Politics & Government

Why the Rush on Walt Humann’s Fair Park Deal?

The mayor wants the Park Board to get the deal done tomorrow.

How do we best protect Fair Park's assets?
How do we best protect Fair Park’s assets?

Jim Schutze went full-on Schutzian on Mayor Mike Rawlings’ impromptu press conference on Monday in which he, City Councilwoman Tiffinni Young, and retired Hunt Oil executive (and, not incidentally, University Park resident) Walt Humann, basically ordered the Park Board to approve on Thursday Humann’s proposal to have a nonprofit foundation take over Fair Park:

The contract would turn control of Fair Park over to a foundation that Humann singlehandedly created, to which he personally appointed all the board members and of which he made himself CEO.

People say “only in Dallas” too much, right? But … only in Dallas. Only in Dallas does the mayor tell a guy to create a private foundation, appoint all the board members himself and include people who don’t even live in Dallas, appoint himself CEO, then hand a locked-up contract to the park board with instructions to sign by a date certain. And then when the park board does dare to ask — dares to ask — questions about details in the contract, the mayor and his man call press a conference, invoke the dead policemen, trash the park board and also issue direct orders to the park board to sign the damned contract on damn Thursday.

I am sorry, but that truly is an only-in-Dallas deal. National politics is a wild show right now, I know, but try to imagine Obama calling a press conference where he says: “Now, look, I want the Congress to give Yellowstone National Park to my buddy here, Rahm Emmanuel.

You’ll remember that the last time the Park Board got together to take a look at the contract, they were forbidden by the board president from asking too many questions. Several members staged a walkout in response.

Rawlings felt it was appropriate to bring up the unity the city experienced after the July 7 police shootings and to imply that approving this contract was a logical next step for the city in pushing forward from that tragedy.

Even if that were true, what’s the big damn hurry? I know the mayor wants to get payments to the new foundation into the next budget, which is due shortly, but is that really worth moving ahead if certain questions by park board members remain unanswered?



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  • Poetaster Dallas


    Fair Park is HOT (and I’m not talking August temps),
    And our Mayor is leading this strange contretemps!
    By insisting the signing of a contract under question
    Causing Park members to leave committee session.

    According to Mayor Rawlings, three years ago he
    Hand picked a man (who was not from our city).
    To figure out a plan for Fair Park to grow
    (Without disturbing the annual State Fair show.)

    Walt Humann’s the lucky man who got the gig.
    Without proposal or bid, in a city so BIG
    An RFP is passe, it’s not really necessary
    As long as it’s the State Fair’s water you carry.

    Busy building a Board with the usual suspects
    And hiring the lawyers to write the contracts
    (Benefitting the Tenant, not the city unfortunately).
    “Needs half billion dollars”, they say, barefacedly.

    It’s a Dallas land deal unlike any other before,
    There’s a great deal of property, and buildings to restore.
    An annual management fee, starting at twenty million
    Leaves money for streets and police riding pillion.

    Never mind that the contract makes no assurance
    Of oversight, management or other insurance
    That Fair Park will work for the city or neighbors
    And money, once given, won’t be used for favors.

    Concerned, citizens started asking smart questions
    (And one even got a university’s suggestions).
    But leaders in government shut down the discussion
    And pressured the Park Board to consider one option.

    Mainly those walk-out Park Board members who left,
    Just wanted a Fair contract that didn’t leave bereft
    The neighborhood and city of all the promises made
    (Because when not in writing, you risk getting played).

    Well, hot shi* hit the fan then, let me tell you what
    The walkout cause a groundswell of citizens rebut
    And a public meeting to honestly see what was true.
    Was the contract really the best Dallas could do?

    Then stranger, late the day of a planned citizen panel
    To discuss options of how the city might handle
    Fair Park differently. The Mayor suddenly called
    A press conference, telling a tale slightly piebald.

    “Just whose side is he on?”, I just had to wonder,
    As Mike stood at the podium (in satirical splendor),
    Talking cheap about lies, while blocking the light
    To ensure the city’s interests, not the acolyte’s.

    It was sad, the turnout, for a Mayor’s address
    A lack of people made it look weird in the press.
    The citizen’s meeting was packed overflowing
    And speakers of interest made it worth going.

