Early voting begins on April 25.
The bond package and charter amendments were explained at a public education meeting held on March 21.
According to Roger Venables, who gave the city bond presentation, the half-billion-dollar bond package will still leave some debt capacity for the city in case it is needed for emergencies or other projects. He also stated that the bonds will not result in a tax increase.
However, the Texas Government Code requires that the ballot proposition also “submit the question of whether to impose a tax on property in the … municipality … to pay interest on the bonds and to provide a sinking fund to redeem the bonds.” So residents are approving any necessary taxes that may be required to repay the bonds in the future.
The bond package will be divided into five proposals. The largest, Proposition A, is for $369 million for streets and mobility and accounts for about two-thirds of the total bond package.
The emphasis of the chosen projects is for added capacity, safety improvements, and rehabilitating neighborhood streets, Venables explained. Over 110 street rehabilitation projects are included in Proposition A, but the largest portion goes to arterials—large streets like Heritage Trace Parkway, Avondale Haslet Road, and Bailey Boswell.
In addition, $5 million will be used to “install multi-model transportation improvement projects,” as part of its Vision Zero program. Vision Zero was first implemented in Sweden in the 1990s to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries. It has been adopted by many American cities since.
In order to achieve zero traffic fatalities or serious injuries, some opine that traffic must be eliminated entirely.
“[S]ome are wondering if Vision Zero is about safety or more of an excuse to make driving more difficult (and enrich city coffers in the bargain). Some of the cities implementing the policy have set unrealistic goals for reducing single-occupant driving. Los Angeles wants to reduce the share of single-occupant vehicles to less than 50%. Washington DC has set a goal of 25%. Neither of these is at all realistic,” the Reason Foundation reported.
Oslo, Norway has reached Vision Zero by eliminating cars in its city center.
Proposition B is the second largest with $123.9 million for parks and recreation projects. This will include building or renovating several community centers, replacing the Forest Park swimming pool, as well as improving eight neighborhood parks.
Additionally, the Fort Worth Water Gardens will have $6.5 million in work completed. An $8 million infrastructure upgrade at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, which is now under control of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT), is fulfilling a contractual obligation from the time the control of the gardens was transferred, Venables explained.
Proposition C, the smallest of the propositions, recommends a new library in far northwest Fort Worth where the city has experienced much growth. The library proposal is for $12,260,000. The city expects the library to be located in the Sendera Ranch area.
Proposition D bonds would support police and fire with $39 million to replace two fire stations and build a new police facility in the northwest part of the city.
Proposition E is for $15 million to secure more natural areas and open space around the city. With the city experiencing rapid growth, Venables said this would allow purchases of “environmentally sensitive” property around the city.
In determining which projects to include in its bond package, the city engaged in a six-step process. First, it asked city departments for their recommended projects.
Then a prioritization committee evaluated the projects based on several criteria including whether the project would “eliminate or reduce racial and cultural disparities.” The city also considered other criteria like whether the project will address health and safety concerns and whether the project could leverage partnership funding opportunities.
The city manager’s office then reviewed the list and presented it to the city council for review and input. Public meetings were held last summer and fall to receive citizen comments about the proposed bond projects. As a result, about $45.5 million in projects were added to the streets and mobility proposition and about $8.1 million to the parks and recreation projects.
More specifics about the bond proposal can be found at the city website.
Also on the May ballot are 13 charter amendments, the most prominent of which is to create an indexed salary for the mayor and council members.
The mayor’s salary would be half of the average city department head salary, and the council members’ salaries would be half of the average assistant department head salary.
For Fiscal Year 2023, the new salary is estimated to be $99,653 for Mayor Mattie Parker, up from $29,000 annually, and $76,727 per year for council members, up from $25,000 per year. As average city employee salaries change, the mayor and council members’ salaries would change as well.
According to the city spokesperson at Monday’s public meeting, mayors of similar cities in the state are paid between $61,000 and $97,000 per year. Dallas pays its mayor $80,000 and its council members $60,000 annually.
The other 13 charter amendments are more mundane in nature, often making the city charter language align with the way the city has conducted businesses for years. For example, Proposition J removes references to the city’s finance department assessing taxes each year because the county tax assessor-collector fulfills that function.
All of the charter amendments can be read at the city’s website.
Finally, Fort Worth residents of District 4 will vote to replace Cary Moon, who resigned his seat to run for Texas House District 91. There are four candidates in the race: Alan Blaylock, James McBride, Teresa Ramirez, and Tara Wilson. The district encompasses areas east of downtown between I-30 and Highway 121 and extends north on the eastern side of I-35W to Golden Triangle Blvd.
Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.
Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.