Last week, Fort Worth’s city council approved its 2020 federal legislative priorities–those issues it will lobby for in Washington D.C. The city has a government relations staff, and it hires lobbyists, Corley & Pipes Consulting, to represent its interests in the U.S. Capitol.
Public transit and further expansion of the passenger rail system across the city remain a top priority for Fort Worth. The city is already involved in the TEXRail to DFW Airport and the Trinity Railway Express to downtown Dallas. According to the Fort Worth Transit Authority’s own report, ridership on public transit is down across the country. TEXRail is only hitting about 20 percent of initial federal estimates for its ridership thus far.
The city will also encourage support for ongoing highway improvements.
Mayor Betsy Price is leading the city toward “a comprehensive city-wide plan for quality early childhood education” for ages zero to five. The city council listed this among its top legislative priorities. The city will seek “flexible, locally distributed federal funding dollars.”
The Department of Education has multiple programs for early childhood development, including preschool development grants aimed at building or expanding preschool programs in communities and Head Start, a federally-funded preschool program that is oriented toward low-income families.
However, a 2010 impact study put out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed no long-term benefits for the Head Start program, as gains made by kids in Head Start were “largely absent” by the time they reached 1st Grade.
The city’s legislative affairs manager, T.J. Patterson, said the city didn’t have a particular federal program in mind but will be looking for opportunities to improve the early education system in Fort Worth.
The beleaguered “Central City” flood control project, also known as Panther Island, appears on the priority list as well.
Fort Worth will seek “substantial and sustained federal funding” for the project, which is nearly out of money. The city has so far declined to extend the tax-increment financing (TIF) district that provides some of the funding for the Panther Island project.
Panther Island, originally projected to cost $435 million, is now projected to cost $1.2 billion, according to a third-party evaluation by Riveron. The project has not received federal funding in the last two years and has been under increasing scrutiny over its management and costs.
Additionally, Fort Worth plans to lobby Congress to reform the nation’s immigration system. Patterson said that the city wants the public to know that immigration is a priority for the city of Fort Worth.
In November, Mayor Price sent a letter to Governor Greg Abbott asking for refugees to continue to settle in the city. Since then, Abbott has “opted out” of the refugee resettlement program for this year.
Finally, the city will continue to promote its relationship with the defense industry by seeking continued support for the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base (NASJRB), as well as encouraging projects that support local defense industry contractors, like Lockheed Martin Corporation and Bell Helicopter.
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Kim Roberts is a 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.