Sunday, December 30, 2007

What Was That Fire in the Sky?

Christmas lights? A scene from Blade Runner? What was that thing burning at I-30 and Beach Street on Saturday night?

Welcome to another aspect of Barnett Shale gas drilling that you may not be aware of: flaring. According to Earthworks, a non-profit organization of scientists and engineers with a history of helping mining industries clean up their practices, flaring is the practice of burning gas that is deemed uneconomical to collect and sell. The practice is also used to burn gases that would otherwise present a safety problem.

The Ventura County Air Pollution Control District in California has estimated that the following air pollutants may be released from natural gas flares: benzene, formaldehyde, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs, including naphthalene), acetaldehyde, acrolein, propylene, toluene, xylenes, ethyl benzene and hexane. Researchers in Canada (Leahey, Douglas M., Preston, Katherine and Strosher, Mel. 2001. "Theoretical and Observational Assessments of Flare Efficiencies, Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association. Volume 51. p.1614) have measured more than 60 air pollutants downwind of natural gas flares.

Are any of those pollutants in this or any other Barnett Shale flaring? Who knows? No one in Texas is exactly going out of their way to keep an eye on things. The Denton-Record Chronicle reported in 2006 that although "both the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Railroad Commission are empowered to monitor industry emissions, Ramona Nye, spokesperson for the railroad commission, said that monitoring is really up to the environmental commission." But the TCEQ doesn't actually go to a site when there is a flare and measure what's going on, the agency only monitors it from its fixed-site air quality stations.

We are looking at thousands of potential gas wells being drilling in the Fort Worth area. Because the Fort Worth-Dallas area is already struggling to meet clean air standards by 2010, it would be in the best interest of those of us who live in Fort Worth to understand the impact of flaring on our air quality. After all, this isn't just about air we breathe -- which is pretty dang important. It also hits us in the pocketbook. The Fort Worth-Dallas area faces the loss of federal highway funds and other economic sanctions for failing to meet clean air standards.

Even without flaring, we have enough to deal with. Why throw another log on the fire?

Fortunately, there is something we can do -- ask the City and the Gas Drilling Task Force to conduct an environmental impact study so we can know what we are dealing with. Contact the Mayor and your city council representative today. BTW, thanks to Don Young for the photo.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

On the Front Line

When I saw the headline "Bhutto Assassinated," my heart sank. As if things we're going bad enough in an unstable country full of Islamic militants and nuclear weapons. Then I saw the photo of the blast above by my old UT classmate John Moore who I have written about before. My God, the danger.

John's a father and a husband, an all-around great guy who happens to have a job that takes him into harm's way on a regular basis so we Americans can see what is going on in the world. Thanks for your work, John. Please be safe.

UPDATE, 12.28.07: Listen to an interview with John on the NYT Web site.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My Favorite Tunes, 2007

I have a love-hate relationship with year-end best-of lists. I like to see what other people are listening to or want you to think they are listening to. However, I don't really get the opportunity to listen to enough new material to offer an authoritative list.

My Top 10 Songs
1. Peter Bjorn and John, “Young Folks” – This song made whistling cool again. Not that whistling was ever uncool.
2. Spoon, “I Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” – If I ever got drunk, this would be the song I would listen to 73 times in a row. I am speaking theoretically, mind you. Plus, they look cool in the library (see above).
3. Stars, “Bitches in Tokyo” – Stars > Arcade Fire.
4. RJD2, “A Beautiful Mine” – The theme song to AMC's Mad Men is actually a 2006 song. But who cares?
5. Salim Nourallah, “I Miss You” – Salim makes sadness sound sooo good.
6. Feist, “1234” – Yeah, she's everywhere. But I loves me some Leslie Feist.
7. Amy Winehouse, “Back to Black” – Stay tuned for the flameout, but Winehouse recorded 1965's best album in 2007.
8. John Doe, “The Golden State” – Best X song of the year. Kathleen Edwards reminded me that I'm not over Exeen yet.
9. Flight of the Conchords, “Business Time” – Team Building Exercise '99!
10. The Shins, “Australia” – I think people kind of forgot about this album. Too bad. It's good bubblegum.

My Top 5 Albums
1. Salim NourallahSnowing in My Heart. Salim and Rhett Miller both want to be Ray Davies when they grow up. Salim's already got it nailed down.
2. SpoonGa Ga Ga Ga Ga.
3. FeistThe Reminder. As I mentioned earlier, Feist is ubiquitous, yet not overhyped. She's that good.
4. Amy WinehouseBack to Black. Who woulda thought a trainwreck could sound this good?
5. Peter Bjorn and JohnWriter’s Block. Everyone knows "Young Folks," but this album has several great songs on it.

8 Albums I Wish I Had Listened To
Stuff I’ve heard bits of and liked but didn’t get a listen in ’07. And, no, I couldn't think of 10:
1. Band Of HorsesCease To Begin
2. The NationalBoxer
3. Patty GriffinChildren Running Through
4. Polyphonic SpreeThe Fragile Army
5. LCD SoundsystemSound of Silver
6. The New PornographersChallengers
7. The KillersSawdust
8. Ryan AdamsEasy Tiger

The Best Paragraph Written about Music This Year
A few weeks ago, Robert Christgau wrote on Slate about Journey's improbable comeback. He set the record straight:
"Let's get this party started quickly. Journey sucks. They sucked in 1981, they'll suck in 2033, and they suck now. Who gives a fuck what Tony Soprano thinks? What I love about Tony Soprano when he's not killing people (and sometimes when he is) is that he prevails with his brain but isn't above bringing his body into the contest. That's very rock 'n' roll. But does it mean that I want to eat at Artie Bucco's (the diner, maybe, no onion rings please), or live in that McMansion (unless he installs a lot of bookcases)? Uh-uh. Of course he likes hyperemotional arena rock from his flaming youth. In 10 years, he'll be ordering up Celine Dion's 'My Heart Will Go On.'"

In a word, boo-yah.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Saturday with Santa, Solstice and Star Wars

My family -- we get around the Fort. We didn't get to Brave Combo on Friday as we originally planned -- thanks to an incredibly late night with the Chesapeake Ad Decoder, who I am pleased to report is safe, happy and living in a base camp safely ensconced underneath millions of gallons of Rahr Stormcloud IPA.

However, we did make up for it with a long, quite festive Saturday night, starting in Arlington Heights with a holiday party invitation to join our friends Jurgen and Barbara for their annual holiday open house, where the only rule is you must show up or we will talk about you. With that in mind, how can you not show up?

But that wasn't the only reason. It was a great opportunity to get to meet the parents of my daughter's friends outside of a PTA or Auction committee meeting for a change. And for the kids to have flashlight wars. And to eat tamales.

One nice bit of serendipity was running into my old friend June Naylor again. You probably know her from her excellent food reportage for the Star-Telegram. I hadn't seen her in a few years, so it was nice to get a chance to chat again.

Of course, the evening was just getting started. We left about 9 to meet Kevin from FortWorthology at Don Young's Winter Solstice celebration in East Fort Worth.

The Solstice celebration is kind of an annual thing for Don, but this is first one I have attended. This year, Fort Worth sculptor Deran Wright crafted a dragon from vegetables and straw to preside over the heart of the campfire. That's my daughter -- who I adopted from the planet Vulcan -- with her new, soon-to-be-immolated friend.

It's traditional that everyone bring something to burn in the fire. This can be firewood, an old chair, a discarded cello or a scrap of paper engraved with a secret wish for the new year. I scribbled a wish from a page in my notebook and tucked it safely in the straw before the blaze.

There is something primal and transfixing about a bonfire. The warmth against the chill of the evening is part of it, but there is also something kind of peaceful and unifying about it. For more photos, a full photo essay is available at West and Clear.

I also had a chance to meet Herb Levy and have a long talk with him about music and the future of Fort Worth. He is a very interesting guy and I plan to offer an interview with him in the near future.

Of course, the evening was not over yet. Kevin offered to screen the legendary Star Wars Holiday Special and we just could not say no. I don't know what the opposite of a holiday classic is, but the Star Wars Holiday Special is definitely that. It is an indescribable horror that I am still traumatized by. To call it bad would be an insult to bad things everywhere. It is two hours of indescribable awfulness.

Carrie Fisher is coked out of her mind, Mark Hamill is wearing enough makeup to make him look like Jessica Simpson, Bea Arthur sings and Art Carney walks around with his shirt unbuttoned to his navel.

