Fort Worth council: Incumbents vow to fulfill campaign promises

A. Lee Graham

If the May 11 city elections reflect popular opinion, then voters are satisfied with the status quo. Council members Kelly Allen Gray, Sal Espino and Danny Scarth were re-elected to two-year terms. And though the jury’s still out on District 5 Councilman Frank Moss – a runoff with Gyna Bivens is set for June 15 – voters largely expressed confidence in their current representatives. Were those elected officials surprised by election results? “I was cautiously optimistic,” said District 2 Councilman Espino, who garnered 1,462 votes, or 55 percent, defeating former City Councilman Jim Lane, who received 1,217 votes. “When early-voting results came in and I was ahead by 199 votes, I felt we were in pretty good shape,” Espino said. Running on a platform emphasizing road and transportation infrastructure repair, Espino also pointed to his council record as reasons why constituents voted him back in. “People knew how hard I had been working on streets and transportation,” Espino said. “People are aware that our old neighborhood streets need to be reconstructed and the arterials widened.” That emphasis on securing road-improvement funding while beating the drum for infrastructure in the far North Fort Worth area that Espino represents helped clinch victory, he said. “People knew I was independent,” Espino said. “[Voters] said ‘we like what you’re doing.’ If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Asked what issues merit the highest priority as he heads into a new term, Espino pointed to a $276 million bond program awaiting voter approval in May 2014. With about $196 million of that package expected to be tied to road and transportation infrastructure, Espino said ensuring that those plans reach fruition is vital. For Gray, defeating former Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks and securing her first full term in District 8 confirmed voter confidence in the novice councilwoman. Gray received 1,513 votes, or 55 percent of the vote, with Hicks trailing with 1,256 votes. “I don’t know if I was surprised,” Hicks said when asked whether the election outcome met her expectations. Though Gray spent the evening of May 11 at an election-watching party, she said she paid little attention to television coverage. “Everyone kept telling me this is how we are [doing in the race], but was I glued to the TV? No, I wasn’t,” Gray said. She says she remains focused on pushing through stricter code compliance, affordable housing choices and greater economic development opportunities for her entire district, which stretches from North Belknap Street to south of Crowley Road east of Interstate 35W. “One thing we’re going to do is make sure we have economic development that is equitably spread out throughout the entire district,” Gray said. And that includes East Lancaster Avenue revitalization. Asked to name her greatest challenge, Gray did not hesitate. “The biggest challenge with anything in our city right now is money,” she said. “Making sure, even though we have a budget shortfall this coming year, making sure that that budget shortfall is not going to be a hindrance to services we need to be providing” is important, Gray said. During his campaign for re-election in District 4, Scarth named transportation in northern portions of his district and economic development in southern portions as the most important issues. He won 1,287 votes, or 57 percent, with challenger Paul Gardner receiving 945 votes. District 4 stretches from just east of Interstate 35W to Eastchase Parkway in East Fort Worth to North Tarrant Parkway north of downtown. Meanwhile, incumbent Moss faces a June 15 runoff against Bivens, who had a narrow lead in the balloting with 1,192 votes. The three-way race saw Moss garner 1,107 votes and John Tunmire receive 219 votes.