Dallas City Council's plan to hand over the day-to-day operations of Fair Park to a private foundation headed by Walt Humann is on hold. In a Thursday afternoon memo, new Dallas City Attorney Larry Casto told Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and the rest of the council that the city would have to solicit bids for the Fair Park takeover, rather than just handing the keys to Humann.
Casto's opinion says that, because there are now "at least two vendors" that have expressed interest in managing the park, "the city must proceed with a competitive process to select a qualified entity to manage Fair Park."
Humann's plan would have handed management of the park and about $20 million a year in city money over to his Fair Park Foundation. For the money, the foundation would make a small portion of Fair Park into an actual park, renovate existing buildings on the property and, according to Humann, wake the sleeping, revenue-creating giant that the park is for the 11 months a year it isn't hosting the State Fair.
Proponents of the Humann plan, like Rawlings and City Council member Tiffinni Young, who represents the area around the park, viewed it as the last best chance to revitalize Fair Park and the neighborhood that surrounds the exposition grounds. Opponents, led by City Council member Philip Kingston, believed that more of Fair Park should be turned into a park, and that the city should look for a better deal.
"You have to put things in a transparent and accountable format so that the public knows that they're getting the best deal," Kingston said Thursday afternoon. "If handing some politically connected out-of-towner $20 million a year and the keys to Fair Park is the best deal we can get, we'll find that out here pretty quickly."
Humann lives in University Park.
After Casto issued his opinion Wednesday, council members Young, Monica Alonzo and Adam McGough, who'd been tasked by the mayor to hammer out the final details of the handover from the city to the Fair Park Foundation, said in a letter to the mayor that they believed the contract for the privatization of Fair Park should be sent out for bids.
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"We believe there should be a competitive process and that such a process should be open and transparent. We therefore request the use of a competitive method for the award of a management services contract for the operation of Fair Park," the letter said.
Rawlings, in a statement, said he agrees with Alonzo, Young and McGough.
"This afternoon, I received the attached memo from Mayor Pro Tem Alonzo and council members Young and McGough. I concur with their recommendation to use an open and transparent process to ensure that we receive the best deal for the City of Dallas on a Fair Park management agreement. I am grateful for their continued work on this critical issue," Rawlings said.