Letters: Wednesday, August 06, 2008

To the editor: Betty Brink’s excellent article about the egregious misuse of public funds by de la Garza should be required reading for everyone who pays property taxes in Tarrant County. It’s time for an accountability check. Not only has $580 million already been pumped down this rat hole, he has used threats and intimidation to enforce compliance with this self-aggrandizing project that never would have passed a public bond election. Let’s proceed with criminal prosecution for him and stringent accountability requirements for everyone on the TCC board.
Barbara Thomsen
Fort Worth

To the editor: Just finished reading the TCC article — start to finish — in the parking lot of the convenience store where I picked up the paper. It was riveting. Wow! Please accept my respectful admiration for a well-crafted and compelling example of fine journalism. Award-worthy, in my opinion. The days ahead should be interesting in the TCC world. Thank you for your fine effort.
Robert McKenzie-Smith
Fort Worth

To the editor: Thanks for great reporting on the Tarrant County College fiasco and for educating the taxpayers.
Anne Holland
Fort Worth

To the editor: Great job of reporting this mess. Betty Brink’s work was fair and balanced, even though it appears many of TCC’s leaders were either unwilling or just too embarrassed to provide information. If the board can’t even get its chancellor to provide basic management reports, I’m not sure I blame them for not exposing themselves further. It may be time for some resignations to make room for new governance.
Did anyone explain why TCC leaders are even considering the idea of officing in the $180 million boondoggle riverside structure just blocks away from their recently purchased $265 million campus? Is luxury office space that was good enough for a prominent national retailer not good enough for our county college board members and executive staff?
Fort Worth Weekly should be proud to have provided such in-depth reporting. I hope Fort Worth’s larger newspaper follows suit. Too many positive things are happening in our community for us to allow embarrassments like this to go uncorrected.
Bob Ferguson
Fort Worth

To the editor: Our Tarrant County College Board of Trustees invoked a section of the open government laws allowing for a closed meeting to discuss the RadioShack deal. The question everyone should be asking is, why?
State law provides that option only if deliberation in an open meeting would have a detrimental effect on the position of the governmental body in negotiations. The open meeting handbook expands on that by stating that the provision does not allow a governmental body to “cut a deal in private, devoid of public input or debate.”
The key word in the law is negotiations. All negotiations were done in secret by three and possibly more trustees. I believe they met with the chancellor and other TCC senior staff members on Saturday, June 21, to share what they had done and to get the chancellor on board for the forthcoming meeting.
There were no pending negotiations. This deal was done before the board met in executive session to rubber-stamp the contract and make the announcement.
By announcing a closed meeting, the trustees minimized the possibility of public attendance even though the vote was taken in a public session as required by law. The sole purpose of the closed meeting was to eliminate the possibility of a massive public outcry that might have occurred if the deliberations were made public.
There is no doubt that the infamous board of trustees cut a deal in private, devoid of public input and debate!
Bob Mhoon

To the editor: Great article. Just read it this morning. Amazing what is being done to Tarrant County taxpayers. More disappointing is what is being done to the students and employees of TCC. Students here pay 25 to 30 percent higher tuition rates than Dallas and Collin County already, and taxpayers pay 45 percent more. Now they have facilities going downhill as well. If only 3,500 students ever attend downtown, both students and citizens have paid a price for this. The board should walk into their meetings with stickers on their forehead that say either “stupid,” “rubber-stamper,” or “incompetent.” De la Garza’s nametag can be just “incompetent.”
Gary Trammell
Fort Worth

To the editor: Tell it like it is, Ms. Brink.
I’ve called the TCC board and senior management “gutless wonders,” but that’s a serious error on my part. A more uncomplimentary label is appropriate for those who lie to, rob, and molest county taxpayers.
One hundred million dollars of taxpayer funds have been wasted, misappropriated, and/or abused by these thugs in the name of higher education. With the TCC officials’ elitist demeanor and cavalier attitude, far more money will ultimately go down that path if these people are left to their own resources.
Thanks for a talented piece of journalism. I have to wonder (not really) why the failing Star-Telegram’s good ol’ boys are incapable of reaching a similar plane.
Dennis Killy

To the editor: This article was well written.
According to my analysis, between fiscal 2002 and 2007, the value of Tarrant County College assets increased by $400 million, a net margin of 40 percent, which any business would kill for. Fixed assets increased by $100 million, and cash rose by $300 million. The combined result of increasing the tax rate from 5 cents to 13.9 cents and the large increase in tax appraisals engineered by the Tarrant Appraisal District was a tsunami of cash pouring into the coffers of TCC from taxpayers’ wallets.
There is a huge amount of inefficiency and waste in the operation, not to mention the downtown campus debacle — the result of placing inordinate amounts of money in the hands of those whose only interest is spending it, as well as the abject failure of an incompetent board. TCC was receiving far more money than was necessary for its intended purposes — and yet these purposes are not being met.
Graduation rates are abysmal, there are too many classes and programs that are ill-attended but remain in the curriculum soaking up money, the Learning Opportunities Centers are a joke, the fire training center on the Northwest campus is a $23 million white elephant that local fire departments hardly use. (North Richland Hills is building its own, and Fort Worth is planning to build a joint facility to train both firemen and police.)
In a prior period when there was some question of increasing expenses, TCC saved $450,000 annually by not sending its course catalog to everyone in Tarrant County. They also reduced the long-distance learning budget — very stupid, since this is the most cost-effective method of instruction.
Both the chancellor and Dr. Wells should be terminated. Louise Appleman was behind the illegal contract vote and should retire in disgrace. Hudson, McGee, and Canedy, with one more recruit, can possibly turn things around, but they are not listening to — indeed are prohibited from hearing — the troops in the trenches. A way must be found, perhaps with new legislation, to remove trustees who are brain-dead.
William Wright
Fort Worth

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