White Settlement bridge

White Settlement bridge. (Photo by Paul Harral).

A fable.

The fox had been guarding the henhouse for many years.

Some hens had gone amissing.

The fox was getting fatter.

There was a cacophony of cackling over the missing chickens but the fox was not talking. The chickens themselves were a nervous wreck.

Some of them said if they could they would escape and cross a bridge to freedom. The problem is the bridges outside the coop were not built.

The mayor of Foxtown ordered a study to be done to answer the cackling townsfolk and their concerns. She also was worried about the poor chickens whose eggs financed this enterprise. The report would be given to the henhouse board of directors, an esteemed group of chicken-watchers.

The henhouse was studied by consultants who issued a report on the problem. They even supplied a blueprint on the henhouse.

The head man of the chicken-watchers board took the report and before opening it to the public or even his board gave the report to the fox.

The End.

But was this end – or even a fable at all?

It was neither. The study was one commissioned to study the fiasco known, variously, as the Trinity River Vision, the Central City project and, most recently, Panther Island.

Mishandling the release of the study this week was another example of the lack of transparency in the public’s continuing effort to find out what is going on with its money.

Here is Business Press reporter Marice Richter’s account of the latest bend in the muddy waters of this fundamentally misguided, hopelessly mismanaged project:

“Release of the findings of a comprehensive review of the $1.17 billion Panther Island project has been postponed so that Trinity River Vision officials and board members have a chance to craft a response.

“G.K. Maenius, Tarrant County administrator and Trinity River Vision Authority board president, announced Wednesday that the review is complete but he made the decision to delay public release of the report until board members have a chance to read it, ask questions and confer with staffers about its contents.

“‘Because of the complexity of the report, I made the decision that it is in the best interest of this organization to give everyone a chance to respond,’ Maenius said. “I know some of you may be upset with me but this is the best decision for this agency and I made it.’”

Some of Maenius’ colleagues were stunned and annoyed, to say the least, by his arbitrary decision to suppress the report by Dallas consultant Riveron.

“We came here today expecting to hear from Riveron,” said Fort Worth City Manager and TRVA board member David Cooke. “The consultant was supposed to present and go back and forth with us so we could understand the document.”

Objections likewise were voiced by Fort Worth City Councilman and TRVA board member Carlos Flores and by James Hill, a member of both the TRVA board and the board of directors of the Tarrant Regional Water District, the agency charged with overseeing the Trinity River Vision Authority and the entire Panther Island project.

Some sage once said something about being able to fool some of the people all the time but not all the people all of the time.

People – taxpayers – rise up.

Of all the arrogant, tone deaf, irresponsible outrages the Panther Island cabal has perpetrated on the public, this one takes the prize.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it got worse.

What the public wants right now, what it always wants, is conscientious and responsible handling of its hard-earned tax dollars. What it wants equally as much is transparency and accountability from the officials who spend that money.

Treating the taxpayers with respect won’t get Panther Island the federal money needed to complete the project and it won’t build the three unfinished bridges that are the most sadly visible evidence of a boondoggle in shambles. But it might help boost the public’s waning confidence in the leadership of local officials.

Before the project review was suppressed instead of being released as promised, the bridge contractor met with owners of businesses who have been devastated by detours and traffic snarls created by bridge construction on White Settlement Road.

They were told that over 90 deficiencies have been found in the design of the unfinished bridges and that the contractor has not been paid all it is owed. The attorney expressed frustration that the contractor can’t seem to find out who owes him the money.

Mayor Betsy Price, who has been proactive in questioning the project’s management, says the Texas Department of Transportation is responsible for the bills. OK. But everyone feels as if they are getting the bureaucratic runaround on all of this. The bridge designer, Freese and Nichols, says there is nothing wrong with the design.

No one in a leadership position has been willing to accept responsibility for this fiasco. One of the hoped-for results of the project review was some accountability, if not flat-out blame-placing, for all that has gone wrong. But hopes were dashed, at least for the moment, by the decision to hold back the report while the people who have caused all the problems pick it apart and devise a response they hope can spin away their culpability.

Maenius tried to double-talk his way through his confounding decision to let the fox’s friends read the report and clarify it. The report is long and complex, he said, and requires a “deep dive” to digest. Fine. But that’s all the more reason to set it free for public consumption, sooner rather than later.

TRVA Executive Director J.D. Granger, of course appreciated Maenius’ decision.

Granger “expressed concerned about misinformation being communicated through the media if the report wasn’t vetted before its public release,” Richter wrote.

Misinformation? Or extremely relevant and useful information about Granger’s role in creating and perpetuating the horrific debacle that is Panther Island? We eagerly await the review’s findings regarding the quality of Granger’s decision-making as the prime manager of the project.

The operative word, unfortunately, is await. We have waited. And waited. And now wait some more.

And while we wait, the fox gets fatter.

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

(5) comments

cpoirot1

This is a great column: creative, interesting and on-target. We got lost trying to get to Angelo's last week because of all the closures and construction.

kafcampbell

Just let us see the report already. We paid for it. Srrsly, this obfuscation only points to one thing: things to hide.

Dbloxom

How much do these misfits at the Water board and the Trinity River Vision think us taxpayers will put up with. They are hoping it will "go away" over time. A complete house cleaning down there is past-time. Bring in design and construction professionals to clean this mess up asap!

Northstar Bob

[thumbup] I'm generally not a fan of trouble making journalists trying to drum up controversy to sell ads. In this instance your trouble making is most justified and welcomed. Thanks for keeping the history of this debacle in front of us! Board members need to wrest control over this public entity back from out of control empire building senior staff, both at TRV and TRWD! Praying the longer term board members recently re-elected can join the newer faces there and become agents of change. Otherwise I agree with Bloxom! bb

grahambrizendine

Sad thing is most of the public will think this is about a henhouse and not a water control project because they (majority) just don't care. It's why budgets have been allowed to get out of control in government in general... not just this project. It's one of those things... everyone is drawing down a fat check and doesn't want to rock the boat for fear of losing their personal gravy train. So they let the train keep on running faster and faster knowing there is a sharp curve miles ahead. But they get off at the next stop anyway... so why derail things now? Good write up... and oh so factual.

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