Editorials

Fort Worth, Arlington elections head list of current citizen duties

They’ve been talking about you. And we’ve been listening. Want to know what we’ve heard?

Candidates for local offices, in some of the most influential units of government in your life, have been talking with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Editorial Board the past few weeks about some of the most important issues facing you and your community.

Your money. Your safety. Your ability to earn a living. Your quality of life. Your streets and sidewalks and neighborhoods. The very shape of your world.

Want to have your own say in all this? Your opportunity to weigh in begins April 22, with the start of early voting in the May 4 election.

What we’ve heard over the past few weeks in individual meetings with the candidates — for mayor of Fort Worth, six contested Fort Worth council seats, two of five positions on the Tarrant Regional Water District board; four Fort Worth ISD board trustees; and mayor of Arlington — would, we think, fascinate you. At the very least they should interest you.

The issues covered include:

  • your children’s education and the quality of the city’s future workforce
  • your tax rates
  • the prospects for new jobs and industry
  • race relations
  • police and community relations
  • public transportation or the lack of it
  • how the area’s exponential growth is being handled
  • elected officials’ responsiveness to the people they serve
  • the condition of your roads
  • and even parting the waters: the rerouting of the Trinity River through the billion-dollar Central City Project/Panther Island flood control operation.

While they often get the least attention, local issues hit home the most. That irony isn’t lost on the experts.

“The smaller the election, the closer it is to your life,” says University of Houston political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus.

Yet, it’s in these local elections that we see the lowest turnout — scandalously, in Fort Worth in the single digits, which puts the city (along with Dallas) last in the nation in turnout.

There are a number of possible reasons for that.

For one thing, the area is growing at a breathtaking pace, and new residents may not be jumping into local politics in great numbers.

In addition, national issues and elections get more attention and are, in fact, largely inescapable within even the sanctity of your living room thanks to 24/7 cable news. And in recent years, there’s been no such thing as post-election season; one campaign seems to pick up where the other left off, as the losing party seeks to trap the spent energy for the next election cycle.

Which might contribute to voter fatigue rather than intrigue.

Between the news cycle and the election cycle, the lion’s share of voters’ bandwidth is taken up.

Local elections may also be less alluring because they’re more filled with substance than conflict. They’re fact over friction.

Yet, look again at all the pressing, close-at-hand issues to be decided in the May 4 election.

The Star-Telegram newsroom will continue reporting on these issues and candidates in the run-up to the election, as the Editorial Board weighs the candidates’ ideas and abilities in advance of endorsing those we feel would do the best job for Fort Worth.

Our rights as citizens of the United States are neatly laid out in amendments to our Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights.

Our responsibilities as citizens of the United States are less prominent, but no less important.

Voting in vital local elections is pretty high on that list.

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