Sunday, September 30, 2007

Unknown Soldiers



The New York Times reminds us that the largest military cemetary in Europe is for battle most people have never heard of and for a war that most people don't think of very often.

"The Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, 26 miles northwest of Verdun. As exquisite as any French park or chateau grounds, the cemetery is a formal garden of perfectly clipped trees, immaculate lawns, fountains and roses and long white rows of grave markers. Given its beauty, it's also strange how empty the place is — and stranger still since this is the largest American military cemetery in Europe, the burial site of 14,246 United States service members who died in the war to end all wars."

These World War I cemeteries are rarely visited now. Most of the people who knew and loved the soldiers who rest here have passed into history themselves. It seems more than a little sad that those who gave the last full measure of devotion for our nation are largely forgotten.

Not forgotten by everyone -- the American Battle Monuments Commission continues to act as guardian of America’s overseas commemorative cemeteries and memorials. They honor the service, achievements and sacrifice of United States Armed Forces around the world.

My great uncle, Oscar Cheyne, was one of those doughboys who slogged through Meuse-Argonne campaign. Unlike the soldiers under those headstones, he made it back home, although with a mustard gas injury that lingered for the last 30 years of his life.

Bud Kennedy -- Nature Lover

Bud Kennedy, who I believed never met a park that he actually liked, had a nice little valentine to urban gas drilling disguised as a love letter to Tandy Hills Park.

He calls Tandy Hills "our most endangered park. But not because of planned gas wells nearby. The wells will bring inevitable development to adjacent private land around the TV station on Broadcast Hill. But gas wells will also raise public park money to help improve Tandy Hills."

Bud, stretch your memory waaaay back to August when Chesapeake Energy was trying to play Rat Patrol with its seismic testing trucks through the park before community activists got the city to put the kibosh on that.

Then, stretch your memory even farther back, all the way to the year 1989. That's when a master plan for the park was completed. It's not unlike the one that this gas money bought. Except the 1989 one was paid for with taxpayer money.

Bud, we don't need gas money to save this park. If anything, the people in Fort Worth who actually go to parks need to save Tandy Hills from the gas drillers.

Oh, and by the way, MU-2 is still not an industrial designation. Haven't seen that correction yet.

Barnett Shale Update

I've got say I feel a measure of satisfaction from some of things I've read in the Startlegram over the past few days -- not because they are doing such a damn good job, but they finally seem to be listening to the community's concern about urban gas drilling in the Barnett Shale.

A few examples:

  • City residents voice drilling concerns: This made the front page on Saturday, or at least the teaser did. I thought Mike Lee did a good job with this story, even if parts of this was old news to my regular readers.

  • Mayor says oil and gas income is not a conflict: Another buckeye for Mike Lee for this one. This was the sidebar to the story above. Here's the meat: After reviewing the latest financial disclosure forms for all nine City Council members, the S-T learned that Mayor Mikey is the only one with significant income from oil and gas. The mayor earned at least $620,000 in royalties or other income from 54 oil and gas entities, including two family trusts, according to the disclosure form. Wowza. But it gets better. "The form shows he earned more than $25,000 from 20 companies, including Chesapeake Energy, one of the biggest drilling operators in Fort Worth." How is that not a conflict of interest?

  • What do Fort Worth and Wise County have in common? One of my new blog buds, TXSharon, tells us.

  • Railroad Commission taken to task over well inspections: Again, Mike Lee. Seems that state inspectors who check oil and gas wells for safety and environmental problems work under little supervision and need specific rules about accepting gifts from well operators, according to a state audit. Forty-six percent of the 169,000 oil and gas leases in Texas have not been inspected for five years, reducing the agency's chances of preventing environmental problems. Also, it appears there IS such thing as a free lunch. That is assuming you are a state gas well inspector. UPDATE, 10.4.07: Mayor Mikey sends a letter to the Railroad Commission saying, in effect, get your shit together.

  • Woman warns city of suit over drilling: Melissa Kohout and her lawyer threatening to sue the city if Fort Worth allows gas drilling in the Trinity Trees site. And her dog, Barbie, will tinkle on the Mayor's yard. OK, I made that last part up. Again with the Mike Lee. But seriously, I would hope that we are not at the stage of waving lawyers at each other. Why won't Chesapeake and Union Pacific sit down and talk with Wendy Davis like they promised? Chesapeake Chairman Aubrey McClendon was supposed to meet with Davis weeks ago, but apparently that meeting never happened, even though he was in Fort Worth and had time to chat with the Startlegram.

  • New Startlegram Barnett Shale blog: Guess I am going to have to go back to linking to YouTube videos of cats riding bicycles and compiling lists of my favorite breakfast cereals. You can get all you Barnett Shale blog needs met right here.


  • So I guess the Star-Telegram is putting me out of business. I'm not writing about the Barnett Shale anymore.

    The End.

















    Just kidding.

    Here's why I'm not done yet -- Star-Telegram signs gas lease: I missed this back in May, but the Startlegram signed a gas lease with Chesapeake Energy. "Publisher Wes Turner said the newspaper signed a lease on nearly 40 acres just south of Interstate 20 at Hemphill Street, site of its printing and distribution center. Turner declined to disclose the terms but said the company got 'an outstanding deal.' The company owns a number of other sites around Tarrant County, including its offices downtown and in Arlington. None are leased, but 'we will lease the mineral rights under all' those locations as the opportunity arises, Turner said. " How much is that worth? Who knows, but if you assume a signing bonus of $10,000/acre -- not an unrealistic amount -- that's $400,000.

    How is this not a conflict of interest? While I've been very impressed with Mike Lee's reporting this week, I am a little bit skeptical of the S-T editorial board's stance, especially when I read editorials supporting Chesapeake Energy over the people of Fort Worth. Unfortunately, I think this business arrangement is a bad idea. Even if nothing inappropriate is going on, you don't have to stretch your imagination very far to detect the appearance of impropriety. Unfortunately, the people of Fort Worth are the real losers here.

    I'm encouraged, Fort Worth. You aren't just buying the company line from gas drillers. You are asking appropriate questions about what is happening in your community. So keep speaking up and getting involved. Your work makes a difference for the better.

    Friday, September 28, 2007

    Last Roundup for the Wreck


    The weekend is the last huzzah for The Wreck Room before it is, indeed, wrecked to make way for -- must ... resist ... urge ... to ... rant! -- to make way for something different. I'm going to head out there to-nite because I want to see Goodwin and also because I want to support my all-time favorite barrista in Fort Worth, Adrian Hulet (above) of Osocloso, also on the bill. The rest of this weekend's bill:

  • Friday, September 28 - Goodwin / Osocloso / Buttercup

  • Saturday, September 29 - The Me-Thinks / Leroy the Prophet / Blood of the Sun

  • Sunday, September 30 - The Gideons / Cadillac Fraf / Top Secret…Shhh

  • Hope to see you there.

    Thursday, September 27, 2007

    Dear Wall of Sound Festival

    I owe you an apology. I kinda suck. And I'm not alone.

    Believe it or not, this isn't my job. I do this because it's fun. But I do actually have a pay-the-bills job, and that's what I was doing on Saturday instead of rocking my ass off at LaGrave Field. I figured you'd understand.

    But when I go online to find some post-mortem, what do I find? Not freaking much. Most of the coverage came from ... ack ... The Dallas-freaking-News. On moral grounds, I refuse to point readers in that direction. Instead I point you to Hansford and Sammy at Big D little d. And of course, my main man Mike Orren and Pegasus News were on the spot, too.

    You can't sling a cat without hitting a music blogger, but can most of them get off their ass and get out to the biggest music thing in Fort Worth all year? Apparently not. And that's just wrong.

    So, Wall of Sound, forgive my suckitude. And give me one more chance. Come back next year. It'll be different. Oh, yeah, and as promised, here's my picture of a kitten. Friends?

    Chesapeake Energy: Doing Fort Worth

    If this is Chesapeake's idea of being good to the environment, I'd hate to see what they do if they ever got in touch with their dark side.

    Tuesday's Startlegram reported that Chesapeake Energy got a permit from the state Railroad Commission to operate an injection well near East First Street and Oakland Boulevard.

    What's an injection well?