The only thing that made it watchable was the Rifftrax commentary by former MST3K hosts Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy. Without this, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Even with it, watching it is a dicey proposition.

Thanks to everyone who made it such a joyful Saturday night. Merry Christmas and Happy Solsticing!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Where Do You Get Good Cajun Food?

I'm really at a loss as to where to find it in Fort Worth. And, no, Pappadeaux's really doesn't cut it. Not that the food is bad -- it's quite tasty -- it's just I never have an exceptional dining experience there. I feel overfed and overcharged.

Anyway, I bring this up because I did experience a total Cajun foodgasm today ... in Dallas. The place in question is Dodie's on Greenville Ave.

I ended up there because no good deed goes unpunished. Like two years ago, I did some design work for my friend, Lee Roth. Lee's a very accomplished landscape architect. I won't name-drop his clients, but most of them are nine and ten-figure net-worth types. Yeah, I know how many zeros that is.

Anyway, I did a little favor for Lee and he says, how much? I say, don't worry about it. He says, I'll take you to lunch. Deal.

Now, Lee is from New Orleans, so I know he knows good Cajun. So I say, hook me up, brutha. And then a lot of time passes.

So today, Lee calls me and says, you got lunch plans? I do now. And that's how I ended up at Dodie's.

Basically, I don't even need to look at a menu -- Lee just orders. We start off with Abita Amber. Now, I don't know about you, but there's something about drinking beer at lunch when you are really supposed to be working that just kicks ass. Maybe it's the beer part.

Well, if you follow that up with some really great food, it gets better.

For starters, there was this cole slaw -- vinegary, not creamy -- with loads garlic. Now, I hate cole slaw and I ate the whole bowl.

Then we moved on to chicken and sausage gumbo. I've been leaning toward this a little more when I eat at home, except I like to put a little duck in there when I can get it. But I digress, the gumbo was superb. The roux was actually a little on the light green side -- not the thick, dark brown to which I'm accustomed. Again, I ate the whole bowl.

That was followed up with Cajun tamales, which are these chili peppers stuffed with this -- I dunno? -- crawfish sausage? -- then deep fried. Wowza.

We are just now getting to the entree -- crawfish etouffee. Again, this was a little different than I'm used to -- the roux was red with a hint of tomato. And the best part was the crawfish were fresh. Excellent.

Because this wasn't enough food, I sampled with red beans and rice. Lee believes that great red beans need to be thoroughly soaked -- which few people will do. These were soaked and served with grilled andouille sausage. I'm going to order this next time.

So we ate, talked about some of his projects, bamboo for my yard, LSU football and kids. And as you can imagine, I wasn't worth a shit at work all afternoon. Is Christmas here yet?

Anyway, thanks, Lee. You are a rock star. And if anyone knows where to find good Cajun in the Fort, lemme know.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Scenes from a Victory Party

The crowd parted and a murmur rippled through the room. "What the hell?" was the rhetorical question of the moment.

On a night when the not-very-large Sapristi Bistro in Park Hill played host to current Mayor Mike Moncrief, former Mayor Kenneth Barr, outgoing District 9 city councilwoman Wendy Davis and State House rep Marc Veasey, the most surprising and noteworthy guest crossed the room to congratulate the newly-minted District 9 City Councilman Joel Burns on his victory.

That man was Chuck Silcox. Yes, you heard me. The man who uttered the most infamous gaffe of the District 9 race was there -- Bluetooth headset firmly in place -- to say welcome aboard the City Council.

It was a touching moment. Really.

When I asked Joel later about what happened, he said, "I gave him a hug."

Yeah, and from what I saw, it didn't look like the most comfortable moment of Chuck's life.

"He said we need to talk."

Wouldn't you love to be in the room for that conversation?

It was a bizarre end to a truly bizarre race.

But, as I try to put this race into context, as I consider what this means for Fort Worth, I offer you a quote from one of the revelers there last night.

"This really means a lot to me," he said. "It's like a validation. It's like we are more open-minded here in Fort Worth than some people think. We're not a bunch of hicks. We're not that conservative."

And while it is worth noting that having an openly gay man elected to the city council is sign that Fort Worth is firmly rooted in the 21st Century, I don't think that was the most interesting development to come out of this race.

I believe that Joel Burns won this election because he was the candidate that a majority of voters in this district wanted, not because he was the gay candidate. With the exception of Silcox's unfortunate comment, Burns' sexual orientation was not an issue. He had to run this election based on his position on development, gas drilling, neighborhoods and growth. Those were the issues, not his personal life.

And that -- I think -- is progress.

So congratulations, Joel. Enjoy the moment, but remember, there is work to be done. I am hoping that you will be a strong advocate for the neighborhoods for District 9. I hope you will be a strong advocate on the gas drilling issue, as Wendy Davis has been. Good luck. We're counting on you.

Joel Burns Wins District 9

After an over-long and bitterly contested battle, we have a new City Councilman for District 9 -- Joel Burns. He defeated Juan Rangel with 54 percent of the vote. Congratulations, Joel. I wish you well in your new job. Oh, and if you need a citizen representative on the gas drilling task force, I can clear my schedule.

Dan Barrett Wins!

Texas Democrats and clear-thinking Republicans are one vote closer to ending Tom Craddick's autocracy in Texas. Dan Barrett defeated Mark Shelton in yesterday's District 97 runoff with 52 percent of the vote.

I took that picture of Dan at the polling place at Lily B. Clayton Elementary on election day in November and had a chance to talk to him briefly. He's good people. He's worked hard and he deserves this victory.

Congratulations, Dan! I'm looking forward to calling you my State House Representative in Austin.

UPDATE: Check out this column from Bud Kennedy. It's an interesting analysis of the District 97 runoff.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Future Is Unwritten

Because Fort Worth still doesn't have its shit together enough to offer a true art house movie theater, PeteG and I trucked it over to Dallas to see Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, the story of The Clash lead singer who died five years ago.

Joe Strummer and The Clash represented an important part of my youth. It may seem a bit much to point to a band as a consciousness-raising tool, but The Clash were just that. They were proof that you didn't have to accept things the way they were -- whether you were talking about your frustration with hearing the same five songs on the radio or your frustration with your own angst-ridden teen-age existence. Someone once said that The Clash were the only band that ever mattered, and I always took it as the God's-honest-truth.

But teen-agers just love loud, frustration-venting rock and roll and if you watch the clip above, you can see it open with Strummer belting out White Riot with face-melting intensity. What teen wouldn't love that? But what surprises about The Clash isn't that I found them essential at 15, it's that I still find the music to be meaningful when I'm staring down the barrel of 40. Circumstances have changed, but the music is still relevant. Like all great music, whether you are talking about Beethoven or the Beatles, there is a universal truth at the core of it that hasn't diminished.

While some hear The Clash and find only punk rock nihilism, I always heard optimism. The theme that ran through Strummer's music and his life always came back to one message -- you are not a victim of circumstances, you have choices. Life is what you make of it. The future is unwritten.

You can't tell the story of Joe Strummer without telling the story of the Clash, but whether talking about the man or his band, the message was the same. In the clip below, the spotlight may be on Mick Jones, but the words and the sensibility are pure Joe Strummer -- Stay Free.

"Cos years have passed and things have changed
And I move anyway I wanna go.
I'll never forget the feeling I got
When I heard that you'd got home.
And I'll never forget the smile on my face
cos I knew where you would be.
And if you're in the crowd tonight
Have a drink on me.
But go easy... step lightly...
Stay free."

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Interview: Juan Rangel

I saw Juan Rangel at the League of Women Voters' Forum in October and was very impressed with him. I found him knowledgeable and passionate. After that event, I must say that I was disappointed that his campaign decided to use the Trinity Trees mailing list for election purposes. I was also disappointed when he compared a fellow Democrat to Karl Rove in another campaign mailer.

However, I believe that this is an important election and I am approaching Tuesday's vote with an open mind. I am interested to hear what Juan has to say. Juan was gracious enough to respond to an e-mail interview dealing with this campaign's most important issues. I hope you will take a few minutes to read Juan's responses before going out to vote on Tuesday.

The Caravan of Dreams: The District 9 campaign has been as bitterly contested a race as Fort Worth has seen in a while. Are there any aspects of the race that you would have done differently if you had to do it again? Also, if you win, how do you propose moving forward and mending fences with any wounded parties?

