Eminent Domain! It’s been around a very long time. Its use is recorded in the Bible in the story of Ahab and Jezebel, who coveted and seized poor Naboth’s property. (KJV 1st Kings – Chapter 21).
Dozens of our citizens through the use of eminent domain lost their property to the nepotistic Trinity River Boondoggle which they believe was more for economic development than for flood control. They had the will to preserve their property. They did not have the wherewithal to continue the long fight against their government. They fought bravely, but like the defenders of the Alamo their meager provisions ran out and they were financially slaughtered.
Now comes along Monty Bennett, a man of wealth will who will not be bulldozed or bamboozled by those who hold the levers of authority in their hands. He supports Craig Bickley and Michele Von Luckner for the Water Board. The incumbents are running big ads that blare forth: DON’T LET A DALLAS BUSINESSMAN TAKE CONTROL OF TARRANT’S WATER BOARD.
Bennett’s answer, as reported by a local newspaper: “The entrenched incumbents continue to try and scare the voters with grandiose stories about an evil Dallasite trying to steal their water. This is absurd. For the record, I have no interest in Fort Worth’s water, or the Trinity River Vision or the Integrated Pipeline project. I’ve successfully blocked the TRWD from snatching my mother’s family land in east Texas. My only interest now is to help Mary Kelleher continue the fight against a heavy handed government agency with numerous allegations of corruption, cronyism, and self-dealing, that treats citizens, including me, very poorly while neglecting its core duties of water provision and flood control.”
Bennett is disparaged by his opponents as a Dallas hotelier. True, but the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce could well take note of the fact that Bennett is also a Fort Worth hotelier. He owns the Hilton and Ashton hotels in downtown Fort Worth. Monty Bennett a Dallasite? Horrors! The Chamber might also consider that the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is printed in Dallas but the Fort Worth Chamber reads it just the same.
Texans rose up when the governor of Texas a few years ago proposed a grand multi-lane boulevard all across the state. Its construction would have uprooted farms, ranches and homes from the Gulf to the Red River. Like those Texans at San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, today’s Texans fought and defeated Rick Perry’s land grab, and the Perry super highway was consigned to the dust bin of history.
Even now, ranchers and farmers are up in arms over a proposal to build a bullet train railroad from Dallas to Houston. They are ready to do whatever it takes to preserve their property.
In the 1700s, William Pitt, the prime minister of England, stood up to King George III. Pitt is remembered for his powerful defense of the rights of American colonists. One of his memorable “a man’s home is his castle” speeches that bespeaks the limits of eminent domain rings down the halls of history:
“The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail – its roof may shake – the wind may blow through it – the storm may enter – the rain may enter – but the King of England cannot enter – all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement!”
Don Woodard is a Fort Worth businessman and author of Black Diamonds! Black Gold!: The Saga of Texas Pacific Coal and Oil Company.