    Natural gas drilling in the Barnett Shale results in millions of gallons of production water, which contains salt, crude oil and other waste, sometimes including cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene. The gas industry prefers to dispose of production water by pumping it into the injection wells, also known as saltwater wells. The wells are more economical than recycling the water; they also avoid the problem of trucking the waste for disposal.

    So rather than trucking this waste out of the city, they are just going to shoot it into the earth underneath our city. So just days after telling us about how much they love Fort Worth and love the environment, Fort Worth finds out about this injection well, which could potentially contaminate groundwater.

    City officials have imposed a moratorium on new injection wells. The Fort Worth City Council is tentatively scheduled to discuss the moratorium in mid-October.

    Wednesday, September 26, 2007

    District 9 Dirty Campaigning

    Tuesday's Star-Telegram revealed that the candidate behind the District 9 City Council race phone poll was ... Joel Burns.

    Burns, a city zoning commissioner, acknowledged that his campaign conducted the poll but said it was not a push poll because it targeted only 360 voters. He said he approved all the wording in the survey.

    "It was a poll to test a wide variety of things and potential perceptions," he told the S-T. "It was testing positives and negatives."

    All five of Burns' opponents -- Jim Beckman, Mark Pederson, Juan Rangel Jr., Bernie Scheffler and Chris Turner -- criticized the campaign tactic. Some said the survey straddles the line between a legitimate poll and a "push poll" -- a survey that loads questions with potentially negative information about a candidate.

    "It seems to me that, so far, Joel has run a pretty slick campaign but hasn't said much about where he stands on the issues," Scheffler said. "It seems unfortunate that he is more interested in painting candidates in a one-dimensional way."

    I agree. Joel, let's make this campaign about issues, not labels.

    UPDATE, 10.01.07: Joel seems to have too much money on his hands. If you visit www.berniescheffler.com, you'll find that you get pointed to Joel's Web site. Is that really necessary? I'm extremely disappointed in Joel's campaign for moves like this. Unfortunately, that seems to be the tone of his campaign. And there's a whole other month to go. Wee.

    Tuesday, September 25, 2007

    Bye-Bye, Rich Connor

    The Fort Worth Business Press ... sold! I guess that explains Rich Connor's column last week. I was hoping it was a change in editorial position on urban gas drilling in Fort Worth. Instead, it was just a change in editors.

    Gas Drilling Downtown?

    It looks like downtown gas drilling might actually be happening. A public notices in the August 22 Star-Telegram announced a drilling permit applied for Chesapeake Operating, Inc. / T&P 1H at the end of Lamar on East Lancaster Avenue. Kevin at Fort Worthology has a lot more on the site.

    Ah, yes. Chesapeake Energy. Doing Fort Worth a world of good. When I read about this well, this is the first thing I thought about:


    This is a picture from the explosion at a gas-related facility in Dallas in July. Even though this facility wasn't a drilling facility, it shows how devastating a flammable-materials explosion can be in an urban area. If there was an accident like the explosion at the gas drilling site in Hood County, imagine the devastation. It's within a 100 yards of I30, and few hundred yards of the Post Office and the T&P Building -- two of Cowtown's architectural treasures. I'm sure that just what those loft dwellers want -- explosion debris floating in their lattes.

    City To Revisit Gas Drilling Ordinance?

    When the Fort Worth City Council met on Sept. 11, Mayor Moncrief was very clear -- there is nothing wrong with Fort Worth's gas drilling ordinance. In fact, he said it is the model for ordinances used by many of the surrounding cities.

    I took that to mean case closed. In spite of the concerns of over 1,200 people who signed petitions to support the Trinity Trees and the over 400 people who turned out for a public forum on the issue, the City seemed to have a clear message -- get lost.

    But, as Lee Corso might say, not so fast, my friend.

    In an e-mail sent out last week to dozens of Trinity Trees supporters, Wendy Davis indicated that far from being a done deal, the city's gas ordinance might be going back to the drawing board.

    Last week, the City Council committed to hold a workshop for purposes of sending the ordinance back to the Gas Drilling Advisory Committee for further review as a direct result of the outcry over the Trinity Trees issue. Davis said in the e-mail that she expected the workshop to be held within the next few weeks.

    In the e-mail, Davis attached a memo from City Planning and Development Department Director Fernando Costa, dated Sept. 13, that outlines some possible points for review, including:

  • Requiring review and comment by the City’s Parks and Community Services Advisory Board for any gas wells to be sited within a certain distance of designated City parks

  • Applying the same setback requirements to the Trinity River and its tributaries as to designated City parks

  • Requiring the installation of more effective landscaped buffers around gas well sites

  • Repealing current provisions whereby property owners may waive certain setback requirements, thereby requiring all such waivers to be approved by the City Council

  • Requiring special use permits to be approved by the City Council upon recommendations from the Zoning Commission for wells within or near residential zoning districts.

  • In addition, Davis is recommending that a few other points be added as part of the review, including:

  • Charging impact fees to the gas companies for the wear and tear to our streets from their trucks

  • Requirements to complete a truck route plan with the city for the ingress and egress to the well sites

  • Requirements to work with the city on the placement of the gas pipelines

  • Requirements to work with the city regarding the placement of the compression stations.

  • Taken at face value, this all looks encouraging. But I wonder why the sudden about-face on this issue? Is this just an attempt for the city to smooth over ruffled feathers? Or is it an attempt to fix some legitimate problems with the gas drilling ordinance? I don't know. I'd like to think that public outcry is forcing the city to act. But let's see how this plays out. In the meantime, I would encourage you to contact your city councilperson and let them know that you support revisiting the gas ordinance.

    Can the Trinity Trees be saved? If you continue to speak out and get involved, maybe they can.

    Monday, September 24, 2007

    Monday Morning Whimsy

    For your consideration and to give you three more minutes to not be productive, I give you the new Wes Anderson AT&T commercials:







    Anderson's new comedic road drama, "The Darjeeling Limited," lands in theaters Oct. 5.

    Podcast: Roundtable Discussion

    The Fort Worth Blog Cabal was at my house last night for the latest installment of the Cowtown Chronicles, Panther City Bikes, Vote Bernie, Fort Worthology podcast. Thanks to all who attended for being such gracious guests. Bucky approves of all of you.

     

    icon for podpress

    Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

    Sunday, September 23, 2007

    Why I Don’t Believe You, Chesapeake

    CHK1
    I woke up to a Green Living section my Sunday Star-Telegram, including a full-page ad from Chesapeake Energy. “Go Green by Turning Blue. We All Win,” the ad reads. “Chesapeake understands the need to make the drilling process equally friendly. That’s why we all go above and beyond to treat essential green space and groundwater resources with the utmost of care. The environment wins. Texas wins. Our children win. Together, we all win.”

    I’m not sure what turned my stomach more -- the cynicism of placing the ad in this section, or thought that Chesapeake might actually believe their own spin.

    Chesapeake, you say you’re doing Fort Worth a world of good. You point to the revenues that the city and private citizens will receive as a result of your work. You point to your $100,000 donation to Eagle Mountain Lake Park. You point to the importance of producing a clean-burning energy source that is acquired right here at home and not in the Middle East. And I grant you all some of these points [tip of the Stetson to Texas Sharon].

    You see, as much as you’d might like to believe it, I’m not some extremist who is never going to agree with anything you do. Not at all. I like to think of myself as a realist.

    But I am interested in deeds, not words. Just because you say you’re doing Fort Worth a world of good on big ads in the newspaper, on billboards all around town and on lots of television commercials doesn’t make it true. But as Stephen Colbert would say, it’s got the ring of truthiness.

    And I guess that’s what you are counting on – the appearance of truth. Tell people you are good for Fort Worth enough times, and eventually they’ll believe it. I know that's your hope.

    But Cheseapeake, I don’t believe you. Here’s why:

  • Green space: Carter Burdette told a story at the Trinity Trees public forum. It went something like this: I have some trees in my yard. They’ve been there for years. They offer shade to my house. They offer shade to my neighbors. But one day, I decided I want to cut those trees down, and my neighbor says I can’t because he enjoys those trees, too. Is that right? Should my neighbor have a right to tell me what to do with my property?

