Best Of People and Politics
Thing Tarrant County Needs
Critic’s choice: A revolutionary with moxie
Lots of folks are whining about how the gas drilling companies are taking over Fort Worth, stepping on its citizens, and controlling city hall. Whine, whine, whine. This city needs somebody to go all Pancho Villa on somebody’s ass — in a nonviolent way — and really kick up some resistance against city officials and corporate robber barons who treat residents like floor mats and rely on unfair laws put in place by co-opted legislators.
TV News Reporter
Readers’ choice: Jane McGarry
Critic’s choice: Grant Stinchfield
Stinchfield has a shelf full of major journalism awards, but he mostly flies under the radar with stories that combine emotional heft with practical value. Whether detailing the staggering toll of identity theft on individuals, revealing red-tape police procedures that complicate drug busts, or covering the recent Hurricane Gustav evacuation, Stinchfield always keeps the story front and center.
Readers’ choice: David Finfrock KXAS-TV/Channel 5
Critic’s choice: Rebecca Miller
This one goes out to former NBC5 morning meteorologist Rebecca Miller. She had been doing the most important weather forecasts — mornings — since 1991, but management canned her in March. The reason? Ratings, NBC5 said. But maybe the ratings dropped because the news presentation was stale and somewhat stupid. Rebecca was always consistent, right there every few minutes with the forecast, and did her job well.
Hottest Local Celebrity (Female)
Readers’ choice: Olympic gymnast Nastia Lukin
Critic’s choice: Molly
Fort Worth Citizens Against Neighborhood Drilling (FWCanDo) has redesigned the city’s familiar logo of Molly the Longhorn, using Mayor Mike Moncrief’s face with two gas drilling rigs growing out of his head like horns. While their creativity is commendable, they’ve still defaced our lovely, tempting bovine hottie of a mascot, who is the unofficial queen of Cowtown and the secret love of anyone seriously into make-believe cows with soft, subtle noses, floppy but feminine ears, and long supple horns.
Hottest Local Celebrity (Male)
Readers’ choice: Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo
Critic’s choice: Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra
What makes tickets to Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra performances worth $50? For some, the answer might be that live performances offer a timeless way to experience music or that the Bass Hall’s acoustics can’t be rivaled by mere recordings. We know better. Conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya is eye candy for the intellectual, classical music-loving elite. His hot Peruvian accent and dreamy smile almost make us forget he’s completely off the market (married, with children). The Curtis and Juilliard School grad has conducted orchestras around the world and continues to keep us interested in FWSO’s varied music each season. Approaching 40, he’s still a big reason to pay all those extra fees that accompany each concert ticket.
Readers’ choice: Bud Kennedy, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Critic’s choice: (three-way tie) Darren Barbee, Yamil Berard, and Anthony Spangler, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Through plain old-fashioned investigative journalism, Barbee, Berard, and Spangler took down one of the highest paid CEOs in the county, David Cecero of the John Peter Smith Hospital network, responsible for providing healthcare to Tarrant County’s poor.
After four months of digging, these three found that the hospital bore a distinct resemblance to a pigsty, with millions of taxpayer dollars going into buildings while the poor couldn’t even get a Band-aid. When they reported on an outside audit ordered by Cecero, but not given to his board, that documented horrendous conditions, the guy’s days were numbered.
Fortunately, this trio, thus far, has survived the ongoing staff reductions at the S-T. Here’s hoping they never see a pink slip.
Local Morning TV Newscast
Readers’ choice: Good Day,
Critic’s choice: Good Day
Given that we’re hostile zombies when forced to rise before the sun, it may be surprising that KDFW-TV Fox 4’s chipper, chirpy, self-consciously zany Good Day is our TV equivalent of a stiff cuppa joe. Co-anchors Tim Ryan and Megan Henderson, meteorologist Evan Andrew, and traffic guy Chip Waggoner fire off the weather, traffic, and fluff-news segments without seeming to pause for a breath, offering early-morning mental calisthenics without heavy-duty content.
