Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wondering About The Effect Of Fort Worth's Citizen's Minimalist Public Participation In Proposed Public Works

Last night I was lost on the Internet, going from link to link, and at one point I ended up at Wikipedia's article about the Sound Transit Link Light Rail system. Sound Transit is a light rail mass transit system similar to the Dallas DART train system.

Sound Transit moves people in the Western Washington counties of King, Pierce and Snohomish. King County is where Seattle is located, Tacoma is in Pierce County, Everett is in Snohomish County.

Previously, on more than one occasion, when I've compared something in the D/FW zone to the Seattle zone I've heard simplistic comments, like all you need to know about me is Seattle good, Fort Worth bad. I have explained, previously, the Seattle zone and the D/FW zone are the metro areas with which I am most familiar and so when something strikes me as sort of profoundly different, I  tend to notice it and comment on it. If that makes Fort Worth sound bad and Seattle sound good, well, when one holds up a mirror one can't complain about what one sees, if one is being honest.

So, I have long noticed that when an election takes place in Texas there is very little to vote on. No initiatives, referendums, few bond issues, few issues of any sort. I think there may have been some sort of road building bond issue since I was in Texas, but I don't remember being motivated to vote on it, one way or the other.

I have also noticed that HUGE public works projects can happen in Texas with no public vote. Such as the billion dollar Trinity River Vision Boondoggle.

Now, of the west coast cities Seattle was late to adding light rail to its transit mix, lagging way behind San Francisco, Portland and Vancouver. At the same point in time, in the late 1960s, (or was it early 1970s?), that San Francisco approved building the BART rail system, the Puget Sound zone rejected the light rail part of a bond issue called Forward Thrust, that being the vote that gave Seattle the now gone Kingdome, among many other things, including new water treatment installations to clean up Puget Sound and Lake Washington.

Decades later, in the 1990s, with traffic getting really bad, voters finally approved light rail, currently up and running and expanding.

Meanwhile, in Fort Worth, little gets voted on. How is it this town can not replace the decrepit Will Rogers Memorial Center, where rodeos are held during the Stock Show? How can the town known as Cowtown, that claims to be Where the West Begins, not figure out how to build a replacement for a seriously outdated facility?

Fort Worth built the Will Rogers Memorial Center way back in 1936. Since 1970 Seattle built the Kingdome, Safeco Field, the Kingdome replacement Seahawk football stadium, expanded Key Arena and is about to start construction on a new basketball arena for the incoming new Seattle Supersonics.

Since 1970, near as I can tell, Fort Worth has built nothing of the sort of things I've seen built in Seattle.

Oh, I forgot, Fort Worth built the now very run-down La Grave Field where Fort Worth has a professional baseball team playing in leagues with teams from towns with populations in the 20,000 range, give or take a few people.

Why such a difference between two towns, with one of them being known as one of the Greatest Cities in the World?

Well, I think I know what causes one key difference between Seattle and Fort Worth, that being public participation in proposed public works.

Read the following three paragraphs from the Wikipedia article about Sound Transit Link Light Rail and see if you can spot differences between how things are done and come to fruition in progressive, liberal, Washington, and think about how public works projects come about, or don't come about, in less progressive, less liberal Fort Worth and environs...

In November 1996, voters in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties approved increases in sales taxes and vehicle excise taxes to pay for a $3.9 billion transit package that included $1.7 billion for a light rail system, including Central Link and Tacoma Link. Over the next several years, debates raged over various issues surrounding the Central Link line.

Sound Transit's Phase 2 plan, under the name of ST2 (Sound Transit 2), is the plan for the second phase of Link Light Rail expansion. ST2 was put before voters in November 2007 as part of the "Roads and Transit" measure, which included hundreds of miles of highway expansion along with the light rail, but failed to pass. Sound Transit then put another ST2 plan on the ballot in November 2008. The measure passed by large margins. The plan will extend light rail to Lynnwood Transit Center in the north, S. 272nd St. in Federal Way to the south, and Downtown Bellevue and Overlake Transit Center to the east.

In November 2008, voters approved the construction of an East Link light rail line connecting the city of Seattle to Mercer Island and the Eastside communities of Bellevue and Redmond as part of the Proposition 1 measure. This line will split from Central Link just south of the International District/Chinatown Station in downtown Seattle, extend across the I-90 bridge express lanes through downtown Bellevue and serve the Overlake Transit Center, including Microsoft headquarters.

Voters voting on a public works project. What a concept. Debates raging over various issues. What a concept. Connecting towns by light rail. What a concept.


MLK said...

You are wearing yourself out comparing Seattle to Fort Worth and vice/versa.

I have lived in both cities, and I'll take the apathy of Fort Worth over the over-controlling twinkies of Seattle any day!

Dannyboy said...

There is a huge lack of public partcipation on any Fort Worth local government issues. Look at the city council elections this year. Everyone is unopposed. And they hold local elections on a Saturday in the spring. Because the local stuff is the only thing on the ballot, turnout is very low, rarely above even 10 percent. Many cities throughout the country put their local (council, transit, library funding, road building) on the abllot in November, and they obviously get more people engaged and a turnout that is usually over 50 percent. The reason Fort Worth does it this way is that 1) low turnout helps incumbents, and 2)Fort Worth doesn't think any public participation is good. An example: when I moved to Fort Worth from up north many years ago, I asked a neighbor why there weren't any public pools on the near west side of FW. I was told that 1) public pools draw the wrong kind of people, and 2) joina country club if I wanted a place to swim for my daughter (all this is moot now, as FW has gotten rid of its public pools). That sums up FW in a nutshell. If you tell people you would hope the mass transit system gets improved, they ask you if your car is broken down or if your lost your job. And this goes from the young trendies up the the I-hate-everything-old-people.