Elections

Meet the candidates for Fort Worth Council District 8

Fort Worth City Hall.
Fort Worth City Hall. Star-Telegram

Voters in Fort Worth’s District 8 will have three choices in the May 4 election.

The district spans from eat of downtown to far south Fort Worth, including Historic Southside and the 76104 zip code, which according to one study has the lowest life expectancy in Texas.

Challenges Kevin “KL” Johnson and Chris Nettles, who previously ran for mayor, have set themselves a part from incumbent Kelly Allen Gray in their support of a civilian review board for the police department. It was one of more than 20 suggests from the city’s Race and Culture Task Force. Both see it as a needed tool, but Gray is skeptical and said she needs more information from the city manager about how it would work.

For all three candidates, bringing responsible economic development to the district is a priority.

Kelly Allen Gray

Occupation: Full-time Councilmember

Age: 50

Website: kellyallengraycampaign.com

Best way for voters to reach you: teamkellyallengray@gmail.com

Public offices held/sought: Current Councilmember District 8

What organizations are you affiliated with? Texas Association of Black City Councilmembers (TABCCM) – President Texas Wesleyan University – Trustee Trinity Habitat for Humanity Advisory Board - Chair

What is the biggest issue facing Fort Worth and/or your district specifically? How would you address it?

Neighborhood revitalization without displacing homeowners due to gentrification is the largest issue facing District 8. I believe citizens should be offered options when it comes to housing choices and while I am a proponent of single family homeownership, I recognize that not all citizens are interested in or not able to attain home ownership. Therefore, when we are considering multi-family development it is important to look holistically at each project to insure that new developments are not driving out current homeowners and renters creating gentrification in historically single family neighborhoods.

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Kally Allen Gray

Do you support a civilian review board of the Fort Worth Police Department? If so, how should that board be structured and what powers should it have?

Without having more information for the role, make-up and powers of a Civilian Review Board as described by our city manager, I can’t fully support the creation of this board. As it stands currently, we know more of what powers the board won’t have and not how it could actually play a role in our community.

Property taxes continue to rise in Texas, and one solution put forward in the legislature would cap local governments’ property tax growth at 2.5 percent a year. If the cap had been in place last year, Fort Worth would have needed to trim $21.1 million from this year’s budget. Does Fort Worth need to reevaluate how much it relies on property taxes? Are there alternative funding sources?

The City of Fort Worth like most cities depends largely on property and sales taxes to provide quality services for our citizens and to efficiently operate the city. The larger issue with revenue caps is school refinance reform. If our legislature would truly focus on how our schools are funded and provide adequate funding then cities would no longer be under attack for local control of our property taxes.

Last September and October saw widespread urban and flash flooding. Should the city prioritize improving the stormwater system? What role should the city play in ensuring developers provide adequate stormwater infrastructure during all phases of construction?

Yes, the city should prioritize improving the stormwater system. The system impacts all residents of Fort Worth, whether you live in a neighborhood historically known for flooding or you are traveling the streets of Fort Worth to conduct business. Ensuring that we have an adequate stormwater system is also important as we make sure our system meets any federal requirements as we have a role in following clean air provisions. The city has a key role in working with developers to provide adequate stormwater infrastructure throughout the entire construction process given the city has access points with contractors via the permitting and inspection processes.

Fort Worth continues to be one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. But that growth hasn’t come without some headaches for residents including increased traffic, urban flooding, concerns about the historical integrity of neighborhoods. As the city looks at attracting more business, how can the city grow responsibly? Is the developer-friendly approach sustainable? Should the city apply greater scrutiny to projects?

It is vitally important to make sure the city is growing responsibly, including investing in our urban core and spending time evaluating how growth should occur in suburban areas, including areas slated for future development. Evaluating growth in outlying areas must look at maintaining the appropriate balance of residential versus commercial properties to ensure an adequate tax base is being built. The developer-friendly approach needs to be balanced with the needs of the city and our communities. We do want to take advantage of opportunities to leverage more projects while also ensuring developers are not driving the city’s development strategies.

The completion of TEXRail has spurred interest in public transit, including from the city’s economic development department in the form of commuter-oriented tax breaks. Should the city devote more attention to public transportation? If so, how?

We should devote time to transportation to insure we have equitable transit choices for all transit riders. We can address this issue by using existing dollars along with adding member cities to maximize federal funds to create a larger revenue stream dedicated solely to transit.

United Fort Worth has become a vocal group at city meetings. Have you met with their members or have you been endorsed by them? Do you believe the council needs to better engage with groups like United Fort Worth, and how can that be done?

