Tarrant County voting from the 'fresh start' point of view

Posted Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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norman Back in early February, the Fort Worth City Council unanimously decided to replace all nine board members at the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, the T.

Nothing against the people who had been serving on the board, the council members said. They just thought it would be a good idea to bring in some new blood and make a fresh start.

With council elections set for May 11 and the early voting scheduled to begin in just 10 days, I'm wondering whether they really thought that through.

Even if a public servant has been doing a good job, the reasoning seems to go, it's sometimes a good idea for the people responsible for putting them in office to replace them in hopes of putting a little zip back into things.

Does that hold for members of the City Council? The Arlington City Council or others? The Fort Worth school board or others?

Some voters might be tempted.

The Star-Telegram Editorial Board, of which I am a member (and as editorial director I run the meetings, which is probably an exaggeration given that this is a bunch of independent thinkers, but I maintain order most of the time), has started publishing its recommendations for candidates in the May 11 elections.

It's a long process we go through for every election, interviewing candidates and studying the issues they bring to the table. We also look at the experience level of the people seeking office and their knowledge of the problems and tasks they would face if elected.

As we try to point out every time we do this, we don't consider our recommendations to be instructions to readers on how to vote. They're our group opinion about how, given the circumstances cited, we would vote if we, as a group, had a vote.

I will tell you for certain that not every individual Editorial Board member votes according to these recommendations in the privacy of their own voting booth. I don't always vote that way myself. That's because we are all independent thinkers, as are our readers.

Some readers get mad at us when we do this. How could we possibly recommend Candidate X when Candidate Y is clearly smarter and better in every way?

That's the beauty of the American voting booth. It's a tool that custom-shapes itself from one voter to the next, to be used however that voter chooses.

In recommendation editorials, we try to give readers something to think about, a focus on what we see as the things about the race that could drive voter decisions one way or another.

So, let's go back to that Fort Worth council decision to clean the T board slate. Is that a legitimate way to decide a vote in the council election? Of course it is.

Incumbents Sal Espino (District 2), Danny Scarth (District 4), Frank Moss (District 5) and Kelly Allen Gray (District 8) might disagree when it comes to their race. But I'll tell you from the viewpoint of someone who has been through the Editorial Board election recommendation process many times, a fresh start is worth thinking about.

Anyone who has watched our recommendations for a while probably knows that, all other things being equal, we tend to favor incumbents who are able to use the knowledge and experience they've gained in office for the benefit of their constituents.

But when there is a particularly qualified challenger who could bring new energy and a fresh dedication to serve those constituents in new ways, we'll keep the Fort Worth council's T board sweeping example in mind.

Mike Norman is editorial director of the Star-Telegram.


Twitter: @mnorman9

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