The Rev. Tom Franklin was surprised to hear last week that some leaders of the Highland Hills Neighborhood Association in southeast Fort Worth want him to dismantle the Taser memorial that he and others have been building on property owned by the New Mount Calvary Baptist Church on Oak Grove Road (“Not in Vain,” Feb. 17, 2010). It’s essentially a field of nearly 500 small white crosses, representing those who died after being jolted by one of the electronic weapons. The memorial is dedicated to Michael Jacobs Jr., a mentally challenged Fort Worth man who died in April 2009 after having been shocked by a Taser for 54 seconds.
“It was a community meeting, and our councilwoman, Kathleen Hicks, was speaking, and she said we had to address the concern about the memorial,” Pastor Franklin said. “I asked her, ‘What concern?’ and then the president of the neighborhood association stood up and said it was a disgrace to the community and wanted it torn down. I thought those little crosses were an addition to the community, not a disgrace.”
Eunice Givens, president of the Highland Hills association, thinks the memorial would be better located in the neighborhood where Jacobs died. “This neighborhood didn’t have anything to do with his death, and so we’re disgusted having that memorial here, bringing us that kind of attention. And it brings a lot of attention because the people who put it there keep going to the press.”
The controversy has roused the ire of several activist groups in Fort Worth, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, LULAC, and the New Black Panther Party. Those organizations and others will hold an evangelical service at Franklin’s church at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 15.
When Fort Worth was awarded a $25 million grant for a downtown modern streetcar line by the Federal Transit Administration last month, there was some disagreement on the city council about whether to accept the money. Some thought cleaning up the freight train congestion at Tower 55 just east of downtown was a more important use of transit funds.
So they brought in North Central Texas Council of Governments guru Michael Morris to help them sort it out. His advice was simple: Send a thank-you note to the FTA, accept the money for streetcars, and also mention that Tower 55 improvements are very important around these parts.
Mayor Mike Moncrief sent a letter to the FTA in late July, but it may leave the feds feeling confused. In it, he thanks the FTA but says he doesn’t know if the city will use the grant. He writes that Tower 55 is “priority one,” and streetcars come in second. And he points out that the streetcar lines and freight yard project are “interconnected.”
“These two important projects are definitively interconnected with the current physical impediment of Tower 55 limiting accessibility to our residential neighborhoods and work centers,” the mayor wrote.
True, a few road crossings in the Rock Island/Samuels Avenue neighborhood occasionally get blocked by trains for short periods of time. But Static has never heard of anyone who couldn’t get home or to work because of a freight train.
Static has a theory about why the mayor and council think these two projects are connected. Do the locally headquartered Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific companies ring a bell? A train whistle? Anything?