Possible vote this week on plan to privatize Fair Park

The future of Fair Park in Dallas is up in the air at city hall.

There are plans to turn over management to a non-profit foundation, promising to revitalize the area. That vote is set for Thursday. The mayor is once again publicly urging the board to make a decision.

The agreement has been in the board’s hand.  Mayor Mike Rawlings expected a vote earlier this year, but it didn't happen. He said he expects to see some action on the proposal this time around and wants to see a contract approved and sent to the full council to consider what could be a major change to Fair Park.

Living down the road from Fair Park, Anna Hill has a front-row seat to the action during the State Fair of Texas in the fall and the lack of it most other weeks of the year.

Initially skeptical of the plan to turn over Fair Park operations to a foundation, Hill said she's come around and is now a member of an advisory board representing the neighborhood.

“We can either reinvest or we could let it sit there and rot,” said Hill. “And if we do that, than I'm going to hide my face, and I think a lot of other people will hide their faces too.”

At city hall, Rawlings put pressure on the park and recreation board to vote on a management agreement between the city and a non-profit foundation. The city would still own the land, but the foundation would run it, with the promise of renovating and remaking Fair Park into a year-round attraction.

The plan has its critics, and the mayor said he's trying to get a jump on the message ahead of Thursday's vote.

“There are scheduled events where people are disseminating misinformation. And I was not invited to those, Miss Young was not invited and anyone that wanted to tell the truth was not invited,” Rawlings said. “Being here is an act of civil disobedience. You're engaging in civil disobedience.”

A panel discussion at Fair Park Monday afternoon featured critics of the plan. Some were concerned it would benefit the state fair over taxpayers.

And Hill, once cautious of the plan herself, believes there are few alternatives.

“We let Jerry Jones get away,” Hill said. “Now we have a chance to do something else. But we can't do it on bond money. The city of Dallas needs help. We need private funding.”

Walt Humann, the man volunteering to head the foundation for the first few years, said a non-profit would have more success getting private donors to contribute to renovate Fair Park. The city would have to pay millions in management fees to the foundation as part of the proposed agreement.

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