Readers’ choice: Jody Dean, KLUV/98.7-FM (K-Luv)
Critic’s choice: Mike Rhyner, Sports TK/1310-AM (The Ticket)
A year ago, The Ticket won the Marconi Award as Best Sports Station in America. But a lot has changed since then for the station’s highly rated marquee show, The Hardline. With the departure of longtime co-host, Gregg “The Hammer” Williams, the nervous ears of the station’s cult-like following were deftly soothed by Mike “The Old Gray Wolf” Rhyner. The transition to the post-Hammer era was smooth. The remaining cast didn’t change the format or patronize their listeners by making excuses; they just kept entertaining and following the lead of the comically crotchety Rhyner.
Readers’ choice: Dale Hansen
Critic’s choice: Daryl Reaugh
“Razor” came over with the team when it moved from Minnesota, bringing with him a distinctive Midwestern accent and a deep knowledge of hockey that was invaluable to this football-crazed media market. Even better, at a time when teams’ play-by-play announcers tend to be relentless “homers,” Reaugh retains his objectivity with regard to the Stars, their opponents, the officials, and the coaches, which is why he’s respected throughout North America’s hockey cognoscenti.
Servant of the People
Readers’ choice: Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief
Critic’s choice: Nancy Lindley, Lakeside
This 70-year-old woman hates those bandit signs that homebuilders, dating services, and other companies illegally place next to city streets. So Lindley pulls them up. However, Lakeside Police Chief Lee Pitts (who earns his surname) threatened to arrest her for theft, saying the signs are private property even if they’re illegal. Huh? Lindley is heeding the warnings for now, but she’s talking to city officials and trying to prove her right to de-litter her town.
Jack of All Trades
Critic’s choice: Marvin Rodak
Marvin Rodak is a master of disguise. You wouldn’t know it by seeing him in his blue jumpsuit, but he is actually something of a rarity: an Everyman’s renaissance man. At his five-bay garage on the South Side, he repairs Cadillacs, custom-roasts gourmet coffee, and sells heavy-duty backyard grills and a wide variety of hot sauces. Top that for variety in your daily work.
Politician Most Likely to Sell Grandma to the Highest Bidder
Readers’ choice: Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief
Critic’s choice: Leonardo de la Garza, chancellor, Tarrant County College
De la Garza may not be an elected politico, but he’s a Tricky Dick nonetheless. He convinced an elected board of reasonably intelligent men and women to blindly turn over hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to build a grandiose — and highly impractical — downtown campus, despite more disaster warnings than the Titanic had. TCC trustees (with the exception of Bobby McGee and new member Joe Hudson) not only kept giving this local Music Man the funds to keep building the doomed campus, but when this ship finally hit the iceberg, he convinced a majority of the board to reward him with a three-year contract extension and a million-dollar salary package. Harold Hill, meet Leonardo de la Garza.
Candidate for Cryogenic Preservation
Readers’ choice: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones
Critic’s choice: Matt Layton
In the future, someone (possibly a descendant of Brian Forella) will open a bar on the 300th floor of some 6th Street MegaTainment Complex. And as a promotional gimmick, said impresario will visit the local Cryonix™ franchise and thaw out an “old-timey” bartender from the early 21st century. If so, that bartender surely will be Matt Layton, Fort Worth’s favorite wiry, drink-slinging raconteur. A veteran of most of the oughts’ biggest bar openings, Layton’s trademark wit and encyclopedic knowledge of shots make him a perfect representative of “how it used to be” for the barflies of the future.
Readers’ choice: John Shook
Critic’s choice: Alexa Sankary
For most 10-year-olds, “neuroblastoma” is just a nightmare of a spelling word. But for Alexa Sankary, the cancer, which occurs only in young children, became very real when her friend Michael Mancuso was diagnosed with it in 2006. Alexa visited her friend to take his mind off the cancer treatments. After Michael died in September 2007, Alexa, wanting to do something to honor his memory, talked with her Girl Scout troop leader about a fund-raising walk for children with the same illness. Teaming Alexa’s troop with Cook Children’s Hospital, Higginbotham and Associates, Sam’s Club, Acme Brick, and Energy Fitness, Alexa and her father Michael created what they hope will be an annual event. The first Walk for Neuroblastoma raised a staggering $19,000 for research and treatment of the childhood cancer at Cook Children’s Medical Center.
Candidate for a Makeover
Readers’ choice: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban
Critic’s choice: Randy Galloway
With his Bermuda shirts, mop-head hair, and cigar hanging out the side of his mouth, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s star sports columnist looks more like an old parrothead just back from a binge in Margaritaville than a star of ESPN radio. His “face for radio,” plastered on an I-30 billboard, frightened eastbound rubberneckers for too long. Something must be done.
