The Fort Worth City Council said "difficult conversations" about inequality in access to public services are necessary and needed after the Race and Culture Task Force presented its interim report during its work session.
"I think that these disparities are based on a long history of not providing those services in that data-driven approach," District 9 Councilwoman Ann Zadeh said.
"The neighborhoods that haven’t had that access and haven’t had that ability to communicate and advocate for themselves have been left unheard and under-served. I think that it is a truth we all need to face and going forward we need to do these things in a data-driven way and a prioritization way that it more equitable."
The task force's four co-chairs, Rosa Navejar, Lillie Biggins, Rabbi Andrew Bloom and Bob Ray Sanders, reported that one of the most frequently expressed comments from community members is that "city leaders have failed to acknowledge this problem [of institutional racism], causing victims of racism to feel unheard and causing perpetrators of racism to feel empowered."
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This was determined from the 44 community meetings that were held between October 2017 and February 2018.
"When we were asked to take on this task, we all said we’re willing to do that but we don’t want to have a show-and-tell and have something put on the shelf," Navejar said. "We want to make sure there’s implementation afterward. As we go forward, our recommendations will have a process for those implementations.”
Navejar also requested that the task force be extended until the end of the year instead of being dissolved in August so that the group has time to process the information it has collected and get community feedback on its draft recommendations before ultimately presenting them to the City Council.
United Fort Worth, a grassroots cross-cultural coalition, said it supports the extension of the task force and should use that time to "help uncover the truth about the impact 287(g) is having on local communities of color."
In a statement, the group said "the Task Force report validates that inequity exists in Fort Worth. We knew that already. We saw it when Fort Worth was the only major city in Texas not to join a lawsuit against SB4. And at the same time last year when City Council was creating a Race Task Force, they stayed silent while Tarrant County adopted a 287(g) agreement with ICE. The City didn't raise an alarm."
The task force was originally appointed following the arrest of Jacqueline Craig in December 2016. Craig’s case resulted in public outcry and brought to the surface racial and cultural inequalities in the city.
Task Force findings
The co-chairs presented the disparities attributable to race in six areas: criminal justice, economic development, education, health, housing and transportation. The findings show that:
- In criminal justice, while African-Americans account for 19 percent of the city's population, they account for 41 percent of all arrests in 2016.
- In economic development, only 14 out of the top 100 privately-owned firms in Tarrant County are owned by minorities. Of those 14, 10 of them are in Fort Worth.
- In education, Fort Worth ISD has 14 under-performing schools that are classified as "improvement required" and all of them are in minority neighborhoods.
- In health, 9.6 African-American infant deaths per 1,000 live births were recorded in Tarrant County during 2015, versus 6.2 infant deaths per 1,000 overall.
- In housing, 59 percent of households living in substandard or overcrowded housing are Hispanic.
- In transportation, non-Anglo racial and ethnic groups make up 58 percent of the city population, but 71 percent of local transit ridership.
The full report can be viewed here:
The task force meets every third Monday of the month. Videos of previous meetings can be viewed here.