The Texas Tribune’s interview with Texas Supreme Court justice Harriet O’Neill

The Texas Tribune has a good interview with former Texas Supreme Court justice Harriet O’Neill. It’s always interesting to hear a former justice talk about the faults and strengths of the court system. She talks about some of the problems with taking campaign funds from the lawyers who practice before the Court and how Texas courts have changed over her years as a judge in the system.

It seems that every justice I hear from comments about the problems of campaign finance in Texas judicial elections. I wonder when Texans are going to figure out that they should share that concern.

Back to Six Flags Over Texas

My daughter and I just finished another edition of the annual Arlington adventure. As usual, it made me start thinking about Six Flags Over Texas and the decline of its historical themes.

Six Flags Over Texas as seen from the Ballpark

Six Flags Over Texas will celebrate it 50th anniversary next year. Ironically, the park will celebrate its history as it continues to remove the last bit of its historically themed elements.

The Crazy Horse Saloon today

The Crazy Horse Saloon, 2010

The old Crazy Horse Saloon

The old Crazy Horse Saloon

A few bits of the old park remain. They’re still putting on shows at the Crazy Horse Saloon. However, the show seems to be largely forgotten and may be as popular for it air conditioning as it traditional song and dance.

The Panda Express doesn't feel that authentic in the Texas section of Six FlagsSigns marking the old entry into Spain, Mexico, and France still remain, but the areas don’t have much of their original historical flavor. The Panda Cafe doesn’t do much to make you feel like you’re in old Texas. On other dining fronts, Papa John’s, Ben & Jerry’s, Cold Stone, and Johnny’s Rockets have moved in. This may have actually improved the quality of the food available in the park (although the best food and service is at JB’s Smokehouse Barbeque) but Papa John’s didn’t come to Texas until well after the cattle drives ended.

SmokehouseOne example of the transformation is that the Texas Wildcat  a ride designed to look like a Texas oil derrick, gave way to Tony Hawk, a ride based on skateboarding. The oldest surviving ride may be the “El Sombrero” ride that let riders spin around on a giant sombrero. Today’s Sombrero is in a different location and (I believe) about a size smaller than the original edition.

The park has grown beyond its original boundaries. Today, the Judge Roy Scream actually sits on the other side of the small lake you can barely see in the old postcard below.

Six Flags from the Air in the 1960s

Another view Six Flags from the Air in the 1960s

Also, Six Flags didn’t always stretch all the way out to I-30. Today the two loops of the Shock Wave are a few feet from the access road.

The Shockwave ride just feet away from the access road for interstate 30

The view from the “oil derrick” keeps on changing every year. However, Six Flags officials haven’t removed the sign highlighting the view of the old Cowboys stadium to the north in Irving even though the stadium was imploded earlier in the year.

The sign says the stadium is still there...While you can’t see the Cowboys old stadium to the north, it’s not hard to see the new stadium and the Rangers stadium to the West (as well as the Titan and the rebuilding of the Texas Giant in the foreground).
You can see the new Cowboys stadium from the tower
I’m not a purist. I don’t believe that Six Flags could make much money by sticking to its historical roots. I don’t think that visitors want to look at a map of the state on buffalo hide or wait in line to ride a stagecoach. It is odd to me that so many people are going over the Cowboys new stadium and paying $17.50  to walk about (“self-guided” tours) or 27.50 to be shown (“VIP guided tours”). However, if you want to see Tony Romo’s locker that much…
Texas Map on Buffalo Hide

"Frontier Map -- Confederate Section. A historic map of texas, drawn on the hid of a buffalo, stands just in back of the Butterfield Overland Stagecoach depot."

Also, I don’t know how tourist in the 21st century feel about playing in the Confederacy section in an amusement park. As I noted in a previous post, executing a Yankee spy may not appeal to visitors from northern states. Texas’ history may be rich, but not everyone will feel amused reliving all of it.

"Los Conquistadores-Spanish Section. Visitor will relive the danger-filed expedition down the Palo Duro Canyon as they join Spanish explorer Francisco Coronado on a mule pack train searching for the fabled riches of the Seven Cities of Cibola."

Even the most avid history buffs aren’t going to enjoy riding a donkey around in the Texas heat and it’s hard to say that the “Six Flags” themes of the original park were ever very accurate or educational.

The Tony Hawk and SupermanridesPeople originally  flocked to Six Flags over Texas because theme parks were new and it was a great place to have fun with your family. The themes of our amusement parks are only part of the fun and those themes are certain to change over time. Thrill rides have taken over most parks and the theme is less important than the speed of ride.

Just as Bugs Bunny and Superman have muscled out of the speelunkers and history of the state, someone or something else will probably come along and take the place of the inhabitants of my daughter’s memories of Six Flags. I guess I could sit around and pout over the changes Six Flags has gone though. However, I’m looking forward to the 50th anniversary next year and taking stock of the changes the last half century brought.

*****

As usual, Six Flags was the centerpiece of our visit to Arlington. We stayed just across the street at the LaQuinta (unpaid endorsement) so we could slip back to the hotel for a break when it got too hot (which it did–the high every day was around 100). They also have a free shuttle to Rangers games and the Grand Prairie Air Hogs are just a few minutes away. The Forth Worth Zoo and Fort Worth Science Museum (both great) are about 30 minutes away. Fuzzy’s Tacos in Arlington is worth a visit.

LaQuinta at Six Flags

Or, you can also drive around Arlington and see the millions of dollars the state has pumped into infrastructure to prepare for the Super Bowl. That’s just another reminder that politics is always with us.

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About those property rights…

After last year’s revision to the Texas Constitution, most Texans probably assumed that their property was safe from private firms looking to make money. Unfortunately, many Texans are learning the hard way that utility companies still don’t need their consent to put utility easements across their property.

A story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (“New lines for wind energy spark anger in North Texas“) tells the story of Chan Horne’s discovery that Oncor Electric Delivery wants to erect a 125 tower on Horne’s property as part of a system of 40 miles of power lines that will bring electricity to Fort Worth. Horne wants to keep looking out at deer grazing rather than a massive steel tower.

In east Texas, Michael Bishop is challenging (unsuccessfully) TransCanada’s request to survey his land to find a route for their Keystone Pipeline Project (“Resident takes issue with pipeline“). The last thing that Bishop wants is someone digging up  his carefully grown fruit trees.

Of course, the problem is that it would be impossible to send the gas and electricity we need across the state without crossing someone’s property. And, no one thinks a gas pipeline or electrical transmission lines add to the value of their home.

Many Texans thought that the protection of their property from private development was absolute after they voted to amend the Texas Constitution in 2009. However, Proposition 11 made a specific exemption that permitted taking property for “entities granted the power of eminent domain under law.” So, the Constitution only protects you as much as the Legislature will.

The poses an interesting question: What kinds of business are so essential to the economy that they should be allowed to compromise private property. Clearly, energy is a fundamental need. Roads and railways are also essential However, will we see other kinds of economic development granted this power when the Legislature sees no other way to let large projects move ahead? Someday, a city will want to attract another giant football stadium, factory, or shopping center. Will they let the property rights of a few people stand in the way of the community’s growth?