Sunday, November 16, 2008

Turkey Trot Early Registration Ends Today

Today is the last day for early registration for the 2008 Fort Worth YMCA Turkey Trot. Held each Thanksgiving Day morning. The biggest draw of the race is the 5k which attracts everyone from the serious runners to those just happy to finish the course in time for lunch. For the more adventurous, there's a 10k race, as well as a 1k race for the kids.

No matter what place they finish, all runners can take joy in their good deed. The Turkey Trot allows the YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth to fund scholarships for thousands of local youth and adults so they can participate in YMCA activities.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Can't We All Get Along? Local Papers to Team Up

That rumble you heard today wasn't thunder.

No. That loud sound was the late Amon G. Carter rolling over in his grave at the news that the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Dallas Morning News are going to share editorial content.

More from Editor & Publisher:

Dallas Morning News Editor Bob Mong wrote in a memo to employees that parent company A.H. Belo and the McClatchy Co. -- owner of the Star-Telegram -- are looking for ways to save money.

"We commenced talks because of the challenging economic and revenue
environment we find ourselves in," Mong wrote. "I can assure you we have no intention of diluting our powerful brand. But I do know there are ways to move forward with the /Star-Telegram/, save money and continue to provide the outstanding unique content we are known for."

A few years ago the two dailies locked horns in a huge fight over readers in Arlington. Now with readership dropping at double-digit rates at both papers they appear ready to combine forces in order to more efficiently bring us the bland mediocre coverage they become famous for.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Wall St. Journal Takes Note of Gas Drop

The Wall Street Journal has taken note of the recent decline in energy prices and its effect on the local economy:

The torrid pace of oil and gas exploration pumped billions of dollars into regions such as North Texas, bringing stronger housing prices, lower unemployment and soaring tax revenue as drilling rigs rose in urban neighborhoods. Many residents benefited directly from royalty checks and land-lease payments that soared toward $30,000 an acre as recently as this summer.

"We were all sitting over here in a kind of blissful stupor enjoying a great market compared to the rest of the United States," said commercial-real-estate broker Jack Huff. "Until 30 days ago, there was no feeling at all that anything going on in the rest of the country affected us."

The Journal notes that the price of oil has fallen by more than half from its all-time high of $145.29 a barrel, while natural gas is off nearly half from its 52-week peak of $13.577 per million British thermal units, finishing Tuesday at $7.219 per million BTUs.

The economic gap between the Lone Star State and the rest of the country is narrowing. In August, the state's unemployment rate of 5.1% was a full percentage point better than the 6.1% national mark; that difference shrunk to 0.8 point in September at 5.2% versus 6.0% nationally. More specifically in Cowtown, the growth in sales-tax revenue has begun to slow, and unemployment is rising.

The bright side from the Journal:

Some in Fort Worth argue that even if gas production declines drastically, it has left the local economy in a better position to survive the broader national downturn. The city has saved much of its natural-gas windfall in a rainy-day fund, and has put the rest toward long-term capital projects that won't evaporate if drilling slows.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Camp Bowie Stripling & Cox Set For New Shopping Center

Shoppers along Camp Bowie Boulevard will have new choices in 2009 as the closed Stripling & Cox store will be torn down to make way for a new shopping center. According to Globe Street, Armstrong Development Properties Inc. has purchased the site and intends to tear down the old building and construct a 23,100-sf strip center of high-end retail called The Shops at Camp Bowie.

Plans call for a bank, a restaurant and upscale specialty shops. The plan is to have the project ready to open in late summer or early fall 2009. Southwest Fort Worth is an attractive place for retail with a vacancy rate 0.5% lower than the citywide average and rents on Class A space $1.50 a square foot higher than the city as a whole.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Drilling Opponent's Victory May Be Short-Lived

The Cowtown City Council made history last night when they did something they had never done before. The council denied the request of Chesapeake Energy for a permit for a high-impact gas well near the intersection of 8th Avenue and Elizabeth Boulevard.

The permit faced determined opposition from the Ryan Place, Berkeley, and Mistletoe Heights, neighborhood associations. Most of those same residents have already signed gas leases and cashed their royalty checks. Yet apparently they were shocked to find out that getting natural gas out of the ground involves drilling a well. I suppose they thought the gas just appeared magically the way their organic lettuce does at Central Market.