    That is the heart of the private property defense in the case of the Trinity Trees. Funny thing is this -- I’ve heard your VP Tom Price tell a version of that story. I’ve also heard Mayor Moncrief tell a version of that story. I’ve also heard Bud Kennedy at the Star-Telegram tell a version of that story. One thing I learned in my years working in journalism was this: you can tell which people are talking to each other because the same words, phrases and stories keep popping up. It makes me wonder. Is it coincidence? IJS.

    Be that as it may, I’ve got a story, too. It goes like this. I bought a house once. There were lots of trees on the lot where this house stood, but they hadn’t been cared for in many years. I called an arborist who came out and looked at the trees and said, “You need to take down three of your trees. They are old. There’s nothing that can be done.” My wife and I talked about it, and we decided this: if we move into this house and the first thing we do is cut down those trees, our neighbors will hate us. And rightfully so, So we talked to another arborist, and we saved those trees. Was it easy to do? No. I could easily have cut down those trees. But saving those trees was the right thing to do.

    If you are serious about green space, the Trinity Trees are your litmus test. Do the right thing. Find a way to save those trees.

  • Ground water: I know the chances of you using the Eighth Avenue drill site have gotten quite a bit less likely, but I want to talk about that site and ground water. I was talking to a business owner not far from that site one day and he was complaining about water damage that he had experienced on the floors of his shop. At first, he turned to the city, thinking the culprit was a broken water main. As it turned out it wasn’t. The source of the water was a long-forgotten Artesian Well that used to be a source of water for area residents.

    Barnett Shale wells require fracturing of the limestone formation to release the oil and gas trapped within. Water, sand, and hazardous chemicals are injected under high pressure down the drilling hole to fracture the limestone. What are those chemicals? Some are known and include potentially toxic substances such as diesel fuel, which contains benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, naphthalene and other chemicals; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; methanol; formaldehyde; ethylene glycol; glycol ethers; hydrochloric acid; and sodium hydroxide. Some others remain unknown because they are considered “proprietary company information.”

    Is fracing safe? It’s hard to read this article and say yes. One Colorado resident says that a 2001 fracing accident less than 100 yards from her home, blew up her water well "like a geyser at Yellowstone." For a time, the company paid for drinking water for her family, then assured her that the well water was fine. Later she became ill and was diagnosed with a rare adrenal gland tumor, which is linked to 2BE, a benzene derivative, and a chemical used by the drilling company for fracing.

    Can you tell me that using processes like this one are safe for ground water all over Tarrant County and the Barnett Shale? Will you swear that it is in a full-page ad?

  • Together We All Win: I believe in win-win for everyone in the Barnett Shale, but in the way you conduct business in the Barnett Shale, I’m not seeing that you feel the same way. Like how one of your executives, Tom Price, tries to tell us that natural gas is good for the environment but, oh, by the way, global warming doesn’t exist. No global warming, eh? Then I wonder why the sea ice in the Arctic shrank 1 million square miles more this summer than the average melt over 25 years, an area larger than Alaska and Texas combined, according to NASA satellite data released Thursday.

    Why is global warming important? In this debate, it tells me what is in your hearts. What I hear is environmental concerns are overblown. And it makes me wonder why you have tried to do seismic testing in Tandy Hills Park? And I wonder why you seek high-impact variances to bring your drilling closer to our homes and schools? Because I believe in your hearts you don't really believe protecting the environment is important.

    When I put these things, I don’t think Fort Worth is dealing with a company seeking a win-win situation. I think I’m dealing with a company that will say anything to close a deal.

    In spite of all of the ads you buy and the things you say, I don’t believe you Chesapeake. If you want to earn my trust, give me deeds, not words.

  • Coal: Cheap. Abundant. Cheap. Clean.


    Dear Mr. David Bonderman:

    Congratulations on the Forbes list thing. Cowtown represent! Since you're going to like own TXU and stuff. I'd like to suggest a new ad campaign. I think Rick Perry would love it. My friend, Pete from Cowtown Chronicles sent this to me. Just a thought.

    Saturday, September 22, 2007

    District 9 Nastiness

    When you have six candidates running for something, things are bound to get a little ugly. When sheer ambition collides with the better angels of our nature, the desire to win sometimes comes out on top. We're seeing a little of that in the District 9 City Council race.

    One of the things I've always liked best about the candidate I support, Bernie Scheffler, is his positive attitude and contagious optimism. That's part of why I believe this city needs him. In May, when Wendy Davis congratulated him on a race well run, she thanked him for running a positive campaign. That's the Bernie that I know and respect.

    However, there has been a whisper campaign from another District 9 candidate trying to paint Bernie as a dilettante, a dabbler, someone who is running this race as a lark. When I spoke to Bernie, he shrugged it off. He's not concerned about it. He knows he's serious, and he believes the voters will, too.

    Although I was able to find the source of the rumor, I really don't believe it's important to name the culprit. Although the person in question may see this as hardball politics, I think it is just grade school. Stop the whisper campaign now. I assure you that Bernie is quite serious. He's in it to win it, and I believe he will win.

    Unfortunately, this isn't the only incident so far in this young campaign. There is a phone poll being run by a candidate in the race which attempts to prejudice voters against Joel Burns and Chris Turner. Although I don't support either of these candidates, I believe Mr. Burns and Mr. Turner deserve better than this. I deplore this attempt to make the campaign about something other than issues of substance.

    I encourage all the candidates in the District 9 race to follow Bernie Scheffler's lead -- run a positive campaign based on the issues. The people of Fort Worth deserve this. Too much is at stake.

    Is It the End for the Ridglea Theater?

    I hope not, but it ain't looking good for the current ownership.

    Friday, September 21, 2007

    No Wall of Sound for Me

    I'm not going to the Wall of Sound Festival. Wah. Work life intrudes, but you could be the winner. You going? E-mail me your reviews and I'll smash them together into the semblance of a review. Your deadline is 7 p.m. Sunday. If I get nothing, I'm running a photo of a kitten.

    Help save Fort Worth from a photo of a kitten. Gimme sumthin.

    Neighborhoods at Crossroads

    If you read the Startlegram this morning, you saw that representatives of the Berkeley Place and Ryan Place neighborhoods say they have come to terms with XTO Energy on a mineral-rights lease.

    These neighborhood associations believe the terms incorporate residents' safety and quality-of-life concerns and could become a model for other neighborhoods in the area.

    Writes Jim Fuquay: "Principal among the Ryan Place and Berkeley concerns was the drill site. Fort Worth Energy plans to use a site east of Jennings Avenue and north of Page Avenue, in an industrial area, to reach those neighborhoods. The lease specifically excludes the use of a site between Eighth and Stanley avenues, land held by Four Sevens Resources, which leases in the area for Chesapeake."

    Also, Bill Conley, the head of the Ryan Place leasing committee, told the S-T that the Ryan Place/Berkeley lease specifies which drill sites may and may not be used, and guarantees that drilling activities must be at least 600 feet from neighborhood properties, a figure that would rise if the city of Fort Worth increases its 600-foot separation rule.

    However, what the S-T didn't mention is that according to local attorney Liane Janovsky, the proposed drill site is 4 blocks from Daggett Montessori Elementary, and 6 blocks from Daggett Elementary. Below is part of a letter she wrote to her neighbors:

    Needless to say, I’m very disappointed with the outcome, and particularly disappointed that the RPIA Gas Taskforce (of which I was a member) was not briefed or informed about the plan before it was presented and endorsed.

    The lease is modeled after the Tanglewood N’hood Assoc lease. Variations with different drill sites are being proposed throughout the 10 Southside neighborhood associations. Berkeley has already proposed a similar lease (drilling at a “secret site” north of I-30, but not on 8th Avenue), and the other Southside neighborhoods will roll out their proposals in the days ahead under the auspices of the “Joint Neighborhood Committee.”

    I bring this to you attention so you can be aware that the gauntlet is now down for people to demand (and get) $10,000 / acre signing bonuses. Judging by the standing ovation the RPIA plan got last night, some people are clearly more thrilled with the cash than they are concerned about the risk to the children in nearby schools, high traffic, pipelines, water abuse and safety.

    We are at a crossroads. Unless we devote time and money to publicize information about the adverse effects of these lease proposals, then most residents will probably sign the Southside leases with XTO / Fort Worth Energy.

    Please contact me if you are interested in helping distribute information to Southside residents about the adverse consequences of signing these leases.

