraq war, wounded soldiers’ overseas care, and the 2004 presidential election. This summer he distinguished himself covering the woes of the airline industry, water wastage during the North Texas drought, and the unpleasant local side effects of home foreclosures. Friedman always comes across as serious without the parodic edge that seeps into the delivery of so many TV reporters.
Readers’ choice: Kidd Kraddick, KISS/ 106.1-FM
Critic’s choice: Amit, KTCK/1310-AM The Ticket
For the record, Amit is not his real name, nor is he an employee of The Ticket. He does, however, have spot-on Hot Sports Opinions, and he shares them often, in an Indian accent. We assume this is because he’s Indian, but even if he’s not, it’s a damned funny bit, especially given the sitar music that’s always queued up when he starts a spiel. Amit’s calls tee up great moments in sports commentary – and comedy gold.
Readers’ choice: Pete Delkus, WFAA/Channel 8
Critic’s choice: Evan Andrews, KDFW/Channel 4
In addition to the regulation charts and graphs, the early-morning weatherman usually includes a helpful timeframe for upcoming weather changes. Not the vague “showers in the afternoon” variety, but “showers likely after 2 p.m.” or “clearing by 4 p.m.” That helps a lot in planning the day. And he’s usually right.
Hottest Local Celebrity (Male)
Readers’ choice: Tony Romo
Critic’s choice: Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead
His good looks are on the rugged side, but in his mid-40s, Fort Worth’s current chief can still turn some heads. So nice that staying fit is part of the job. And humility has its own charm, of course: Halstead started out making excuses and sounding defensive after the Rainbow Lounge incident, but when evidence showed officers had been in the wrong, he backtracked convincingly. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that a cop beat him up when he was 19. Ah, there’s more allure: a man with a past.
Hottest Local Celebrity (Female)
Readers’ choice: Janine Turner
Critic’s choice: Ashley Melnick
A former Miss Grapevine, this transplanted Yankee is making a go of a career in mainstream music and definitely has the looks to take her far: athletic body, lush and long black hair, strong jawline, smoky almond-shaped eyes, and a knowing smile. (Think: Roselyn Sanchez.) And Melnick’s voice is as smooth as her skin. Visit www.myspace.com/ashleymelnick.
Readers’ choice: Dale Hansen, Channel 8
Critic’s choice: Joe Trahan, Channel 8
Joe does all the right things, from stand-ups at ball games to occasionally anchoring to putting up with Cowboy Marty B’s film studies. But we give this award to Joe for another reason: He’s had to put up with three years of all that Dale Hansen nonsense. That’s some sports TV hall-of-fame cred right there.
Readers’ choice: Tammy Dombeck, Channel 5
Critic’s choice: Tammy Dombeck
Tammy Dombeck is the grande dame of “gridlock busters” in North Texas, although that’s an awful weighty title for such a light-hearted person. She’s been doing the traffic shtick at NBC-5 for almost a decade; before that she worked in radio as a news and traffic reporter. Besides the morning drive-time reports, she blogs and does an entertainment report. Last year, she even inspired a character in a Hip Pocket play (“Sammi Zoomdeck”). Roll on, Tammy.
Readers’ choice: Steve Murrin
Critic’s choice: Jack Borden
Borden was baptized in the Trinity River in 1908. Since then, he hasn’t missed a step. From working in cornfields to sleuthing for the FBI to serving as mayor of Weatherford, Borden has reinvented himself continually. At 101, he still works in his real estate and probate law office five days a week. His tenacity earned him the title of America’s Outstanding Oldest Worker for 2009. He should also be an inspiration for those of us wishing to retire in our 30s – as long as we’re planning three or four more careers after that.
Reader’s choice: Randy Galloway, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Critic’s choice: Mike Lee, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
While many local news types have been reduced to acting as stenographers and press release re-writers, the Star-T‘s Mike Lee continues to be a real reporter. In prior years, the paper’s Barnett Shale coverage has been about how great natural gas is, but Lee has been venturing out a bit to explain the pollution and noise and injection well issues. His coverage of Fort Worth city hall has been balanced and informative. And he didn’t kiss the city’s ass during the Rainbow Lounge bar raid fiasco.
