Our suburb to the east –– apologies to former Mayor Richard “We’re Nobody’s Damned Suburb” Greene –– enjoys a reputation as a friendly tourist town. Want to watch the Dallas Cowboys lose or George Strait sing at a big stadium? Come to Arlington! Want to see some semblance of pro baseball? Come to A-Town! Six Flags over Texas? Come on! Hurricane Harbor? Get your thong on, baby!
Arlington has a reputation to uphold. News reports about gangs, drugs, and hit men aren’t good for the tourist business. Still, it was surprising when Fort Worth Weekly freelance writer Steve Watkins wrote a story last summer that showed how Arlington police brass turned their backs on gang unit officers. In “Arlington Police: No Justice” (July 15, 2015), Watkins described how police officers were doing such a good job of exposing gang activity that it made their bosses worry about protecting the city’s reputation. Police administrators seemingly abandoned a gang unit cop who had a “hit” put out on him by a drug cartel. The bureaucratic desertion put police Det. Paul Balson and his family in fear for their lives. Later, Balson and some of his police peers quit the force, and Arlington police disbanded its gang unit.
Last Friday in Arlington, the Society of Professional Journalists honored Watkins with a First Amendment Award for writing the best investigative story published in 2015 by a news organization with circulation less than 100,000.
Weekly associate Editor Jeff Prince received a First Amendment Award in the defending the disadvantaged category for his story about a Fort Worth man killed by a police officer during a traffic stop. The Weekly published “Blood on Whose Hands?” on February 25, 2015, raising questions about the police’s version of the fatal encounter in the Diamond Oaks neighborhood of north Fort Worth.
The First Amendment Awards are a competition recognizing work that defends the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution, furthers the people’s right to know how governments and businesses affect their lives, and champions the powerless and disadvantaged among us. Congrats to Jeff and Steve.
Move ’em Out
All this talk about a California-based company coming to Cowtown to tear down some old pens, barns, and historic things to develop a bigger and brighter Stockyards has glossed over an important fact. What becomes of The Herd?
The spaces currently used to board the steers and horses will eventually be torn down. And the source of funding to provide new digs hasn’t been identified. Majestic Realty officials have been secretive and slow in revealing their development plans and have appeared uncertain during the past couple of years. What’s going to be built? Where? Who’s paying for what? These questions have received murky answers at best.
The Herd is crucial to the Stockyards. Fort Worth is the only place in the world offering a genuine daily cattle drive through its city streets. In years past, the Hickman family that owns much of the Stockyards has supported The Herd by providing free accommodations for the steers and horses. Neither Majestic nor the Hickmans have detailed their support going forward.
“The livestock activities at the horse and mule barns are going to be moved out,” said a longtime Stockyards supporter who asked for anonymity so as not to get crossways with city leaders pushing development. “That has been the plan for over two years. One would have thought there would be a plan for where to relocate these activities. That plan has not been developed, nor has there been a fiscal plan put together for who is going to underwrite it.”
The anonymous Stockyards guy has a gut feeling that Majestic and the Hickmans want city officials, a local foundation, or someone else to take over financial responsibility for housing The Herd.
Majestic officials do not return calls from nosy reporters asking questions because, well, they don’t have to market or defend themselves. City officials, led by Mayor Betsy Price, are the company’s biggest and most vocal cheerleaders and protectors. Those same leaders seem only faintly interested in hearing what locals have to say. After all, local folks get clingy and weird about a bunch of old pens, corrals, and dirt. Those fanatics are all like, “We love history, blah, blah.” Meanwhile, Majestic Realty wants to erect hotels and all kinds of shiny retail places that generate tax revenues and may make the Stockyards look glitzier than ever.
Trail Boss Kristin Jaworski hasn’t lost faith in the Hickmans or Majestic. She e-mailed us to say that Majestic considers The Herd an “important tradition to be carried on.” She said all parties are working together to identify a new home within the Stockyards. Relocating The Herd is essential, Jaworski said, because the horses, cattle, and offices are currently in different locations. Bringing them all together under one roof will “improve our operations” and provide “better visibility for visitors,” she said.
We have vast experience with driving cattle –– we’ve seen every episode of Rawhide. Trail Boss Gil Favor tended to be highly suspicious when strangers made promises. But Jaworski is convinced her dogies will keep on rollin’, rollin’, rollin’. Let’s hope so, or some angry Stockyards folks might sic Rowdy Yates, Dirty Harry, and that Get Off My Lawn guy all over Majestic’s West Coast ass.