The City Council on Tuesday called an election in May to let voters decide if the council should increase in size, if council members get a pay raise and whether they’ll serve longer terms, among other things.
The council voted 8-1, with District 4 Councilman Cary Moon voting no.
The council took one vote to approve putting 11 propositions on a May 7 ballot to amend the city charter. Moon wanted the council to vote on each proposition separately, but even with the support of District 6 Councilman Jungus Jordan, his motion failed.
This package includes more government, more money, more pay for the mayor and council and longer terms. My fear is the rubber stamp perception of the 11 propositions that we put on the ballot.
Fort Worth Councilman Cary Moon
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“We are about to fumble that ball at the goal line by not allowing council members to vote on the individual propositions,” Moon said. “This package includes more government, more money, more pay for the mayor and council, and longer terms. My fear is the rubber-stamp perception of the 11 propositions that we put on the ballot.”
Before the vote was taken, though, several council members voiced concern about some of the propositions, but agreed it was time to take the issues to the voters.
Most spoke against increasing the size of the council from eight members and a mayor elected at large, to 10 members and a mayor elected at large.
During previous public hearings, several Hispanic leaders said they favored increasing the council size, contending it would provide better representation of their community.
District 7 Councilman Dennis Shingleton said increasing the size of the council doesn’t guarantee more Hispanics would be elected to the council and that the city is best served with a smaller number of elected officials.
There are no guarantees in the election process. Other than each and every citizen regardless of race, color, creed, political persuasion, gender, etc., will be given the opportunity to file for election, not because of some prearranged seat based on population.
Fort Worth Councilman Dennis Shingleton
“There are no guarantees in the election process,” Shingleton said. “Other than each and every citizen regardless of race, color, creed, political persuasion, gender, etc., will be given the opportunity to file for election, not because of some pre-arranged seat based on population.”
Jordan said it was “faulty logic” to think a larger council meant better representation. In fact, it’s harder to come to a consensus with a larger group, he said.
“If it isn’t broken, why fix it?” Jordan said. “We ran because we’re public servants, we ran because we have a passion for our city. We always do what is best for the city.”
District 3 Councilman W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman agreed that the city has been served well by eight districts and that each council member works in the best interest of the city.
This council is color blind. We always respond to the issues that are brought to us by our constituents and other council members’ constituents. If you look at what Fort Worth has done in the past, if you look where it is headed in the future, I don’t see anything that justifies saying that 10-1 is going to make us a better city.
Fort Worth Councilman Zim Zimmerman
“This council is color blind,” Zimmerman said. “We always respond to the issues that are brought to us by our constituents and other council members’ constituents. If you look at what Fort Worth has done in the past, if you look where it is headed in the future, I don’t see anything that justifies saying that 10-1 is going to make us a better city.”
But District 5 Councilwoman Gyna Bivens said she supports going to a larger council, as did District 2 Councilman Sal Espino.
What is at stake is the principle that everyone in this city matters, that everyone in this city has an opportunity … to select the candidate of their choice.
Fort Worth Councilman Sal Espino
“Fort Worth’s population has grown,” Espino said. “What is at stake is the principle that everyone in this city matters, that everyone in this city has an opportunity … to select the candidate of their choice.”
The council did not vote to change when the council size will increase if the proposition is approved. The ballot will state that the expansion will come in the first election following the 2020 Census and after the adoption of a new redistricting map, possibly by 2023. Proponents of the larger council asked that it be done in time for a May 2017 election.
Mayor Betsy Price told the council they will have the opportunity to talk for or against the propositions with their constituents in the coming months.
“It’s voter turnout, voter education and public engagement that guarantees people will get a seat on the council,” Price said.
The ballot will also ask voters to raise council member pay from $25,000 annually to $45,000, and the mayor’s pay from $29,000 annually to $60,000; increase terms from two years to three years; address time limits for filling vacancies on the City Council if they occur; change when council members are sworn into office; restate the residence requirement for persons seeking election to the council to 180 days from six months; set procedures for the appointment and removal of municipal judges; require adoption of the city’s budget in accordance with state law; and seek alternative means to publication requirements.
Stockyards design district OK’d
The Fort Worth City Council voted 9-0 Tuesday night to create a Stockyards Design Overlay District that sets standards and guidelines for new development and renovations in the Historic Stockyards. The council approved recommendations made by a task force that spent nearly a year working with a consultant to establish the design overlay district. The vote puts in place some interim controls until a more formal form-based code and a historic district are approved. A $175 million redevelopment of some Stockyards property prompted the measures. Boundaries for a historic district are currently being considered and will go before the council in April. The council Tuesday also approved a resolution that provides that appeals of Urban Design and Zoning Commission decisions regarding Stockyards property be heard by the council rather than an appeals board.