Yes, I’ve met with United Fort Worth during the council discussion and vote on SB4. I believe it is important to have relationships with the NAACP, LULAC, United Fort Worth and all organizations that work for the betterment of our citizens and communities. It starts with having an open door for meetings and talks, attending organization meetings, having these organizations at the table and participating in different conversations that are taking place, and most of all having a mutual respect for each other.

Kevin “KL” Johnson

Occupation: President of Unite with us not against us

Age: 38

Website none provided

Best way for voters to reach you: UnitewithusnotagainstUs@gmail.com

Public offices held/sought: second run for city council District 8 of Fort Worth

What organizations are you affiliated with? Committee Member No Shoots Fired, Faith Community Leaders United in Fort Worth, Member of the NAACP of Arlington, president of Unite with us not against us

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Kevin “KL” Johnson

What is the biggest issue facing Fort Worth and/or your district specifically? How would you address it?

Economic and social change is one of the largest issues we have in Fort Worth. There need to be more jobs that reflect the needs of the community and more grocery stores with transportation to those stores, and it needs to be priced reasonably for those less privileged. To fix social issues there needs to be advocacy in city council. It needs to be accountability for all people, particularly those in the public eye. We need programs with tech school trades and forgiveness programs for those who’ve been incarcerated but have had no issues with the law for multiple years.

Do you support a civilian review board of the Fort Worth Police Department? If so, how should that board be structured and what powers should it have?

I believe the citizen review board should become a part of our local judicial system. I believe that it should reflect the people of the community. I believe it should be chosen by the people and not by elected officials, that way we can feel more comfortable that it would be less biased and close to a system that can speak for those who do not have a public voice. This review board should have a weighted power for indictment. It should force some kind of accountability, because as it stands we do not need anymore in-house policing.

Property taxes continue to rise in Texas, and one solution put forward in the legislature would cap local governments’ property tax growth at 2.5 percent a year. If the cap had been in place last year, Fort Worth would have needed to trim $21.1 million from this year’s budget. Does Fort Worth need to reevaluate how much it relies on property taxes? Are there alternative funding sources?

I believe there is too much funding that goes into areas that are not privileged to everyone in Fort Worth. There are too many funds being provided to programs like Panther Island. This money needs to be put into our programs to help our educational programs. Again there should be funds to help those out of disparity and poverty. We have far too many disadvantaged and homeless individuals wandering our streets with lack of assistance for the psychological position that puts the children in risk. Stripping funds from these luxuries can provide Fort Worth with a safer city.

Last September and October saw widespread urban and flash flooding. Should the city prioritize improving the stormwater system? What role should the city play in ensuring developers provide adequate stormwater infrastructure during all phases of construction?

Lackluster efforts in construction comes down to the lack of concern for planning, communicating with the residents who have been affected by this, and their areas. I have been a witness at city council when multiple people have discussed an overbearing amount of water on their land or in front of their house. This has been the issue for over three years that I know of, so I feel it’s safe to say someone knew of this issue before me. This goes back to the concern for the so-called “urban area” that I call just a part of Fort Worth not being considered or just being overlooked.

Fort Worth continues to be one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. But that growth hasn’t come without some headaches for residents including increased traffic, urban flooding, concerns about the historical integrity of neighborhoods. As the city looks at attracting more business, how can the city grow responsibly? Is the developer-friendly approach sustainable? Should the city apply greater scrutiny to projects?

When I reflect on how many urban districts have been the stepchild of Fort Worth, I can’t help but feel the city would benefit tremendously if they worked as one. I hear politicians state they want Fort Worth to flourish; however, a distillery in the urban area doesn’tt send a statement that you want to see Fort Worth flourish. It sends a clear message that I want certain areas to look a certain way and other areas to stay as they are. I believe it is the responsibility of city officials to take into consideration the citizens and their discomforts.

The completion of TEXRail has spurred interest in public transit, including from the city’s economic development department in the form of commuter-oriented tax breaks. Should the city devote more attention to public transportation? If so, how?

The city has developed a new way of transporting citizens, however the city bus is still one of the most common transportation methods for the underprivileged. The city needs to focus its attention on the lack of transportation in the lower-income areas of town. It makes no sense senior citizens and families should be forced to shop at high-price corner stores, depriving them of healthy food while forcing them into high-blood-pressure diabetes and other health risks. These citizens need transportation to reputable grocery stores with fresh fruit and vegetables, healthier meat products, and reasonable prices.