Local Morning TV Newscast
Readers’ choice: Good Day, Channel 4
Critic’s choice: Channel 5
The early morning NBC5 news team, now the top-rated morning show in the market, works so well because they let the momentum of the reporting carry them. Nothing is forced. There’s no madcap repartee between co-anchors Brendan Higgins and Deborah Ferguson, but if a story is unintentionally funny, they’ll riff on it. Meteorologist Jennifer Lopez has developed a winning professionalism. This is an appealingly “zen” show for people who like to wake up at their own pace.
Servant of the People
Readers’ choice: (tie) Fort Worth City Council member Joel Burns, State Sen. Wendy Davis
Critic’s choice: Betty Brink, journalist
It’s unusual to nominate one of our own. But Betty Brink’s brand of advocacy journalism benefited a wide swath of folks in Tarrant County. Repeatedly, she’s been the first to report on the costly antics of the Tarrant County College board, from the spiraling costs of the college’s Trinity River Bluff campus to the unusual closed-door meetings that resulted in the chancellor’s dismissal. Over her four-decade career as a journalist, Brink has covered everything from civil rights to the environment. Her now-10-year involvement in covering prisoner abuse at the Federal Medical Center at Carswell won her some awards and also became part of the reason that the federal government passed a comprehensive prison anti-rape bill.
Readers’ choice: Joel Burns
Critic’s choice: Carlo Capua, co-owner, Z’s Café, 1300 Gendy St, FW
This overachiever makes ne’er-do-wells want to crawl in a hole. The 31-year-old runs his own business, employing residents of the Samaritan House, a nonprofit that provides support services for HIV-afflicted people and the homeless. He also is a marathon coach for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training and serves on the board of Sister Cities International. He’ll find a cure for cancer and create world peace before he’s 40, no doubt.
Candidate for Alien Abduction
Readers’ choice: Mayor Mike Moncrief
Critic’s choice: The Teabaggers
Since President Barack Obama took office, the right wing has been conducting one hideously ineffective protest after another, asserting their First Amendment rights at town halls by trampling over other people’s First Amendment rights, making a pointless fuss over Obama’s birth certificate, and staging a series of tea-related stunts that share their name with a sexual practice. What’s next, trying to prove that Obama’s a space alien? Actually, the teabaggers can ask the aliens themselves when they’re abducted.
Critic’s choice: Club owner Brian Forella
The Wreck Room’s demolition ended that club’s reign as Fort Worth’s best grungy rock bar. Owner Forella quickly opened Lola’s on Sixth Street and continued presenting an eclectic bunch of acoustic and electric bands on its stage. But eyebrows were raised when Forella decided to branch out to the historic (and historically rigid) Stockyards with Lola’s Saloon. Other bar owners who dared to bring rap and metal to the Stockyards found themselves in battles with the Old Guard, police, and state liquor control agents. But Forella has somehow charmed district regulars even as he presents a startling variety of musical genres to the traditionally boot-scootin’ crowd.
Candidate for a Makeover
Critic’s choice: City Council member Carter Burdette
His tailored suits haven’t kept Carter Burdette from resembling a scarecrow more than a distinguished attorney. He needs a better barber and some new glasses – those oversized ’80s frames really aren’t doin’ it for ya, buddy.
Politician Most Likely to Sell Grandma to Highest Bidder
Readers’ choice: Mayor Mike Moncrief
Critic’s choice: Mayor Mike Moncrief
Let’s face it, Mayor Mikey is the call on this one. Why not some city council member? Because Mayor Mike tells them what to do. Why not a Tarrant County politician? Because none of them wield the power that the mayor does. Nope, Mike’s it. He’s it because he is selling this city down the drain to gas developers. He’s spent nearly his entire time in office courting big business and pushing big deals while letting the best things about Fort Worth waste away. Just imagine what he’d do with a grandma he didn’t like.
Readers’ choice: Betty Buckley
Critic’s choice: Dorothy Estes, retired journalism teacher
“Her name was Dorothy Estes, and she would change my life.” So wrote Fort Worth author Phil Vinson in his autobiography Ink in the Blood, about the woman who inspired him to become a journalist back in the late 1950s. Estes spent several decades teaching journalism at Polytechnic High School and at two local colleges before she wound up as head of student publications at the University of Texas at Arlington, where, as Vinson wrote, she turned a mediocre student paper into a perennial award-winner. A long list of her students became top-notch journalists, and many stay in touch with her. Having “retired” in 1996, she continues to mentor young journalists and helps administer an endowment fund she helped create, that provides scholarships to aspiring high school and college journalists.
