Time running out for public input on Fort Worth bond projects

Posted Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Upcoming public input meetings • 9 a.m. - noon on Oct. 26 at the Botanic Garden Lecture Hall, 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd. • 9 a.m. - noon on Nov. 2 at the Unity Church Sanctuary, 5051 Trail Lake Drive

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Only a couple of weeks are remaining in the public input sessions for the proposed 2014 bond program, and the Fort Worth City Council is shaking up the proposed list with additional ideas.

With funding for public art taking heat in the community and on the council — and opinions ranging from eliminating the funding to leaving it alone — Councilman Danny Scarth is proposing a compromise.

Scarth, who represents parts of east and north Fort Worth, is suggesting that public art funding be reduced from 2 percent to 1 percent of the capital projects, taking the funding from about $5.4 million to about $2.9 million in the 2014 bond program.

In addition, he wants to take about half of the proposed funds for urban villages, transit-oriented development and enhanced community facility agreements to create a pool of about $18 million to be split evenly for projects among the council districts and the mayor, leaving $2 million for each.

“That allows us to be able to give real tangible feedback to the people we have heard from,” Scarth said.

Council members W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman, Dennis Shingleton, Gyna Bivens and Jungus Jordan said they would be in favor of reducing the amount of money dedicated to public art for this bond election and may be in favor of Scarth’s other proposal.

Shingleton said he is “lukewarm” to Scarth’s idea, saying it is a “a new twist and not a bad idea.”

However, council members Sal Espino, Joel Burns and Kelly Allen Gray and Mayor Betsy Price are opposed to reducing public art, and some had some concerns with Scarth’s other proposal.

Burns questioned the equity of the $18 million plan.

“When we start getting into these discretionary fund-type situations, there is going to be a problem in determining that equity going forward,” Burns said in a pre-council meeting.

Price also has concerns about determining equity for the districts.

Though she does not want to reduce funding for public art, Price does want to scrutinize the process. She said, for example, that the public art piece away from public view at the city’s secure Westside Water Treatment Plant was ill-planned.

“That burns me. I hate that. It is great public art, it is a beautiful project. But the fact it is behind locked gates — wherever that came from, that is not a good decision,” Price said.

Gray said she might be in favor of divvying up a fund among the districts, but would be willing to split a smaller pot, about $15 million, in order to keep public art funding intact.

A 2001 ordinance requires that 2 percent of capital improvement programs go to public art projects. Shingleton said in Tuesday’s meeting that he would favor amending the ordinance just for the fiscal 2014 bond election, so that in future elections the discussion can be raised again.

“I don’t want public art to suffer long term, based upon an M&C we can’t get overturned at some other time,” Shingleton said.

Jordan recommended that the city staff add Scarth’s proposal to the remaining public input sessions, and Gray also wants to discuss it at the remaining meetings. But Joe Komisarz, assistant budget and management director, said it is important to keep the sessions consistent, so that people are getting the same information.

The staff will take the proposal into account when they adjust the list to recommend to the council, Komisarz said.

The public’s view

About 28 percent of people have expressed unfavorable views of public art in data compiled by the city from public input sessions, emails and the Your Fort Worth input website as of Oct. 4, according to Komisarz, compared to 72 percent favorable. The data is not complete, with the city continuing to take public input until Nov. 5.

The data also still has to be analyzed by the staff to remove potential duplicate opinions from individuals on the website.

A suggestion from citizens on public art is to make it a separate proposition in the election.

The other major categories, such as transportation and park improvements, received mostly favorable comments from on the website and at public meetings, with both the comments on park improvements and transportation projects at 95 percent favorable.

Some additional recommendations from citizens were to increase funding for pedestrian and bike trails, add citywide Wi-Fi and some additional transportation, parks and library projects.

There are two citywide public input sessions remaining. The first of 20 scheduled public meetings was in July.

The website YourFortWorth.org is open for public input until Nov. 5.

The staff will then review the public input data and present an amended list to the council. The council will have a planning workshop on Dec. 11 to finalize the project list. It will vote on the ordinance calling for a May bond election on Feb. 11.

Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984 Twitter, @CatyHirst

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