Is the State Fair of Texas Ripping Off Dallas Taxpayers?

Gosh we love those rides and the corny dogs, but it’s no secret that the State Fair of Texas doesn’t pay for things it is supposed to. It’s just that, as this article points out, no one has really made them. That’s because Dallas has always done business as a “good ole boy, I knew your daddy who knew my daddy” type of network. That was fine when Dallas was a large town with a small town feel. The average home was $80,000 and property taxes were cheap.

But like a child raised to expect a trust fund check in the mailbox every month, it seems that only when we twist its “arm”, does the SFOT pay up. Finally, that is beginning to happen.

Last year, a city audit discovered  that the State Fair has not contributed the excess revenues it was obligated to contribute by its contract, to re-invest in Fair Park. That’s one reason why we are being asked to foot the bill for a $50 million bond.

In other words, the SFOT may be in violation of their lease with the City. The funds it did give to the city were used mostly to — surprise! — repair buildings USED by the Fair. Some City Councilmen (like Mark Clayton, Philip Kingston and Scott Griggs) criticized this loudly.  The State Fair responded this year by giving the city $6 million towards park upkeep.

It’s about time!

But whoops: the State Fair has not been paying enough for the security it receives from off-duty Dallas police officers during the Fair.

Who pays? Why we do, the taxpayers of Dallas.

The estimated cost of extra security is around $1 million. Please note, that’s EXTRA security. Actual security is around $1.8 million, for a grand total of $2.8.

So the city of Dallas is providing a $1.8m subsidy for police and security services for the SFoT. Despite much needed funding for police pensions and a looming $2billion Dallas police lawsuit liability (for overtime pay), our city is willing to give money away to a profitable organization who’ve not been good neighbors. OUR money! Remember, taxes are OUR DOLLARS, not the city’s or state’s. State Fair has been paying the city about a half million for the police detail.

But whoaa!  A Dallas City Council committee has advanced a resolution that will hold the State Fair accountable for the full $1 million extra security bill. The council is expected to approve the resolution Wednesday. Because, otherwise, who pays?

Why we do, the taxpayers of Dallas.

The State Fair is a big, giant behemoth with questionable accounting practices and operational practices that have chased out most of the other organizations that once called Fair Park home. Yes, the State Fair’s operations and calendar all but ensure that, when the fair is not on, Fair Park can only function as a temporary staging ground for large-scale events. Yes, the State Fair of Texas has historically practiced a policy of walling itself off from the surrounding neighborhoods, including seizing properties to create massive parking lot moats and purchasing homes and lots within those neighborhoods and allowing them to contribute to the continued blight of those neighborhoods.

But has anyone at the city ever asked the State Fair to do anything but operate in this manner? Until recently, the answer is no. Until recently, it was accepted Dallas dogma that the establishment that ran City Hall also ran the State Fair, and one existed to serve the other. That’s why these recent efforts to get the State Fair to pay its, er, fair share are much more than mere housekeeping matters. They are fissures created by deeper rumblings of a cultural sea change — in City Hall, and within the city of Dallas at large. New ideas, new priorities. It’s what Dallas needs. And in Dallas, radical change can sometimes look as banal as asking the State Fair to pay its bills.

That’s from Peter Simek over at D Magazine, and he couldn’t be more right on the money. But I want to take this a step further. The SFOT needs to pay up for ALL police protection and likely reimburse the city for past years when we, taxpayers, paid security for them. I don’t know if you have ever had an event where you needed police security or not, but I have, and the going rate is like $30 to $50 per hour per cop. Dallas taxpayers don’t pick up that tab, the person having the event does! And the SFOT is having a big event on city property, so they need to hire their own security, and pay up front for it.

In fact, if I were on City Council, I would wholeheartedly support this resolution and take it a step further: let the SFOT negotiate directly with DPD for all security, regular and OT, and pay them directly. The notion of the City covering this is nothing other than corporate welfare for the SFOT. And we don’t need to give them any of our tax dollars that are sorely needed for public safety, roads and infrastructure repairs, all over this city.

You see, I’m a real fiscal conservative.  I don’t vote to use taxpayer dollars as give-aways for my friends, contributors, or good ole boys I went to kindergarten with because my daddy knows their daddy.

My daddy doesn’t know any of these daddies. And I’d like to keep it that way.


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