A dirty wind was blowing in from the west last Saturday, but many of those listening to proposals for Gateway Park flood control at an Eastside meeting thought more was being dumped on them than a little sand.
The meeting at the Doc Sessions Recreation Center was intended to announce all the benefits that the city and the Tarrant Regional Water District (and their Trinity River Vision project) would bring for the East Side. But as TRV Director J.D. Granger described the wunnerful plan, it sounded more like Let’s Make a Deal.
Why did they need a deal? Property owners near Rivercrest Country Club on the toney West Side didn’t want the bend in the river below their high-dollar homes used as the flood basin for TRV. They threatened lawsuits, etc. So the TRV looked east, to parts of the river where the locals don’t have as much clout or easy access to expensive lawyers.
And what’s the offer? In so many words, the TRV needs a basin in which to dump floodwaters, in case the planned canal/condo/restaurant complex north of downtown gets too much water; if the Riverside-area ‘hoods will let them dump it in Gateway, they’ll get some presents. J.D. laid out the little niceties: mountain-bike trails, birdwatching stations, soccer fields, housing for a rowing club, and an equestrian center.
The audience, including many African-Americans who lived nearby, were scratching their heads. “We don’t watch birds, we don’t play soccer, we don’t ride mountain bikes, because quite frankly, we can’t afford them,” said retired Judge Maryellen Hicks, mother of councilmember Kathleen. And that’s how the meeting went. The white TRV leadership was offering what they thought the locals might want, but they were entirely off the mark. J.D. thought a big amphitheatre might be built, and said he saw Jimmy Buffett down in Houston at an amphitheatre and how great that was. “We don’t want no Jimmy Buffett,” shouted community leader the Rev. Wendell “Buck” Cass. “Bring Beyoncé in and maybe we’ll come down.”
Former city councilwoman Becky Haskin then stood up to lend her two cents, and several in the crowd gasped, “Oh, no.” But it was hard to figure out where Haskin stood: First she took credit for Gateway Park improvements, then blasted the TRV, then praised it, and then sat down. By the time she was through, J.D. looked like a lawyer whose star witness had turned on him.
But the person the crowd really wanted answers from was U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, mother of J.D. and chief water carrier, so to speak, for TRV. “Kay Granger, stand up,” several shouted. But Kay was having none of that. She stayed seated, looked regal, and left early.
As one wag said later, “We should have a meeting on the West Side and tell them to stop flushing their toilets, so their crap doesn’t always come our way.”
In an item in this space from Feb. 7, 2007, about Molly Ivins, Static accidentally promoted Texas journalist and author Lou Dubose to the female gender by way of pronoun confusion. He’s a he, and Static regrets the error.