While some are declaring this the dawning of a bright, new day in Cowtown, here's some sobering thoughts to ponder.

Gas Drilling Opponents May Have Won a Battle Yet Lost Their War.

The city has a Gas Drilling Task Force that is currently reviewing all the rules and regulations that cover gas drilling. Opponents have been urging the task force to recommend extending the buffer distance required from a well to a residence from the current 600 feet to something larger, like maybe 1,000 feet. The possibility that the Gas Companies will go along with such a recommendation now is absolutely zero. In fact, any attempt to increase the buffer distance would result in a lawsuit, a suit that would likely prevail. In such a suit the city might find it rather difficult to justify such a big change in the course of a couple of years, or why the city requires a buffer five times what the state does.

Councilmembers Will Now Claim Veto Power Over any High-Impact Well Permit.

When controversial zoning cases have come before the council; Members have traditionally bowed to the wishes of the councilmember whose district the subject property lies in. It appears that was the case last night with the council heeding the wishes of District 9 councilman Joel Burns, who was vocal in his opposition to the drilling permit.

Opponents may be just fine with that.

Right Now.

While Carter Burdette may look like he's been on the council since Jesus was in Junior High, the fact is city council terms are not for life. This new policy of approving or denying a controversial gas well request based on the wishes of the councilmember whose district is most affected might not look so great with different people on the council.

The Fort Worth City Council Cannot Legislate Economic Realities.

What most opponents of gas drilling fail to realize is this. For the vast majority of Tarrant County, the natural gas under the ground is far more valuable than anything that's on top of the ground. My own quick estimate is that Chesapeake Energy could easily purchase every property within the 600' buffer of the 8th Avenue site for less than $3,000,000.00. If Chesapeake owned all the affected land there would be no need to get a waiver and the wells would be drilled without any hearing. Now to most folks that might seem like a lot of money. But the gas under that site is worth far, far, more than $3,000,000.00. If high-impact waivers are never granted, the gas companies will opt to purchase all the affected land and drill anyway.

Should the council have granted the 8th Avenue waiver? I'm not sure. As a railroad switching yard, the site is already being put to some pretty heavy industrial use as it is. Proponents rightly point out the a gas well wouldn't be any noisier or uglier than the graffiti-painted railroad cars that are there now. On the other hand, it's been reported that the nearest residence is just 225' from the well so the case could be made that Chesapeake had no business trying to drill there.

However, 3-1/2 hour long, winner-take-all, city council sessions are definitely not the best way to make gas drilling policy either. The city needs to establish some mutually agreeable standards, stick to them, and move on.


Saturday, October 04, 2008

20 Great Reasons to Visit Fort Worth

The Austin American-Statesman recently published an article titled, "20 Great Reasons to Visit Dallas-Fort Worth." We'll ignore their dallas suggestions. After all, who the heck ever goes to dallas?

Instead here's their recommendations of things to see and do in Cowtown, along with some thoughts:

The impressionist paintings on loan from the Art Institute of Chicago at the Kimbell Art Museum. - No argument there. That exhibit has been high on the lovely Mrs. Smith's list of things to do since it opened.

The new Malayan tiger kitties at the Fort Worth Zoo. - Our world-class zoo is something we often take for granted.

Joe T. Garcia's. - Joe T.'s is fine for tourists. But puhlease, real Fort Worthians know Joe T.'s is way overrated.

Hangman's House of Horrors. - I'm too old and cranky to enjoy paying money to be chased with fake chainsaws.

Luskey's Western Wear. - Personally I don't go for the urban cowboy look but if I did I'd definitely take this authentic spot over the ones near the malls.

Angelo's Bar-B-Que. - Another place that is way overrated.

The Japanese Garden at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. - Another of Mrs. Smith's favorites.

The Fort Worth Herd Cattle Drive. - Ehh, I suppose it's fine for the tourists it is meant for.

Real western bars in the Stockyards: the White Elephant, or the Longhorn Saloon. - Growing up my parents forced me to listen to County & Western music virtually every waking hour. So the rebel in me still avoids these types of places, but they are fine for those whose tastes prefer it.

Texas Motor Speedway. - Definitely something they don't have in Austin, or dallas for that matter.

