Runoff campaigns for Fort Worth District 5 council seat heat up again

Posted Thursday, May. 30, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Incumbent Frank Moss and challenger Gyna Bivens have cranked their campaigns for Fort Worth’s District 5 City Council runoff election up, trying to get out the vacation vote for a farflung district that stretches from Stop Six to CentrePort near D/FW Airport.

The election is June 15. But mail-in balloting is underway, and early in-person voting is June 3-11, and both campaigns are trying to get that vote, running phone banks and sending people into neighborhoods. Moss has typically won his elections in the early vote, but wound up with only a narrow early advantage in the May election.

Thursday, Moss flexed his fundraising edge, running a fullpage ad in the Greater Meadowbrook News, touting his support from Mayor Betsy Price, who backed all incumbents in their races, and the Fort Worth Professional Firefighters Association endorsement. Bivens, who raised almost as much through April as Moss, but reported no cash on hand at month’s end compared to Moss’ $11,313, ran a quarter-page ad touting her 47-44 percent advantage in the May election and the Fort Worth Police Officers Association endorsement.

“I’m just trying to get the message out, because a lot of people take it for granted,” said Moss, who was 85 votes short of Bivens in the May election. Third-place challenger John Tunmire forced the two into a runoff.

“I was very pleased to see where we came in and how strong we were in some areas,” said Bivens, a nonprofit executive. “The fight to finish this runoff is going to be quite intense. We all know it’s going to quite difficult to get people to come back to the polls.”

Bivens won 1,192 votes in the May election to Moss’ 1,107. Tunmire, who had 219 votes, confirmed in an interview Thursday that he’s endorsed Bivens.

The turnout was a fraction of the 44,276 registered voters in the district, which includes Handley, and parts of Central Meadowbrook, runs north through Mallard Cove and the Lakes of River Trails off of Loop 820 and Precinct Line Road, and southeast to Enchanted Bay west of Lake Arlington.

“A call for change”

Moss, 68, who has represented the district twice, most recently since 2007, won eight precincts to Bivens’ nine in the May election and narrowly lost his home precinct in Stop Six’s Historic Rosedale Park to Bivens. Tunmire, a real estate broker, ran strongest in his home base of Handley.

Moss attributed his home loss to fights he’s had with some neighborhood leaders over inclusiveness.

“There’s a large group of people in that neighborhood association just actively working to get me out, because I don’t go along with them...excluding people,” he said.

Bivens, 58, views the results as “a signal, a call for change in District 5.”

“I have respect for Frank, but I do not think the desires of an individual should take first place over the needs of a community,” said Bivens, who has argued the district lags in redevelopment and code compliance.

Adrienne Johnson, president of the Historic Stop Six Neighborhood Association, is in Moss’ camp, saying he should get a chance to help direct the massive, proposed redevelopment of Stop Six’s Cavile Place public housing project.

“He’s been here for so long, and people are just waiting for some kind of change,” Johnson said, explaining the close May vote. “I would like to see (Moss) win, so he can spearhead what’s going to come into the community.”

Judy Taylor, president of the Handley Neighborhood Association, first backed Tunmire then switched to Bivens in the May election. Like Tunmire, Taylor says she thinks Moss pays too much attention to Stop Six and has overlooked the rest of the district.

Moss is “a nice man and he’s done a lot of good things, but he has not done anything for the things I need something done about,” she said, citing streets long in disrepair in Handley.

Bivens, who lives in Ramey Place near Dunbar High School and won her precinct by a wide margin, put up her strongest results in neighborhoods north of Interstate 30 and east of Loop 820. Those neighborhoods - new to the district in a redraw of council maps - are seeing new development and fighting attempts by the natural gas industry to place gas compressors on agriculturally zoned land in the bucolic area.

Leaders in that part of the district weren’t happy with their former councilman, Danny Scarth, over the gas issue and were “very determined to get some new blood,” said Mary Kelleher, a resident who won a seat on the Tarrant Regional Water District board May 11 and has led the campaign against gas compressors in agricultural zoning.

Bivens has expressed sympathy for the neighborhoods’ position, but not committed to side with them in the negotiation, which Kelleher said is moving into three June meetings with the neighborhoods, industry, and city. Moss has said he needs time to study the issue.

“I think it’s very important to (Bivens) that the neighborhoods’ opinions are very well expressed,” Kelleher said.

Bivens has also campaigned on launching a pilot program among churches that would create a resource for seniors who don’t have family nearby.

Jousting over issues

Moss has campaigned on accomplishments including the city teaming with the Fort Worth Housing Authority on a $400,000 study to redevelop the aging Cavile Place; and rezoning and completion of a master plan that cleared the way for the Enchanted Bay subdivision and development around the Fort Worth side of Lake Arlington. Moss has also said he wants to move the district ahead in redevelopment, public safety, and stronger neighborhoods.

Jonathan Morrison, vice president of the Historic Rosedale Park Neighborhood Association, said he’s not supporting either candidate, but doesn’t think Moss’ accomplishments have been fairly portrayed.

“I think Mr. Moss has done as good of a job as any other council member in the history of single-member districts in the city,” he said. “I am not sure that his most recent accomplishments are being recognized.”

Bivens and Moss have jousted over code issues, with Bivens taking issue with boarded-up buildings, including one that Moss’ late parents owned in Stop Six and that his family now owns. The city’s Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission denied Moss’ petition in July last year to demolish the building, citing a historic overlay.

Moss said the obstacles raised by the overlay in demolishing the house have slowed redevelopment in the district. “We’ve got the same problem with trying to build new houses in tha area,” he said.

Bivens suggests Moss hasn’t been active enough in bringing new business to the starved district. Moss said the district has seen increasing business interest, but not from the right kinds of establishments.

Scott Nishimura, 817-390-7808 Twitter:@jscottnishimura

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