Static: Wednesday, August 18, 2004
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
No Quit in Fred

Arlington city council members apparently have more of a conscience than some of their City Hall employees. In a recent story, Fort Worth Weekly described how city departments for seven years conspired to force Fred and Esther Mitchell from their home (“Beating Back the Bulldozer,” June 9, 2004). City officials wanted the land, so they used outdated maps to dub the Mitchell home a flood risk, ignoring the fact that the house had never flooded in 40 years. Then, June’s record rainfall topped 12 inches in Arlington and flooded Six Flags. Mitchell’s house remained dry as a bone. Still, the city continued eminent domain proceedings against the 71-year-old Mitchell (his wife died at 80 in December; Fred blames her death on stress from fighting the city). A couple of weeks ago, Fred learned through a friend that on Aug. 10 the city council would consider condemnation. “I had no idea that I was on the agenda,” he said. “It was a shock. I didn’t think the city would have the nerve to take my property, especially after the rain in June.” A long battle with the city was poised for climax. “I was fully expecting to be condemned,” Fred said.

A couple of days before the vote, however, city councilwoman Lana Wolff spent more than an hour on a Sunday visiting with Fred and looking at his piles of documents (including a copy of the Weekly story). The following Tuesday, city council members voted 9-0 to remove the condemnation from the agenda. “I have to thank Lana profusely,” Fred said. “After all these years of talking, it’s about time somebody decided to listen to me. Maybe now I can look at my wife’s ashes and say, ‘Well, it may have been a bit late but we got it done.’ “

The day after Wolff’s visit, the city upped its offer for his property from $103,000 to $120,000 and said he could live in the house until he dies. Friends tell him to take the money. Still, Fred won’t budge. This is a military veteran who almost died from his wounds in the Korean War, and then was forced in his senior years to fight his own city government while his wife wasted away. “If I sign the contract to let them have the house when I die, it gives them the house that I didn’t want to give them to begin with,” he said. “It is not the price driving me, it’s the Constitution and the fact that they should not be screwing people around.”

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