    You may contact Ms. Janovsky at:
    314 Main Street, Suite 300
    Fort Worth, Texas 76102
    Phone: 817-332-6800
    Fax: 817-332-6810
    Email: liane.janovsky@janovskylaw.com

    My own take: don't sign. But you knew that already.

    Wednesday, September 19, 2007

    Reflections on The Best of Funkytown

    Lost in the hoopla over, well, me, is the fact that there was some noteworthy stuff in FWWeekly "Best of Funkytown" issue. Just random thoughts here.

    Editor Gayle Reeves has her eye on the ball. Sayeth Gayle in her introduction: "Why, there are actually some residents in this city so funky that they’ve decided they value safety, quality of life, and neighborhood preservation over gas drilling royalties. Now that is fun-keeee." Imagine ... a journalist on the citizens' side. Imagine.

  • Best Bike Shop, Readers Choice: Panther City Bikes! Holla Bernie, Jason and Brian!

  • Best Old Guy: This tickled me. Readers Choice: Carter Burdette, who is an old fossil whose politics seem to reside somewhere to the right of Albert Speer. Bad call. The critics were much more on target: Jay Milner -- local journalist and "arthur" and friend of Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Bud Shrake, Dan Jenkins, Gary Cartwright and Larry L. King. If you haven't read his memoir, Confessions of a Mad Dog, pick it up like yesterday.

  • Best Local Web Forum: Fort Worth Architecture. There's none better. John Roberts, take a well-deserved bow.

  • Best Print Journalist: My man-crush on Mitch Schnurman was denied. A crime I tell ya.

  • Best Green Space: Tandy Hills Park. Agreed, but I would have liked at least an honorable mention for the Trinity Trees.

  • Best Breakfast: Kudos to the critics for taking Paris Coffee Shop over Old South. There really is no contest. IJS.

  • On the Street Where We Eat: Thanks for shouting out to Magnolia Avenue -- Lili's, Benito's, Paris and Spiral Diner are all in my favorites.

  • Best Steak: Where is the love for M&M?

  • Best Bar: Tiff & Andi's? Where is the love for T&A? Heh.

  • Best Exotic Dancer: Evidently there is four-foot tall stripper in the Fort. I really don't know how to process that information.

  • Thing Tarrant County Needs: Public debate. Can I get an amen? "Cowtowners need to ditch the backroom Fort Worth Way and embrace vigorous debate in the public arena." True dat. Here we are at a crossroads in our city -- Trinity River Vision, Barnett Shale, Fastest Growing City in the Nation -- and where is the public discourse? NOWHERE! Mayor Mikey sure as hell doesn't want it and the Startlegram is boring our asses off with Top 10 Lists which seem more like Ways to Sell Target Merchandise. We deserve better. We'll get it when we demand accountability. "Many neighborhood leaders are now rallying around [The FWWeekly], working more closely with us on big-city issues." As much as the Mayor, the Council, the Startlegram and Chesapeake Energy may try to stonewall the citizens of this community, it seems clear to more than just me than backlash is building. Not a moment too soon.
  • Tuesday, September 18, 2007

    Thank You, Fort Worth

    Well, the Fort Worth Weekly Best of 2007 is out and the readers and the critics have selected yours truly as the best blogger in the Fort. Thank you. I'm not the best of Fort Worth, but I can think of a few people who are:

  • Bernie Scheffler: Please make Bernie the new District 9 City Council member. The city needs him, like, real bad. He's got two great blogs: VoteBernie! and Panther City Bikes.

  • Pete Wann: Great guy. And I love his blog -- Cowtown Chronicles.

  • Kevin Buchanan: Kevin's blog, Fort Worthology, is a must-read for Fort Worth architecture lovers. And he's a great guy.

  • Ken Shimamoto: Also known by his nom de blog the Stash Dauber. I aspire to be him when I grow up. You must read his blog several times a day. He makes me think and laugh. And I think we own a lot of the same records.

  • Jim Marshall and Rick Collins: If you love Fort Worth, help these two guys save The Trinity Trees. Don't let Chesapeake Energy mow down a fantastic part of this city for a few bucks.

  • Don and Debora Young: Again, if you love Fort Worth, drop by FWCando.org. Get a sign and get involved. Don't let gas drilling ruin the best parts of Fort Worth.

  • Randy Bacon: I think this guy is the stuff. If you have some money burning a hole in your pocket, buy one of his paintings. Don't know him? Then read this.

  • Mike Blackman and Mike Cochran: I like to tell stories, but these two guys are actually really good at it. They've forgotten better stories than the best stories I know.

  • Thanks to my lovely wife and my amazing daughter. Thanks to my friends. Thanks to Paul. Keep reading. Support your local bloggers.

    A Walk in Tandy Hills Park


    I've spent too much time in meetings, in traffic, in discussions about contentious issues. Most of the work is important, some of it is just work. But I feel it chipping away.

    That's why I decided that Saturday was time to recharge the batteries and get a hefty dose of nature.

    I've been saying a lot lately that greenspace matters. And it does. On Saturday, I took a ride down the Trinity Trail on my bike, after a stop at Panther City Bikes to get a tube replaced. Bernie and Brian teased me about my general bike maintenance ineptitude. Yeah, I'm pretty clueless.

    After the ride, I took the family to the Japanese Gardens for some koi feeding and Pacifi-Tex serenity. Domo arigato.

    My wife, my daughter and I rounded out the day with a nature hike in Tandy Hills Park with our tour gides, Don and Debora Young. Don is more than just the unofficial expert on Tandy Hills Park, he's a huge advocate for the environment in Fort Worth. He's the driving force behind FW Can Do -- some of the most vocal opponents to urban drilling in the city. Don's also the man behind PrairieFest -- a celebration of our connection to the natural world.

    The Youngs live in an Austin funky house literally across the street from the park. "This is why we bought here," he said, stretching his arms out like he was going to give the park a big hug. "We wanted to be able to look out on this every day." So from their front yard, we left on our evening hike.

    Saying that Don is passionate about Tandy Hills Park is like saying Georgia O'Keefe was passionate about Santa Fe. And his enthusiasm is contagious. The 180-acre park between Oakland and Beach Streets south of I30 is one of the last swaths of prairie near downtown and when you are there you can get an idea of what Fort Worth looked like when General Worth first rode into the area a century and half ago.


    One of the first things Don taught me about was Big Bluestem grass (in the picture above on the right of the frame). "You might not know this, but the roots of this grass can live to be older than the oldest Bur Oak in the Trinity Trees," he said. "Those roots can live to be hundreds of years old."


    It's hard to believe wandering the trails through Tandy Hills that you are not that far from downtown. You are in the middle of a city, but it is completely a world away. "I like to think that the broadcast towers are some immense modern art sculpture," Don said.


    "Most Fort Worth lawns might have only three or four different types of native plant species," Don said. "This park has over 541 native plant species."


    I wondered how an area this close to downtown could remain undeveloped. It turns out that the Tandy Family -- no relation to the Radio Shack Tandys -- left the land to the city back in the Sixties on the condition that it never be built on or developed. So the upside is the site is largely undisturbed and the city hasn't done anything with it. The downside is, well, the city hasn't done anything with it.


    Although citizens are working to save trees in other parts of Fort Worth, in Tandy Hills, trees are actually a problem. "On the prairie, natural fires keep trees from growing," Don said. "But here in the city, if there is a fire, the fire department shows up. So if you look at that hill over there (the photo above on the right), those trees are moving up that hill at about a foot a year. It's not going to be very many more years before the trees take over." Some people have a hard time wrapping their heads around these facts -- why do you want trees here but not there? Why do you want things to burn? But it makes sense. Look it up.


    Not that there aren't supposed to be any trees. When you get down to bottomland, many trees thrive. But in other parts of the park, the trees are taking over and choking back the native grasses.


    You can see below where the flash floods come roaring through. "The water can really turn this into roaring rapids." But the bottomland is also home to the Dog Tooth Violet, a very rare species in this part of the country," Debora said.


    “That’s sideoats grama — the state grass of Texas,” Don said, pointing to the stalks of grass in the photo below.


    Although Tandy Hills is his first love, Don understands the importance of bringing together people from all parts of Fort Worth to preserve our natural environment for future generations. That makes him one hell of a Texan in my book. As he would put it, "God Bless Texas. Help us save some of it."


