Someone's Gonna Get Decked in Fight Over Paying for Upkeep of Klyde Warren Park

Um, Mr. Grant? Moment of your time? I ask only one thing. If at all possible, can you get the kid out of this?

You are the justifiably proud leader of the effort that brought us our wonderful new deck park over Woodall Rodgers Freeway at the north end of downtown, named for a child whose identity I will not utter here because of my deep and abiding reverence for the innocence of children and my fear of collateral damage.

You -- Mr. Jody Grant, chairman of the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation -- are proposing a taxing district to get taxpayers to help you pay for operations of said park. Do you mind if we call it KWP? For the kid's sake.

Everything was happiness for a few months after you opened KWP, but now it seems things might be on the verge of going where everything else in the Arts District inevitably winds up -- you know, directors fired, people accusing each other of inflicting blindness and trying to melt each other and so on. I'm thinking if we're about to take the irresistible barrel-plunge over the lip of reality-TV Niagara again, maybe we should try to keep the kid out of it.

You just told Robert Wilonsky, late of here, now a star reporter for The Dallas Morning News, that you never said you would never ask the taxpayers for help running the park. In a recent blog post, Wilonsky said: "More than anything, Grant wanted to clear up the 'misunderstanding' that folks who planted that playground never never ever said they wouldn't ask the public for a little more green to keep the park in the black.

"'We never said that,' says Grant. 'Somebody might have interpreted something we said, but we would not have boxed ourselves in like that. It's the uncertainty of the unknown.'"

Then Wilonsky adds the line, "He laughs."

Yeah, well, Mr. Grant. No laughing for a while, OK? The park is just wonderful. But you did say it. In fact you said it time and again. In fact you signed a contract saying it. In fact you bragged about the contract to the Morning News last year:

"The agreement was we would manage everything on top of the park and the city would manage everything under the park," said Jody Grant, chairman of park's foundation. "It's a great deal for the city. We have relieved them of the obligation to manage this park. That's off the city's budget."

You continue even now to say it 24/7 on your website under the headline, "Who pays for (KWP)?"

[KWP] is privately operated and managed by the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit. The park was built through a public, private partnership with the City of Dallas, but is entirely funded through private funding.

Here is what concerns me in the child welfare department. Last year you announced you had sold the naming rights to a wealthy person who wanted the park named for his child. In the same press release, you sort of dressed up that decision as evidence of your stellar fundraising abilities. You said, "The Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation will continue to privately fund, operate and program (KWP) when it is open in fall 2012."

You sort of linked the kid's name and loss of privacy to your ability to pay for operations of the park. In a way. Now it looks like you can't quite man up on the private funding deal. Does that put the kid's name in play somehow? Gosh, I hope not.

I will certainly try to avoid that. But I do sort of worry about the other people in your district down there. You have noticed, I'm sure, what kinds of things they're willing to say about each other just over reflected light. God knows what they might be willing to say if they think you're going to cost them tax money.

They could claim he's not a real kid. They might question his immigration status. Anything. You know how you people are in a major hissy. There's not a lot of self-control, is there?

The other thing is this: Your assurances have been the basis for some very explicit guarantees handed out by public officials over the last couple of years. I am not able to find any evidence that I wrote about this at the time, but I do recall going to Willis Winters, now head of parks and rec, and asking him about it.

You see, the whole business of operations cost is hugely important, difficult and crucial to the city right now. Back in the day, City Hall allowed rich people to saddle it with way too much operations cost for fancy-schmancy arts district stuff. Now in these straitened times, when the city can't afford to mow the parks in our neighborhoods, we humble taxpayers needed some assurances about your deal. We wanted to know this was not going to be another expensive toy that you guys bought, played with while it was still shiny and then told us to babysit while you left for Aruba.

I do recall that Winters told me that all operations costs were absolutely going to be covered by private funding. Totally. Forever. Ever ever ever.

Frankly, I was sort of amazed. My experience is that private people have little notion how expensive it is to operate something public. You know: They'll stick a $98 Home Depot picnic table out in front of their shop, not realizing that a table that can survive typical public use costs more like $1,000 not counting a whole lot for shipping and installation.

I was aware, of course, that you had done an absolutely fantaaaabulous job of furnishing KWP. I was worried, in fact, that the amount of extremely expensive stuff you had installed in KWP and the sheer fantabulosity of it was going to saddle you with some really fantabulus operating costs.

I was also concerned, as I have mentioned, that everything shiny, new and wonderful in the Arts District always seems to wind up in a big squabble, like, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous meets The Jerry Springer Show. And here we go, I guess.

You've got all the other institutions down there bad-mouthing you, and in today's story you're already bad-mouthing them back. How far can we be from another Nasher/Museum Tower flying-gobs-of-caviar food-fight? First it's spraying people with Champagne bottles. Then it's whacking with them.

Just get the kid out, OK? Can you call it KWP without having to pay the rich guy back for the naming rights? Maybe temporarily? Do they have counseling for people like you?

OK, I've done my duty here. Now I go get my bag of popcorn, my folding chair and my laptop. I sit back. I watch the show. Rich people are God's clowns.

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