Dallas City Attorney Stalls Humann Foundation, Future of Fair Park May be Fair After All

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Earlier today, Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston received a letter from City Attorney Larry Casto responding to his recent queries on the legality of Mayor Mike Rawling’s slam-dunk deal to turn over Fair Park to Walt Humann’s Fair Park Texas Foundation.  The result being “stick a fork in it.”  Humann’s plan may not be “done-done,” but at the very least it’s been skewered and moved to the cool side of the grill.

How did it happen? Lawyer-ese.

You may recall during the city council’s marathon session last month in which Kingston questioned how Fair Park could be given away with no competitive bidding process. The law says you can’t do that unless there’s significant value/funding being given (a la Klyde Warren and their $10 million).  The response from the acting city attorney was that Walt Humann’s TIME was the value. It was always a specious argument to me.  After all, anyone spending enough time could cajole the city to give them park land along with a sizeable dowry?  That didn’t seem right.  “Time is money” is a cliché, not a legal argument for asset transfer.

And we all thought that was the legal gotcha … and it might have been.

But the newly appointed Casto chose not to throw his predecessor under the bus and instead latched onto Monte Anderson (no relation) and his desire to put together a competing proposal for the city.  Turns out the language exempting the standard bidding process (RFP/RFQ) says that it’s also OK if what the city is trying to procure is “available from only one source.”  Anderson’s desire to offer a competing proposal put the kibosh on that.

Mayor Rawlings’ exuberance about Casto’s appointment, one short month ago, sure was tested PDQ. “Thanks to his experience in our capital, he is one of the most politically savvy city employees I’ve had the pleasure of knowing,” Rawlings said. “Those skills will come in handy as he navigates the challenges of reporting to me and my 14 colleagues.”

Maybe Casto is politically savvy enough to recognize the lame duck era of government-backed sweetheart deals is coming to an end (Can you say, Preston Center Task Force?).  Or perhaps it’s politicians, like Rawlings, who was quoted as saying on another topic, “You can’t have freedoms without boundaries,”  that are the lame ducks.

I suspect the Dallas media will react in similar relief that the unstoppable train with its questionable plan, filled with crony dealings and lax oversight has actually been stopped, or at least slowed.  After all, every major media outlet was unanimous in expressing concern about the process and form this plan was taking.  (I know I read and analyzed every scrap, and CandysDirt.com hosted a panel discussion. Other news outlets performed their own analysis, coming to similar conclusions. But what did we all know?)

In fact, Robert Wilonsky’s typewriter over at The Dallas Morning News is quicker than mine.

I’m equally sure the State Fair will be hastily convening meetings to figure out how to wield their influence on whatever new plan emerges.  At the very least, there’s likely a chill over the corn dogs today.

What’ll happen next?  Who knows?  Casto stopped short of telling the city how to proceed, so let’s see how gracefully the Dallas City Council takes being told “no.” Because make no mistake, the City Council would have approved the Humann plan had Casto not thrown a wrench in it.

Thank you Philip Kingston, Larry Casto, and Monte Anderson.

Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement.  If you’re interested in hosting a Candysdirt.com Staff Meeting event, I’m your guy. In 2016, my writing was recognized with Bronze and Silver awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email sharewithjon@candysdirt.com.

3 Comment

  • Does this mean that Mr. Humann’s Plan will likely be one of hopefully several proposals on the redevelopment of Fair Park?

  • Thank you, Jon. Great reporting.
    Now, while we’re on the topic, what are the chances of the public ever seeing the contract under which the State Fair of Texas operates? I know there’s studied obfuscation and opacity, but let’s get that under the civic microscope as well.

  • If one wants to see the State Fair’s contract with the City, now is the best time to make that happen. How can any discussion of the future of Fair Park take place without knowing fully what are the current obligations and conditions of the State Fair’s tenancy at Fair Park? What we can do with Fair Park is dependent in part on what we cannot do with Fair Park, because we (the City) may have already restricted our actions by whatever is contained in that agreement. A separate, but equally compelling line of inquiry, is whether the State Fair has been meeting its contractually required obligations under that agreement. If it has not, perhaps we need to redo that agreement at the same time that we plan for the future of the Park itself.