    Chesapeake purchased 55 acres adjacent to Tandy Hills Park in the hopes that they might be able to drill for natural gas in or near the park. "The said they just wanted to do seismic testing, but they were going to drive those seismic testing trucks all over the park. You can still see the orange flag below there where they marked the trail to drive through there (at the the middle of the photo below)," Don said. "Does it look like you could drive a truck through there?"

    Honestly, Don, no. Chesapeake Energy -- good corporate citizen indeed. Because Don and many other raised so much hell, Chesapeake isn't encroaching on the park for now. Will that last though?


    Of course, what would a natural area in Fort Worth be without a Jim Marshall birdhouse (below). That guy is all over the place.


    "This spot is one of my favorite places in the whole park," Don said about the field in the photo below. "You really get an idea about what this park could be."


    My evening hike through Tandy Hills was really a transcendent experience. Everything slows down and when it gets quiet, you can hear your soul. The noise of busy urban life falls away. That's part of the value of greenspace. It feeds our souls. Can you put a price on that?

    I often ask the question, "What makes a city great?" Certainly the places like Tandy Hills Park are a big part of that. But so are the people like Don and Debora Young. This isn't a new fight for Don. To find out more, check out this Jeff Prince story from 2004. Or better yet, drop by Tandy Hills to see for yourself.

    Thanks for tour, Don. It was time well spent.

    Monday, September 17, 2007

    She: Bike/Spoke/Love

    Tammy Gomez got some much deserved luv from the Startlegram on Sunday. Her new play She: Bike/Spoke/Love premieres at 7:30 p.m., this Saturday at the Sanders Theatre at The Fort Worth Community Art Center (1300 Gendy St). And, in honor of World Car Free Day, admission is $3 for those arriving by mass transit, bicycle, walking, etc., $10 for those arriving by automobile. The 5th Annual Fort Worth Jazz Fest will be taking place nearby, so parking lots will be hard to come by. Bicycle parking, however, will be readily available. Please drop by and support Tammy!

    Agreement from an Unexpected Source

    Last week, I wrote this: "I believe we can't leave it all in the hands of developers who are more concerned with maximizing profit than making this a better community. The fact is that green space matters -- and I'm talking trees, not money."

    In today's Fort Worth Business Press, someone wrote this: "You could say the Barnett Shale bonanza is a case of trading green for green. Somewhere along the way, it seems, the environment and the beauty of the Texas landscape in these parts loses as much as individuals and corporations gain."

    Wow, sounds pretty similar. What right-thinking individual could that have been? Some other tree-hugging pinko in the Fort?

    That person was Rich Connor, former Star-Telegram publisher and current publisher of the Business Press. Way to go, Rich. Now, how about helping us save some of Fort Worth?

    Friday, September 14, 2007

    Urban Gas Drilling Is Safe


    Pay no attention to that giant fireball in Hood County. We repeat ... Urban Gas Drilling is safe. This message brought to you by Chesapeake Energy -- your good corporate neighbor in Fort Worth.

    Crestwood Place Apartments, R.I.P.


    Kevin, you ruined my morning.

    Fort Worthology reports that the Crestwood Place Apartments on White Settlement Road will be demolished to make way for single-family homes. That was my first apartment in Fort Worth, to the left of the door on the right in that picture. When I lived there, it was still very much like it was when it was built in the 1940s. Some of my neighbors were original residents. Boy, I loved that place. I hate to see it go. Just another example of a change not-for-the-better in Fort Worth.

    UPDATE: I really didn't get in all I wanted to say about my old apartment. My wife and I have talked a lot about the old place. I lived there when we first met. The first time I kissed her was on the lawn in front of that door on the right. For both of us, the Crestwood Place Apartments are special because that's where we were when we fell in love.

    We both held the same thought in our minds -- this was the place we would go back to if everything went to hell. This was basecamp. This would be the place where we would go where everything would always be OK. Other things could come and go, but we would always have each other and we would always have that place to go back to. Stupid thought, maybe, but a critical part of the mythology that holds two people together.

    The other night, I saw a documentary about Tony Bennett and someone asked him about the success of his song, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." He explained that the reason that song is so beloved is that it really isn't about San Francisco, it's about wherever your heart is. San Francisco can be anywhere. Paris, Manhattan or an old apartment on White Settlement Road in Fort Worth, Texas.

    I guess the Crestwood Place Apartments is San Francisco to us. A little bit of our hearts will always be there, and a little bit of that place will always be in our hearts. They can build million-dollar homes on that land, but they will be unable to build a more beautiful building to me.

    Thursday, September 13, 2007

    Geostationary Banana Over Texas

    When I think about what Texas needs to make it the absolute perfect state, I think Geostationary Banana.

    You too?

    Well, the future is now. Montreal artist Cesar Saez is making a giant, helium filled banana that he intends to launch in Texas, sending it 20-30 miles up. And we're talking BIG -- 300 meters, or about three football fields for all you non-metric cypherin' Texans. This could happen next year. All I have to say is, "About damn time."

    Rick Noriega Update

    Some of this old news, but I'm playing catch-up:

  • Stupid Thing To Say: This from the Houston Chronicle by way of BurkaBlog: Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mikal Watts of San Antonio once tried to pressure a legal opponent into a $60 million personal injury lawsuit settlement by claiming he would have an advantage on appeal because of his firm's heavy campaign financial support to an appellate court's justices, "all of whom are good Democrats." Yeah, that's pretty dumb. But the more interesting thing is Burka's analysis: "Noriega has a great personal story; the question is whether he can raise enough money to get it out to the electorate. Watts has oodles of money, but no compelling personal narrative. The question is whether money or an Hispanic surname is the greater asset in a Democratic primary. Does the name 'Victor Morales' mean anything to you? It meant something to congressmen John Bryant and Jim Chapman, who lost the 1996 Senate primary to the unknown schoolteacher, and the Hispanic vote means more in the Democratic primary today than it did then. ... If Watts wins the primary, his background as a trial lawyer will hurt him, but [John] Cornyn will carry a lot of the baggage that has piled up during Bush's second term. Watts will have enough money to focus the race on Cornyn's record. Noriega has the better shot to beat Cornyn--if he can raise the money.

  • Tough Time at UT: Things didn't get any better for Watts in his appearance at UT on Wednesday. I think the TCU football team got a better reception than he did. By contrast, Noriega did very well on the 40 Acres last week.

  • Rick Doesn't Like Bloggers? That's news to me. This is a HUGE non-story. When I met him in Dallas recently, he was very enthusiastic about blogs in general and my blog specifically. Rick's a great guy and he has my vote.

  • Lest We Forget: Three weeks ago, seven paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne penned an op-ed in the New York Times questioning the effectiveness of the Iraq Surge. On Monday, two of the op-ed's authors, Sgt. Omar Mora and Sgt. Yance T. Gray, died in a vehicle accident in western Baghdad. Noriega wrote yesterday about the loss of Sgt. Mora, who was from Texas City. "It is the right of every citizen to speak their mind, as Omar's brother, Roger told the Houston Chronicle -- a right that belongs to civilian and soldier alike, regardless of rank. Voicing one's opinion, especially from a soldier, is very difficult when 'management' is wrong. Omar, and his fellow soldiers had a better understanding of the cultural matrix in Iraq than what gets reported by the media, he had walked the walk. He spoke from experience when they said 'we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear.' Sgt. Mora and his soldiers concluded their editorial by making clear 'as committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.' He lived up to his word. Now the challenge lies with the rest of us to listen and bring this mismanaged war to an end." Amen.

  • Money From Swift Boat Bob Perry: The Startlegram reported that Noriega has taken four contributions totaling $7,000 since January 2006 when Perry's role in the Swift Boat campaign became known. Personally, I wish Rick would give the money back, but I'm willing to wait and hear and explanation.
  • Sometimes, You Just Gotta Laugh

    Barking Carnival put it best: "Tyrell Gatewood has a grandparent with glaucoma, a sibling with anxiety disorder and a baby with a cough." At least he left his gun at home.

    Anyone Wanna Go See The Theater Fire?

    They are playing on The Wreck Room's next to last night. Anyone wanna go with me?