Juan Rangel: I have tried to run a positive campaign that focuses on my experience and positions on the issues, especially gangs, gas drilling, Medstar and neighborhoods. I hope future campaigns in Fort Worth learn the lessons of this campaign and focus on issues important to Fort Worth families rather than people's sexual orientation, ethnicity, or by following someone around with a video camera.

I hope to mend fences by offering to sit down with Joel after the election and talk things out over a cup of coffee. I will listen to his perspective on the campaign and I hope he will listen to mine. In my experience, people get worked up in the heat of a campaign because these issues are very important to people, and sometimes both sides just need to count to ten and then talk to and listen to one another. I would also reach out to his supporters and ask them to help the City by serving on the many Boards and Commissions that Council members have to nominate individuals to serve. For instance, while the Tarrant Stonewall Democrats have been strong supporters of Joel, I agree with their goal of equality and I am impressed with several of their members, and hope that they would serve the City on Boards and Commissions. We need everyone to work together to meet the challenges facing Fort Worth.

TCoD: If you win the District 9 seat, one of the first issues you will face is urban gas drilling as the city reconstitutes the gas ordinance task force. How do you hope to approach this issue and what to you think you can accomplish for the voters in District 9?

JR: The Fort Worth Gas Drilling Task Force should be reconstituted to include new and fresh perspectives. In September, I called for the Gas Drilling Task Force to be reconstituted to address neighborhood and environmental concerns raised in recent months. I proposed that in addition to the representatives appointed by each council member, the Task Force should be expanded to include two at large members, one to represent neighborhoods and another charged with protecting Fort Worth’s environment. Shortly after I called for reconstituting the Gas Drilling Task Force, I was grateful that the City Council indicated that the Task Force would be reconstituted. I believe no issue should be off the table for the Gas Drilling Task Force. I believe that the Gas Drilling Task Force should focus on increasing protections for neighborhoods and our environment, with far more emphasis on traffic congestion from drilling and fracing operations, quick responses to hazardous conditions and dangers, water and air pollution, and broader safety zones around homes, schools, hospitals and churches.

At the same time we reconstitute the Gas Drilling Task Force, the City of Fort Worth should conduct a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment of the effects of urban natural gas drilling. Fort Worth’s Gas Well Ordinance was drafted without any assessment of the effects of gas well drilling on our urban environment. To safely and effectively conduct urban drilling, Fort Worth must perform a thorough assessment of the effects of drilling on our air, water, streets, homes, schools and economic engines. I believe that once we identify the risks and benefits created by urban drilling, Fort Worth will be better able to take appropriate action.

TCoD: Gas transmission pipelines are becoming a larger issue in the city because they run through some city parks, and gas companies have begun applying for permission to build pipelines close to neighborhoods. Because state and federal laws make it difficult for cities to regulate pipelines, how do you propose the city approach this issue?

JR: We need a comprehensive system for mapping and overseeing the placement of natural gas pipelines. I want the City to work with all gas companies and drillers, and provide incentives so that companies would share pipelines, much as power lines are shared, to minimize impacts related to the proliferation of pipelines. Buried piping should also be identified with signs at the surface, to prevent damage by unrelated construction activities. These measures can limit the risk of the release of pressurized natural gas, explosions and fires caused by construction activity near unidentified pipelines. I believe the City should coordinate with gas companies to coordinate the placement of gas wells to limit as much as possible the duplication of gas drilling activities.

Trinity Park, Tandy Hills Park, the park space at the Zoo, the many City softball and soccer fields, Fort Woof Dog Park - our parks are great public spaces for our families to enjoy their free time. While some state and federal laws make it difficult to regulate pipelines, other laws make it difficult to convert public parkland to private use. We need to keep pipelines from compromising our City parks by enforcing these park laws and working to find alternative places for gas lines to be placed.

TCoD: As gas drilling moves into the neighborhoods, the issue is becoming more contentious. Do you believe that 600 feet is an adequate setback requirement? Do you believe in high-impact variances to allow drilling operations within that 600 foot limit? Are there other things the city should do to protect the safety of its residents and the environment?

JR: We need a wider safety zone between gas wells and homes, schools, hospitals, churches, and the Trinity River, of a distance recommended by a Comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment. The safety zone should also be enforced near water sources and economic engines like the Trinity River Vision, Sundance Square, the Hospital District, the Museum District, and major traffic arteries. As a Fort Worth ISD Trustee, I have already advocated for a minimum of 1,000 feet between wells and schools (instead of the 600' zone currently in effect). While there may be rare situations where such limits are not necessary, there are others that require an even larger zone of protection. We need to find a protective zone that puts our safety first.

I can't think of any situation in which a high impact variance should be allowed.

I support a ban on injection wells for disposal of frack water from the drilling process within Fort Worth city limits. This would protect Fort Worth's water supply. The City’s Environmental Director has stated that injection wells pose serious risks to our water supply. About 4.5 million gallons of water is used in the drilling and fracking processes, and at least 26 chemicals, including carcinogens, are used. If handled improperly, this highly polluted water will leak into our water supply. I believe that drillers should be encouraged to dispose of polluted wastewater through methods other than injection wells, such as recycling and off-site disposal of non-recyclable waste byproducts.

I was the first candidate to call for a 1,000-foot moratorium on drilling within 1,000 feet of the Trinity River and other water sources. I initially made this proposal as a partial response to the concern over the proposed destruction of the Trinity Trees, although my primary reason for the proposal was to make sure our water sources were protected. Shortly after making the proposal, the City’s Development Director also proposed that drilling should not be allowed near the Trinity River.

The City needs limits on the hours and days when drillers can drill and frac, to minimize the noise, light, air and traffic pollution from these activities. Also, drillers should pay for and conduct prompt road repairs for road damage caused by their trucks and equipment.

TCoD: One gas drilling issue that I am concerned about is the fact that the TCU gas drilling well will be going in 1,000 to 1,200 feet from my daughter's elementary school -- Alice Carlson. I don't like something that dangerous going in so close to a place where my daughter spends a third of her day, but it appears that the parents at the school will have no say. If you were the City Council representative for District 9, how would you handle this?

JR: I share your concern for Alice Carlson and other schools near proposed wells and pipelines, such as Daggett Montessori and Lily B. Clayton. Since I was first elected to the FWISD Board of Trustees in 2000, I have been charged by parents and all voters to protect our children and provide them the best education possible. As a FWISD Trustee, I have proposed expanding the zone of safety for our schools to 1,000 feet. If the Comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment recommends that a drilling near schools be from a distance greater than 1,000 feet, than I will fight to impose the broadest safety zone needed to protect our schools and children.

In the interim, all FWISD schools should immediately develop evacuation routes, plans and protocols to protect our children in case of accidents at well sites or pipelines.

TCoD: What is your position on the Trinity River Vision project? Do you believe that the cost of the project is getting out of hand? Do you favor any spending caps?

JR: I support the Trinity River Vision project because it has real potential to provide economic growth and other benefits to Fort Worth families. But we need to make sure that the Trinity River Vision project provides benefits to the public at large and not just a select few. We need to be more frugal with public funds spent on the project. While I do not favor a cap at this time, we need to be up front about the price tag so the citizens may make an informed decision about whether to spend more money on the project.

TCoD: Regarding crime and fighting gang violence, is the situation in Fort Worth really that dire? This hasn't been an issue that has been in my consciousness. What am I not seeing?

JR: Talk to our police officers and they will tell you that gang crime is increasing every day. Talk to our teachers at Daggett Middle School, Paschal High School and the many other schools in our district south of Berry Street, who see kids drop out because of gang activities. Gang activity causes an increase in school drop out rates, and results in crimes including assault, burglary, vandalism, graffiti and auto theft. During this campaign, a teenager was shot and killed by suspected gang members, and another child was shot and injured by a suspected drive by shooting. Gang activity is an increasing problem that will become an epidemic that will spread to more and more neighborhoods and schools. We must nip it in the bud right now for the sake of children like yours.

I am proud that the Fort Worth Police Officers Association has endorsed me, in part, because I have the experience and a plan to deal with the emerging gang problem.

TCoD: Right now a moratorium exists on new injection wells in this city of Fort Worth. Do you believe that injection wells can be safely operated in the city? If not, do you have a position on disposal of wastewater from the fracking process?

