Richard Greene

May 4 vote proved Fort Worth, Arlington on right track -- and no term limits needed

Betsy Price announces victory to become Fort Worth’s mayor for fifth term

Betsy Price announced her victory to supporters during an election night party in Fort Worth. Price defeated Deborah Peoples to remain Fort Worth's mayor.
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Betsy Price announced her victory to supporters during an election night party in Fort Worth. Price defeated Deborah Peoples to remain Fort Worth's mayor.

By now, most are aware of what happened in the May 4 local elections.

I say “most” with some hesitation, considering that just over 8% of those eligible to vote countywide actually cast ballots to determine who would lead our local governing bodies.

The actual numbers are even further sobering. More than one million local citizens who have at least taken the time to register to vote didn’t manage to show up at any polling place.

What was at stake is nothing less than choosing people to represent us who have the greatest impact on the future of our communities and our overall quality of life.

The state doesn’t, and neither does the federal government. It’s the city councils and school boards who will determine what happens to shape our lives, and most of us apparently aren’t interested.

Okay, I’ll quit preaching about low voter participation in local elections. I’ve never understood why, but it’s always been that way, and apparently it’s not going to change.

The reality does, however, result in each voter who does choose to participate having greater power due to more than 90 percent of their fellow citizens having opted out.

The results in the county’s two largest cities was easily predictable. In Fort Worth, the mayor and entire city council was returned to office. Not a single challenger to any incumbent was anywhere close to winning. None managed even as much as 40 percent of votes for any seat.

Moreover, all the hoopla from the Democrat Party about taking over local offices and painting the nonpartisan elections blue was a complete failure. Even with help from Democratic presidential candidates, the local chairwoman of the party on the left came up way short in her quest to unseat popular Mayor Betsy Price.

In Arlington, it’s interesting to examine what didn’t happen in the first election cycle following the implementation of one of the nation’s most extreme versions of term limits.

While there were three members of the city council ineligible to seek re-election, those winning and leading for the vacant seats were not among those prominent in the term limit petition drive that took away voters’ rights to decide who they wanted to represent them.

Interestingly, the one incumbent member of the council eligible to seek re-election was defeated by a newcomer who didn’t have to wait until the seat opened up via term limits. He just proved that term limits were not needed to bring about a change.

There will be a runoff in one of those city council districts, but the second-place finisher in the four-person race, an advocate for the term limit plan, managed but 421 votes accounting for just 19 percent of the total cast in that race.

He is also among the city’s naysayers who finds himself aligned with the small contingent who have a record of opposing initiatives that have moved the city steadily forward consistent with the long tradition of progress that has defined Arlington for decades.

Further evidence of support from voters who wanted to see the current upward momentum of the city continue is found in the landslide re-election of Mayor Jeff Williams.

He bested three opponents, one with considerable name recognition; another who wound up with less than 6% of the votes, confirming he was never a serious candidate; and a woman whose restaurant business was facing foreclosure. She campaigned on mythical claims that Arlington was harboring illegal immigrants and had plans to develop high-speed rail in the city that was pure fiction. Voters were buying neither, as her tally was below 10% of the final totals.

As election night drew to a close, the small turnout actually produced a message from voters that they believed things were on the right track, and they put people in office to ensure they would not be derailed.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor, served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency and lectures at UT Arlington.