Donald Trump vowed to “drain the swamp” if elected president – who knew he was talking about Panther Island?
For many years, U.S. Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth has been counting on hundreds of millions of federal tax dollars to complete the $1.1 billion Panther Island development in her hometown. What started as a flood control project that might have cost about $10 million to finish has evolved into a stagnant retail and residential development overseen by a secretive agency (Tarrant Regional Water District) and a federal lawmaker (Granger) who hasn’t been able to snooker federal lawmakers out of huge stacks of tax money that will benefit people only in Tarrant County.
Federal pork might have been easier to stab with a fork in the mid-1990s when Granger first became a congresswoman and Panther Island, then known as the Trinity River Vision project, was a fresh and exciting dream. All these years later, federal tax money intended for flood control is stretched thin by real floods stemming from actual storms. Since 2016, four Category 4 hurricanes – marked by winds above 130 mph – have smacked the United States and caused an estimated $300 billion in damages. Hurricane Harvey alone killed 68 people and caused about $125 billion in damages in the Houston area.
National voters would be right to scream if federal lawmakers threw money at Fort Worth’s imaginary flooding problems while cities were literally drowning. Research indicates global warming increases the temperature of ocean water, which likewise increases the amount of rainfall in modern hurricanes, making them fiercer than ever.
Trump is not just a global warming skeptic – he’s a mocker. We’re not counting on any proactive policies from him and expect even more hurricanes and floods – and tax dollars spent – in the future. Panther Island will keep dropping down the priority list for funds.
Closer to home, Fort Worth elected officials led by Mayor Betsy Price have begun scrutinizing Panther Island expenditures and oversight. This could be the first step toward scaling back the project.
Then, earlier this month, Granger was among the 17 lawmakers tasked with devising a scheme to fund the government and prevent another shutdown. The plan included money for the Department of Homeland Security to pay for border improvements but not enough to please Trump. He responded by declaring a national emergency.
Surely Granger, the highest-ranking Republican on the House spending committee, disappointed the president and his base by offering $1.3 billion when they wanted $5.7 billion. That can’t make it easier to wrangle pork out of Washington, D.C., in the future. And that sucking sound you hear might be Panther Island waters going down the drain.