    Hanging Together or Hanging Separately

    After a confusing day filled with conflicting reports, it appears that the Berkeley Neighborhood Association announced that they've gotten Fort Worth Energy (with drilling partner XTO) to agree to their conditions for a lease. One of the conditions is that they wouldn't use the 8th Avenue drilling site.

    Here's the rub. That means the site moves north, probably near Mistletoe Heights. Yulp. They also mentioned a site east of Hemphill, but I think that's too far away to reach Berkeley minerals.

    Maybe I'm wrong, but it looks like the Berkeley Task Force threw Mistletoe Heights under the bus. If true, that is a disturbing development, because what Fort Worth will end up with is NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) gone amok. Everyone wants their mailbox money, but no one wants a drilling site or pipeline near them.

    This is the downside to the lack of leadership from the City on this issue. As Wendy Davis tried to explain at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, we need to go back and revisit the urban gas drilling ordinance. As it stands right now, neighborhoods are free to cut their own deals. But if your Neighborhood Association cuts a deal that results in a well being stuck in some other neighborhood, how do you know some other Neighborhood Association won't do the same thing to you down the line? There will be winners and there will be losers. Your neighborhood may be a winner today and a loser tomorrow. But count on this, the gas drilling companies will never be the losers.

    Fort Worth, this is larger than a neighborhood issue, this is a city issue. The gas drilling companies are employing a divide and conquer strategy. They will pit East Side vs. West Side and Berkeley vs. Mistletoe Heights. Don't fall for this. We need to stick together. And we need leadership from the city.

    Here is what I propose:

  • Don't Sign: Drilling companies need 80 percent of a neighborhood to move forward. Don't sign with anyone and encourage your neighbors to do the same.

  • Contact Your Neighborhood Association: Tell them how you feel on this issue and encourage them to work with other associations to act together. Contact FW Can Do.

  • Force The City To Act: When Wendy Davis explained the need to revisit the gas ordinance, Mayor Moncrief slapped her down. The Mayor is wrong on this issue. Now it is time for citizens to make their voice heard. There is already talk of a petition to force the City Council to revisit the gas ordinance. I am throwing my support behind that idea and I'll bring you more details on this issue as they become available. It is time the citizens demand leadership on this issue.
  • Wednesday, September 12, 2007

    S-T Takes The Edge Off LTE

    Bud Kennedy ... are you editing the Letters To The Editor now? Local blogger Texas Sharon in Wise County doesn't support gas drilling, but you'd never know that from her Letter to the Editor that was published in the Startlegram. The Wizards at 400 West 7th botched the editing of her letter pretty badly. Reader, beware.

    Wall of Sound Schedule Announced

    The Wall of Sound Festival will be rocking LaGrave Field on Sept. 22. Now that the schedule is out, I can plan my day. Here's what I want to see:

  • 11 a.m.: Tame...Tame and Quiet

  • Noon: Eleven Hundred Springs

  • 2:30 p.m.: Pleasant Grove

  • 3 p.m.: Ghosthustler

  • 4:30 p.m.: Black Tie Dynasty

  • 7:40 p.m.: Bobby Bare Jr.

  • 9:40 p.m.: Midlake

  • 10:20 p.m.: Ghostland Observatory

  • Am I missing anything good? I know there's a lot of old standbys here, but I don't want to miss 'em.

    City Council to Trinity Trees: Get Lost

    God bless Wendy Davis. She tried. And what she got for her trouble was a scolding from the Mayor of Fort Worth, Mike Moncrief.

    Sorry about that, Wendy. You deserve a lot better.

    After the meeting, she tried not to cry, but she did a little. And I don't blame her, because I wanted to cry, too.

    It wasn't just that the Mayor and the City Council washed their hands of the whole Trinity Trees issue. It was how they did it. "This kind of public rebuke from the Mayor is absolutely appalling," said one woman, who wished not to be identified. "This city has had no better advocate on so many issues than Wendy Davis."

    Davis, the District 9 City Council rep who has worked hard to find a solution that would be acceptable to all parties -- Chesapeake, Union Pacific and the people of Fort Worth -- actually brought some good news to the meeting. She's meeting with the Chesapeake CEO on Friday, along with Marc Ott, the assistant city manager who is working on the Southwest Parkway. Chesapeake and Union Pacific have used the Southwest Parkway as the reason that the Trinity Trees must be sacrificed. 'Because of the needs of the Southwest Parkway, there's no way we can use any of the Union Pacific land for drilling.' That's the reasoning.

    Davis is trying to cut through this nonsense by getting the right people in the room on Friday. Good you, Wendy. But she didn't stop there.

    "This issue is a symptom of a bigger problem and District 9 [Davis' district] is the first to feel it," she said. "We need to be proactive about this. We need to ask the city manager and the legal department and discuss the drilling ordinance."

    Davis gets it. She understands that the issue is larger than zoning and individual property rights, it's about safety and quality of life. It is about pipelines going across our land, water trucks wearing out our streets and compression stations that could pose safety and environmental issues in our city.

    "Union Pacific and Colonial Country Club are not be asked to bear the burden," she said. "What are the alternatives?"

    That's a good question. We are told that the CEOs of Union Pacific and Chesapeake are going to meet. But will the people of Fort Worth have a seat at the table? That remains to be seen.

    But Mayor Mikey doesn't want to get involved in this issue, and he's definitely not revisiting the drilling ordinance. "I take exception to the idea that we have not been proactive on this issue," he said. "This is a very difficult issue."

    "Had Chesapeake not bought that property, did you see the kind of things that could have been put there? Would you rather have a concrete plant on that property?"

    No, Mr. Mayor, I wouldn't. However, your logic is awfully close to what Bud Kennedy wrote on Sunday. And, I'm sorry to break it to you, but Bud didn't share the whole truth with you or the people of Fort Worth in his column. "That is old railroad land," he wrote. "It was always set aside for heavy industry. City Hall planners zoned it K and MU-2 -- specific designations for industrial development. ... The city zoning map is easy to find. ... Check it before you take any chops at City Hall."

    So I did. Sure, K is a heavy industrial development. But most of the land is zoned MU-2 (see image from the city Web site at right). That's mixed use, which includes some light industrial, but it also includes such non-industrial uses as kindergartens, day care centers, schools and museums. Funny, Bud didn't mention that, but he really should have. Take a look for yourself. In fact, most of the land around the Modern Art Museum is zoned MU-2 (see map below). I wonder what would happen if someone wanted to put a gas well on that property? Could they get a high impact variance? Do the people of Fort Worth have a right to take chops at City Hall over that?

    Mr. Mayor, given the choice between gas well and museum, I'd choose museum. Maybe a Trinity Trees Museum?

    The rest of the Council was either antagonistic or silent. District 7 rep Carter Burdette, a former attorney for oil and gas interests, is unmoved by any argument to save the Trees. "The only way you'll know they're gone is if you fly over them in a helicopter." District 4 rep Danny Scarth was similarly unmoved. His reasoning seemed to be not my district, not my problem. Of course, since he crafted much of the existing ordinance, he doesn't feel the need to go back and revisit it.

    Basically, Wendy Davis is the only one of the City Council who is convinced this is a real issue, despite 1,300 signatures on Trinity Tree petition and a City Council chamber full of mostly Trinity Trees supporters.

    One Mistletoe Heights resident told me, "I see more and more people in my neighborhood becoming concerned with this issue. It is not going away. It's only getting bigger." And she's right. People connected to the neighborhood association there say only around 10 percent of homeowners have signed lease agreements for their mineral rights. A drilling company needs 80 percent before they can drill. I'm told numbers in neighborhoods like Ryan Place and Berkeley have also been slow to sign. Because so many of the Trinity Trees people come from these neighborhoods, I could easily see this issue preventing people from signing.

    Bernie Scheffler, who is running to replace Davis in District 9 when she leaves to run for the State Senate, was surprised that Chesapeake and Union Pacific won't ask the City to get involved and help find a solution. "We aren't telling you what to do with your land, we're asking you to get involved to help find a win-win solution for everyone," he said. "Here's your chance to be good corporate citizens. It's not a complex issue."

    It's not a complex issue and it's not over either.

    "We'll be OK," said Rick Collins with Save the Trinity Trees. "We'll be OK."

