Here are notes from Wednesday’s first citywide election forum of the season, sponsored by the Fort Worth/Tarrant County Minority Leaders & Citizens Council, for Fort Worth City Council and school board candidates:
(Here, for your information, is an updated list of upcoming candidate forums for Fort Worth city and school offices.)
A hoarse Jim Lane, running against District 2 incumbent City Councilman Sal Espino: “I lost my voice. That’s terrible for a lawyer, and especially for a politician who’s a lawyer.” Lane noted he and his wife have a six-year-old, Spanish-speaking son in a Fort Worth elementary school. He touted the council’s passage of the minority and women-owned business ordinance several years ago, when Lane was serving on the council. “I’m interested in the neighborhoods – streets, schools, code, police, and fire,” he said.
Sal Espino, who was surprised by the entry of his one-time supporter Lane into the race, used the refrain “let’s keep moving forward” several times in advancing his agenda on streets, public safety, code, parks, and education. “The next two years in our city are going to be critical,” Espino, an attorney, said. Campaign site.
Paul Gardner, a resident of the Heritage Trace neighborhood in far North Fort Worth who’s challenging incumbent District 4 Councilman Danny Scarth, estimated he’s knocked on 1,500 doors so far. “There are a lot of people in this city who are ready to get involved,” said Gardner, a Porsche salesman and co-owner of a remodeling company. “I think the first thing anyone has to acknowledge is that nobody has all the solutions." Scarth did not appear at the forum. Gardner campaign site. Scarth campaign site.
Gyna Bivens, a nonprofit executive and former broadcaster challenging incumbent Frank Moss for the District 5 council seat, drew huzzahs when she said, “I was born, raised and will probably die here. But not until we get some things done.” She said she decided to run after driving by some boarded-up buildings that have stood for years. She touted her proposal for a church-run pilot program that would offer a contact point for seniors who need help, but don’t have relatives living locally. “I’m the only candidate in this race who has a component for seniors.” She said she’ll be “strong neighborhood” on the council. “We just don’t have to keep wandering around like folk in the wilderness,” she said. “You’ve got to have someone who’s not afraid, who’s not shy.” Campaign site.
John Tunmire, a real estate brokerage owner also challenging Moss, advanced economic development as a top priority of his and drew applause when he said, “it just seems like the city has forgotten all about District 5.” The infrastructure is lagging, “street lights come on at 3 in the morning,” and litter is a nuisance, he said. Campaign site.
Frank Moss said his priorities are safe communities, including good police and fire protection and “monitoring closely the racial profiling reports” regarding police; “clean communities,” “active and involved neighborhood associations,” economic development and growth in good housing, and the planned redevelopment of the Cavile Place public housing projects. On Bivens’ remark about an old burned-out Dairy Queen that hasn’t had a rebirth, Moss, a real estate broker, said, “we have businesses that are interested in coming into our area. But we want quality businesses. We’ve turned down some.”
District 8 incumbent Council member Kelly Allen Gray, elected last year to fill the one year remaining on Kathleen Hicks’ term, said, “this is is actually what I’ve always wanted to be.” She touted her creation of a district task force on police, fire, code compliance, parks and community services, and streets and lighting. “Code compliance is an issue not only in District 8, but throughout our entire city.” She wants to move the district more toward home ownership and away from its heavy multifamily rentals. “What I would like is an opportunity to show you what I can do with a longer term.” She added, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m not seeking a higher office. I’m here for you.” Hicks, running against Gray, did not appear at the forum, and said she had to deal with a family emergency.
School board District 1 challenger Jacinto Ramos Jr., a juvenile probation officer running against incumbent Carlos Vazquez, said his son is in his freshman year at North Side High School. Students in extracurricular activities are working with subpar equipment, he said. “It’s not (just) the children in District 1. I’ve come to realize it’s a FWISD” issue. Administrators and teachers are leaving the district, he said. “I’m here to advocate on your behalf.” He also noted he and his wife restarted the PTA at North Side. “When parents get involved, things just get better.” Campaign site.
Carlos Vazquez could not attend due to work, but he sent a representative to speak on his behalf. School trustees should be accountable to parents and students, not to others, said Vazquez’ rep. Vazquez, in a letter to the forum, also touted his support for Superintendent Walter Dansby. Campaign site.
District 9 incumbent Juan Rangel said voters need to retain experience on the school board. “You’ve got to keep experience. You’ve got watch our budget. You’ve got to watch what’s going on in Austin,” he said. Campaign site.
Ashley Paz, a small business owner challenging Rangel, said she has two young daughters, including one entering DeZavala Elementary School in Fairmount this fall. The family originally entered their daughter in the lottery for one of Fort Worth’s schools of choice, but didn’t get in. The family decided to go with their neighborhood school instead, realizing “the answer is not to direct our children into a select number of well-performing schools,” she said. “The answer is to bring our (neighborhood) schools up” to a strong level. Neighborhoods need to get involved in making their schools better, she said. Campaign site.
During a Q&A session, one audience member asked if any of the candidates had views on gun control and allowing school staff to be armed.
Rangel: “I for one do not want guns on school property. The only people who need guns on school campuses are police officers. That is a no-brainer.”
- Scott Nishimura, Star-Telegram Fort Worth City Hall reporter