Subject for Cryogenic Preservation
Readers’ choice: Jerry Jones
Critic’s choice: Terry Chandler, Fred’s Texas Café, 915 Currie St, FW
We hope Fred’s is around forever – after all, it’s withstood numerous fires, burglaries, and the loom of upscale retail and condo developments all around. All the more reason to send chef/proprietor Terry Chandler into the future, so he can pick up where he left off, whipping up inventive dishes with wild game out of his chuck wagon. Dr. Zaius would approve.
Local Incident Available on YouTube
Critic’s choice: Hail, live
If you’ve ever been stuck in a hailstorm while driving, you know how loud and unnerving that can be. But these two guys drove right into the middle of a hailstorm with video camera rolling and ended up with a shattered windshield, major dents, and a thrilling YouTube entry. Watch it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCf7gPXuZA4.
Use of Taxpayer Money
Readers’ choice: (tie) Streetcar efforts, neighborhood police, Fort Worth Community Arts Center
Critic’s choice: Fort Worth city-school joint-use facility, Rosemont Park
Making sense in tough economic times, two local taxing entities plan to share the costs of building a new, “green” elementary school that will serve double duty for a group of Southside neighborhoods. Trustees realized that the city had set aside $2.5 million for a new community center to be built in the same area where the district planned to spend $12 million for a new school. The 88,000-square-foot building won’t save on construction costs but will be much larger than the combined footage of the separate facilities. It will be heated and cooled by geothermal technology and include a state-of-the-art gym. When the school day is over, it will be open to residents as a community center, health club, and adult educational facility year-round. There’s only one problem, but it’s a big, smelly one: Chesapeake Energy has been given the OK to dig as many as 14 gas wells within 600 feet of the facility. Here’s hoping someone wakes up and smells the cough-inducing emissions before kids or community residents get hurt.
Critic’s choice: Cowboys Stadium
Jerry Jones’ gajillion-dollar gift from the taxpayers is just the biggest (literally), shiniest thing to hit Arlington since they built the tollway (I-30 to you whippersnappers). From world-class soccer games to “let-the-poor-folks-in-free day” to cheerleaders to … well, we don’t know what he’ll think of next to hype the new stadium, we just know there’ll be plenty of it. Maybe Van Cliburn playing a baby grand on the 50-yard line? Rick Perry skydiving (sans ‘chute) into a tea party? A Cowboys win in a playoff game? We can’t wait – or maybe we can.
Underrated Pro Athlete
Readers’ choice: Dallas Cowboys running back Marion Barber
Critic’s Choice: Texas Rangers pitcher Scott Feldman
After being yo-yo’d from the minors to the majors early in his career, Feldman changed his delivery, added a cut-fastball, and has been one of the most reliable contributors to the Rangers’ surprising season. He’s no Nolan Ryan in terms of raw ability; what makes Feldman’s ascent remarkable is that he’s achieved it by listening to coaches and working hard. With all of the young arms pouring out of the Rangers’ farm system, it’s nice to know that a consistent guy like Feldman will be taking every fifth start.
Athlete Almost Worth His Salary
Readers’ choice: Tony Romo
Critic’s choice: Kenny Cooper, FC Dallas (Major League Soccer)
The big striker caught fire last year for the Hoops, as the FC Dallas team is nicknamed, scoring 18 goals in the 2008 season, (second best in the league), and he added another seven in the first half of 2009 before being sold to a German team. This battering ram of a player with unexpected mobility and shooting touch hasn’t been given his due with the U.S. national team, but if he can score on a regular basis in the rough-and-tumble German league, he might very well play for Team USA at the World Cup in 2010, and we can say we knew him when.
Readers’ choice: Michael Jackson
Critic’s choice: Dirk Nowitzki and Crystal Taylor
Poor Dirk. First he’s expected to carry a decent team up the National Basketball Association ladder to a championship, and then his stalker-turned-fiancee gets busted in his home. Turned out she had quite a lot of baggage, from felony fraud counts to a dozen aliases to being accused of being a stripper. And then she comes up pregnant while she’s in jail. And then … not pregnant! All of it made for a week’s worth of juicy tabloid pulp. Unfortunately, it lasted a couple of months. Don’t worry, Dirk. We still love ya.
Unused P.R. Slogan
Readers’ choice: “Texas: At least we have a parachute.”
Critic’s choice: “Who’s watching Molly?”
