Two challengers aim to unseat veteran councilman in Fort Worth's District 5

Posted Saturday, Apr. 27, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Early voting starts Monday in city, school, and other races throughout Tarrant County and Texas. There are dozens of early voting locations across the region, including the Tarrant County Elections Center, at 2700 Premier St. downtown. To see full lists of places in Tarrant, Denton, and Parker counties where you can vote early, including addresses and hours, please visit our PoliTex blog at www.star-telegram.com. Early voting closes May 7. Any registered voter is eligible to cast an early ballot in person. Mail-in ballots are also still being accepted through Friday. To receive a ballot application or more information, call Tarrant County Elections Administration at 817-831-8683; the Parker County Elections Administrator at 817-598-6185; or Denton County Elections Administrator at 940-349-3200.

-- Scott Nishimura

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FORT WORTH -- Councilman Frank Moss' two challengers likely spotted him an early lead in his bid for re-election to Fort Worth's District 5 seat, as Moss launched phone banks to encourage the mail-in, early and Election Day vote several weeks ago.

But challenger Gyna Bivens, 58, a nonprofit executive who lives in Ramey Place across from Dunbar High School, is hoping a $20,000 infusion of cash and the Fort Worth Police Officers Association's recent endorsement will help close any gap in the May 11 election in the district that snakes from Stop Six in southeast Fort Worth to CentrePort near Dallas/Fort Worth Airport and includes Handley, Eastchase, Mallard Cove and Trinity Boulevard east of Loop 820.

Mallard Cove and much of the Trinity Boulevard area came into the district in a redraw of council maps last year.

"I knew we would be behind a good 600 votes from Day 1," said Bivens, adding she didn't run phone banks early in her campaign because she didn't have the money. "The Moss machine is very effective in early voting. Always has been."

Moss, 68, who lives in Historic Rosedale Park, most recently won re-election in 2011 with 66.5 percent of the vote, and 1,051 of his 1,646 votes came in early voting. By contrast, of the 14,537 votes cash for Mayor Betsy Price in the general election, 7,725 came in the early vote.

This year, Moss spent $680 in late March to hire four people to run phone banks, according to his first-quarter campaign finance report. Mail-in balloting opened March 12 in local races and ends Friday. Early in-person voting opens Monday.

"All of it works together," Moss, who has served on the council since 2007 in his most recent go-around and also served from 1998 to 2004, said in an interview. "It's a matter of getting the calls out."

The race features a third challenger, Handley real estate broker John Tunmire, 58, who said he's hoping Moss and Bivens fight it out between them in Stop Six. Tunmire said he wasn't expecting Moss, who suffered a heart attack in late 2011, to run again.

"I wouldn't have run against him," said Tunmire, who said he's running because he believes the city has "forgotten about District 5."

Moss' record

Moss touts accomplishments including the city teaming up with the Fort Worth Housing Authority on a $400,000 study to redevelop the aging Cavile Place public housing development in Stop Six; rezoning and completion of a master plan that cleared the way for the Enchanted Bay subdivision and development of acreage around the Fort Worth side of Lake Arlington; creation of a public increment financing district to provide more security around the Sun Valley Industrial Park; and improvements to the Meadowbrook library branch.

Major development is also underway in the area of Trinity Boulevard and Precinct Line Road, which was partially in Moss' district before redistricting put it all in District 5.

Moving ahead, Moss said he wants to promote safe, clean and healthy neighborhoods, more engaged neighborhood associations, and better housing and economic development prospects.

The 2014 bond election has been a topic of discussion in the race. Improvements to Randol Mill Road from Loop 820 east and work on some Eastchase Parkway intersections are competing, Moss said.

He has also been lobbying for money to expand and improve the Eugene McCray Community Center. "The [adult] citizens have to compete with the young people," he said.

Moss says he's fine after recovering from his October 2011 heart attack. "My doctors have cleared me," he said.

Bivens battles blight

Bivens, executive director of North Texas LEAD, a nonprofit organization that connects job seekers to employers that are members, says she's running to "let there be tangible signs of re-invigoration" in the district.

There's too much blight and not enough signs of redevelopment, she said.

"When you look at the blight and the inner city of District 5, to me, that communicates to children this is the way it is," she said. On boarded-up buildings she sees, "if they can be brought up to code, they should be. If they need to be torn down, they should be."

She said there has been no progress on the city's Berry/Stalcup Urban Village, at Berry Street and Stalcup Road near Stop Six.

Blight in areas such as Historic Stop Six: Sunrise is a "real problem," Moss acknowledged. But the neighborhood has a historic overlay, and it's a "slow process" to get clearance to demolish buildings, he said.

Business interest has rebounded in the urban village area since the downturn, with a thrift store interested, Moss said. But "we say we want something better than that," he said.

Residential development on the west side of Lake Arlington got off to fits and starts. The development initially wasn't gated, causing problems, Moss said. A builder went bankrupt after putting up 38 homes. And many buyers put contracts down thinking they were moving into the Arlington school district, and then bolted when they learned they were in Fort Worth, Moss said.

The community is now gated, and the city worked with the Fort Worth schools to let Enchanted Bay children transfer to a better-performing elementary school, Moss said.

Bivens said she wants to encourage all neighborhood associations in the district to develop plans.

Bivens also wants to launch a pilot program with two or three churches that would set themselves up as contact points for the many seniors in the district who don't have any relatives living close by.

Scott Nishimura, 817-390-7808

Twitter: @JScottNishimura

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