The race for the Fort Worth District 8 council seat has pitted a two-term incumbent touting progress made under her watch and a challenger claiming development has moved too slowly.
“You only have to drive around the district to see things happening,” said Kelly Allen Gray, who has served District 8 since winning a runoff election in 2012. “Lots of different things are happening.”
Wanting to unseat her is Kevin “KL” Johnson, 36, who is running for office for the first time. He says the lack of progress is the result of city staff and officials who have not been responsive to developers and others wanting to do projects in District 8.
Johnson, 36, a social worker, said he’s running to change that and attract businesses back to District 8.
“The area is wide open for all kinds of development,” Johnson said. “There is commercial land in many parts that can be used to bring jobs into the community. These jobs can not only employ our neighborhood, but give needed products and services within a reasonable distance.”
Johnson, though, is also angry over the city’s handling of the officer William Martin case and that, in part, played a role in his decision to run. The December case involved the arrest of Jacqueline Craig and her two daughters that was recorded on a cellphone and posted to Facebook. The video sparked an outcry from the community about the officer's behavior. Martin was later suspended for 10 days.
At a recent City Council meeting, Johnson addressed the council, reiterating that the officer should have been fired and he accuses the council of not being more proactive in making that happen. The council has no control over the hiring and firing of police officers.
“We will not forget as long as you resist,” Johnson said. “I see no wise understanding heads in front of me today.”
Allen, 48, was elected to her first, full term in 2013 after defeating former District 8 Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks. She was elected to her second term in 2015, carrying 78 percent of the vote.
Registered voters will cast ballots on May 6 to elect a mayor and seven councilmembers. Early voting begins April 24. District 8 generally straddles Interstate 35W south of Interstate 20, running east of I-35W north to Texas 121 and into some east side neighborhoods, including parts of Meadowbrook, Polytechnic, Morning Side and Glencrest.
Gray said her top priority is creating quality, safe, affordable housing choices not only in District 8, but citywide. She said she’s already accomplished that in the district with the addition of new multifamily and senior housing developments, some near the Renaissance Square and Sierra Vista developments.
Gray said she’s also concerned about homelessness, which has hit District 8 hard. More permanent supportive housing is needed to end homelessness, or at least make it short-term, she said.
Continuing efforts to revitalize East Lancaster and East Berry Street are also issues in her campaign, Gray said.
“We must focus on transportation that allows for access to job centers in the far north and southern sectors of our city,” she said. “I’ve always been a person who wanted to be involved. I put my all into it. My ability to bring everyone to the table and work towards a common cause has been a major asset in working in our underserved communities and working with neighbors to create new associations.”
Johnson said he’d like to see technology in the city’s libraries improved and the council take a larger leadership role with the Fort Worth school district.
“We need education to be a major priority,” Johnson said. “Our schools have to be properly funded in order for our children to have an equal opportunity post high school.”