Monday, February 22, 2016

Is There Any Doubt Fort Worth Is Still A Great City?

This blogging falls into the category of bloggings about something I read via a west coast online news source which is something I would not likely be reading in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

In this instance the article was in the Seattle Times, titled Is Seattle still a great city? Checklist reflects doubts.

Can you picture an article headline in the Star-Telegram asking Is Fort Worth still a great city? Checklist reflects doubts?

The Star-Telegram is not known for doing any sort of civic self reflection of the open and honest sort.

So, this opinion piece in the Seattle Times was inspired by The Atlantic Monthly's James Fallows who flew all over America noting the ways American life is changing. In the course of doing so Fallows made note of some common civic themes which set apart rising cities and towns, with those places being "where things seemed to work."

The following is Fallows' Checklist of Eleven items he made note of, in bold, followed by what the Seattle Times opinionizer had to say about what Fallows said, followed by what I had to say about the same item, only my focus is on Fort Worth......

1. “Divisive national politics seem a distant concern.” Fallows found that the more national hot-button topics “came into local discussions, the worse shape the town was in.” Uh oh.

Well, Seattle does seems to get itself on the national radar screen, causing debate, over issues like raising the minimum wage to $15. I do not recollect any Fort Worth local discussion about anything being reflected in the national political debate.

2. “It’s easy to answer the question ‘who makes this town go?’ " Fallows found great places have easily identifiable civic engines. So who is the juice around here? No elected official, that’s for sure. Amazon is a rain forest of money but could not care less about the city’s affairs. So who? If I had to pick who runs Seattle right now, I would say “developers.” Is that a good thing?

What makes Fort Worth go? I have no clue if Fort Worth is actually going anywhere. Locally it is widely believed that the good ol' boy and girl network of long entrenched locals are behind whatever does happen in Fort Worth.

3. “Public-private partnerships are real.” We definitely have these, especially if you count subsidized sports stadiums.

Do things Fort Worth does like giving sweetheart deals to sporting goods stores and corporate headquarters count as a public-private partnership?

4. “People know the civic story.” By this he means, do we agree on a common identity? When I first got here in 1985, Seattle was still the jet city, or a striving middle-class city set in natural splendor. What is Seattle today? City of the rich and the homeless, still set in natural splendor? Silicon Valley North? Seattle’s story is being rewritten so fast the citizenry can’t be expected to know it.

I have no idea what Fort Worth's civic story might be. It may be sort of sadly summed up by the park celebrating Fort Worth's heritage, in downtown Fort Worth, that boarded up eyesore known as Heritage Park. Fort Worth bills itself, locally, as Where The West Begins. I have thought this odd ever since I first heard it. Thinking that St. Louis, Missouri, would seem to be the town to more accurately make such a claim, what with Gateway Arch and all those wagon trains heading west in the 1800s.

5. “It has a downtown.” This is what I mean about our changing story. Seattle’s so boomy we have downtowns. The main downtown is there, while another downtown springs up in South Lake Union. Only there’s no there-there yet to our sterile new downtown. I advise visitors to go to the miraculous Pike Place Market and call it good.

Well, Fort Worth does have a downtown. A perfectly nice little downtown. I don't think anyone would refer to Fort Worth or its downtown as being boomy.

6. “Near a research university.” Check plus for us. We have the second-largest research school in the nation. My only beef is we don’t always recognize the jewel we have, so we don’t support it as we should. We also ought to be creating new universities.

I am fairly certain Fort Worth has a research school. I vaguely recollect one of the reasons I ended up in Texas had to do with some sort of research being done at UNT, that's University of North Texas, for non-locals reading this.

7. “Has, and cares about, a community college.” These two-year colleges are the great equalizer of the new economy, Fallows argues. We’ve definitely got ’em. How much we care, measured in the form of consistent state support, is again an open question.

Is Tarrant County College a two year college? I don't know. I do know there are several campuses of TCC, including two in downtown Fort Worth, with one of the campuses being in the defunct Radio Shack Corporate Headquarters.

8. “Has unusual K-12 schools.” He means like high-school engineering academies or schools for the performing arts. We have some foreign-language immersion K-5s, but Seattle should be embarrassed by our lack of creativity. No Science and Tech High here. Even Tukwila has Aviation High School.

Fort Worth's schools are in bad shape, that I do know. Whether the town has any unusual K-12 schools I do not know.

9. “Makes itself open.” Meaning, it tries to be inclusive, to draw in outsiders. Give Seattle’s civic leaders credit for effort, what with the affordable housing push and other attempts at making future Seattle not only an enclave for the rich.

Well, Fort Worth is definitely not an enclave for the rich, that's for sure. A lot of what happens in Fort Worth comes about in non-transparent ways, then foisted on the public. The Trinity River Vision, aka America's Biggest Boondoggle, comes to mind.

10. “Has big plans.” We’ve got Mount Rainier-sized plans. Execution is another matter.

Well, Fort Worth definitely shares that big plans/poor execution problem with Seattle. Again, America's Biggest Boondoggle comes to mind. Has the world's biggest tunnel boring machine, Bertha, started up boring again? Or is it still stalled while the cause of giant sinkholes is investigated? Fort Worth's plan execution problems come from lack of funds, hence the slow motion Trinity River Vision which has been boondoggling along for most of this century, with little to show for the effort.

11. “Has craft breweries.” Check plus-plus for us! Fallows believes craft breweries are some sort of urban signpost of extended entrepreneurial activity. I don’t know about that, but the beer around here is fantastic.

When I first moved to Texas I made note of the fact that there were no craft breweries of the sort which had proliferated on the west coast like espresso stands. Trends take awhile to move from the two coasts to the hinterlands. One of the Trinity River Vision's operations is to promote craft beer consumption, including having a craft brewery open on The Boondoggle's imaginary island, called Panther Island Brewing.

So, there you go.

Does Fort Worth join Seattle in falling short of greatness, according to the Fallows criteria? Or not? I have no idea....

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