I want to say that I am NOT on the bandwagon to abolish any and all federal earmarks. Earmarks can help local communities out and do a world of good, if they are used judiciously. Even if money comes to Fort Worth from the Federal government, it is not free money. All of us pay for these earmarks through our federal income tax.
Tucked into the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005 was
SEC. 116. CENTRAL CITY, FORT WORTH, TEXAS. The project for flood control and other purposes on the Trinity River and Tributaries, Texas, authorized by the River and Harbor Act of 1965 (Public Law 89–298), as modified, is further modified to authorize the Secretary to undertake the Central City River Project, as generally described in the Trinity River Vision Master Plan, dated April 2003, as amended, at a total cost not to exceed $220,000,000, at a Federal cost of $110,000,000, and a non-Federal cost of $110,000,000, if the Secretary determines the work is technically sound and environmentally acceptable. The cost of work undertaken by the non-Federal interests before the date of execution of a project cooperation agreement shall be credited against the non-Federal share of project costs if the Secretary determines that the work is integral to the project.
On October 29, 2002, the Star-Telegram reported, the urban waterfront development with a town lake, an improved dam, additional trails and other improvements could cost as much as $285 million.
By 2005, the Trinity River Vision “Central City Project” was reported in its presentation the cost would be $435 million. This did not include “Trinity Uptown”. Broken out the costs were:
County: $11M 2.5%
City: $26.6M 6.1%
Tarrant Regional Water Department: $64M 14.7%
TIF District 9: $155.9M 26.6%
Federal: $217.5M 50%
On November 19, 2009, the numbers in the City’s presentation were a staggering $909 million.
Who’s Running This Project
March 3, 2006 the Star-Telegram reports, “Jim Oliver, general manager of the water district, said he decided to hire J.D. Granger (son of Representative Kay Granger) without interviewing other candidates because he believes Granger is the most qualified person for the job.” As you would think, this did not sit well with many people. I am not questioning anyone’s ethics or J.D. Granger’s qualifications, only Water District’s lack of common sense in the hiring process. This is especially so when you don’t interview other candidates, open the job up to the public and when the person you hire has a parent that is a U.S. Representative.
The arrangement is the Federal government kicks in 50% and local government the other 50% as shown above in the break out costs. However, to gain traction and prepare for the 2012 Presidential Election, there is an earmark ban. Yes, no money is coming this year and most likely next year too. The Star-Telegram and Taxpayers for Common Sense quoted Steve Hollern, the former Tarrant County Republican chairman as saying, “When Boehner (Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio) can’t protect his own defense manufacturer, I would question whether Granger will find a way to slip in an earmark.”
So What Do We Do?
The Dallas Morning News article quotes Steve Hollern of Citizens for Taxpayers’ Rights (and former Tarrant County Republican Chairman), “This is a transfer of wealth from the citizens to developers.” When a warning shot comes from a stalwart Republican like Steve Hollern, take it seriously.
Rep Kay Granger gave us the answer in the Star-Telegram’s March 3, 2006 article when she was asked the question, “What if federal funds dry up?” Her response, “local governments would have to make tough decisions if federal funds don’t come through.”
It’s time to make tough decisions. There are alternative plans from Citizens Who Care and Trinity River Improvement Partnership for a fraction of the cost. Also, let developers not taxpayers pay their fair share of the build out and clean up.
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