Current, former council members wage heated campaign in Fort Worth's District 8

Posted Saturday, Apr. 20, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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FORT WORTH -- City Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray and her challenger in the May 11 election, Kathleen Hicks, are sparring over redistricting and the Fort Worth Police Officers Association's endorsement in the District 8 race.

Gray, who represents the southeast Fort Worth district, made a mistake in letting Spinks Airport and its economic development opportunity go to the adjacent District 6 in the redrawing of City Council maps last year, Hicks told a crowded meeting of the Hallmark/Camelot Neighborhood Association in south Fort Worth on Thursday night.

In a feisty exchange over the police endorsement that went to Hicks, Gray, whose husband is a 21-year Fort Worth officer, said she lost it because she recused herself from votes on major changes to the city's employee pension and new police contract.

"What I won't do is sell my vote," Gray said.

In consulting with the city attorney before the votes on whether she had a conflict of interest, "ultimately, it was my decision" to recuse, said Gray, who has maintained that she doesn't believe that her husband's employment represents a conflict.

"My vote on all of these issues was not as important as representing all of you," Gray said.

Hicks took immediate issue with Gray's remarks, calling them a "low blow."

"I have not sold my vote," she said. "That she would say that is ... really rather sad."

"Ms. Gray cannot vote on any of these issues," said Hicks, who has said Gray's effectiveness on the council is hampered by a conflict of interest.

Sgt. Stevel Hall, president of the Police Officers Association, also took issue with the remarks, saying: "Our support is not for sale. We have a long history of working with Kathleen [Hicks]. Although she is a very independent person, she votes her conscience. Kelly has demonstrated she either can't or refuses to vote on two key issues [pension and police contract]. We're supporting a candidate we know can vote on any issue."

Hicks stepped down from the council last year to run unsuccessfully for Congress and now wants her old seat back. Gray won the remainder of Hicks' unexpired term in a special election and is seeking re-election.

On the Spinks issue, Gray has maintained that the move of the airport was part of an overall effort in redistricting to maintain District 8 as a strong black district and thus help Fort Worth win Justice Department approval of the redrawn maps.

The Justice Department ultimately approved the maps.

Without at least maintaining District 8 as a black opportunity district, "the city is vulnerable to a lawsuit," Gray said.

Because Texas has a history of discrimination, redistricting must be approved by the Justice Department.

Gray said the Spinks discussion had been raised during redistricting talks while Hicks was still on the council.

"That is not true," said Hicks, who questioned Gray's argument that Spinks needed to be moved to maintain compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

The far south portion of District 8, including the Spinks area, went heavily for Gray's challenger, Ramon Romero, in last year's special election.

The move of Spinks into District 6 was a late change in the redistricting plan immediately after Gray took office -- the vote on the maps was one of Gray's first.

Gray and the city staff held a tense meeting with concerned District 8 leaders and residents after the proposed Spinks change surfaced, with some leaders questioning then whether the district was losing too much.

Scott Nishimura,

817-390-7808

Twitter: @JScottNishimura

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