JR: As I discussed earlier, I do not think injection wells can be operated safely in the City. And I think injections wells should be banned within the city. Instead of burying drilling waste, we need to recycle as much of this water as possible, and dispose of the non-recyclable material in off-site waste management facilities.

TCoD: Recently, Chesapeake Energy purchased 26.74 acres in various parcels between Montgomery Plaza and the Trinity River in Fort Worth. Because this land is so close to downtown, the river and the 7th Street corridor, are you concerned that this could disrupt the development going on in this area?

JR: Absolutely. The development along 7th Street and downtown will be a big boost for our economy. We need a balanced approach to gas well drilling that allows our City to reap the benefits in a way that minimally impacts on the things that make Fort Worth a special place to live and work.

TCoD: What is your position on tax incentives and special tax districts being used to entice businesses to relocate and/or expand in Fort Worth? In a few cases, these incentives have gone to businesses (Cabela's for example) which can more than afford to operate without them, thus costing the City much needed tax revenue. Will you continue this practice?

JR: I do not favor or oppose every tax abatement. I would consider tax abatements on a case-by-case basis. My number one criteria would be does the abatement provide a serious benefit to Fort Worth, such as creating good jobs for Fort Worth families. For example, there are over 65,000 jobs in the medical district (which is located in District 9) providing life saving care for our families. Tax abatements in the medical district to spur medical research or innovative medical care might be a good thing that will bring good jobs. Tax abatements to restore downtrodden neighborhoods and return vital services to them (like grocery stores and bans) can also be appropriate. All too often, tax abatements have been perceived as taking care of those who don't need taking care of. We need to avoid those types of abatements.

TCoD: What is your position on the development of commuter and light rail in Fort Worth? If you support this, what are some things that you believe that you can do to facilitate that development?

JR: I believe we need to encourage the development of commuter light rail in Fort Worth. While urban gas drilling along Eighth Avenue is not wise or responsible, I think Eighth Avenue might be a good location for light rail stations, connecting our district to Downtown and other job hubs. We need the State to take leadership for the traffic and environmental problems of the North Texas Region and coordinate the solution. We should work with other North Texas Cities to get the State to implement a comprehensive traffic plan that includes light rail that addresses traffic that cause long commutes and threats to our environment.

Interview: Joel Burns

Back on Election Day in November, I ran into Joel Burns outside the polling place at Lily B. Clayton Elementary. Although I have had issues with the tone of his campaign, he said that it was really a misunderstanding -- he's really not a bad guy. After listening to his explanation of the URL issue and checking out his side of the story, I came to believe that I had been unfair to Joel on this issue. Joel asked for a second chance and I believe he deserved one.

And I have been pleased with the way he has run his campaign in the runoff. I believe he has tried to run on the issues and I applaud him for that. Joel was gracious enough to respond to an e-mail interview of this campaign's important issues. So take a few minutes to read Joel's responses before going out to vote on Tuesday.

The Caravan of Dreams: The District 9 campaign has been as bitterly contested a race as Fort Worth has seen in a while. Are there any aspects of the race that you would have done differently if you had to do it again? Also, if you win, how do you propose moving forward and mending fences with any wounded parties?

Joel Burns: All and all I am very happy with the campaign. I’ve tried to keep my campaign focused on the issues on which I think the voters are most focused – safe neighborhoods, quality economic development, and improved transportation. Obviously I regret anything that has taken the focus off of those issues and the early distraction surrounding the domain name is one I regret.

Though I moved on it immediately when I found out, I regret not being more aggressive about being in communication with Bernie to make sure he knew it was a regrettable mistake and not out of any malice, intentional, etc. When taken to task by the blogger community, sometimes inaccurately, I regret that in an effort to not appear the whiner, I let those inaccuracies go unanswered. I think I’ve mended fences with Bernie and am very proud of and honored by his endorsement. It’s my hope that by being forthright in this interview and other conversations with Steve and others that I send a message to the blogger community that I’m the pro-new urbanism, pro-mass transit, pro-Fort Worth good guy that they can like and support.

As for others in the race and their supporters, I’ve had numerous great conversations with Jim Beckman, and he and his wife Marlene, as with Bernie and Victoria, have truly become our friends in the last couple of months. I have reached out to Mr. [Chris] Turner and his supporters and will do the same with Mr. [Juan] Rangel and his supporters. My reputation while Chairman of the Landmarks Commission and on the Zoning Commission has been one of someone who will bring people of opposing viewpoints to the same table and work out solutions that benefit all.

That is the same kind of consensus-building that you will see from me after the election. From the very beginning of this race I have said again and again that I will represent all of this district – north, south, east and west – regardless of race, income … and even who they support in this election. I still feel that way and that sentiment will be observable in my actions as City Councilman.

TCoD: If you win the District 9 seat, one of the first issues you will face is urban gas drilling as the city reconstitutes the gas ordinance task force. How do you hope to approach this issue and what to you think you can accomplish for the voters in District 9?

JB: My concerns are about safety and increased public participation related to gas drilling operations. Until now, most urban gas operation activities have focused on leasing and mineral-holders’ desires to get royalties. Many District 9 neighborhoods are now as much as 80-85 percent leased and our focus as a city is shifting from the leasing phase of this boom to the infrastructure phase.

With that change, our focus should shift to a Planning and Land Use perspective. We have many large infrastructure changes ahead – wells, pipelines, waste water disposal, etc. And with those pending infrastructure changes, we have to ask ourselves how those changes interrelate to our Comprehensive Plan (in which the City invests a great deal of time and financial resources annually).

I would like to see increased public participation, better urban planning (land use planning) and better city planning (how the departments work together regarding gas operations). State law dictates much of where and how these infrastructure changes will happen, but the citizens and the City should be involved in guiding these decisions.

TCoD: Gas transmission pipelines are becoming a larger issue in the city because they run through some city parks, and gas companies have begun applying for permission to build pipelines close to neighborhoods. Because state and federal laws make it difficult for cities to regulate pipelines, how do you propose the city approach this issue?

JB: Gas operators can acquire pipeline right-of-way either through easements through public property or through condemnation of private land. Easements through public, city-owned property are actually the hook by which we can influence pipeline routing and other measures (including improved safety provisions).

The City of Flower Mound recently passed a new gas drilling ordinance. I understand that ordinance is in compliance with state law and allows Flower Mound to direct the routing of gas transmission pipelines, mandate the materials from which they are constructed, and gives the City the right to inspect those pipelines. I would like Fort Worth to explore Flower Mound’s example.

TCoD: As gas drilling moves into the neighborhoods, the issue is becoming more contentious. Do you believe that 600 feet is an adequate setback requirement? Do you believe in high-impact variances to allow drilling operations within that 600 foot limit? Are there other things the city should do to protect the safety of its residents and the environment?

JB: Again, safety and increased public participation are two of my main concerns. I have said during this campaign that I do not support variances to the 600 foot set-back requirements. When the current ordinance was written, most gas drilling operations were in the outlying periphery of the city. Now that operations have moved into the urban core, it is time to (in addition to the provisions outlined in the previous question) look at other provisions of the permitting process. I would like to explore special hearings – not unlike the public hearings we now have for Zoning cases – to be held in determining the appropriate locations for well sites.

TCoD: One gas drilling issue that I am concerned about is the fact that the TCU gas drilling well will be going in 1,000 to 1,200 feet from my daughter's elementary school -- Alice Carlson. I don't like something that dangerous going in so close to a place where my daughter spends a third of her day, but it appears that the parents at the school will have no say. If you were the City Council representative for District 9, how would you handle this?

JB: Again, I would like to see full and vigorous public participation and for the voices of the District's citizens to be heard in a public process that creates transparency and better results.

Until we re-work the current ordinance, situations like the one you describe above will arise. I believe that the most direct approach would be to facilitate a public and open forum for concerned parents like you to meet with the drilling company before operations begin. As we saw in the Trinity Trees effort this year, sustained citizen involvement combined with ongoing dialogue can drive protections and changes.

Drilling is going to present new challenges to all neighborhoods. Dealing with these challenges is going to require people to become aware early on and work with their neighbors to provide a sustained citizen voice to the issues.

TCoD: What is your position on the Trinity River Vision project? Do you believe that the cost of the project is getting out of hand? Do you favor any spending caps?