    P.S.: If you'd like, send Wendy Davis an e-mail to say thanks. Or if you feel a little rowdy, send Bud Kennedy an e-mail and ask him to correct his misleading column from Sunday.

    Tuesday, September 11, 2007

    News Travels Fast

    I guess Fort Worth Code Enforcement reads the paper, too. I just got an e-mail that they are going around picking up “Just Say No To Urban Gas Drilling” signs in Berkeley.

    If this happens to you, I encourage you to file a public information request to determine who initiated the call to Code Enforcement and to file a formal complaint with City Council.

    Wonder if the City will take all out of code signs or just the Gas Drilling ones? I hope they don’t pick up Bernie Scheffler signs, too. I expect Joel Burns signs to be unmolested.

    UPDATE, 2:23 p.m.: If I'm reading city code right, political campaign signs are exempt from city code, so Bernie's signs are safe. And, of course, Joel signs are safe.
    UPDATE, 10:30 p.m.: An update from Don Young: "I was approached tonight at council by Assistant Director of Code Compliance, Brandon Bennett, who said they just happened to be doing a city-wide sweep of 'bandit signs' today, and that he wondered if some of the Just Say NO signs were reported missing. I said, yes, and that I would like to have them back. He said he would return them if they had not been dumpstered yet. Promised to e-mail me tomorrow. He also said that the signs are OK as long as they are not on city property. That is, they must be on the homeowner side of the sidewalk. I will gladly replace any signs that have been pilfered. Residents can call me for replacements. Signs are also available at the Spiral Diner. A $2.50 per sign donation is requested but not required to cover basic costs."

    More From Bud

    More from Bud Kennedy this morning:

    Hi Steven,

    Forgive me if I sent this yesterday.

    But this is the actual plan already approved 8-0 for an office-industrial park in the Trinity Trees site, long before the current gas well proposal.

    This is what will be built if the gas well falls through.

    Thanks for your reply, Bud. I hadn't seen that yesterday, but I had heard that reasoning before. In fact, Jim Marshall and Rick Collins addressed that issue in an interview they did on my blog last week. Here's what they said:

    "That, too, would have resulted in a tragic loss of this special green space. Often the argument is made that the destruction that Chesapeake is planning is not as bad as what the developer was planning. However, it doesn’t have to be an either/or decision. There exists a third alternative. If you check our Web site you’ll see we have sent a letter to the Mayor and City Council proposing said alternative: Chesapeake decides to move its pad site to the already industrial area a few hundred feet to the north; the developer agrees that putting in its buildings is not the best use of the grove of trees; steps are taken to convert the eight acres to a public park. To make this happen, we need three things from all vested parties (including our city leaders): consent, cooperation and compromise."

    The S-T Sees The Signs


    I was happy to see the cover story of the Startlegram's business section profiling community advocates Linda Yarbrough and Don Young -- they're the people behind the Just Say No To Urban Gas Drilling signs. I guess Jim Fuquay didn't get the memo from Bud Kennedy.

    Sez the S-T: "Some neighborhood association leaders said they regard the signs as significant, numerous or not, because they give visibility to what they regard as a growing backlash against the active leasing and drilling in the Barnett Shale that has moved from rural areas into densely populated communities.

    "'I think they work, more than election signs,' said Mike Windsor, a Fort Worth lawyer and member of the Mistletoe Heights Neighborhood Association's gas-drilling committee. 'In an election, you get a lot of information from the newspaper or other places,' he said, while the drilling issue is more localized and depends on people talking to people."

    I'm Just Sayin'

    I saw this comment on the Trinity Trees blog:

    what a bunch of busy bodies... collectivist do gooders...why don't you mind your own business...socialism doesn't work... even though you think that you are quite smart and have noble intentions the honest truth is that you want to control the rightful decisions of other people...i only wish i could inspect your homes and affairs and give you a checklist of mandatory improvements that would enhance your conditions.. and by the way, if you didn't make these changes you would be harrassed and fined...does that sound ok to you or offensive...just mind your own affairs...you sicken me

    I kind of laughed when I first read this. I mean, when was the last time anyone accused an opponent of being a socialist? Why didn't this person just go ahead and blame the Wobblies or the Bolsheviks, too?

    I just kind of shook my head. Totally doesn't get it, I said. Then saw a link to this study about how liberals are more responsive to informational complexity and it all made sense. As the person wrote, "even though you think that you are quite smart and have noble intentions the honest truth is that you want to control the rightful decisions of other people." I'm not saying I'm smarter than people on the other side of this issue -- just the person who left that comment. I feel safe in saying I'm smarter than that individual.

    Regarding "controlling the rightful decisions of other people," I'll say it again -- we respect private property rights and want to negotiate a win-win situation for all parties involved in this issue. But we believe that the people of Fort Worth have a right to have a say in land that has been used by the public and maintained by public money for years.

    Monday, September 10, 2007

    Don Draper’s Rant


    My friend, let's call him Jim, has a law. We'll call it Jim's Law. It goes like this: You can lead a client to water, but you can't stop 'em from pissing in it.

    So true.

    I've already written about my love of AMC's new series, Mad Men, on my other blog. During last week's episode, Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) showed why this show is awesome. He lived the dream every consultant has ever had -- telling a client that they don't have a fucking clue.

    So often, people will hire you to give them something different, then work very hard to make sure they get the same thing they had already. Sometimes you can give them a gentle nudge toward the right thing. Sometimes they need something a little more, shall we say, emphatic.

    Here I've recounted Don's more emphatic approach. Don and his colleague, Ken, are pitching a new add campaign for lipstick to a client. The client isn't buying it. See how he handles it:

    Ken Cosgrove: (To client) I’m not telling you to listen to anyone, but this is a very fresh approach.

    Don Draper: “It’s okay, Ken. I don’t think there’s much else to do here than to call it a day. Gentlemen, thank you for your time.

    Client: (shrugs) Is that all?

    Don Draper: You’re a non-believer. Why should we waste time on kabuki?

    Client: I don’t know what that means.

    Don Draper: It means that you’ve already tried your plan and you’re number four. You’ve enlisted my expertise and you’ve rejected it to go along the way you’ve been going. I’m not interested in that. You can understand.

    Client: I don’t think your three months and however many thousands of dollars allows you to refocus the core of our business.

    Don Draper: Listen, I’m not here to tell you about Jesus. You already know about Jesus. Either he lives in your heart or he doesn’t. Every woman wants choices. But in the end, none wants to be one of 100 in a box. She’s unique. She makes the choices and she’s chosen him. She wants to tell the world he’s mine. He belongs to me, not you. She marks her man with her lips. He is her possession. You’ve given every woman who wears your lipstick the gift of total ownership.

    Client: (pause) Sit down.

    Don Draper: No. Not till I know I’m not wasting my time.

    Client: Sit down.


    Brilliant. I think anyone who has ever consulted anyone on anything has wanted to say something along these lines at some point. Maybe few have actually said it. But has anyone ever said it and not gotten fired?

    UPDATE: For a fantastic breakdown of this episode, visit Matt Zoller Seitz's blog.

    Trinity Trees: What You Can Do

    Dear Fort Worth:

    You're on your own. That's what the Startlegram told us over the past week. The billboard may say it's all about "U", but really it's all about "$".

    Chesapeake has done a masterful job of spinning a story about big corporations and big money razing an urban forest into a tale of private property rights violated.

    This is a straw man. If you want to see how gas drilling companies really feel about private property rights, allow me to point you to Jeff Prince's article in the FWWeekly about Billy Mitchell. That's the truth.

    Simply put, if you owned the Trinity Trees property, you'd first get the carrot -- a big fat check waved in your face. Maybe you take that check. But if not, you get the stick. The City and the gas driller would force their way onto your property. If you try to claim private property rights, how far do you think you would get? Ask Billy Mitchell.

    Don't fall for Chesapeake's marketing spin. If you care about green space in our city, show up at 7 Tuesday night at the City Council Meeting. Councilwoman Wendy Davis has invited Trinity Trees to present an alternative proposal to save the entire eight-acre grove and still allow for drilling.

    Also, write the Startlegram and the Mayor and City Council to let them know how you feel.

    Fort Worth, you are on your own. If you want to save these trees, show up and speak out NOW. It's critical that the Mayor, City Council and entire city know there is widespread, enthusiastic support for this cause.

