Most Endangered Historic Places in Dallas

Fair Park’s Hall of State (Photo: Michael Cagle)

My tip came in last week, this is what I was told by an anonymous source:

“The city attorney’s office is now telling Mayor Rawlings that the Humann plan won’t fly, that they were wrong, and they do need to open the bid up to RFPs.”

As a blogger, I guess I could have published that last week. Instead, I made a few phone calls to the Dallas City Attorney’s office. No response. Then I made a few phone calls Monday. No one has yet to return my call. I sent an email to Paul Simms yesterday, he responded nearly immediately that he had not heard anything.

Then today, Jim Schutze writes in the Dallas Observer — good Lord he posted at 4 a.m., my kind of hours — that the rumors are flying around City Hall that the Fair Park privatization plan is on its deathbed:

 …close observers around town are beginning to place bets on strong rumors that the Walt Humann Fair Park deal will fall apart soon. The ostensible reason – the one for public consumption — would be that a new adverse city attorney opinion says it wasn’t done right.

Hmmmmm.

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Tiffinni Young

Matisha Ward is the daughter of Antoinette Brown, the poor woman who was mauled to death in the city of Dallas by a pack of wild dogs in south Dallas last May 9. While her poor mother was on life support, Dallas City Councilwoman Tiffini Young, who represents the Fair park neighborhood, contacted her and apparently tried to solicit business for an attorney friend by encouraging Ms. Ward to sue the city of Dallas. 

Brett Shipp reported on WFAA-TV that the lawyer she introduced Ms. Ward to, Chris Chestnut, is a college friend of Young’s. He also reports that Ms. Ward recorded the entire conversation.

But today the Dallas lawyer Ms. Ward hired, Tom Carse, filed suit against the City Councilwoman and Chestnut (who practices in Atlanta and Florida, where he has been reprimanded by the state bar) for “barratry and solicitation of professional employment.” Barratry is a third degree felony in Texas. She is seeking half a million in damages.

She is also considering suing the city of Dallas. Guess Young put the bug in her ear.

“When Mrs. Ward said ‘I’ve talked to a lawyer’ and when the response was ‘call me,’ as opposed to, ‘I wish you the best,’ and drop it, Young didn’t drop it,” Carse said.

Chestnut told News 8 neither he nor Young did anything wrong. “I perceive it as Ms. Young trying to help a constituent who just lost her mom tragically in a horrific death,” Chestnut said when reached about the allegations. “She was just following up with the lady to see if I could help.”

Young told News 8 she was only trying to help Ward and even assisted her in setting up a Go Fund Me page to help pay for her mother’s funeral.

By suing the city of Dallas. Lets see, half a million dollars… that’s 11 years of a new hire police rookie for 11 years.

From Tiffinni Young’s City Council profile:

Ms. Young was appointed to serve on the inaugural City of Dallas Youth Commission in 1994 and later appointed to the Park & Recreation Board to represent District 4 and District 7, respectively. The values instilled in her by her family and her faith, her love of community and passion for people led her to enlarge her commitment of service and run for public office. Councilwoman Young was elected to the Dallas City Council in June 2015, as the District 7 representative.

She continues to serve throughout her community as an active member of the Dallas Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and as a board member for the Maurine F. Bailey Cultural Foundation. She currently is the CEO of a consulting practice focused in the areas of entertainment, sports and politics. Her dedication to community and compassion for people has shaped her call and commitment to make Dallas a better city, Texas a better state and our country the best it can be, one person at a time.

Or maybe it’s one lawsuit at a time?

Fair Park Ferris Wheel SM

Turning Fair Park over to a private nonprofit could be good for Dallas, if it is held accountable, Jon says.

[Editor’s Note: We’re hosting a robust conversation about the future of Fair Park here on CandysDirt.com ahead of the 8:30 a.m., Aug. 4 City of Dallas Park Board meeting that could help decide the iconic landmark’s fate. Earlier we had a post from Amanda Popken covering the Monday meeting at the Hall of State. Below, Jon Anderson puts the plan itself in his sights and shows why Mayor Mike Rawlings and Walt Humann are in a hurry to pass the Fair Park Texas Foundation 20-year contract. We join our brethren from D Magazine, Dallas Morning News, WFAA and Observer in voicing concern and skepticism.]

The City of Dallas is set to become Fair Park’s and the State Fair of Texas’ Sugar Daddy if Mayor Rawlings and Walt Humann have their way.  On Thursday, the Parks and Recreation Board is set to vote on the Humann plan for Fair Park, after five silenced board members walked out of the last meeting after Parks Board President Max Well sought to limit discussion on the plan, leaving the meeting without a quorum.  Those were five brave, and I think correct, souls.

To back up a few days, there was a flurry of activity on Monday.  First, Mayor Rawlings had a press conference to whine about a meeting later that day titled, “Our Fair Park: A Conversation About a Dallas Treasure” to which neither he nor District 7 representative Tiffinni Young were invited.  While not being invited to the stage, they certainly weren’t precluded from attending the meeting, which by all accounts they didn’t.

The meeting was a place to yet again voice concerns that have been unanswered by Humann and Rawlings.

The issue for opponents isn’t the setting up of a public-private partnership for the stewardship of Fair Park.  The issue is the shroud this plan has operated under and the fear that the management contract with the city has loosey-goosey language and blank timetables that enshrines continued opaqueness for the next 20 years (the term of the contract).

For example, requirements for public meetings and open records are apparently not in the most recently distributed management agreement. But both Rawlings and Humann claim this is a myth along with the contract’s lack of specific planning goals to reconnect the park to the neighborhood, install needed parklands and the like.

UPDATE: The updated agreement is now available as part of the Parks Board meeting agenda for Thursday. The new document does have language supporting open meetings but is unclear on public access to financial records beyond IRS Form 990.  The document is a HEAVILY edited work-in-progress with pages and pages of strike-throughs and edits visible along with a boatload of blank pages.  Hardly the sort of condition a document of this type needs to be in on the eve of a multi-million dollar vote on a multi-decade project.

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Panel 8.1.16

[Editor’s Note: We’re hosting a robust conversation about the future of Fair Park here on CandysDirt.com ahead of the 8:30 a.m., Aug. 4 City of Dallas Park Board meeting that could help decide the iconic landmark’s fate.]

UPDATE: We have the entire agenda, including the unabridged version of the Walt Humann proposal for managing Fair Park, embedded at the end of this piece.

If you care about the fate of Fair Park, you may want to show up to the Park Board meeting this Thursday. Or at least read the 20-year, $12 million management contract that the Park Board will be voting on.

Park Board Agenda

Monday night’s panel discussion on Fair Park and the potential Park Board vote on Walt Humann’s management contract filled the Hall of State (around 300 attendees.) Despite Mayor Mike Rawlings’ last-minute press conference Monday afternoon to “make sure everybody knows the exact truth of what’s happened,” that everyone’s behind this approach (a private firm managing Fair Park), that the Park Board has been talking to Walt for two years, and “now it’s time to vote.” It was all too dismissive of the community meeting scheduled for later in the day.

The community meeting was organized in less than 1 week, in response to the July 21st Park Board special work session meeting where board members walked out (see about minute 31 of the meeting) in objection to the truncated meeting agenda which limited a thorough discussion on the proposed management contract.  They are expected to vote on the management contract at the upcoming meeting at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 4, which would then set it up for a city council vote. To enact the management contract for the next fiscal year, the agreement would need to be passed through council before next year’s budget is approved in September. These boards meet once a month, and the council meets twice a month with time required to put items on the agendas … you see the rush.

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