JB: While I have concerns about TRV costs, I want the city and other jurisdictions to not be hamstrung in their future decisions about this important, visionary effort that will forever change Fort Worth … literally and physically. I support the project and do not support spending caps.

TCoD: Regarding crime and fighting gang violence, is the situation in Fort Worth really that dire? This hasn't been an issue that has been in my consciousness. What am I not seeing?

JB:Not all criminal activities impact all neighborhoods the same way. For example, abatement of “nuisance properties” isn’t the issue in Berkeley that it is in Fairmount or South Hemphill Heights.

Gang activity is up, as is “tagging” in neighborhoods throughout the District. I support anti-gang education efforts like the “Comin’ Up” program in many City community centers and Boys and Girls Clubs. I also support increased resources for anti-gang efforts like the Police Gang Unit.

TCoD: Right now a moratorium exists on new injection wells in this city of Fort Worth. Do you believe that injection wells can be safely operated in the city? If not, do you have a position on disposal of wastewater from the fracking process?

JB: I am not convinced that waste water injection wells are failsafe in not contaminating our limited ground water supplies and for that reason I support the continuation of the existing injection well moratorium for now. I also have concerns, though, about the environmental and economic impact of continual 18-wheeler traffic on our existing roadway infrastructure.

I would like the input of independent, outside expertise on the safety and efficacy of potential waste water pipelines as well as to advise the City on the use of recycled frack water for refracking as technology improves.

TCoD: Recently, Chesapeake Energy purchased 26.74 acres in various parcels between Montgomery Plaza and the Trinity River in Fort Worth. Because this land is so close to downtown, the river and the 7th Street corridor, are you concerned that this could disrupt the development going on in this area?

JB: I am very concerned because this parcel is in an area where a great deal of private investment – as well as City investment – has occurred. And I want to see the success of that investment.

I would immediately meet with Chesapeake to work out uses that are compatible with surrounding development.

TCoD: What is your position on tax incentives and special tax districts being used to entice businesses to relocate and/or expand in Fort Worth? In a few cases, these incentives have gone to businesses (Cabela's for example) which can more than afford to operate without them, thus costing the City much needed tax revenue. Will you continue this practice?

JB: I have consistently supported public-private partnerships to bring new economic development activities that help fund future city services and lift the tax burden from existing tax-payers. From the Downtown and Near Southside Tax Increment Finance Districts to the “380 Agreements” that have allowed for sweeping renewal along the now-bustling West 7th corridor to Neighborhood Empowerment Zones like those along Magnolia, Hemphill, Berry and others, you can see the positive impact these economic development tools have on this District.

I’m not sure if I would have supported the Cabela’s deal. A better example of the kind of public-private partnerships that I would support is the La Gran Plaza redevelopment. The City of Fort Worth negotiated a deal where for every $12 invested by the developer, the City contributes back to La Gran Plaza $1 in new sales and property tax revenue. That’s a great ratio. The city required investments in excess of $70 million (I think that is the correct number – I need to verify that) from the developer. The City partnered with the developer to use increases in property and sales taxes coming from that property to help supplement of the cost of the redevelopment efforts.

The offshoot of that isn’t just that the former Seminary South/Fort Worth Town Center is now generating significant tax revenues for the City, where before it was not. It also has spurred the incubation of more than 100 locally-owned small businesses in the Mercado (in the former Dillard’s space). That is an amazing economic benefit that can help make or break the economy of the surrounding community. If you haven’t been in La Gran Plaza on a Sunday afternoon, I encourage you to go check it out – you’ll be amazed by activity.

This is the kind of successful public-private partnerships I would love to see throughout the District. It’s a “no-brainer” to support these kinds of economic development efforts.

TCoD: What is your position on the development of commuter and light rail in Fort Worth? If you support this, what are some things that you believe that you can do to facilitate that development?

JB: I whole-heartedly support improved mobility through expanded commuter rail and new light rail in Fort Worth – it has been a keystone issue throughout my campaign (see my most recent mail piece attached). For issues of reduced traffic congestion, improved mobility, improved air quality, sustainable development and quality of life, we have no choice but to aggressively pursue every funding option to create a forward-thinking plan for light rail. Efforts are already under way by private citizens to identify starter line. The City should pick up from its citizens’ lead. And we have decades of planning and funding resources to draw from.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rick Poss and Randy Weeks at the AllGood

Just got off the phone with my friend Rick Poss, who informed me that he will be playing with Randy Weeks at the AllGood Cafe in Deep Ellum this Friday night at 9.

Weeks is kind of a big deal in Americana music circles, and he's probably best known for his song "Can't Let Go," with was on Lucinda Williams' monster hi album, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. Rick is an Austin guitar legend who just put out his first solo album, The Dying Man. In case you missed it, I interviewed Rick back in the summer.

oso closo Releases Debut Album

One of my favorite people in the Fort, Adrian Hulet, got a nice little write-up in the FWWeekly. He may look Rasputin-like in that photo, but he is charming, affable and a very talented musician. Adrian's band, oso closo has just released its debut album and I tell you now that it will be my next album purchase.

Good job, Adrian!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tandy Hills Park Public Meeting

A public meeting to review the environmental Master Plan for Tandy Hills Nature Area will be held Wednesday night at 6 p.m. at Sycamore Community Center at 2525 E. Rosedale St.

This is Part 2 of a presentation by an environmental consulting firm that has done an extensive survey of the park. They will present their findings and recommendations at this meeting. They will also present the results of the Parks Department questionnaire that received more than 400 responses.

As Don Young of Friends of the Tandy Hills Nature Area writes, "The large number of responses illustrates to me how beloved this park is to the nearby community and far beyond. More importantly, it sends a clear message to the City of Fort Worth Parks Department to ACT on the Master Plan. Studies are great, questionnaires are informative, dialogue is important, but now we want, we need, real ACTION."

If you love Tandy Hills Park, please attend and share your specific concerns with the Parks staff. For more info, please contact Karen Wright, Project Manager for the Parks Department at (817-871-5391.

Lake Worth Alliance at City Council Tonight

The Lake Worth Alliance will be at tonight's Fort Worth City Council meeting, trying to convince the city to proceed with the dredging of the lake and to enhance the vision of the Lake Worth Parks System.

Joe Waller of the LWA writes: "This is an issue that benefits the ENTIRE city. The water of Lake Worth is YOUR drinking water, and the land around Lake Worth is YOUR parkland. Cleaner, safer water and a world-class recreation center will be the result of success at this meeting."

If you are interested in attending, show up about 7 p.m. at City Hall, 1000 Throckmorton St., second floor.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Buzzworms Winners Announced

Buzzworms in the Backyard turned out a large crowd of protest art viewers last night at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center.

The art exhibition offers a unique experience for a Fort Worth gallery and a good first effort for a show with such a controversial theme. As artist Carol Ivey put it, a seed has been planted.

Tammy Gomez and Sound Culture goose-bumped the sizable crowd with her latest performance art piece, "Greed, Caution." As Don Young of FW Can Do put it, "It was art that does more than sit on a pedestal or grace a corporate boardroom wall. It was art to inspire action."

Awards totaling $1,000 were presented to three works selected by acclaimed artist and curator, Benito Huerta. The winners:

  • First Place: Jennifer Danson

  • Second Place: Joel Kiser

  • Third Place: Lori Thomson

  • Jennifer and Joel are both students at TCU. Lori is the owner or the Firehouse Gallery.

    Buzzworms in the Backyard is open to the public through December 29.

    Bernie Scheffler Endorses Joel Burns

    Bernie Scheffler announced yesterday on his campaign blog that he is endorsing Joel Burns in the District 9 City Council race.

    Bernie wrote: "I've had a chance to meet with both candidates to discuss their plans for the city, and their positions on what I consider to be the most important issues facing us today.

    "I've also taken into consideration the manner in which their campaigns have been run, as I believe now more than ever Fort Worth needs positive leadership. Since the URL dust-up, Joel has changed the tone of his campaign. He has stayed positive and started talking about real issues. Juan's campaign has continued with negative tactics (like comparing a fellow democrat to Karl Rove in a mailer).

    "So, dear friends, I'm announcing today that I will cast my vote for Joel Burns on December 18.

    "Again, this was not an easy decision; both candidates have actively sought my support, and both have their merits. However, I feel that Joel will be a more effective leader at city hall. It's also important to note that Juan already has an elected position with the Fort Worth ISD, a district that still very much needs his progressive leadership.

