Done Deal?

Can you keep a secret? The city of Dallas sure can.

A plan to allow Mesquite to operate soccer fields at Dallas' troubled Samuell Farm ("Farm Teams," February 6) appears to be rolling right along. We'd like to tell you more about what that plan entails, but it's a secret. You, Dallas taxpayer, should just butt out and mind your own bidness. But keep the checks coming.

Oh, we tried to find out more about the proposal, first reported this month by Dallas Observer staff writer Charles Siderius. Siderius even filed a request with the city under the state's open records law to try to get a peek at the Mesquite plan. Dallas attorneys forwarded the request to the Texas Attorney General's Office for an opinion on whether a proposal between two public entities on the future of public property is, in fact, public record. We're still waiting for an answer, which we hope will be something along the lines of "Well, duh." In the meantime, city lawyers say they cannot release the information because they've decided to negotiate with Mesquite, and disclosure could compromise the competition.

Far as we know, Mesquite's only competitor is a group that wants to preserve Samuell Farm as an educational "farm" and equestrian center at no cost to the city. It's hard to envision much of a competition when the city's negotiating with only one of two bidders, but what do we know? We thought public records were public.

What we have been able to find out is this: The deal with Mesquite would entail turning much of the 640-acre farm into soccer fields, along with a 1,600-space parking lot.

Park officials had quietly weighed two proposals since fall. This week, they made it known that they had found the soccer fields proposal forwarded by Mesquite more "advantageous."

Willed to the city by Dr. W.W. Samuell when he died in 1937, the property, off East Highway 80 near Mesquite, was supposed to be used as a park in perpetuity.

Once a model farm for children, Samuell Farm seemed to be popular. Sometime in the past 10 years, however, the working farm concept faded and the city managed the rest of it into the ground. Complaints about mistreatment of animals led to the removal of the animals and added to the farm's loss of purpose.

The city's likely decision to go with soccer is no surprise to Dallas lawyer Hugh Brooks, the man behind the proposal to keep the property as a farm. He spent more than a year trying to convince officials that he could build an equestrian center and reinvigorate the property to serve poor kids. For his efforts, Brooks says he became something of a pariah at City Hall. Silly Brooks. He should have minded his own bidness, too.

Still, we hope to be able to tell you more when the time is ripe--that is, when the deal's fait accompli. Feel free to register your opinion with the city at that point. Buzz suggests that you write your views on a postcard. Then throw away the postcard.

 
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