June 11, 2014

A bull loose in the Stockyards

Proposed development lacks iron-clad guidelines.

We don’t know whether the idea by California-based Majestic Realty Co. and the Hickman family to redevelop parts of the Fort Worth Stockyards will be good or bad, but we’ll get to find out because the City Council Tuesday night approved 8-1 the $26 million tax abatement sought by developers.

One thing we know for sure is that the plan lacks iron-clad guidelines to protect the character and activities of our Stockyards.

There is nothing written to protect the stockmen, the cowboys and cowgirls, the merchants, the cattle pens and the livestock from disappearing.

Proponents say they have carefully reviewed the plan for months and offer a not so subtle suggestion to “trust us.”

Majestic wants to rush. They want deals now with no information up front. Why the rush?

If it’s a good deal, it can wait and it will stand up to scrutiny. But if it’s a lame horse or the herd is sick, we need to find out before money changes hands.

Fort Worth just celebrated its 165th birthday. It ranks as the 16th largest city in the U.S. We’ve been here a while, and through mostly good decision-making our city has become a crown envied across the country.

But there have also been some lousy projects that hurt our city; the Interstate 30 downtown overhead that ruined the south side for decades comes to mind.

The city, by the way, fought to keep that monstrosity. Thank goodness it lost that fight.

We are big. We are strong. We are first class. We didn’t have to say yes to the first offer on the table. But that step is now behind us.

Some good news came out of the vote, and there appears to be a willingness to ride herd over the project on the part of the council.

There is a promise for guidelines that will protect the district. I hope it’s for real, but all too often such promises are merely a soft palliative lie we tell ourselves before we sign away precious resources to men who want to pave over them as their lawyers redefine common sense.

The Stockyards’ living, breathing reality as a center of western Texas living today is why it’s strong. It is not just a ticky-tack “feel” made of tilt-wall as if it’s a back lot in Hollywood or Disney World or Las Vegas.

The Stockyards is real. It is authentic. And, it is part of what makes us who we are.

If we throw it away and replace it with a phony “feel,” then we might as well all move 30 miles east.

At the close of Tuesday’s council meeting, Councilman Jungus Jordan expressed the need to “watch this like a hawk,” which is fine I guess.

But we don’t need any hawks. We need cowboys, because our City Council just let a wild bull no one knows into our pasture.

Saddle up.

John Murrin Pritchett lives in Fort Worth.

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