Readers’ choice: Dale Hansen
Critic’s choice: A. C. “Ace” Cook
Through the years, this North Side curmudgeon and self-styled horse trader has flown airplanes, done a stint in the military, and owned a couple of pawn shops. But he’s also a collector of fine art, celebrated today by art lovers and museum directors as the leader in saving high quality works of once-forgotten early Texas artists from the dustbin. Today, his Hock Shop Collection, acquired over the past 25 years, is worth millions of dollars and covers the walls at his ice cream shop and beer parlor (yes you read that right) on Exchange Avenue in the Stockyards. But now Cook is fighting pancreatic cancer and has put his beloved collection on the auction block. Those in the art world hope it will stay together, and there is no better place to keep it — or to honor his legacy — than in Ace Cook’s adopted hometown. All it will take is an angel with deep pockets — and surely Cowtown is full of those.
Readers’ choice: Pam Minick
Critic’s choice: Diane Wood
The 30-second version of Diane Wood’s biography would read something like this: “Moved to new place/job, recognized need and injustice, started a program to combat it, invited in the folks that the nice straight white folks didn’t want to associate with. Was highly successful. Pissed people off. Did it anyway. Repeat many times, until … who knows.” From her childhood on a West Texas cotton farm to integrating church groups in Temple, to organizing marches and getting arrested in some of your better congressional offices, Wood, now 70, has never let “you can’t do that” get in her way. She has pursued social justice issues all her life, opposing war and injustice, helping refugees, and protesting whatever needed protesting, including the excesses of urban gas drilling and George W. Bush. At the end of the day, what can we say but “Wow!” — and thank you.
Readers’ choice: Spoonfed Tribe
Critic’s choice: Rhonda Mae Cox
Fort Worth’s legendary AIDS activist, drag performer, Vietnam veteran, and licensed pilot may not consider herself a “free spirit.” In some respects, her life has been a tough row to hoe — living with HIV herself, combating the stigma against transgendered people both outside and inside the gay community. But her determination to live with honesty and integrity and to work as a tireless warrior in the battle against AIDS is inspiring. Rhonda Mae has been willing to march her high heels into the middle of every fight where she’s needed.
Underrated Pro Athlete
Readers’ choice: Marion Barber, running back, Dallas Cowboys
Critic’s choice: Mat McBriar, punter, Dallas Cowboys
No, nobody goes to football games to watch the punter. But when your team is weak at that position, everybody feels the pain. That’s why the Cowboys are lucky to have McBriar, one of the NFL’s best punters. The Melbourne native was able to translate his talents at Australian Rules football to our version of the sport. Averaging 47.1 yards per kick (fourth best in the NFL), he can pin opponents deep when Dallas’ offense breaks down.
Pro Athlete Almost Worth His Salary
Readers’ choice: Josh Hamilton, center fielder, Texas Rangers
Critic’s choice: Brandon Bass, forward, Dallas Mavericks
The 23-year-old from Louisiana State showed his inexperience in the NBA playoffs this spring but still averaged 11.6 points off the bench. Of course, the raw numbers don’t measure what the 6’8" forward brings to the Mavs in terms of toughness, attitude, and defensive tenacity. His annual salary is under $900,000 — such a steal! — and that makes him a valuable asset in a salary-capped league.
Use of Taxpayer Money
Readers’ choice: Fort Worth public art
Critic’s choice: (tie) Public art program and homeless initiative
Amid the many questionable, if not downright heinous, decisions made by the Fort Worth City Council this year on the municipal budget, there were still two things to root for: the money approved for a program of public art and the city’s plan for ending homelessness. Neither of them fill any potholes or catch any crooks, but we can’t think of better uses for tax dollars — even if the homelessness initiative does look a bit like pie in the sky.
