Thursday, June 12, 2014

Panther Island Boondoggle drowning Tarrant Taxpayers

A $65.5 million contract has been awarded by the Texas Department of Transportation for construction of three bridges for the Trinity River Vision boondoggle.  The bridges are the first phase of creating Panther Island, which will include digging a new 1.5 mile channel for the Trinity River, creating a 33-acre lake and an 800-acre island where waterfront development is planned. I wonder just what was the precise origin of this idea?  And then who was so powerful and influential as to get the Water Board and the sycophantic Corps of Engineers to become involved in economic development?  Their business is water supply and flood control.

The bridges will be built before the channel is dug.  Our citizens have patiently endured the construction of a great many bridges for ten long years. Now we are told that these three bridges to nowhere will take four more long years to complete.  Traffic will be rerouted using detour roads or existing streets. Officials have said it is cheaper to build the bridges over dry land rather than waiting for the channel to be completed. But I wonder if the real reason to build three bridges first is because when they are built, a massive public relations project will be launched for the next phase of the boondoggle. Their plan seemingly would be to say it would be foolish with "three beautiful signature bridges" standing not to dig the channel and complete the project.  Then their powerful and richly endowed vote producing machine will swing into action and begin to beat the drums for a $25 million bond program. And then another.  And another.  Like what happened in Dallas to its Trinity project.

This whole boondoggle idea brings to mind another monster "fail-safe" venture.   In 2007 a group of deal makers (KKR, TPG and Goldman Sachs) formed Energy Future Holdings and bought TXU Corp for $45 billion.  The buyout, the largest ever, was fueled by rising natural gas prices and borrowed money. But behold I show you a disaster. Instead of finding the seven golden cities of Cibola, EFH has filed for bankruptcy. It was brought down by falling natural gas prices and the horrendous cost of serving that debt. Unhappy investors who bought into the fantasy have been left holding the bag. What would they give to be able to return to yesterday?  “It is not now as it has been of yore.  “Turn wheresoe’er I may, by night or day, the things which I have seen I now can see no more.”

Who can look into the future and assure us that Trinity River Vision is not a disaster, financial and environmental, waiting to happen?  Silent taxpayers asleep at the steal!  You have never been given a vote on this developers' dream enrichment program. Ask not what this project is going to do for you. Ask what's it going to do to our history, environment and our taxes.

Another word of caution. Trinity River Vision needs Congress to fund half of the $910 million to complete the flood control and economic development project. One is made to wonder what would happen to the boondoggle, three bridges standing, when our powerful Congresswoman, like Jim Wright and Ralph Hall, is no longer on the scene.

My decade long opposition to the boondoggle has not been made easier by the fact that some among its staunchest promoters are my valued friends. I resort to Shakespeare:  “O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts and men have lost their reason."

One thing is for certain.  No one will ever be able to say of the nepotistic Trinity River Vision, whether it be an unbounded success or a catastrophic failure:  "It is not relative."  Pun intended.

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