Public Hearings on Fort Worth City Council Charter Election, which will have long-term impact, to start soon
by Fernando Florez
Fort Worth, TX. (October 20, 2015) — The Fort Worth City Council has appointed a Charter Review Task Force to look at several possible changes to the city’s charter that may result in an increase in pay for the mayor and city council members, their length of service (term limits, etc.), the number of city council districts in the city and possibly other things. The task force will be holding public hearings soon and present their recommendations to the city council on December 8. After that, the city council will call for an election sometime next year. At that time, the proposals will be presented to the voters who will either approve or reject them.
We’ve had some discussions and most of us agree that the mayor’s and council members’ pay needs to be increased to make it comparable to what other cities are paying. (Fort Worth council members are currently paid $25,000 and the mayor $29,999 a year. Dallas is paying council members $60,000 and the mayor $80,000; Austin pays them $70,000 and $82,237, respectively.) As for the length of service (term limits, etc.), this issue is still being discussed and I would like to hear from you before the public hearings.
In regards to the number of city council districts, we are in unanimous agreement that the present 8-1 electoral system is highly inadequate and needs to be changed. Here is a bit of background: We’ve had the same electoral system in place since the city went to single-member districts in 1977. At that time the city’s population was 385,856.That equals to approximately 48,232 people to represent by each council member. Fort Worth’s population in 2014 was an estimated 812,238 according to census data, approximately 101,529 per council district.
City council districts are much more difficult to represent today because of the city’s increased population and the inexorable changes in minority population demographics. These are key factors to consider in deciding whether to increase the size of the city council. For example, the city’s Hispanic population has surged to nearly 35% yet there is only one Hispanic seated on the council today. (District 2 in the north side of the city.)
With Fort Worth’s population having more than doubled since 1977, a new mindset by “the powers that be” is needed to address this sea change. It must start with the premise that every minority group deserves and wants equal representation, as much as that’s possible, on the city council. It’s achievable and it will result in more inclusiveness and better governance, which will benefit every person in Fort Worth way into the future.
After some discussion, we’ve concluded that to have the best chance for achieving that, a 12-1 lectoral system needs to be adopted. A 12-1 plan would bring the needed flexibility, but, realistically, it will not even be considered unless it’s strongly supported by the public. That’s why we are asking you and all your friends to go to the “Public Hearings” and make this known “loud and clear” to the task force. We are asking everyone to support a 12-1 plan. Before one or more plans go to the voters to select, we are also asking you to tell the task force that the change in the number of districts, must be made as soon as possible, right after the election. If this council wants a charter election, they need to finish the job—not pass part of it on to another council that will be seated around 2022. (We’ve heard that one of the ideas floating around, apparently emanating from city hall, is to implement the change in the number of council districts after the census of 2020. That would actually mean that we would have to wait until around 2022! It’s not fair to have to wait six years. Using American Community Survey (ACS) data, so-called mid-decade redrawing of electoral districts is very common today. Austin redrew council districts last year. (ACS is a group within the U.S. Census Bureau that continuously samples. They generate data of all types that is used by many organizations for many purposes.) So please don’t let anyone tell you differently.
Below is the schedule for the public Hearings. Please make time to attend one or more of them:
Thursday, Oct. 29, 7 p.m.; Southwest Regional Library, 4001 Library Lane
Monday, Nov. 2, 7p.m., Heritage Church of Christ, 4202 Heritage Trace Parkway
Monday, Nov.9, 7 p.m.; North side Community Center,1100 N.W. 18th St.
Thursday, Nov. 12, 7 p.m.; Hazel Harvey Peace Center, 818 Missouri Ave.
Monday, Nov.16, 7 p.m.; Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, off Truman Dr.
Dec. 8, 7 p.m.; Formal report made by task force to city council, 1000 Throckmorton
Again, these hearings are important and we ask you to make your outmost effort to attend one or more of them. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about this or for any other reason. Many, many thanks.
Chairman, Redistricting Committee
United Hispanic Council
P.S. I’ve had a computer problem recently and have lost most of my e-mail addresses list that took me many years to accumulate. Please help me by forwarding this email to your own contact list and even using social media to pass the word out. Again, this is very, very important. Many, many thanks.