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Richard Connor: A rose by any name smells sweet – and a debacle reeks

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“The Central City project is my top priority, it is vital to the future of Fort Worth. Assistant Secretary of the Army, R.D. James, expressed his strong support of the project and the Army Corps of Engineers committed to completing Central City.”

– U.S. Rep. Kay Granger

“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare asked, then answered his own question: “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

And that which Fort Worth Congresswoman Kay Granger now calls “the Central City project” smells every bit as bad when it’s called Panther Island, Trinity Uptown or even old reliable: The Trinity River Vision.

No matter what you call it – and it’s had more aliases than a mafia hitman – the $1.16 billion flood-control/economic development/bridge building/river-runs-through-it/something for everyone extravaganza that has tortured taxpayers and disrupted traffic all around downtown Fort Worth is, when all’s said and done, a debacle. A boondoggle, as some early critics labeled it long ago.

But it’s springtime in Texas and as the sun warms the historic forks of the Trinity, the politicians and bureaucrats spread rhetorical leavings that make the Bard’s musings about scents read like nonsense.

Let’s face it, folks. The Fort Worth herd has left no smellier mess on its jaunts along Exchange Avenue than the Panther Island perpetrators have left on city roadways with their boondoggle “bridges to nowhere” and the runaway costs that surround them.

That said, Granger’s press-release assertion that the debacle has support in Washington, at least in the person of R.D. James, was apparently accurate.

“I very strongly support the project and I’m not sure the administration doesn’t support the project,” said James, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, during a March 27 Capitol Hill hearing held by the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. Granger, as we have often heard of late, is the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee and thus counted on by local backers of the River Vision to deliver federal money that is desperately needed to complete the project.

The Central City label, by the way, is not a new name. It’s what the Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the flood control piece of the project, has called it all along. The other names have been conjured up over the years by local officials hoping to make the project a moving target and distract the public from the problems that have plagued it almost from the beginning.

Originally, this was a project about flood control and, yes, that would affect the central city. It had an estimated cost of $300 million or so. But, then, some of those involved apparently went on spring break in San Antonio, reveled on the famous River Walk, and thought it would be good to bring that party home.

Next, we had bridges blooming all around the town and visions of a town lake, our very own River Walk and endless streams of cool and profitable stuff. Chasing that dream has run up the potential price tag to more than a billion dollars with further escalation all but certain. Frankly, there’s no telling what it could end up costing the taxpayers to fulfill this so-called vision.

You could say that you can’t make this stuff up but that would mean you are naïve to the ways of Washington.

Here’s an idea and it’s not a novel one unless you are Kay Granger, or her son J.D. Granger who oversees the many-names project for the Trinity River Vision Authority, or a member of the Tarrant Regional Water District board of directors, which oversees the whole fiasco, theoretically on behalf of the taxpayers. It’s called transparency.

So, in the name of transparency let’s bring R.D. James and some of his Army Corps colleagues to Fort Worth for a Town Hall where they can hear from local residents about the “importance” to the central city of completing this project.

Then let’s take them to Angelo’s for some great Texas barbecue and a bird’s-eye view of the disaster that looms where the White Settlement Road bridge sits partly built, craving federal money and water to flow beneath it should it ever rise to completion.

Then let’s reconvene that appropriations subcommittee and ask R.D. James one more time what he thinks of our Central City Project. Can’t wait to hear what he says.

Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at rconnor@bizpress.net

Richard Connor
Richard Connor is the owner and CEO/Publisher of DRC Media, the parent company of the Fort Worth Business Press. he also owns newspapers in Virginia. Mr. Connor held a number of corporate media executive positions before founding his own company. He is an award-winning columnist and at one time wrote a weekly column on national politics for CQ Politics, the online version of Washington, D.C.-based Congressional Quarterly.

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