    "I can tell you that I would not have endorsed Joel Burns if he had not given me good answers about his position on urban gas drilling. This is the most pressing issue facing our district, and we need someone in office who can advocate changes to the current system."

    Early voting starts Monday, and runoff election day is December 18. Even if you didn't vote on Nov. 6, you can participate in the runoff.

    Friday, December 07, 2007

    Injection Well Lawsuit Ruling

    I'm just now getting word of this trickling in and I'm still trying to wrap my brain around it, but what appears to be a significant ruling on injection wells was just issued from the Texas Third Court of Appeals in Austin in the case of Texas Citizens for a Safe Future and Clean Water and James G. Popp v. Railroad Commission of Texas and Pioneer Exploration, Ltd.

    Texas Citizens for a Safe Future and Clean Water and Popp appealed a district court judgment affirming the Texas Railroad Commission's decision to grant a permit to Pioneer Exploration, Ltd. to operate a commercial injection well in Wise County for the disposal of oil and gas waste. Texas Citizens argued in their appeal that the Commission, in granting the permit, denied Texas Citizens due process and failed to adequately consider the public interest.

    Although the court found that the RRC did not deny Texas Citizens due process in granting the permit, the Commission did interpret "the public interest" too narrowly and therefore failed to adequately consider additional factors that may affect the public interest. The court remanded this case to the Commission for a reconsideration of the permit under a broader interpretation of "the public interest."

    This story is still developing. I will post more as it becomes available, but this could have some interesting ramifications on the injection well fight here in Fort Worth.

    Merrily, Merrily Going to Florida

    Fort Worth restauranteur/filmmaker James M. Johnston writes that his short film, Merrily, Merrily has been accepted in the shorts program at the 2008 Sarasota Film Festival. Congratulations, James!

    Merrily, Merrily - Trailer from James M. Johnston on Vimeo.

    Thursday, December 06, 2007

    Opening Night: Scat Jazz Lounge

    A late night in Fort Worth tonight. We were out at the opening of Ricki Derek's Scat Jazz Lounge. It's beyond great -- it's what's been missing from downtown Fort Worth since the old Caravan of Dreams packed it in. For my full take, head on over to West and Clear. Also, we pulled off a live podcast. It was loud, and we'd had a few, but if you listen, it might make a little sense. BTW, that photo there is from my talented friend, Pete Geniella. He's got more shots from opening night over at W&C.

    Dorking Out at The Nutcracker

    Those who know me are aware that I'm kind of a music junkie -- especially for music of the vinyl variety. Actually, that's a tame description. I've been known to go to estate sales and buy hundreds of records at a time, much to the consternation of my wife and the aggravation of my lower back. I'm like a cat lady, except for records.

    Some of the records I buy are obvious favorites -- everybody loves Frank Sinatra. Some are a little more obscure -- do you really need to know how to speak conversation Russian in seven easy lessons? One thing that might surprise people to know is that I am an avid collector of Christmas albums. Yes, I am that big of a nerd. I do this without a hint of irony. I like Christmas music. OK, maybe a bit or irony ... but I really do love the Ernest Tubb Christmas album.

    Of course, the cornerstone of all Christmas music is The Nutcracker, that jaunty little ballet from Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. With the arrival of the Texas Ballet Theater's version at Bass Hall last weekend, it was time for my family to make its annual visit to the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

    I must confess, I feel like a big dork being this enthusiastic about The Nutcracker. The ballet is sort of nostalgia for an idea of Christmas that never existed. I mean, do you think Christmas was really that great in Czarist Russia?

    But that dreamy, childlike vision of Christmas is what it is all about for me. There is so much ugliness in the world that I sort of think we all need to escape that and find the magic for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon.

    Half the audience is made up of kids, and they are coughing, sneezing, scratching at their dress-up clothes and I for one don't care what they do. Half the fun for me is watching a little girl who is thrilled just to see a ballerina dance. So when Grandfather Drosselmeyer's beard came off halfway through the first act, it mattered not. The magic remained intact.

    So, is anyone else out there as big a dork as I am? I didn't think so.

    Buzzworms in the Backyard

    If you've got a little time on Saturday evening, drop by Buzzworms in the Backyard, an exhibition of visual art focusing on the impacts of Urban Gas Drilling on people, property and the environment presented by FWCanDo.

    The gala opening for the exhibition is scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Fort Worth Community Art Center at 1300 Gendy St.

    At 7 p.m., Tammy Gomez and Sound Culture will present a ritual lament called Greed, Caution. Acclaimed artist and curator Benito Huerta will announce the awards at 7:15 p.m.

    Feldman's Why Patterns? at The Modern

    If you missed the Morton Feldman deal at the Van Cliburn recital space on Sunday, you can still get your Feldman on. You can catch Why Patterns? featuring Elizabeth McNutt, flute; Steven Harlos, piano; Christopher Deane, percussion, Saturday afternoon at 2 at The Modern, 3200 Darnell Street. Admission is free. The concert is presented in conjunction with the exhibition "Declaring Space: Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein."

    Sez Herb Levy: "Music that matches the art of Rothko, Newman, Fontana and Klein:/ Why Patterns?/ declares a space that reflects these vast canvases. Feldman, a personal friend of Rothko and Newman, creates an ethereal music inspired particularly by Rothko: in Feldman's own words, "the degrees of stasis found in Rothko were perhaps the most significant elements that I brought to my music from painting." Its ever-shifting textures draw the listener from the surface beauty of a few simple melodies into the inner life of sound. In this meditation, time and space become one.

    Wednesday, December 05, 2007

    What Every Cat Needs for Xmas

    That would be a Kitty Wig. Er, maybe not.

    Of course, the most frightening thing about this picture is this cat looks exactly like my own little hellbeast, Bucky. Not that I would ever put a wig on a cat, mind you.

    Go See Allison in FW Today

    If you have a chance, drop by the Neiman Marcus at Ridgmar Mall between 3 and 5 this afternoon and say hi to the Dallas photographer Allison V. Smith. She and her mom will be signing copies of their book, Reflection of a Man. Allison, a former S-T photog, is as cordial as she is talented. And the book is awesome, too.

    Monday, December 03, 2007

    Gas Ordinance Task Force: The Sequel

    Like white smoke billowing from the chimney of Sistine Chapel signaling a new pope, word finally came from the second floor at City Hall last Tuesday -- the city gas ordinance task force will be reconstituted.

    Based on the Star-Telegram story, it looks like all of the key issues are on the table: pipelines, restrictions on drilling in central city neighborhoods, moving gas drilling away from the Trinity River, the location of pipeline compressor stations and -- the big one -- injection wells.

    When Mayor Moncrief called saltwater disposal "the elephant in the room," he might have made the understatement of the year. To read my take on the whole issue, head on over to West and Clear.

    Saturday, December 01, 2007

    Herb Levy's Fine Tuning

    Getting people to listen to classical music isn't an easy sell. Getting people to listen to contemporary classic music like is an even tougher job.

    But Herb Levy didn't get the memo. The avant garde music promoter brings us a new series of contemporary music concerts at Van Cliburn Recital Hall. Called Other Arts, the series begins with a concert by pianist Louis Goldstein, who will perform Morton Feldman's Triadic Memories (1983) on Sunday, and Cage's Sonatas & Interludes for prepared piano on Monday. For an overview of Levy's work on this series, check out the FWWeekly story.

    Both concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. at Van Cliburn Recital Hall in the Maddox-Muse Center, 330 4th Street just east of Bass Hall in downtown Fort Worth. Tickets are
    available through Bass Ticketing (817) 212-4280 or at the door on the evening of the performances. Tickets $23, $18 for students and seniors. If you buy tickets to both concerts, there's a discount of $5/per ticket ($36 for both concerts; $26 for students and seniors).

    Friday, November 30, 2007

    Fort Worth Texans in the Motherflippin' House

    What could be more GenX than appropriately obscure t-shirts and hats from long-defunct local sports teams? How ironic and retro cool.

    Well, you can have your vintage sportswear needs met right here at Section 219, a Dallas-based company with some cool old Fort Worth sports team logos. If that's not enough, venture over to Cooperstown Ball Cap Co. for some custom sized Fort Worth Cats and Fort Worth Panthers hats. Thanks to Unfair Park for the tip!

