Photo By Luther Smith
If you missed, KERA's "Living with the Trinity" this week you missed a lot. This was a history lesson which shows history repeating itself, unless YOU DO SOMETHING.
The story starts in the 1960's when those in power (business leaders, elected politicians, etc.) decided we couldn't survive or profit without turning the Trinity in to a canal that ran from Dallas/Fort Worth to the Gulf of Mexico. It discusses the legacy of support for projects like this, how they "inherited support of the canal from their fathers...". The JD Granger of that era was Ben Carpenter. The Kay Granger of that time was Jim Wright. It didn't hurt Texas any that Lyndon Baines Johnson was President at the time, hailing from the Lone Star State.
So Mr. Wright goes to Washington and gets the billion dollars approved for the MUST HAVE project. (Is any of this sounding familiar yet?) In 1955 the Trinity River Vision Authority was created and to no one's surprise Ben Carpenter was named President (now it's starting to ring some bells?).
In 1957, while a flood ravaged the Trinity and its people, with 5500 left homeless, 4000 evacuated and the river still rising, the TRA unveiled their Master Plan for the river.
This sadly reminded us of the 2007 flood that killed four year old Ally Collins, the very next morning, when the Tarrant Regional Water District met, their minutes reflect they approved another portion of the Trinity River Vision. No mention of flooding or death.
Carpenter hand picked a prominent water attorney as the General Manager of the TRA. This reminds us of the Tarrant Regional Water District hiring JC Watts to lobby against Oklahoma to take their water.
And same as now, the Corp of Engineers was involved in it all.
So along comes Ned Fritz, a prominent attorney, who also got involved in environmental affairs. He began asking questions, writing letters and pointing out that the figures just didn't add up. People assumed he was standing in the way of progress, until they heard the facts.
In 1971 the Sierra Club sued to stop construction, claiming the Corp did not disclose the environmental costs. The dams were deserted, and so began the "waiting on the study phase". (Hear that Haltom City?) TRA responded immediately, through the media, claiming "Ecology won't halt dam job". (Again, familiar, reminds us of the recent PR spin when the federal funding moratorium came to light.)
Next on the scene is Alan Steelman, an unknown running against Cabell, who had won his seat four times with 60%. Steelman wasn't given a chance in hell to win, he was the first to give the opposition to the Trinity Project a voice. When he started talking about "Government being too costly, too big, too ineffective and interferring," people started to listen. He made a statement that still applies to Tarrant County, all these years later, "The consumer and environment take a backseat to this growth at any cost syndrome". Sad, isn't it? In all these years, has no one learned anything?
So TRA throws together a bond election to try and pass it anyway. The opposition forms a group, made up of working class Democrats, fiscal Republicans and environmentalists. The TRA blames the group for creating fear among the people. The group points out the fact that it is a tremendous waste of taxpayer money, made to look beneficial. Then the threats and name calling started.
The question asked was WHO will benefit? The wealthiest people in town, that's WHO. Industries, businesses, government, land owners. And, as with the Trinity River Vision - WHO pays? YOU!
In 1973, the bond was rejected by 20,000 votes, in the 17 counties that were allowed to vote. The pushers of the project were shocked and angered. You know what? THE PEOPLE spoke. They got to vote and they did so. And Dallas/Fort Worth thrives today, without a project the "leaders" said was needed to survive. And those without a chance in hell, won. When David fought Goliath, WHO won?