Readers’ choice: Barnett Shale
Critic’s choice: Cowboys Stadium
OK, so they’re building a new football stadium in north Texas. Fine. Do we really need the breathless countdown-to-the-Second-Coming kind of coverage we’ve been getting on it lately? Let’s see, how many home games a year are there? And how many of us will actually be able to go there more than once a decade or so? In which case, do we really care how wide the plastic seats are or what color scheme Jerry Jones and his bride are picking out for the skyboxes? Now if Jerry gets religion and decides to turn the Cowboys into a nonprofit to benefit all the poor people in Arlington and give them the services that could have been paid for with the tax dollars that went into stadium construction — that’s a media blitz we could get behind.
Readers’ choice: Ryan Place Improvement Association, FW
Critic’s choice: Brentwood-Oak Hills Neighborhood Association, FW
Around since 1996, this pro-active group of politically savvy East Side residents is well known in the halls of government for fervent advocacy on behalf of their diverse, tree-shaded neighborhood — as well as some of its aging infrastructure. Led by its energetic and tenacious president Rita Vinson, a retired HUD employee who knows her way around city hall, the association is touted by council members and city staff alike for its well-organized efforts to preserve the integrity of this oft-forgotten side of town, whether the threats are from a greedy developer bent on cutting its beloved trees or a greedy gas driller bent on disrupting its serenity.
Example of Gumption or Grit
Readers’ choice: Jim Hayes,
Critic’s choice: Cathy Hirt
When you are a lawyer and political operative from the country-clubbish near West Side, you are supposed to go along with the flow of power and money. But former Fort Worth City Council member and mayoral candidate Cathy Hirt ain’t playing that game — particularly when it comes to Barnett Shale gas drilling. Hirt is one of the names behind the Coalition for a Reformed Drilling Ordinance (CREDO), a group that is advocating a drilling moratorium until the city gets a better handle on all aspects of the BS boom. CREDO may even go to federal court to get the city to cease and desist from giving the drillers everything they want. For Hirt to get involved in this issue goes against the “Fort Worth way” of not riling up the peasantry. And for a lawyer from the elite side of town to do this really is a display of grit and gumption.
Readers’ choice: Dave Lieber,
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Critic’s choice: Bob Mhoon
This retired Navy submarine officer and one-time adjunct professor at Tarrant County College is an unabashed “good government guy” who’s become the burr under the saddle of TCC’s chancellor and his minions, and if they eventually get bucked off, it wouldn’t bother Mhoon one iota. His highest calling these days is to make sure elected officials and public servants are prudent stewards of the taxpayers’ money and that they follow the law, specifically the state’s open records and open meetings acts. For three years, the Arlington man has been raising the red flag at every forum he could find about the enormous waste of public dollars on the college’s ambitious downtown campus project. An inveterate “open records” requestor, he has forced info out of this crew that would have never seen the light of day otherwise. Kudos.
Readers’ choice: www.fortworthology.org
Critic’s choice: www.weshotjr.com
When it comes to running a successful blog, consistency is the key. We Shot Jr wraps up the weekly music and art scene in the Metroplex in one big vitriolic package. Sure, the site can be pretty harsh, but damned if it isn’t up on what’s going on around these parts. From tiny house shows in Denton to hip gigs at Lola’s, week in and week out, Stonedranger and his team keep self-aware hipsters clued in. Plus, they’ve branched out to providing news and photos from shows and events, along with interviews and features with local artists and musicians. They’ve also gotten a number of national acts to play along. Don’t be offended by their holier-than-thou commentary — it kind of comes with the territory.
Local Web Forum
Readers’ choice: www.westandclear.com
Critic’s choice: www.fortwortharchitecture.com
This site’s primary purpose is discussing urban development, preservation, and the aesthetics of where we live, work, and shop. These are worthy subjects, but the devoted and informed denizens of the message boards here take in all sorts of other subjects from photography to bike paths to where to find a good steak in Fort Worth. If you want to hear what the locals are buzzing about, this is the place on the web to find out.
Preserver of History
Critic’s choice: Clara Ruddell
This local history buff scored a sterling success on the heels of a frustrating failure. Ruddell’s persistent attempts to bag a large collection of Ripley Arnold artifacts for display at a Tarrant County building (“What’s It Worth To Save The Fort,” Nov. 21, 2007) suddenly fell through earlier this summer, leaving some bitter feelings between her and a Dallas artifact collector. But the two eventually made up, and she talked him into lending her two circa 1830s Spanish cannons that were fished out of the San Antonio River near the Alamo and possibly used during that historic battle in 1836. The cannons should be now on display at the Cowtown Coliseum in the Stockyards.
