Other Voices

After 91 years, it’s time for Fort Worth council to grow

Proposition 2 on Fort Worth’s May 7 ballot would expand the City Council to 10 members (from the current eight) plus the mayor.
Proposition 2 on Fort Worth’s May 7 ballot would expand the City Council to 10 members (from the current eight) plus the mayor. Star-Telegram

Fort Worth was incorporated in 1873 with a population of 500, says the city’s website.

In 1924, the city was chartered by the Texas Legislature, and in an election that December, voters approved Fort Worth’s first charter. They specified that the city was to be governed by a nine-member City Council.

In April 1925, the first nine-member City Council was elected. In 1977, the city went to eight single-member council districts, with the mayor elected at-large.

Now Fort Worth’s population has increased to an estimated 814,000 and is projected to reach 1 million in slightly more than a decade.

Many of us who have been active in the community are convinced that the Fort Worth City Council needs to add two council districts, not because we’ve had a nine-member council governing the city for 91 years, but because today’s districts already average over 100,000 people each and the composition of the city’s population has changed.

Today’s population is more diverse. As time passes and this trend continues, the eight-district City Council will have less flexibility to adequately represent all areas and neighborhoods in our city.

As a grassroots community leader for nearly 30 years, along the way founding and leading a neighborhood association, serving on two city boards and much more, I have worked with six different City Council representatives and observed firsthand the impact of the increase in the city’s population.

City Council representatives simply have too many people to represent and too much work to do. We can have a better municipal government by adding two districts.

We have a great opportunity to do that by voting in favor of the 10-1 City Council electoral plan in the city charter amendment election on May 7.

The 10-1 electoral plan was recommended by the City Charter Review Task Force, a group appointed by the City Council itself. The recommendation was based on public input.

The League of Neighborhood Associations, the United Hispanic Council and other organizations and individuals made the same recommendation.

With such strong support, some people might conclude that passage of a 10-1 electoral plan will happen easily. We cannot get overconfident and must work hard to make sure it does.

Despite strong support for a 10-1 electoral plan, some council members have voiced opposition to adding two districts. They want to continue with the same eight single-member districts.

Their reasons for this stance vary, but as I have seen in redistricting battles for three census cycles, the opposition to change has always been about incumbent protection.

There comes a time when voters have to make tough decisions. Improving our city for everyone’s benefit trumps anyone’s desire for personal gain.

Traditionally, municipal elections have low voter turnout. With the charter amendment election being the only thing on the ballot in Fort Worth, the state party runoff elections May 24 and the presidential election nationally garnering much of the attention, it may be more difficult to get voters’ attention about this important local election.

We must all work hard to get the 10-1 electoral plan passed.

Fernando Florez is a grassroots community leader in Fort Worth. rfflorez@juno.com