Race in Fort Worth council District 4 pits incumbent against newcomer

Posted Friday, Apr. 26, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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FORT WORTH -- It's a longtime incumbent vs. a political newcomer in the race to represent Fort Worth's sprawling City Council District 4, which goes from the established Woodhaven and White Lake Hills on the south and east all the way up to Golden Triangle Boulevard on the east side of Interstate 35.

Councilman Danny Scarth, who lives in Woodhaven, was first elected in 2006 and is seeking his fifth term in the May 11 election.

Challenger Paul Gardner, a remodeler and Autobahn Porsche salesman who served on the city's Board of Adjustment last year, lives in the Sunset Hills neighborhood north of Heritage Trace Parkway -- an area added to the district this year in the redrawing of council maps.

Scarth, 52, owner of a video services company, touts his relationships and familiarity with the city's workings, including service in the Passenger Rail Working Group and on the boards of three tax increment financing districts.

"I think that extends the reach of representation," he said at a recent voter forum in the Riverside area.

"We're going to have another tough budget year [2013-14] with a shortfall" estimated by the city staff at up to $50 million, Scarth said in an interview. "I've got experience dealing with how to maintain critical city services. ... It takes a lot of work to balance those issues."

Gardner, 32, has made communication a cornerstone of his campaign message, asserting that Scarth doesn't consistently communicate with voters. Disputes between the city and residents can be defused with better communication -- person to person and via social media, he said.

"More than anything else, people want to be responded to," said Gardner, who formerly served on the city's North Tarrant Park tax increment finance district board.

Scarth said his office receives 1,100 messages annually. "Do we lose one or two between the cracks? I'm sure," he said.

The north's needs

Redistricting extended the district from its northernmost boundary at North Tarrant Parkway east of I-35 past Alliance Town Center to Golden Triangle. It includes Summerfields, Fossil Creek, Park Glen and the Heritage area in the north, and part of central Meadowbrook in the south, which includes mature east-side neighborhoods.

The far north continues to lag in roads to serve its fast growth and city facilities such as a municipal complex being considered in the planned May 2014 bond package. The mature east-side neighborhoods want economic redevelopment, Scarth said.

"We need somebody that can shepherd those," he said.

Gardner said the city needs to include money for a far north municipal complex in the 2014 bond package. "To me, that's non-negotiable," he said, highlighting the frustration of many far north residents who feel disconnected from the city.

The far north's lack of facilities has caused spillover into other cities. Keller recently requested that Fort Worth help fund operations at the big Keller Sports Park, where 47 percent of users are Fort Worth residents.

If Fort Worth won't pay, Keller says it will begin charging a nonresident fee to participate in leagues at the park.

"We need to work out something that makes sense for everybody, but you've got to be equitable," Scarth said, adding that he's not sure of the solution.

Gardner said he would not support a subsidy for Keller. "However, I believe it is critical we have an open and responsive dialogue with them on other future matters. It does bring to light the need for complexes such as this in the north."

Wide funding gap

Scarth has a huge advantage in funding, holding the biggest campaign bank balance of any of the four contested council incumbents, at $77,125 on hand through the first quarter.

Gardner reported raising $5,325 through the first quarter, largely a gift from a relative, and had a $3,833 spending deficit.

Gardner said he's trying to make up for the money gap by knocking on doors, estimating that he's nearing 2,000 doors in a district with more than 30 neighborhoods.

Online: www.dannyscarth.org

www.paulgardnertx.com

Scott Nishimura, 817-390-7808

Twitter: @JScottNishimura

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