    Tuesday, November 27, 2007

    TCU Gas Drilling Site Receives Permits

    The first TCU gas wells have received permits from the Texas Railroad Commission. The wells, TCU Well No. 1H, TCU Well No. 3H and TCU Well No. 5H received permits on Nov. 16.

    It is unclear if a high impact variance will be required. According to the city's gas drilling ordinance, a high impact permit is required if the well is within 600 feet of a residence, religious institution, public building, hospital, school, or public park. There are many houses north of Cantey that appear to be within the 600 perimeter, but no request for a variance has been submitted, the city's Engineering Services Office told me this morning. And that red dot? That's the main reason I care. Gas drilling is not without some risk, and that red dot is Alice Carlson Elementary School. My daughter goes to school there.

    All high impact permits, without a waiver from the protected use property owners, must be approved by the city council after a public hearing. At the hearing, the city council may consider whether the natural gas drilling would conflict with the orderly growth of the city, whether there are other alternative sites, access for fire personnel and equipment and the recommendations of the gas inspector. The city council may accept, reject or modify the application.

    If the gas well is located greater than 600 feet but less than 1,000 feet from a residence, religious institution, public building, hospital, school or a public park, the well is classified as an urban permit. No public hearing is required, however, the city told me that as a courtesy, they will inform the school board if a school is within 1,200 feet. Whether or not that means there will be a hearing remains unclear.

    Stay tuned.

    City Responds to Trinity Trees Lawsuit

    The Startlegram reports that the city is asking a state district judge to throw out Melissa Kohout's lawsuit to prevent drilling at the Trinity Trees site. The basis for Kohout's lawsuit is that she was denied her right to address the government.

    Sez the S-T (emphasis below is mine): "Kohout and her lawyer Jason Smith say in the lawsuit that the city violated its own ordinance by giving Chesapeake a special high-impact permit to drill near the trail.

    "Such permits are required for gas wells within 600 feet of homes, parks or other 'protected uses' and can't be issued without a waiver from the property owner or the City Council. The ordinance doesn't include the trail system, though, because it is owned by the Tarrant Regional Water District.

    "Chesapeake didn't apply for a high-impact permit and didn't post notices that it was seeking one. But city officials gave Chesapeake a permit after water district President Jim Oliver signed a waiver.

    "Kohout's lawsuit points out that the city argued exactly the opposite in a 1995 zoning case, when it fought a topless bar that it felt would have been too close to the trail system. The lawsuit also says the city gave preferential treatment to Chesapeake and denied residents a chance to petition the council about the permit because the company's notices didn't mention it. Instead, they mentioned a less restrictive type of permit."

    Although I am not a lawyer -- I'm just a simple caveman -- the whole sneaky way that the high-impact variance was granted seems to have some merit. We depend on the city's gas drilling ordinance to protect the environment and the safety of the people who live here. If the ordinance doesn't do that, what's to prevent a gas drilling company from putting up a well wherever they please? Is the public just going to be left out of this process altogether?

    Monday, November 26, 2007

    Back to Reality -- Football Edition

    I'm back after the holiday layoff, which consisted mainly of food coma and Guitar Hero 3. Oh, and football. Lots of football. Some random thoughts:

  • In the aftermath of the Aggies' thrashing of my Texas Longhorns, I have to say a few kind words about A&M quarterback Stephen McGee. He's brought his A-game for three straight years against Texas and won two of them. The Longhorns dared him to throw and he did. He completed 25 of 36 passes with three touchdowns and two interceptions for a career-high 362 yards. He played with a grit and intensity that is the signature of football played at its best. Hats off to him. I also admire the young man from Burnet for the way he stood by his embattled coach, Dennis Franchione. I wish the Fran-man was worthy of the loyalty, but, as a former S-T colleague once told me years ago, Fran is all about Fran. And, as another Startlegramer pointed out, Fran showed his true colors again on Friday. This, of course, after he left every gadget play on the field to beat the Horns. I'm sure the Agroid faithful wonder where was this Dennis Franchione for most of the past five years? Oh, well, bring on Mike Sherman. Yeah, that is a hire sure to fill the Big 12 with trepidation.

  • Get used to saying the No.1-ranked Missouri Tigers, at least for one week. After an impressive victory over the Kansas Manginos, they look like a team that can handle Oklahoma this time around, although I'm having a hard time imagining a Gary Pinkel-coached squad reaching the promised land. I'll be rooting for them, which is sure to be the kiss of death for El Tigres. But who wouldn't love to see a Missouri-West Virginia national championship tilt?

  • If I had a vote in the Heisman race, it would go to Arkansas' Darren McFadden, whom we all owe a debt of gratitude for knocking off No. 1-ranked LSU on Friday and preventing Les Miles from reaching the National Championship. Mizzou-rah's Chase Daniel will get some votes and could have a shot at it. Oregon's Dennis Dixon would have had a chance if he hadn't suffered a season-ending knee injury that sent the Ducks' season south. But DMac is the nation's most exciting player to watch IMO. The real irony of this is that Darren's coach, Houston Nutt, will probably be fired soon anyway. Maybe Houston and Fran can have rousing game of "Remember when we won our last game?"

  • Another reason Arlington sucks: Texas A&M and Arkansas officials are working out the final details to play an annual non-conference football game between the two schools in the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium in Arlington, sources from both schools told the San Antonio Express-News on Sunday. An announcement on the series, which would start in 2009 at the earliest, could come as early as this week. My feeling are unchanged. The jihad continues.

  • The Austin American-Statesman's columnist Kirk Bohls usually takes a lot of shots from the Longhorn faithful for his columns, and I'm sure this one will be no different. But I usually find Kirk to be on target and this one is no different. Mack Brown is still a great coach, but he needs to fix the defensive staff like big time. In the Longhorns' past four games, the defense has given up an average of 512.5 yards and 35.3 points. Does that mean Defensive Coordinator Duana Akina is out the door? It should. The personnel are on campus for a dramatic improvement next year -- I'm talking to your Misters Kindle, Norton and Muckleroy -- but he's got to get the right coach in place to maximize their potential. Is Syracuse done with Greg Robinson yet?
  • Tuesday, November 20, 2007

    Let Us Not Forget

    Gas drilling can be dangerous business. The citizens of Fort Worth are right to ask the city to provide adequate protection for our neighborhoods. You can do this by asking the Mayor and the City Council if they are serious about revisiting the gas drilling ordinance.

    S-T's a Wee-Bit Touchy on the Barnett Shale

    The Star-Telegram has taken lots of licks lately for its coverage of urban gas drilling -- both from me and from the FWWeekly.

    And that why it shouldn't surprise that the paper felt the need to defend its coverage with this post on the Barnett Shale blog. So, does the S-T have a point?


    Although I think the S-T is showing more enterprise and less boosterism in its reporting over the past three months, I think there is a long way to go. The S-T hasn't been asking enough questions and tended to be more rah-rah about gas drilling than anything else.

    I expect our daily newspaper to hold government and business accountable for their actions. Freedom of the press is an important component of a health democracy. But who holds the newspaper accountable? We do -- the people of Fort Worth. And I think that's what is going on. The readers are demanding better and the paper is hearing it.

    I'm not saying that there is nothing good going on at 400 West 7th. I think the Barnett Shale blog is generally good. However, in spite of the Sunday story, I think there is a lot more to report on injection wells. Hell, go out to Wise County and find out why people are so pissed off about the environmental impact of gas drilling because they are already at where we will be in a few years. There's a great story idea right there.

    Injection wells are the issue flying under the radar at City Hall right now. There is a lot of backroom movement of this, but the public is generally shut out of the process. We depend on the newspaper to shine the light into the dark corners of public policy and help us find our way.

    One issue that hangs over the Star-Telegram and its relationship with Chesapeake Energy. I think the readers of the Star-Telegram would be well-served if the paper would disclose how much money the paper received from Chesapeake Energy as a signing bonus on the lease for the 40 acres at the South Plant. The paper should also disclose the terms of the deal.

    If the paper is in a business arrangement with Chesapeake that could potentially net the paper hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars, the readers need to know this information so they can weigh for themselves whether or not the business arrangement compromises the objective coverage of urban gas drilling.

    The S-T earned its Turkey Award this year, but at least the paper is trying to make some changes in its coverage. I applaud these efforts. I would encourage everyone in Fort Worth to be a part of the conversation. Continue reading the paper and share your opinions -- positive and negative -- with the editors.

