Editorial: Vote for change at the water district – elect Moates and Team

Gary Moates

It’s time for change at the Tarrant Regional Water District.

OK, it’s long past time for change. But the May 4 election for two seats on the water district’s board of directors is without question the most important in memory, if not in the entire history of the water district.

The prime responsibility of the TRWD is managing and protecting the water supply for much of Tarrant County, a piece of geography where keeping the water flowing is a constant challenge in the face of climatic conditions that can range from just plain dry to flat-out drought. On this score, the water district generally gets high marks – and deservedly so.

But the water district is also the public agency charged with overseeing the massive flood control-development project long known as Trinity River Vision and in recent years officially referenced as Panther Island. On this score, the water district’s performance has been abysmal.

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Plagued by construction delays, cost overruns, funding setbacks and what looks for all the world like a mind-boggling level of managerial incompetence, the taxpayers’ estimated bill for Panther Island has more than tripled since its conception to more than $1 billion. And with no meaningful completion date on the horizon, there’s no telling what the final cost might be.

To make matters worse, a political tug of war has erupted in Washington, D.C., over the fate of federal funding for the project – money that is absolutely critical to its successful completion.

Exacerbating all this – or causing it, by some accounts – is an appalling lack of transparency and accountability at the water district – a situation that has gone not only uncorrected but mostly unacknowledged by the water board. With rare exceptions, members of the board have encouraged, defended and contributed to this lack of accountability. Longtime board members, including the two incumbents on the May 4 ballot, have done nothing to change the status quo and in fact have resisted all demands for change and reform.

Two years ago, voters elected two new board members, Leah King and James Hill, and they have shown a willingness to take the board and the district in a new direction. But King and Hill are just two votes on the five-member board and so their ability to effect change is limited.

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The two incumbents seeking re-election, Jim Lane and Marty Leonard are deeply respected members of the community; they have been dedicated and selfless across decades of public service. But they have been on the water board since 2006 and have done nothing to fix the problems. A new majority is needed on the water board and it is needed now.

To that end, the Business Press enthusiastically endorses two immensely qualified candidates who will preserve the water board’s commitment to its primary mission of water supply while also making the board and the district more responsive to the public and addressing the looming debacle that is Panther Island.

Water district residents can vote for two of the five candidates on the ballot and we recommend that you cast your votes for Gary Moates and Charles “C.B.” Team.

Moates is a longtime real estate attorney who has also run two different title companies. He served on the Fort Worth Zoning Commission from 1996-2003.

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Moates became increasingly interested in the future of the water district as he watched the problems with Panther Island grow bigger while the board grew more intransigent and unresponsive. He says everything will be on the table when he joins the water board and long-needed reforms will be a top priority. “It’s time for a change,” he says.

Moates says his first order of business as a board member will be expediting completion of the White Settlement Road bridge, which is part of the Panther Island project and has snarled traffic and cut off access to businesses in the neighborhood.

C.B. Team is a lifelong resident of Fort Worth who is active in all phases of the real estate business at Ellis & Tinsley Inc. He is intensely interested in the future of Fort Worth and has attended water board meetings for several years to familiarize himself with the agency’s procedures as well as the issues and challenges facing the water district. He will bring a fresh approach to governing and a wealth of new ideas to a public body that is desperately in need of both.

We urge water district residents to cast their votes for Gary Moates and Charles “C.B.” Team.