Unused PR Slogan
Readers’ choice: I FW
Critic’s choice: “Fort Worth — the future buckle on the Rust Belt”
With apologies to Grayson Harper, who predicts that’s what Cowtown will be when the Barnett boom goes bust.
Readers’ choice: Young Chef’s Academy, 6333 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW
Critic’s choice: Flea Market,
Will Rogers Memorial Center,
Barn No. 1
We’re surprised by the number of locals who don’t know about this flea market that’s been around for about 40 years. And while the barns can be hot and smelly at times, there’s hardly a better place around to find all kinds of cool junk. Prices are generally much cheaper than at antique shops, and, in fact, many antique dealers go to the barn every weekend to add to their inventory.
Readers’ choice: Chip Waggoner, KDFW-TV/Channel 4
Candidate for Alien Abduction
Critic’s choice: Tommy Lee Jones
Maybe it was prophetic when Tommy Lee Jones’ character in Men in Black had his memory erased so that he could go back to his life on the farm. It looks as if the San Saba native has completely forgotten his youth spent working on oil rigs. In 2006, he told People magazine that the rigs were “dirty, noisy, and dangerous.” Now he tells the people of Fort Worth to “Get behind the Barnett Shale,” in those creepy, wannabe folksy commercials.
The Oscar Award-winning actor is the face of the franchise for Chesapeake Energy, a company that has been systematically abusing eminent domain laws to take land all over the Metroplex. If it were up to Chesapeake, there would be no farmland for Jones’ character to return to.
So, would the aliens who turned Jones into a soulless shill please come back and reverse the damage? We want to get back the guy who starred in Lonesome Dove.
Readers’ choice: Trinity River Vision project
Critic’s choice: Chesapeake Energy advertising blitz
Oh, how they court us, let us count the ways. Tommy Lee Jones sternly ordering us to like the gas, a big magazine that says we are thriving on the shale, and a coloring book for kids in which the pooch Chesapeake Charlie tells the young’uns that natural gas is “clean, abundant, affordable, and American.” Then there is the half-hour infomercial that seems to run continuously on our boob-tubes. Soon we’ll have news anchor Tracy Rowlett giving us the gas news on Shale.tv, also paid for by Chesapeake. It must be wonderful if they spend so much time and money telling us so. Right?
Sign of the Apocalypse
Readers’ choice: Chesapeake Energy
Critic’s choice: Gas prices
There was a crowded field for this category. Three hurricanes in what seemed like three days. Any news in the last few weeks containing the words “stock market.” Traffic on I-35. And of course, things like unodorized gas that could kill you, pipelines that could eat your front yard, low-level noise that could make you and your kids sick — that is, the news on the benefits of Barnett Shale. But for sheer week-in, week-out horror, prices at the pump were the consistent winner. At this rate, we’ll all have to tell Saint Peter some day that we hate to make him wait, but we can’t afford the gas to get our carcasses to the Gate.
Barton Scott’s mayoral term
It all started harmlessly enough. Barton Scott, a middle-school science teacher, ran for mayor of Mansfield on a platform of selective growth and protecting children. He beat incumbent mayor Mel Neuman by a landslide and immediately tried to pass a strict ordinance limiting where sex offenders could live. And the good times rolled.
Scott, who cast himself as a political novice fighting an entrenched good-ol’-boy system, tried three times to pass the ordinance and in the process created a lot of bad feelings toward the mayor’s office from the city council and police department. He took matters into his own hands, going around collecting signatures in a crusade to get the initiative put in voters’ hands. Again, his efforts were for naught.
Besides his sex offender drama, Scott also ran afoul of area business types, got into trouble over some questionable campaign financing, and was accused of abusing the state’s open meetings act. The council and scores of concerned citizens — figurative pitchforks and torches in hand — demanded his resignation and threatened to have him recalled. Then things got really bizarre.
During a council meeting at which a few people asked the mayor to resign, his own supporters also turned out: His mother and seething wife spoke on his behalf, encouraging him to “hang in there, honey.”
But he didn’t hang long. Scott resigned his post amid an intense recall effort and pressure from just about the entire city government. He served less than a year. There has never been a sex crime involving a convicted sex-offender in Mansfield.– Eric Griffey
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