Last Friday, there was a press conference called by the plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to undo the city’s approval of a 3,500-seat stadium to replace the existing 700-seat Reverchon Park ballfield.
I didn’t immediately rush home to write about it because there was largely no point. Pretty much everything said was in the lawsuit itself (and press questions seeming to demonstrate they’d not actually read it). The only tidbits were the talk of the potential of a 5,000-seat stadium and the possibility of the ballfield being extended towards Turtle Creek. These references were said to be in documents they’d seen or heard about.
This is problematic given that Parks Board President Calvert Collins-Bratton has stated in comments on this site that, “All of the documents are public since they were presented to Council.”
Were that absolutely true, my open records request would not have been turned over to the state Attorney General (to delay or stop release) nor would we all be talking in generalities. There would be renderings and a business case. To claim it’s too early in the process is ludicrous. No one, especially investors, spends $15 million on anything without huge amounts of due diligence.
Equally frustrating is that the opposition to the Reverchon Park deal is seemingly unable to cut to the chase.
Chew on This
The 39-page lawsuit details the salient facts of the case, namely perceived violations to Chapter 26 of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code (which I don’t dispute). While this legalese is necessary for a court filing, it lacks a readily understood distillation of why the council decision was wrong. A soundbite if you will.
Why is a 40-year lease to a private entity for public parkland held to a lower burden of approval than any zoning case brought by a private developer on private land – where renderings, studies and community outreach are required before a council vote? The answer is that it’s not. Chapter 26 actually makes it tougher and the city ignored it.
Not quite a bite, but digestible.
Many winning legal arguments hinge on the concept of unequal treatment. Most obviously in discrimination cases. In this case, I’d think a main concern for any court would be the unequal treatment of public parkland versus private land in violation of state statute.
To be fair, the lawsuit mentions this – point 43 on page 29 of 39 – but it was wasn’t called out during the press conference – never said while the cameras were rolling. So while a judge might take this into consideration (because they will have read the whole thing), the media needed this soundbite to make the case easier to understand.
In my day job, we conduct message testing – smart people brought in to poke holes and tighten strategy. If television legal dramas are to be believed, this happens frequently before jury trials. I’m guessing it didn’t happen here even though their goal was to seek support from the public jury.
But Jon, it’s always easier to criticize after the fact.
Yes, but in this case, I highlighted the inequality argument in a column before the press conference (even put a box around it). I also tried to call attention to this miss during the event to Brett Shipp – the former reporter turned anti-development spokesperson.
He walked away mid…