If they missed your favorite spot in Cowtown post it in the comments.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

DFW Leads Nation in New Jobs

Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington led the nation's metropolitan areas in year-to-year job increases during the month of August. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 59,800 more jobs in this area when compared to August of '07. According to the BLS, unemployment in the metroplex in August was 5.1%. Nationwide, the rate is 6.1%.

Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown was 2nd among major metropolitan areas with 53,400 new jobs. The McAllen-Edinburg-Mission area ranked 7th in new job creation, while College Station-Bryan was 8th.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

FWCANDO - 'Non-Profit' a Figment of Don Young's Imagination

Cowtown's Don Young is a man on a mission. The east-side anti-gas activist, who once led a protest of a church's Sunday morning services, is engaged in his own holy war to drive gas development from our city.

Mr. Young, saves his sharpest barbs for Mayor Mike Moncrief who he has all but charged with criminal behavior. However, when it comes to honesty and ethics, Mr. Young's own record of deception rivals that of our energy-enriched mayor.

Mr. Young's website intentionally misleads visitors to believe that he is head of a grass-roots, non-profit organization. After all, he openly solicits "donations"; his "Just say NO to Urban Gas Drilling" signs are not sold. Oh no, that's far too commercial for Mr. Young. No, his signs are offered for a "$3.00 donation". Mr. Young speaks in the plural, posting stuff like, "We believe... We are concerned..." We demand..." He even has the ".org" suffix in his web address that is commonly used by non-profits.

Yes a visitor would certainly believe that FWCANDO is non-profit organization dedicated to protecting our fair city from the evils of urban gas drilling.

There's just one problem. FWCANDO doesn't exist.

That's right, a check of state and federal records find that no such group has ever registered as a non-profit organization. So just how much money is Mr. Young raking in "donations" for those yard signs? Where does the money go that is "donated" to FWCANDO? So far as I can tell those donations are going into Mr. Young's pocket. However, since no real non-profit organization exists; an organization that would have to keep records and submit financial statements to the proper authorities; we'll never know.

Anti-gas activists have frequently criticized Mayor Moncrief for pocketing gas royalty checks while serving as mayor. Fair enough. But shouldn't the same standard apply to an activist that pockets money "donated" to fight gas drilling?

Note: I emailed Mr. Young some time ago asking him if his organization was a non-profit organization. Rather than answer my question he asked me why I wanted to know. When I explained why and spelled out the issues I've mentioned here he never responded.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Hotel Planned for Old United Way Building

A a 150-room Hampton Inn is planned for the former United Way of Tarrant County building at

210 East Ninth Street according to Globe Street. The location is immediately northeast of the Fort Worth Convention Center. Plans call for the hotel to open in 2011.

The old office building will be torn down and new hotel will be built and managed by Pearl Real Estate. This marks Pearl's third hotel investment in the downtown area. The company already owns the Embassy Suites at 600 Commerce St. and the Holiday Inn Express currently being built at 1111 W. Lancaster St.

The United Way relocated their headquarters office to 1500 North Main Street.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Tarrant to Lose 8 Starbucks

The Startlegram reports on the 8 Starbucks locations in Tarrant County that are to close. 3 are in Cowtown, 4 in Arlington. 1 is in White Settlement but that doesn't really matter because no one has ever heard of White Settlement. The store on McCart Avenue couldn't have been open more than six months. Perhaps such poor planning is the reason for the company's poor performance lately?

over in big d, the coffee chain is closing 21 stores.

Here's the Tarrant coffee places that are closing:

View Larger Map

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Lone Star State Tops For Business

CNBC today revealed the results of its second annual study of America's Top States for Business. Broadcasting from Cowtown, Correspondent Scott Cohn announced that Texas was at the top of the list:

Texas takes over the number one spot from last year's Top State, Virginia. "Clearly, Texas benefits from the current strength in the energy industry," Cohn said. "But Texas is putting together a truly diverse business climate, with high scores in areas like technology and transportation."

To determine the rankings for America's Top States for Business, each state was scored – using publicly available data – on 40 different measures of competitiveness. States received points based on their rankings in each metric, which were then separated into ten broad categories: Cost of Doing Business, Workforce, Economy, Education, Quality of Life, Technology and Innovation, Transportation, Business Friendliness and Access to Capital.