United Fort Worth has become a vocal group at city meetings. Have you met with their members or have you been endorsed by them? Do you believe the council needs to better engage with groups like United Fort Worth, and how can that be done?

I’ve been openly in support of United Fort Worth and groups like them. My support for the group and their agenda has been recorded by the Star-Telegram, trying to convince City Council and the mayor to join a lawsuit against Senate Bill 4 in August 2017 alongside Daniel Garcia Rodriguez. Daniel and myself have been a part of multiple meetingson the unification African-American and Hispanic Americans. I believe that organizations like our own should be considered when looking for positive solutions in the city. Unite with us not against us is an organization that focuses on inclusion.

Chris Nettles

Occupation: Court Clerk Age: 30

Website: chrisnettlescampaign.com

Best way for voters to reach you: https://www.chrisnettlescampaign.com/contact

Public offices held/sought: Mayor of Fort Worth (2017)

What organizations are you affiliated with? Endorsed by AFL-CIO

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Chris Nettles

What is the biggest issue facing Fort Worth and/or your district specifically? How would you address it?

The biggest issue in District 8 is the lack of economic development. Want to get lunch with your family after church on Sunday? Well, unfortunately there is not one chain restaurant in the entire district. Furthermore, District 8 is a food desert with only one grocery store. In the past 10 years, little has been done to bring in jobs and businesses to the community. I will encourage development by working with the private sector and advocating for rezoning in areas with potential.

Do you support a civilian review board of the Fort Worth Police Department? If so, how should that board be structured and what powers should it have?

When I ran for mayor in 2017, I was one of the first advocates for a citizens review board. The board would be made up of active members in the community appointed by the city council that would be tasked with investigating allegations of improper conduct by Fort Worth Police. It would also be tasked with investigating complaints by officers who do not believe they have been treated properly by superiors. The board would have the power to place the individual in question on administrative leave immediately with further recommendations that the council must vote on within 90 days.

Property taxes continue to rise in Texas, and one solution put forward in the legislature would cap local governments’ property tax growth at 2.5 percent a year. If the cap had been in place last year, Fort Worth would have needed to trim $21.1 million from this year’s budget. Does Fort Worth need to reevaluate how much it relies on property taxes? Are there alternative funding sources?

While an alternative funding source is available, sales tax, that option is regressive and hurts low-income individuals. The city must utilize state and federal funds on projects where possible while reducing the tax reductions it currently gives to businesses who don’t need them.

Last September and October saw widespread urban and flash flooding. Should the city prioritize improving the stormwater system? What role should the city play in ensuring developers provide adequate stormwater infrastructure during all phases of construction?

I believe the city should prioritize fixing our infrastructure in this regard. Property and safety is at risk; thus the city should ensure that developers are meeting stormwater infrastructure standards during construction.

Fort Worth continues to be one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. But that growth hasn’t come without some headaches for residents including increased traffic, urban flooding, concerns about the historical integrity of neighborhoods. As the city looks at attracting more business, how can the city grow responsibly? Is the developer-friendly approach sustainable? Should the city apply greater scrutiny to projects?

The city absolutely has to prioritize preparing our infrastructure for future population growth. The growth will happen whether or not Fort Worth is ready. I believe that being friendly to developers is not the issue, but instead it is the fact that too much of the development is focused in certain areas. District 8 is full of opportunity and potential for development, as an example. I do believe the city should apply more scrutiny to projects, thoroughly analyzing the costs/benefits.

The completion of TEXRail has spurred interest in public transit, including from the city’s economic development department in the form of commuter-oriented tax breaks. Should the city devote more attention to public transportation? If so, how?

Both our economy and environment would benefit substantially from an improvement and expansion of public transportation in the city. It would make Fort Worth more competitive for future business investment, create jobs, and save people money on fuel. Moreover, public transportation would reduce carbon emissions, making the air we breathe cleaner and safer. Public transportation is one of the most important issues to big cities, especially cities like Fort Worth that are trailing behind. The city should look at developing a light-rail system similar to the Dallas Area Rapid Transport system.

United Fort Worth has become a vocal group at city meetings. Have you met with their members or have you been endorsed by them? Do you believe the council needs to better engage with groups like United Fort Worth, and how can that be done?

I have met with their members but they have chosen not to endorse a candidate in this race yet. I do, however, believe that the council really needs to be more accessible to groups of passionate citizens such as United Fort Worth. The way that is done is by actually going out into the communities and seeking out their voice. That is what should be expected from our leaders.

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