Letters: Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Downfall But No Shortfall

To the editor: Betty Brink’s latest Tarrant County College exposé (“Outfall/Downfall,” Oct. 8, 2008) was fascinating. I’m wondering how long Tarrant County taxpayers will tolerate such an absurd level of incompetence and gross mismanagement. This mess is getting worse, not better.
Let’s skip the depressing details of what went wrong. There’s something insidious about the RadioShack purchase that everyone should be concerned about. If you are a Tarrant County resident, whether an apartment dweller or home owner, you are funding this calamity via the property tax.
Perhaps you’ve heard TCC’s siren song about its innovative “pay as you go” financial strategy. In simple terms, TCC funnels tax money into its Operations & Maintenance fund to pay off old bond debt, fund maintenance and operations costs for the district, and serve as a savings account to pay for new buildings and land purchases. Supposedly this method saves taxpayers millions of dollars in interest because there is no need to borrow money via the sale of bonds. State law also allows institutions like TCC to set aside money in a reserve fund for emergencies. What’s missing? You don’t get to vote, and no state agency has any say. Normally, a state-funded university can’t build a tool shed without state approval and oversight.
Principles of good fiscal management, imposed by state law, are meant to ensure TCC is on a solid financial footing. If a taxpayer-funded organization deliberately maintains an excessive surplus, it is fiscally irresponsible. Remember that TCC’s money came directly from your pocketbook.
Here’s what else should trouble you: Well before the downtown campus plans officially cratered, TCCD was secretly in the process of acquiring the RadioShack facility. Knowing they were in trouble, they kept building while also initiating the purchase without public knowledge. TCC closed the RadioShack deal with cash payments of $241 million. Of course there’s another $80 million to be spent on converting RadioShack offices to classrooms and labs. At $321 million, that’s well above the original projected price of $297.5 million for the downtown campus. We have paid and will continue to pay for that mess.
How did TCC manage to accumulate the gargantuan checkbook balance? Simple: through diligent planning employing secrecy, subterfuge, and deceit. As of the end of August, TCCD had $202 million in cash and will soon begin receiving truckloads of property tax payments.
In the meantime, TCC had 120 open positions on its job site at this writing, down from the 162 advertised a week earlier. Those jobs are not for the new campus, which opens in September 2009. Do you get the picture?
The chancellor and trustees made the decision to ignore public input and spend unwisely when they had an opportunity to act frugally and cut taxes. Why don’t you call the chancellor, your trustee, and your state representative? Complain loudly.
Bob Mhoon
Honesty Before Money
To the editor: I’d like to thank Jeff Prince for his article about Dr. Littlejohn (“His Last War,” Oct. 1, 2008). He was my doctor for 30 years, and I was devastated when he was suspended.
I wasn’t one of his pain management patients; he was my GP and always took good care of me. The only pain medication I ever sought or received from him was a Darvon preDELETEion about 20 years ago. The last time I spoke with him I had called because I’d injured my foot. Putting honesty before money, he got on the phone himself and told me not to waste my money coming to see him because it would heal itself. He was right, as always.
I wish I had known about the letter-writing campaign and town hall meeting. I would gladly have taken part and screamed louder than anyone else.
Let’s hope your article will have some effect on those incompetents in Austin.
Kay Fulgham
Fort Worth

To the editor: My niece suffers from a degenerative disc disorder, and she has been through the hell described in Jeff Prince’s article. I found myself crying as I read this moving, poignant, provocative story. While I understand the dilemma of drug enforcement agencies and the pressure they feel to protect the public, I am painfully aware of the distress of folks who must survive each day with debilitating pain that threatens the quality of life that each of us should be able to enjoy. Without you, Noblett, and Dr. Littlejohn, they have no one to represent them against the power of governmental agencies.
You should collect your articles and publish them under the title: “Profiles of Courage: Ordinary Heroes.”
Karen Earnest, Ph.D.
In the Oct. 15 Kultur column, Ruth Carter Stevenson was erroneously credited with commissioning a portrait of her father, Amon G. Carter. The commission came from the Amon G. Carter Foundation, of which Stevenson is president.

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