Arlington: Remarkable city for more than six decades

Posted Saturday, Nov. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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greene A complimentary editorial appearing on these pages last week saluting Arlington’s remarkable transformation into one of the most successful cities anywhere deserves further elaboration.

It’s especially gratifying to read confirmation of something I said in an unguarded moment to a Star-Telegram reporter a few years ago: “Arlington is nobody’s damn suburb.”

The reporter had called me to get my reaction to her discovery that the city had not scored well in some magazine ranking of suburbs. At first, I had hoped no one would notice my profanity, but the paper put it on the front page.

Today, I am satisfied my expression defines the civic pride of a community that has repeatedly exceeded everyone’s expectations over the past 60 years.

Prior to the 1951 announcement that General Motors had chosen Arlington as the Texas site for a new plant to help satisfy the American love affair with the automobile, you could say the town was some kind of ’burb.

With a population at the time of about 8,000 people, the conversion to a city that is today home to more than 375,000 had begun. Decade after decade, Arlington’s growth led all cities in its population category.

It unfolded year after year in dramatic fashion as a “boy” mayor next proposed the development of a lake to provide a water supply for a city that would, he predicted, grow to a place where 100,000 people would live.

Tom Vandergriff would later apologize for lack of vision.

Developer Angus Wynne Jr., taking notice of a city on the move in the late 1950’s, began the development of what would become one of the nation’s largest planned industrial parks.

Its success, together with spin-off effects of business expansion throughout the city, would ensure continued prosperity for the community and make it almost immune to the occasional downtown of the national economy.

But, the industrial park got off to a slow start, so Wynne created a small “temporary” Disneyland-like amusement park to generate some quick cash flow. Six Flags Over Texas just completed its 52nd year of operations.

Then, we gained a well-deserved designation as a major-league city when the baseball team that played in the nation’s capital moved here and became the Texas Rangers.

Some years later when Dallas tried to steal the Rangers, Arlington citizens showed up in record numbers and said “yes” to helping build a new world-class ballpark that would keep Arlington’s team right where it belonged.

The owner of the Dallas Cowboys watched that demonstration of quintessential can-do spirit, asked for the same kind of commitment from local voters and got it.

The result is the nation’s attention focused on Arlington as one of the few places anywhere on the planet to see both the World Series and the Super Bowl take place.

This quick summary leaves out a whole lot of other incredible accounts of the city always seizing opportunity, overcoming adversity and never giving up. Arlington’s story is indeed extraordinary.

There are 22 states without a city the size of Arlington. Only 11 state capitals are larger than Arlington.

Here’ a pop quiz for you: What do the following cities have in common? New Orleans, Tampa, Honolulu, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Lexington, Cincinnati, St. Paul, Toledo, Newark, Buffalo, Orlando, Norfolk, Reno, Baton Rouge and Little Rock.

They are all smaller than Arlington. Nobody calls them suburbs.

Since all this got set into motion more than 60 years ago, there have been six mayors all proudly proclaiming that the city’s best days were and are the ones that lie ahead.

They’ve all been right.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.

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