Here's the top 5:
  1. Texas
  2. Virginia
  3. Utah
  4. Idaho
  5. Colorado
The worst states for busness? Here they are:
46. Mississippi
47. West Virginia
48. Rhode Island
49. Hawaii
50. Alaska


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Cowtown Gas Deals a Model for the Nation

While some local bloggers portray Cowtownites as fools for buying the gas companies' bill of goods Time Magazine sees things differently:

Today's energy company landmen must deal with Texas soccer moms with their own websites and Pennsylvania dairy farmers/bloggers, all armed with Google maps and Excel spreadsheets. The domestic gas-exploration business has undergone a revolutionary face-lift.

Yep, according to Time, local homeowners are driving the hard bargains and taking the gas companies to the cleaners, not the other way around. And people in other parts of the country are taking notice:

[Ron] Stamets says what he and his Pennsylvania dairy-farmer neighbors are doing is based on the experiences of Fort Worth neighborhoods. The Barnett Shale site has long been known to Texas oilmen, but extracting what is estimated to be some 2.5 trillion cu. ft. of natural gas from the 350-million-year-old rocks beneath the Dallas-Fort Worth area only became feasible in the last decade with the advent of horizontal drilling techniques.

So the next time somebody whines about local citizens "selling out" just remember, we're not selling out, we're cashing in.


Friday, May 30, 2008

Cowtown Vets to get New Clinic

Beginning in 2001 veterans in Fort Worth needing outpatient medical services will be served in a new $50,000,000.00 facility at the corner of I-20 and Campus Drive. The Dallas Morning News reports that Duke Realty Corp. has won a contract to develop and manage the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ new clinic.

Construction of the 213,029-square-foot building is slated to begin in the late fall. and will reportedly be the largest outpatient clinic development scheduled by the VA. The clinic will include surgical rooms and outpatient recovery rooms.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Fixing up Woodhaven

A real estate developer has made a second multi-million dollar apartment purchase in Cowtown's Woodhaven area. Carlos & Costanzo LLC recently closed on the 176-unit Willows of Woodhaven complex. The company is promising to fix up the complex, telling Globe Street that plans call for spending $200,000.00 on improvements in an attempt to boost the property's meager 62% occupancy rate.

The latest acquisition, which reportedly valued the complex at $3,850,000.00, is next door to the 208-unit Huntington Apartments which the firm purchased back in April at a reported cost of $3,100,000.00

While the single family housing market has slowed down, developers and apartment analysts remain bullish about the Metroplex rental market, citing a strong economy and continued job growth.

The Woodhaven area has seen its share of troubles over the years but Carlos Vaz, a partner in Carlos & Costanzo sees brighter days for the eastside, telling Globe Street, "The area is going to get better."

Let's hope he's right.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

From Cowtown to Boomtown has a pretty evenhanded article about the natural gas boom here in Cowtown:.

Welcome to Texas's newest boomtown, a city of 686,000 that just happens to sit on top of a giant natural gas field known as the Barnett Shale. With demand for natural gas rising... exploration companies have kicked off a drilling frenzy in Fort Worth.

The upside is palpable around town. Once-struggling oilmen and big landowners are suddenly flush with gas money, while thousands of average homeowners are now collecting modest monthly royalty checks...."It's created a new wealth in our city," declares Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief. "It's inoculated our economy. We find ourselves being an island in a sea of recession around us."

But the downside is palpable, too, especially in battles over the siting of almost a thousand (so far) natural gas wells - many of them incongruously close to parks, churches, and homes. The incursion of large-scale drilling into the city's daily life has raised questions not only about environmental and safety risks, but also the eyesores, noise and truck-traffic that gas exploration generates.

But of more interest to me was the profile of Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy the article linked to.

Mr. McCLendon, who is worth more than $3,000,000,000.00 is not one to shy away from a fight. When Jodi Rell, governor of Connecticut accused Chesapeake of "unconscionable fleecing of U.S. citizens" Mr. McClendon fired off a public, five-page rebuttal that basically called the governor a liar.

If Cowtown residents think a few yard signs will make energy companies like Chesapeake go away, they greatly underestimate the determination of people like Aubrey McClendon.