Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Incredible Alternative Universe Of J.D. Granger & America's Biggest Boondoggle

Why is it when I see a photo of these two the Manchurian Candidate comes to mind?

The young lady you see here is Fort Worth's Congresswoman, also known as the Queen of Nespot, Kay Granger, standing next to the Queen's heir, J.D.

J.D. is the executive director of a pseudo public works project currently known as Panther Island, also currently known as The Boondoggle, recently recognized as America's Biggest Boondoggle.

The Boondoggle being America's Biggest Boondoggle marks the first time Fort Worth has had the biggest of anything in America. I doubt this is making city's far and wide Green with Envy.

Over the years The Boondoggle has gone by various names. Trinity Uptown. Central City. Trinity River Vision. Panther Island. The Boondoggle.

I have heard various opinions as to when The Boondoggle began. I think some date the start of The Boondoggle to the start of initiating a name change. For instance, one might say The Boondoggle as Panther Island is two years into the project. While The Boondoggle as Trinity River Vision is nine years into the project. The Boondoggle as Trinity Uptown is 13 years into the project. Well, you get the idea.

Now, I have long said that my memory tells me The Boondoggle began way back in 1999. I remember soon upon my arrival in Texas learning of a Dallas Trinity River Vision for which Dallas voters had voted. Soon thereafter I recollect reading of a proposed similar Fort Worth vision. I remember thinking it odd, what with no mention made of a planned public vote. And also wondering if there was some sort of history of Fort Worth copying Dallas, what with the two visions seeming so similar, including both having three signature bridges.

Ironically, all these years later, Dallas has actually built one of its signature bridges, and a cool signature bridge it is, while Fort Worth long ago dropped the signature bridges and is now building three little bridges over dry land, with a four year construction schedule, far longer than it took Dallas to build its actual signature bridge over actual water.

I have had people tell me I am wrong when I say the Fort Worth Boondoggle has been boondoggling along since late in the last century. Some will date the start of The Boondoggle to 2002 or 2003. Some as late as 2006, that being the year Kay Granger's son was hired.

I believe it was early in this century, 2001 or 2002, that a Star-Telegram Sunday edition front page banner headline shouted something like "Trinity Uptown to Turn Fort Worth Into Vancouver of the South."

Well, turns out my memory is far more accurate than I give it credit for, with my memory validated by a quote from J.D. Granger.

Googling for info about The Boondoggle, I came upon that which you see below,  from the March 3, 2006 edition of the Victoria Advocate. I assume the Advocate is in the Victoria in Texas, not the one in British Columbia, though I can see where a British Columbia newspaper would be interested in a project slated to turn Fort Worth into the Vancouver of the South.

This article has some jaw dropping, ironic, embarrassing quotes from J.D. and the man who hired him, the TRWD henchman known as Jim Oliver.

Nine years ago, when this article was written, the cost of The Boondoggle was still under a half billion dollars, at $435 million.

First paragraph...

J.D. Granger, whose mother is U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, will earn $110,000 a year and start work Monday at the Tarrant Regional Water District, said Jim Oliver, general manager of the district, which is spearheading the project.

$110,000 a year. In the almost 10 years J.D. has been boondoggling The Boondoggle he has been paid around a million bucks. So much money while doing so little. I wish my mama was in Congress.

Next paragraph...

J.D. Granger, 36, an assistant Tarrant County district attorney for eight years, also has worked in various volunteer roles during the planning for the Trinity Uptown project, Oliver said.

So, apparently, J.D.'s qualification for this job is he had various volunteer roles during the planning of what was then called Trinity Uptown.

And then a paragraph of common sense from Clyde Picht...

Former City Councilman Clyde Picht, who has long questioned aspects of the project and is running for the water district board, said J.D. Granger's appointment is "asking for criticism" and that his knowledge of water district issues is "certainly more limited than most people."

Yes, J.D.'s appointment was asking for criticism, what with that Queen of Nespot issue, and the idea that hiring a low level district attorney, with no project management experience, was a good idea.

Try and figure out what is being said in the following paragraph...

J.D. Granger's salary will come from water district funds, not federal money that Kay Granger is securing, Oliver told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Those funds do not come directly to the water district, he said.

What is Oliver's point? Federal money from Kay does not go directly to the district? And so the money paid to Kay's son does not come from wherever Kay's money goes, but instead comes from district funds? And how does Oliver differentiate where J.D.'s take is coming from, what with funds coming in from various sources? All ending up in the TRWD pot. What point is made by saying his salary comes from water district funds? What sort of shell game is Oliver trying to play here?

And then there is this additional bit from Oliver....

Oliver said he realized that hiring the congresswoman's son "would probably raise some eyebrows" but felt J.D. Granger was right for the job because of his familiarity and expertise on many facets of the project. Oliver said he thought about several possible candidates but did not conduct a job search.

Nine years later, with the Trinity River Vision now America's Biggest Boondoggle, is Jim Oliver still thinking J.D. Granger was the right man for the job? Why was the hiring of J.D. Granger left solely to Jim Oliver? And not the elected TRWD board members? How was this allowed? How did the un-elected Jim Oliver get this dictatorial hiring power? Did this power come from the same unseen entity who gave Oliver key power over newly elected TRWD board members?

And then this revealing quote from J.D. Granger which let me know my memory has been right all along as to when The Boondoggle began....

J.D. Granger said he's been working on the project "since it was just a vision, back in 1999. I bet I know about as much as any single person out there who's not been paid to participate in this," he said. "I know it inside and out, so there's not going to be any lag time."

No lag time? Nine years after getting hired, with little accomplished. No lag time? What about the incredible lag time of taking eight years to start construction of three little bridges over dry land with an equally incredible lag time of taking four years to build the little bridges, with the scheduled completion of the bridges 13 years after the hiring of J.D. Granger ? If that is not lag time, what does J.D. Granger consider to be lag time?

Next paragraph...

He (J.D.) said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to give final project approval in two weeks. He said he expects one of his first roles to be working with landowners whose property is needed for construction.

How cavalier of Granger. Working with landowners? Soon the working with landowners became abusing eminent domain to take property needed way in the future for those three little bridges and the ditch that one day may be dug beneath them.

And then the final three paragraphs from the Victoria Advocate article...

J.D. Granger said he considered running for the water district board when he was approached about working for the district.

He said his mother's involvement at the federal level strengthens his knowledge of the plan. And he said he will try to ensure that the federal price tag "doesn't get any higher."
County Commissioner Roy Brooks said he believes that J.D. Granger will do a good job but said "some people might not agree with me that there's no conflict of interest."

Well, count me among those who do not agree that there is no conflict of interest. I also agree with those who would say J.D. has not done a good job ensuring the federal price tag doesn't get any higher. It's only doubled since J.D. began his life's work.

I can not help but want to hear J.D. explain how his mom's involvement at the federal level makes his knowledge of the plan stronger.

So, there you go, Fort Worth has a public works project the public has never voted on, a project which began 16 years ago, in 1999. Fort Worth kids, now in high school, have never known a Fort Worth without a bizarre public works project being built in slow motion.

Fort Worth kids now in high school will soon be graduating in the town with the bragging rights to having America's Biggest Boondoggle.

Tell me again why anyone in their right mind would vote for a Tarrant Regional Water District incumbent board member?

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