Foster's Brook, or: The Dallas County Judge is Smarter Than He Lets On

This should be said: One of the heroes in the otherwise ugly stupid saga of the inland port development in Southern Dallas has been Dallas County Judge Jim Foster.

First of all: He figured it out. A very good source close to the county commissioners told me, "He's like a little detective. He's quiet, and he doesn't say much, but he sleuths things out."

Foster figured out sooner than most people that a so-called "master plan" for the inland port dreamed up by Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price was actually an attempt to sandbag the project. The inland port -- a massive rail, trucking and warehousing development -- promises to make Dallas a continental shipping hub with tens of thousands of well-paid new jobs. Price has been trying to screw it up, apparently because he has loyalties and agendas that have little to do with new jobs in Southern Dallas.

Foster saw it and became the swing vote to keep the county out of Price's "master plan" ploy.

The county's refusal to endorse this plan was a major contributing factor in a decision to bail on it by the regional planning agency that was supposed to carry it out.

Another thing: I happened to be present this week when Foster showed up for a meeting of that regional agency at its offices in Arlington. He was sharp, on his toes and brought important technical information to the table that others didn't have.

The head of the agency stated as categorical fact that Dallas County did not have any legal rights over water that it could use in order to provide water to communities. Mike Eastland, executive director of the North Central Texas Council of Governments, said, "I am not familiar with the County of Dallas having water right to distribute water to anybody.

Foster corrected him. "The last legislative session did give Dallas County the specific authority to create a special water district." But the thing I, as a journalist, appreciated about Foster? He told them to hurry the hell up.

"Let's try to move on a little," he said. "Very shortly, some of us have another meeting to attend. Hopefully we can move on."

Yea, verily. I'm as guilty as anybody around town for writing things making Foster out to be a chair-warming cipher. The man's got some moves. --Jim Schutze

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze