Other Voices

Fort Worth mayor position needs freshening. It’s time for Deborah Peoples

It was not surprising that the Star-Telegram endorsed Betsy Price for a fifth term. She has done a good job in many respects, most notably in promoting fitness and health, and Fort Worth continues to grow.

But there are some notable issues that need a fresh approach. And eight years is enough in any position.

It’s Time for Deborah Peoples.

The paper’s endorsement led with the the claim that the mayor “has created or nudged along an array of initiatives and improvements, not the least of which is the new TEXRail commuter rail to DFW.” In reality, TEXRail has been in some form of development for over 20 years and is a project of Trinity Metro, which operates separately from the City of Fort Worth. The mayor was a good cheerleader, but TEXRail should in no way be touted as her achievement.

That said, one of Deborah Peoples’ primary interests is in improving public transportation in Fort Worth. We can count on her to make the city an effective partner in developing public transportation.

Then the Editorial Board attempted to rewrite history with the claim that “Price has led efforts to make it (the city) more inclusive through the Race and Culture Task Force.” No, she hasn’t led efforts to make the city more inclusive. Instead she divided us through inaction and insult in the Jacqueline Craig case, and slapped down the concerns of the Latino community by refusing to join the SB 4 lawsuit.

At the first public meeting after a Fort Worth police officer assaulted the mother and her daughters, the mayor dismissed the community’s outpouring of anger as a “b---h session.” She later declared at a Council work session that Fort Worth could handle things as she turned down a proposal from the National League of Cities for experienced professionals to facilitate community discussion of racial issues. But yes, she established a task force.

Taking nothing away from the hard work of that team, the mayor’s refusal to capitalize on knowledge gained in other communities illustrates shortsighted, insular thinking. That is not what Fort Worth needs in leadership.

Separately, when the mayor and four council members chose not to listen to the Latino community about the harm inflicted when making local police an extension of federal immigration enforcement, it was clear that we need more inclusive and empathetic thinking at City Hall.

The refusal to join every major city in Texas in the SB 4 lawsuit was strong evidence that the 15th largest city in the U.S. is out of step when it comes to acting for the needs of all its citizens.

Contrast the root of those failures, living in an insular world, with the makeup of Deborah Peoples’ supporters.

Every gathering, every rally, every block walk is characterized by a rainbow of humanity. She doesn’t have to go far to connect with diversity because we are all around her, within easy reach. It’s who she attracts. And living in that environment ensures that Mayor Peoples will be informed and in touch with the wide range of perspectives needed to govern a growing and multicultural Fort Worth.

Then it was ironic that having “overseen the building of a new police and fire training center” was claimed as an accomplishment. Yes, it was built, after practically giving away the city’s existing training facility to the Panther Island mess. However the new center was touted as a revenue generator. Instead, Fort Worth citizens subsidize the fire and police forces of surrounding cities by allowing them to train there for free.

Under the leadership of former Tax Assessor Collector Price, Fort Worth has failed to collect a dime for the use of facilities paid for by its residents. We need the business sense of a former corporate vice president (with cost-center responsibility over 5,000 employees) to ensure proper management of city resources.

Finally the Editorial Board concludes that “All the while, she has helped court corporate titans such as General Electric, Facebook and Amazon.” But she courted them with tax subsidies, paid for with our high property taxes. The corporate titans have then located those jobs on the northern fringe of the city, far from the citizens in need of good-paying jobs.

And, circling back to the first topic, far from any public transportation.

Betsy Price is a fine person who has given Fort Worth eight years of hard work and exposure on the national and world stage, including a glowing reception at the White House and recognition by the president, who called her a “fantastic friend.” But any position grows stale after a while.

Fort Worth has both old issues and evolving opportunities and needs someone to take a fresh look at both. It’s Time for Deborah Peoples.

Greg Hughes is a former board member of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority and ran for City Council in 2013.