    More Westside Drilling on the Way

    All those folks in Tanglewood will soon get to find out how much they really like urban gas drilling. TCU announced on its Web site that the natural gas exploration lease for TCU's campus has been transferred from Four Sevens Resources Co., Ltd. to Chesapeake Exploration, LLC, an affiliate of Chesapeake Energy Corporation.

    Four Sevens work as the landmen for Chesapeake, and it's an arrangement that works quite well for them. Last year, Four Sevens and Sinclair Oil sold 39,000 acres in the to Chesapeake for $845 million in cash to Chesapeake Energy. Four Sevens and Sinclair split the take 50-50.

    Sez TCU: "Currently, Chesapeake has begun to conduct site analysis near remote parking on the north side of campus. In addition, the company also will begin the process of filing initial permits with the Texas Railroad Commission and communicating with local residents.

    "TCU's decision to drill follows on the heels of other Metroplex organizations pursuing natural gas exploration opportunities with Chesapeake. These organizations include the City of Fort Worth, Tarrant County College, Fort Worth Independent School District, Tarrant Regional Water District, Colonial Country Club and the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport."

    Wow, that's pretty impressive list of clients, Chesapeake.

    Of course, I think it is also worth noting that Four Sevens executive Dick Lowe was the booster at the heart of the TCU football recruiting scandal back in the 1980s. Back then, Lowe said that a "blue chip" running back cost $10,000 to $25,000 down, $1,000 a month and a new car.

    Stuff from the Paper

  • Fort Worth to Rick Perry -- Thanks for nothing: In a not-very-surprising move, Governor Goodhair chose Dec. 18 for a runoff election for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives, rejecting a request by Tarrant County election officials to hold the runoff on Dec. 11 to coincide with the District 9 City Council runoff. After learning of Perry's decision, the City Council moved the District 9 runoff date to Dec. 18. I figured that Slick Rick would do this because the thought of all of those Democrats showing up to vote for Juan Rangel or Joel Burns are probably also going to cast a vote for Dan Barrett. Burns told the S-T that he is concerned that a date closer to Christmas will hold down turnout. Rangel said he is concerned that no early voting will take place on a Saturday.

  • FW is gay-friendly: Not new information here, but still it is a positive trend that deserves noting. Sez the S-T: " "Fort Worth, long known as one of the nation's more conservative communities, is home to 10 times as many same-sex couples than it was 16 years before, a new study shows. ... In Fort Worth, the number of same-sex couples in Fort Worth jumped to 2,254 in 2006 from 196 in 1990, the study shows." Why is this positive? Richard Florida said in his book, The Rise of the Creative Class, thriving, growing cities attract culturally and ethnically diverse people — artists, gays, people who are physically fit and open-minded and anyone who thinks and creates for a living. I see this trend as a positive indicator of the city's economic health.
  • Monday, November 19, 2007

    Scat Jazz Lounge -- Opening Dec. 6

    We finally have a date -- Ricki Derek's Scat Jazz Lounge will open on Dec. 6!

    Ricki will be joined by "special friends" for the big grand opening party. You can find the Scat Jazz Lounge at 111 West 4th Street in the basement of the Woolworth Building. For more information, visit the club's Web site. For more on Ricki Derek, read the West and Clear interview.

    The Looming Tower

    In case you haven't noticed, there's a gas well towering over Bluebonnet Circle. I did a little scribbling about the looming tower this morning. For the story and more photos from mi amigo PeteG, head on over to West and Clear.

    Sunday, November 18, 2007

    Barnett Shale Weekend Roundup

    A busy weekend of Barnett Shale news in the Star-Telegram:

  • An interesting read on the injection well issue in Fort Worth. Gas drillers frame their argument this way: "Lack of available, accessible, affordable saltwater disposal wells is a deal-killer for the Barnett Shale in Fort Worth." God if that were only true. But it ain't a deal killer, it just cuts into their profit margin.

    Gas companies have said that they need as many as 15 injection wells, connected by a network of pipelines. Although gas drillers claim injection wells are safer than having trucks with wastewater on our streets, this argument overlooks a few things. If a water truck tips over and spills its cargo -- how much water is spilled? 10,000 gallons? If a pipeline leaks and goes undetected for a week or more, how much water is spilled? 10 or 100 times as much?

    However, this argument is getting some traction at City Hall and, unless something changes soon, the current moratorium against injection wells won't stand up. If you care about the environment in Fort Worth, I encourage you to write the Mayor and your City Council representative and let them know that you do not want injection wells in our city.

    Injection wells are easier and cheaper for the gas drillers, but this disposal method is not in the best interests of the people of Fort Worth or our natural environment.

  • Whoever wrote the headline for this story must also dot their i's with smiley faces or little hearts. I mean, talk about looking on the bright side: "Johnson, Wise county residents say benefits [of gas drilling] outweigh costs." How about this -- "90 percent of those surveyed in Wise County say that gas operators MUST adopt and use more environmentally friendly drilling practices."

  • A video from the S-T's Barnett Shale blog shows us that gas drilling is noisy and -- what a surprise -- people who have gas wells on their property like it and their neighbors don't.

  • Mitch Schnurman writes about JPMorgan's deal with the City of Fort Worth to manage its gas lease paperwork will undoubtedly raise more than a few eyebrows. The money quote: Gene Powell -- that big ol' teddy bear for the gas industry -- sez "They're always asking me, 'What's the best deal you've ever seen in the Barnett Shale?'" Powell says. "That's easy: JPMorgan's contract with the city of Fort Worth." Yipes!
  • Wednesday, November 14, 2007

    Joel Burns: A Clarification

    I've been a little rough on Joel Burns during the campaign season. As in asking him to drop out of the race rough.

    However, we had a little chat on Election Day in front of the polling place at Lily B. Clayton Elementary. "I'd appreciate it if you gave me another chance," he said. "I'm really not a bad guy."

    He explained a few things about the phone poll and the URLgate thing and reiterated his apologies for both. He also explained that he does own more than the six URLs I listed in my article, and he was kind enough to provide me with a list of 55 URLs, which I checked out as being owned by him.

    "I offered Bernie’s [URL] to him by transfer or by not renewing it when it expires in Jan. I also have some for Wendy [Davis] I registered at the same time that I’m transferring to her once she gets her campaign set up."

    Joel's explanation and his apology for what happened are enough for me. I believe that my own apology is in order for inaccurate reporting. I'm sincerely sorry.

    I also offered Joel a fresh start, and in that spirit, we are turning the page. I am going to reset the game clock to zero. Joel has agreed to an interview. I've also asked Juan Rangel for an interview, but have not received a response yet. I look forward to bringing those interviews to you soon to help you make your voting decisions in the District 9 race.

    One thing I would hope to hear from both candidates is a clear and comprehensive position on urban gas drilling issues confronting our city, such as the injection well moratorium, downtown gas drilling and high-impact variances. Gentlemen, start your engines.

    Barnett Shale News Items

  • South Side Update: The FWWeekly offers a catch-up story on the gas drilling battle on the South Side, primarily focusing on Don Young and Liane Janovsky. Not really much new in here, but I think it is worth remembering that XTO's alternative to its Eighth Avenue drilling site is, as Liann reminds us, "within 1,000 feet of the Fort Worth ISD’s Daggett Montessori school, as well as Daggett Elementary and [Daggett] Middle School and the Montessori preschool. There are also a couple of dozen poor rental properties over there. And I object to the idea of a gas well that close to schools.”

    In the article, Young also says that a gas drilling pad site has been staked out just south of the beautiful old Texas & Pacific warehouse on Lancaster Avenue, which is going to be developed for high-end condos. I asked Kevin Buchanan at Fort Worthology about this the other day, and he actually went down to the site and took some pictures. He didn't see anything. Did he miss it? Nonetheless, I find it hard to believe that drilling would be allowed so close to a building complex that is on the National Register of Historic Places and an active residential complex at that. But there are so many dumbfounding aspects to urban gas drilling, where do you begin the list?

  • Oh, funny running into you here: Talk about an awkward moment. Mayor Mikey decided to take a little stroll down by the Trinity Trees the other day. Maybe he was thinking about the $620,000 he earned from his oil and gas holdings in 2006. 2007 should be a better year. Then, boom! He runs into Melissa Kohout, who is suing the city over the Trinity Trees drilling site. Wow. Where can a Mayor go to get away around here anyway?