I hope I’m wrong. I don’t think so, but when I see how Beaumont city officials are going ga-ga over the renovation of downtown Beaumont, I get the uneasy feeling that it’s time for citizens to circle the wagons.

Decorated in war paint, Ford Park is just over the hill readying itself for a surprise attack on the unsuspecting citizens of Beaumont.

“Déjà vu all over again,” said Yogi Berra.

While I think the spectacular plans for the downtown area are exciting, I don’t care for the way city officials are jamming it down taxpayers’ throats (think Ford Park).

Port Neches came up with some waterfront plans a few years ago, but even a dummy like me can see the difference in the way the plans were administered. That’s the drawback.

I have a feeling from what I’ve read and heard that perhaps the city officials have taken a couple pages from the County Commissioners’ playbook, i.e. ‘citizens are just ignorant taxpayers. Ignore them’.

First, the costs are up for grabs. With a disdainful nonchalance bordering on the cavalier, the city officials announced that from MLK to Pearl Street, the cost would be somewhere around fifteen or twenty million.

Now, I don’t know about you, but such ambiguous estimates certainly don’t lend themselves to a long night of reassuring slumber. Every responsible citizen knows that cities never, never complete any project at the initial cost. And given the especially volatile economics we all face today, it’s virtually impossible.

Only around fifteen to twenty million, they say. And that is just for starters.

You ever wonder just why the city officials have not sought public input, nor allowed voters to approve or reject the project? The reason is obvious.

The voters will not approve it, and if they don’t then the city council won’t have their little play toy to tinker with.

While we’re talking about cost, someone might explain a curious fact to me. Now, we know the cost for the first part of the project is somewhere around fifteen or twenty million. The taxpayers are told that such a project will not raise taxes.

Here’s what puzzles me. If there is that much extra money in the city coffers, then where did it come from? An anonymous gift? You bet!

All I read and hear is how Beaumont’s budget is ‘lean and mean’. An extra twenty million lying around isn’t exactly my definition of ‘lean.’ If they have that much surplus, hey, lower taxes.

At least the city officials are perceptive enough to consider the overall project in various sections. That’s good. If they’re smart, they’ll come up with fairly close figures of what each of the other sections will cost.

They can do that. Get some bids, add a few years’ inflation to it, and at least, taxpayers could see for themselves. They can do it if they want, unless they don’t want taxpayers aware of the total costs!
Personally, I like the ideas they have, but not the way they’re handling it.

I know officials get tired of hearing the words, Ford Park, but that is one albatross that ain’t going away, partner. I wouldn’t be surprised if that for the next fifty years, folks will call Ford Park to mind. When Port Neches started with the riverfront idea, Ford Park was mentioned more than once.

In Port Neches, developer’s plans utilized the existing topography. Same way with San Antonio’s Riverwalk. The old river was utilized. In Beaumont, They’ll create their own topography by digging up half of Southeast Texas. That just seems too drastic.

What happens when they do all that, and the facilities enjoy the same lack of use as Ford Park?

In Port Neches, a swimming pool was removed, and a splash park put in. If that’s as far as it goes, and if the city’s Kemah-like dreams don’t come to fruition, Port Neches will still have the river frontage, cleaned of industrial waste. If nothing else, in ten years, they might dump sand along the shore, but one thing is certain, they won’t have the expense maintaining canals and lakes and lawns.

Now, if all of this is too harsh, I apologize, but fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.