Bud Kennedy

A genuine Arlington leader sadly departs the Tarrant County hospital board

Steve McCollum and other Arlington leaders at a 2004 presentation supporting AT&T Stadium.
Steve McCollum and other Arlington leaders at a 2004 presentation supporting AT&T Stadium. Star-Telegram archives

In 35 years, former Arlington council member Steve McCollum has helped his city build arenas, schools and a legendary record of fast growth and success.

Now, he’s gone from the board he loved most of all.

“Of all the things I’ve been involved in, I count my time at JPS as the best,” he said after he was replaced on the board of JPS Health Network, the county hospital and clinics.

“You’re surrounded by people on a mission.”

As of this week, he is no longer part of that mission. In his words, he and County Commissioner Andy H. Nguyen of Arlington, who appointed him to the unpaid post, had “irreconcilable differences.”

McCollum supports a proposed $809 million bond election for a new hospital tower, psychiatric hospital and other needs at the hospital’s aging central campus in Fort Worth.

To represent Arlington, Nguyen instead chose lawyer Warren Norred, a chronic failed candidate and a critic of taxes and government.

“The commissioner is concerned about JPS’ financial projections,” said McCollum. (He served on the finance committee.)

“You can’t begin to predict modern healthcare finance. Historically, the data show hospitals can afford to take on debt.”

JPS’s new agreement with local medical schools would seem to ensure a future. Dallas’ Parkland Health System is opening a new $1.3 billion hospital.

Hospital officials hosted hearings on the bond plan in recent weeks and heard mostly resistance.

Much of the opposition came from suburban Tea Party groups in Arlington and Mansfield, far from the central-city hospital campus, or from an outside activist group that opposes all new public debt.

“They had a big impact,” McCollum said.

Any election appears delayed until fall 2016.

In response to a public information request, hospital officials provided McCollum’s farewell letter. McCollum warned Nguyen: “The risks to JPS … are greater when not making the recommended capital improvements than the financial risk of the improvements.”

On July 29, I asked to see Nguyen’s written comments and records about McCollum.

Neither Nguyen nor any county attorney has responded.

Bud Kennedy’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

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