Gas drillers characterize the waste left over from hydraulic fracturing as “salt water.” And cows love salt licks. Hey, sounds like a match made in heaven. But when a small herd of Louisiana cows drank the water that escaped from a rig being drilled for Chesapeake Energy, they dropped dead within an hour. Gas companies in Fort Worth use millions of gallons of water in drilling, and when the water is pumped back to the surface, it’s “salty.” Here’s a tip: Don’t put it on your pretzels. And somebody keep an eye on Fort Worth mascot Molly the Longhorn.
Readers’ choice: Ryan Place Neighborhood Association
Critic’s choice: Fairmount Neighborhood Association
Fairmount requires a balancing act, and this group does it quite well. Its historic-district designation requires enforcement of guidelines on renovations, and they’ve done a good job of keeping historic homes intact. Some neighborhood groups fight any new development, but the Fairmount folks have worked closely with Fort Worth South, Inc. in the redevelopment of Magnolia Avenue into a vibrant corridor with restaurants, clubs, and office buildings.
Example of Gumption or Grit
Readers’ choice: Arts Fifth Avenue
Critic’s choice: TCU football
Gary Patterson’s football squad finished the 2008 season ranked number seven in national polls. TCU’s is one of the few college football programs poised to prove that the Bowl Championship Series, or BCS, is pure BS. Considering that its Mountain West Conference is all but excluded from national championship talk, it’s impressive that TCU manages to find itself in contention for the big prize. Their size, speed, and attitude inspire fear in opponents big and small. TCU football, maybe more than anything else in Tarrant County, never takes no for an answer.
Readers’ choice: Kevin Buchanan, Fortworthology.com
Critic’s choice: Kevin Buchanan
Buchanan’s well-formatted, frequently updated blog focuses on urban development and infrastructure but also gives info on restaurants and goings-on about town, not to mention enough photographs to make a real estate developer swoon. Net users interested in sustainable growth and rapid transit will find this site indispensable, but everyone else can enjoy Fortworthology’s spirit and attitude. Honorable mention to the now-defunct West and Clear.
Local Web Forum
Critic’s choice: Dallas Fort Worth Urban Forum (forum.dallasmetropolis.com)
Yes, you have to register and slog through a lot of threads about that other city to get to the ones on our side of the county line. Fortunately, the organization of this site makes it easy to find the information on Fort Worth, rapid transit, the environment, sports, and other North Texas issues. After eight years in operation, it’s still going strong.
Preserver of History
Readers’ choice: National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame, 1720 Gendy St, FW
Critic’s choice: Tom Kellam
Kellam spends his work week deep in the basement of the downtown public library. As a city archivist and senior librarian, he maintains shelf upon shelf of items donated and collected for the sake of preserving Fort Worth’s colorful history for future generations. If anyone wants to know how things used to be around here, Kellam probably has access to the answer.
Readers’ choice: Ryan Place Labor Day garage sales
Critic’s choice: Pandora Radio
This is brilliant – free internet radio that customizes its playlist to match your tastes. At www.pandora.com, you list your favorite artists, and the radio station plays their songs, plus other songs with similar musical qualities. Don’t like a selection? No problem: Just knock it off the list. Before long, you’ve got a personal playlist with a combination of hit songs and deep-cut classics without needing an iPod.
Sign of the Apocalypse
Readers’ choice: Tarrant County College downtown campus
Critic’s choice: Mayor Mike Moncrief’s landslide re-election
Fort Worth voters elected this former senator as mayor in 2003. Since then, millions of dollars have gone unaccounted for at city hall but nobody got fired, the budget is in turmoil, Moncrief’s gas drilling buddies are degrading the city’s quality of life, and the mayor likes to bully and badger people who try to speak out at city council meetings. The apocalypse might almost be an improvement.
Place to Earn Service Hours
Critic’s choice: Agape Meal, Broadway Baptist Church, 305 W Broadway St, FW
Lots of young folks have to earn service hours, for everything from court-ordered probation to enhancing a college resumé to meeting graduation requirements. So why not put aside tedious, unappreciated tasks for something that clearly serves a purpose? Every Thursday, Agape Meal, a mission program at Broadway Baptist Church, offers a chance to earn service hours and give back to your community. Unlike many programs, this one requires only 15 minutes of training before you tie on your apron and serve truly good food to Fort Worth citizens in need. After about two hours of serving plus a short worship service, you’ll leave with a greater appreciation of what you have in your life.