    Don Young Responds

    Don Young of FWCanDo responds to this morning's the Startlegram editorial:

    From: Don Young
    Date: September 10, 2007 11:33:13 AM CDT
    Subject: Star-Telegram Editors guilty of greenwashing? Here's a way to fight back.

    The Editors of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram have published a short-sighted Opinion in todays newspaper that is filled with misleading statements and a few truth-bending assumptions regarding the Trinity Trees issue. Their over-the-top valentine to Chesapeake Energy is a blatant flirtation with greenwashing.

    Even though this editorial hits a new low, it's nothing new. The Star-Telegram has endorsed gas drilling from the beginning. They wrote over 2 years ago that the benefits of drilling in our neighborhoods and greenspaces outweigh the losses. Even after the Forest Hill gas well blowout that caused widespread evacuation and a death, they continued to minimize the dangers,

    It's important to remember that Fort Worth's only daily newspaper probably has significant mineral rights under their own properties. There is reason to believe that a gas well planned for the heart of downtown, near Lancaster @ Lamar, will be on S-T property. MOST importantly, a significant part of S-T advertising income is now derived from the gas companies, including Chesapeake. [Editor's note: The current TAD listing for the Lancaster property does not show the Star-Telegram as the owner. Furthermore, we do not know how much of the S-T's advertising revenue is derived from gas drillers. In the interest of disclosure, the S-T would gain more credibility on this issue if they disclosed their natural gas holdings in the Barnett Shale and the advertising revenue derived from gas drillers.]

    You're all familiar with the Upton Sinclair principle, "It's difficult to get a man/woman (or a corporation) to understand something when their salary (income) depends on his NOT understanding it."

    Does all this mean the editorial board is intentionally biased? Maybe, maybe not. It suggests to me is that there is, at least, the appearance of conflict of interest and that by owning the only daily newspaper in town there is more than a hint of corportae irresponsibility in publishing this latest editorial.

    From my point of view, if the Star-Telegram editors and the gas drillers get their way, most of the undeveloped greenspace left in Fort Worth and surrounding rural areas will be managed and landscaped by the gas driller's to accommodate their needs. Are we supposed to be grateful for that???

    That is not an acceptable compromise. It is a tragedy and a sell out of unprecedented proportion that we should continue to resist.

    Don Young
    9/10/07

    FWCanDo
    P.O. Box 470041
    Fort Worth, TX 76147
    http://www.fwcando.org

    "God bless Fort Worth, Texas. Help us save some of it."

    Bud Writes Back

    From Bud Kennedy this morning:

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks very much for your heartfelt note.

    However, I disagree.

    Zoning is a commitment to the property owner. Changing somebody's zoning is robbery. It's like taking away their property.

    I agree that cities occasionally must use such heavy-handed power -- but it should only happen rarely, and only where most of the land has been acquired on the fair market.

    As far as waiting -- wait for what? So a small, bossy clique can continue what amounts to a shakedown of two landowners on their own property?

    I am not promoting an advantage for the companies. I am defending their equal right to the free, safe, orderly use of their own property.

    They are entitled to the same rights you and I have.

    I didn't praise Chesapeake. I am not particularly happy with some of the gas drilling companies. But Chesapeake is right on this one.

    I agree that greenspace is an issue. But if we're going to devote resources to greenspace, it needs to be to preserve unique natural features such as the Cross Timbers or Tandy Hills, or create greenspace on the edges of the city where tract homes go up for miles without a major greenbelt park.

    Developers bring revenue. Revenue builds a city. The money from this well and others will help preserve and build badly needed parks.

    Write again or anytime,

    Bud


    Thanks for writing back. Bud, I agree that revenue builds a city. But where is the shakedown? I don't see where anyone is trying to fleece Chesapeake or Union Pacific out of anything? This is about three permits out of more than 2,100 issued this year.

    All I have heard Jim Marshall ask for is the chance to sit down and negotiate a win-win settlement for the people of Fort Worth, Chesapeake, Union Pacific, Colonial and the City. What's the problem? The problem with these three permits is they involve Chesapeake Energy, Union Pacific and Colonial Country Club. These are people who don't like to hear the word no. They are in a hurry to start cashing royalty checks.

    You are right about Cross Timbers and Tandy Hills. But why should we expect anything different on those parks if we don't expect Chesapeake to act in good faith with the people of Fort Worth on this one?

    Also, my understanding is that this gas drilling revenue isn't going into parks, it's going in to some undefined lockbox for some undefined use at some undefined future date. Seems like a pretty big leap of faith to me.

    Bud, I'm sorry that you feel that way. The people of Fort Worth could really use some leadership from the Star-Telegram on this issue. Instead, we get this morning's editorial. I think the newspaper is out of touch with the people of Fort Worth on this one. And they are both going to be losers because of it.

    Regards,

    Steve

    An Open Letter to Bud Kennedy


    Dear Bud:

    I was a little taken aback by your column this morning ("Here's the clear cut truth: we're better off with gas well," S-T, Sunday Sept. 9, 2007). Bud, you know a lot about this city. You've covered the hell out of it for many years. I have a lot of respect for you as a journalist and your role as part of the institutional memory of this city. I know you love Fort Worth.

    But, Bud, you are just flat out wrong on this one.

    First, as much as you may want to attack "blog bs" for not mentioning the zoning issue, zoning really is not the issue. You and I both know that. Zoning changes -- like when Arlington took all that land that was zoned residential -- as in, you know, people's homes -- to build Jerry World. So, again, zoning really isn't the issue.

    Second, you say we are better off with a gas well. Why is that? There have been three permits filed for this site. What happens if these permits are delayed or denied? Does urban gas drilling come to a screeching halt? No. According to your newspaper this morning, permits issued in the Barnett Shale are up. "According to the Texas Railroad Commission, 2,142 drilling permits were issued this year as of July. That's approaching the 2,519 issued for all of last year." Slowing down the drilling on this one site will not compromise the efforts to find natural gas in the Barnett Shale. It may, however, keep the city from making a terrible mistake.

    But I guess what I'm shocked about is why does a newspaper columnist spend so much time and effort protecting the interests of the likes of Chesapeake Energy and Union Pacific? Believe me, they have pretty good marketing departments. They've got budget -- I've seen the full-page ads in your newspaper. I've also seen the billboards. And the commercials. I don't understand why you want to carry the water for these guys, but maybe that's how you feel.

    But let me ask you this: What kind of city do you want to live in?

    I believe that the people who live in this city and love this city and who don't have a stack of money, an army of lawyers and marketing people or a newspaper column should have a say in answering that question. In spite of all of the billboards that Chesapeake puts up around town, the fact remains that a publicly traded company is in business to build value for its shareholders, not serve the best interests of the people of Fort Worth. When Chesapeake's interests and those of Fort Worth diverge, they will side with profits. I understand that, and Wall Street expects no less.

    That's what we have here. Chesapeake has picked profits over the people of Fort Worth. I'd put that on a billboard, but I don't have that kind of money. All I have is this blog.

    I believe we can't leave it all in the hands of developers who are more concerned with maximizing profit than making this a better community. The fact is that green space matters -- and I'm talking trees, not money. Green space is as important as good roads, good schools and affordable housing. Look at Austin -- they have Town Lake, Zilker Park and Barton Springs. They have worked hard to preserve their natural environment, and it is a big part of the reason Austin is one of the hottest places to live in the country.

    Bud, the reason 400 people show up at a community forum on this grove of trees is they really care. They believe that green space matters. A lot of people in Fort Worth do. It's part of the reason we choose to live here. Chesapeake, Union Pacific, the city and the community can sit down together and find a compromise solution that satisfies all stakeholders. A win-win solution is possible. We can have drilling, and we can have green space.

    We really are at a transforming moment in our city. Because of gas drilling, population growth and urban development, the face of Fort Worth is changing, and I think mostly for the better. But I think that we have the right to ask questions and demand the best for our community. I believe we have the right to take some chops at City Hall and corporate giants. I used to believe that's what newspapers did.

    Maybe you think that we are naive. Maybe you think we are uninformed. But we are not. Talk to Jim Marshall. I've got his phone number and e-mail if you need it.

    Regards,

    Steve

    If you don't agree with Bud, you can e-mail him. Or if you want to tell me to take a hike, have at it.