Here’s where Fort Worth mayoral candidates differ on policy
After getting out of the crowded mayor field, Mattie Parker and Deborah Peoples differentiate themselves not only on political backgrounds but also at a forum on Wednesday where they shared on transit, wages and the best way to grow the business.
Parker, an attorney who served five years as chief of staff for Mayor Betsy Price and is now a nonprofit executive, and Peoples, a retired vice president of AT&T and outgoing leader of the Tarrant County Democratic Party, stood up in a forum against Fort Worths Workforce and business climate. While the candidates appear to have agreed to unite the city and move away from partisan politics, the forum hosted by Star Telegram and the city’s three chambers was one of the first times the two met on politics clearly different from each other.
The runoff election will take place on June 5th. Together with the mayor, council districts 6, 7, 8 and 9 will be on the ballot paper.
One of the most obvious differences was how the city should improve mobility. The AllianceTexas corridor has become a mecca for jobs, but the arterial roads in the far north are often congested. In the meantime, residents of Loop 820, especially in eastern Fort Worth, are finding it difficult to work on a bus system known as “bare bones.”
The 68-year-old took an aggressive stance on transit, saying the city should invest in light rail and other forms of multi-model mobility to help residents find work.
It is not the first time that a light rail concept has been presented. In 2019, the city council heard three options for the future of Trinity Metro: incremental improvements that would not require additional funding but also not catch up with Fort Worth’s growth, a more robust plan that included more frequent routes and a TEXRail expansion, and A “visionary” plan that included at least 19 bus routes with a range of 15 minutes and two light rail lines that crossed the city.
The problem with any transit plan that involves significant improvement is cost, with the most robust plan likely costing well over $ 1 billion.
But the peoples said the city shouldn’t get involved in the cost and instead, like other large cities, seek a robust transit system. She suggested looking for federal and state dollars, as well as public-private partnerships, to fund the expansion.
“These things are not easy solutions, but they cannot be ignored,” said Peoples. “You have to start working on it now.”
Parker, 37, said the city should seek the “visionary” concept, but estimated the cost at $ 2 billion. So she advocated starting small with incremental changes that would improve access in neighborhoods. Neighborhoods can’t wait decades for a long-term plan, so Trinity Metro should check out “innovative programs” like Zipzones. With Zipzones, users pay $ 3 for a ride in a specific area.
One way Fort Worth can address mobility is by working with regional partners, Parker said. Instead of viewing transit as a Fort Worth problem, she said it was a DFW-wide problem.
“If I drive to Plano from here, I don’t care how many city lines I draw,” she said. “There’s power and regionalism, look at DFW airport.”
When asked whether federal unemployment benefits are an incentive for workers to stay home and what the city should do to help businesses and workers, Parker said the focus is not on minimum wages, but on training the workforce should lie. She said she was concerned about minority women and workers choosing not to re-enter the world of work, but she was reluctant to say companies should improve their performance or pay. Instead, she said the city should work with business and education institutions to ensure that graduates have the right skills.
“Let’s finish talking about the minimum wage in this country and focus on what it looks like to retrain people so that the workforce can make $ 20 an hour and $ 30 an hour,” said Parker.
People said they “absolutely” support an urban minimum wage that should be a livable wage, not a minimum standard. Although she didn’t provide a specific amount, she said wages should be tied to the cost of living in order for workers to feel valued.
“The city has to be out there and prosecuting to make sure we treat our workers fairly and give them the opportunity to earn a living wage,” the local population said. “And we have to bring well-paying jobs here that get people to get up and go to work.”
Fair business growth
Candidates also differed in whether they should focus locally or look for a growing business outside of Fort Worth.
To improve equity in how the city distributes labor contracts and where developers are tricked into building, Peoples said the city should work more closely with minority and women-owned companies. The city should routinely check with the Black and Hispanic Chambers about what members need to grow in Fort Worth, she said.
“We have to listen to the people in this city to make these things work,” she said.
Parker said she felt city guides should search other cities for best practices when it comes to improving fair contracts. Fort Worth should develop guidelines based on what has worked elsewhere.
“I disagree with you, we have to look outside of what other cities are doing successfully,” she said.
In order to grow the business in general, the city and chambers should try to encourage young entrepreneurs, especially black, Spanish and female entrepreneurs. Often times, she said, these people leave Fort Worth, so the city should try to keep startups.
City and business leaders need to “go on a roadshow” to visit places Parker said are less business-friendly like Portland, Seattle and Detroit, Parker said.
“We have to sell the Fort Worth vision and mission,” said Parker.
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Luke Ranker covers the interface between people and government, centered around Fort Worth and Tarrant Counties. He came to Texas from the Kansas plains where he wrote about a great deal including government, crime, and the Topeka courts. He survived a single winter in Pennsylvania as a breaking news reporter. He can be reached at 817-390-7747 or [email protected]
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