Monday, September 10, 2007

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.



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.

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