    Maybe the Mayor needs a vacation out of town.
    Forcing this issue makes him look like a clown.
    August in Dallas, and the dog days are here
    For a month or so and then, it’s time for State Fair.

  • EricCeleste

    This is 100 percent spot-on, Jason.

    I’ve seen some chatter on social media, and heard from interested city parties themselves, that this is another example of everything being a battle, everything being a conspiracy, when the mayor is involved. The unfortunate thing is that, yes, too often people are quick to make up black-chopper theories when the mayor is championing a project. One problem with that line of thinking is that nothing can get done without a lot of name-calling first. Another problem is the boy-who-cried-wolf phenomenon, which is happening here. Because NOW, when something this outright absurd occurs, there is not an appropriate level of outrage, and the ones pointing to the controversy sound like a broken record.

    I mean, this is INSANE. The idea that the Park Board can’t even ask questions about a contract that is being rammed down its throat is BATSH*T. And to wrap yourself in the “unity after the shooting” angle to give you political cover is the worst sort of demagoguery. As Wick has said, the mayor has done a lot right, for which he should get credit. But this … this is the most indefensible thing the mayor has done, and everyone backing him on it should feel silly at best, ashamed at worst.

  • Mavdog

    The Mayor is flat out wrong on the role of the Park Board, with the surreal press conference comments by both the Mayor and Tiffini Young only adding reasons to step on the brakes of the management contract with Texas Fair Park Foundation…as if additional reasons were actually needed.
    Stop the rush to hand over Fair Park to an organization and approval of a contract which doesn’t covenant transparency, adherence to civil service standards and a commitment to the best interests of the citizens of Dallas (which BTW many of the members of TFPF are not citizens of Dallas). I find it odd that a City of Dallas asset and around $500 Million are being handed over to non-residents and clearly without adequate due diligence being done.

  • DubiousBrother

    “try to imagine Obama calling a press conference…” – Try to imagine Nancy Pelosi saying “you have to pass the bill in order to see what is in it.” That is how we got Obamacare.
    Glad someone is watching this s… unfold – transparency used to be the job of the press.

    • Mavdog

      you could at the least be accurate and honest with the quote of Nancy Pelosi, which is “But we have to pass the bill so that [the public] can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.” Pelosi was not addressing lawmakers reading the ACA legislation, Pelosi was referencing the public seeing how the ACA changes the way insurers provide/deny coverage.

      • DubiousBrother

        No mention of the Obama promise to have all bills available to the public before a vote is allowed to take place – that would be transparency.

        • Mavdog

          redirection eh?
          The “promise” that I believe you are referencing is in 2008, candidate Obama proposed to ensure the public has the opportunity to review legislation by having the WH post any bill of a non-emergency nature for a minimum of 5 days after it was passed before he would sign the bill into law. Obama could not guarantee the bill would be “available to the public before a vote is allowed to take place” as the President has zero control of that process.
          That proposed timeline has not been the case, Obama has signed bills of a non-emergency nature as quickly as a few hours after they were passed by Congress.
          It is relevant to note that all those bills signed into law by Obama were posted by Congressional websites for often months before they were passed, so the public did have the opportunity to review them. That is indeed transparency.

          • DubiousBrother

            I know you are thankful that the President of the most transparent administration in history in now in a position to let his peers out of prison so they can continue with their life’s work.

          • Mavdog

            wow, more redirection. there is a clear pattern here!

            You believe the current President has “the most transparent administration in history”? interesting, I have never attempted to make any judgement along those lines. Thanks for your viewpoint.

            What “peers” are you referencing that Obama let out of prison? Do you have any understanding of what that word means? apparently not…

  • SouthOf635

    Why the rush? What rush. We’ve been talking about Fair Park and the proposed Foundation (and all the many plans from Don Williams/DiMambro) for more than a year. Time to move forward.

    • Jason Heid

      When the Park Board is being told there’s no time for them to ask whatever questions they care to ask about the contract before being asked to vote on it, things are being rushed.

  • Dee Klotz

    Has old Walter come down with dementia and why would the city be making payments to his foundation. Really, really dumb for a world class city.

  • manny

    You do realize that Mayor Mike Rawlings was head of the Park Board before coming Mayor? He got his way then, no contracts, no bidding – someone with dignity must have taken his place.