The Strange Case of the Missing Parks

You’re taxed for parks, but you don’t get parks. Why? You guessed it: the Parks and Wildlife Department. 

As with most bureaucratic fiascoes, the plot begins with good intentions.

Throughout the late Sixties and early Seventies, state Sen­ator Don Kennard of Fort Worth had tried to convince his colleagues in the Capitol that Texas, the land of wide open spaces, was desperately short of parks. As late as 1961, the state was spending less than a nickel a year per Texan on the park system, and a grand total of exactly two parks had been pur­chased. (Several dozen others, mostly unsuitable, had been accepted as donations.) Kennard, an amiable ex-football player and outdoorsman, took as his forum a series of Senate interim study committees that documented the gaps and inadequacies of the existing parks. His committees were celebrated for their good work (one report* won a national prize for excellence), but no one paid much attention to their appeals for generous new parks acquisition funds.

Then, a warm March afternoon in 1971. More than a dozen state senators are gathered in a smoke-filled room to map strategy on the biggest legislative issue of the session: establishing a cor­porate income tax. They hold a signed, blood-oath list of fifteen senators who will support it. The Senate’s presiding officer, Ben Barnes, is flatly against the corporate income tax; but if these in­surgents can pick up just one swing vote they can rewrite his well-greased tax bill and confound the Lobby. One of their leaders is Don Kennard.

Kennard is, astonishingly enough, also the sponsor of Barnes’ detested tax bill which he and his friends are at this very moment pledging to amend be­yond recognition. He is explaining to his fellow senators that he will support the corporate tax amendment to the bitter end, but that if it fails,

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