Congresswoman Kay Granger (R–TX)’s endorsement of Councilman Brian Byrd for mayor of Fort Worth has placed the taxpayer-funded Panther Island boondoggle at center stage. Because of Granger’s ties to the $1.2 billion taxpayer-funded real estate redevelopment project on the Trinity River, her endorsement raised questions of Byrd’s intentions for the project should he win.

A programmatic review in 2019 found Granger’s Panther Island had cost taxpayers more than $383 million as of 2018—with no aspect of construction completed and still in the design phase.

After Granger’s endorsement, a slew of powerful endorsements came out for Price’s former chief of staff—and former Granger staffer and campaign manager—Mattie Parker.

Last week, Texas Scorecard sent press inquiries to Byrd and Parker about their plan for Panther Island and how they would protect taxpayers from further abuse from the project.

Texas Scorecard sent similar inquiries to the other announced candidates for mayor: Tarrant County Democratic Chair Deborah Peoples, Councilmember Ann Zadeh, Mike Haynes, and Chris Rector.

Only Haynes and Rector replied before publication time.

“My job is to protect taxpayers’ money by turning Panther island into a family-oriented scenery that can be opened by next year so that we can start allowing our residents to not be targeted by unnecessary taxes,” Haynes wrote. “If Congresswoman Kay Granger endorsing Brian Byrd was a good idea, she would’ve ran for mayor herself[.] That situation seems very complex, and I’m here to fix it.”

“President Trump was absolutely correct in stopping government funding for this project,” Rector replied.

Last year, the Trump administration denied more federal taxpayer-funding for Panther Island, providing only $1.5 million for a flood study. As of last September, the board of the Tarrant Regional Water District—the agency that manages Panther Island—refused to do one.

“As mayor, I will follow the lead of what President Trump did and put an immediate stop of any more city tax money [going] into Panther Island,” Rector continued.

He said he’d issue an “executive order” to stop the flow of local taxpayer dollars to Panther Island until there was “a solid plan going forward with absolute full transparency.”

Absolutely no one involved in the previous phase of Panther Island, namely Jim Oliver, J.D. Granger, or any management of TRVA, will be allowed to be involved in any new plan going forward.

J.D. Granger, Congresswoman Granger’s son, and Oliver both have run Panther Island at TRWD.

Rector added businesses seeking city tax breaks or incentives to develop on Panther Island “had better come prepared to offer their employees full-time jobs with benefits.”

During her 2019 run for mayor, Peoples told Texas Scorecard citizens need to know what’s happening, and an audit of Panther Island should have been done.

Citizens curious about what intentions Byrd, Parker, Peoples, and Zadeh have for Panther Island now may contact them through their campaign websites or social media accounts.

Those interested in running for mayor or another city council position in the May 1 election can file between January 13 and February 12. Candidate filings and finance reports may be tracked at the city secretary’s elections website.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.

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