Dave Montgomery Austin Correspondent
AUSTIN – Fort Worth City Councilman Jungus Jordan took over the helm of the century-old Texas Municipal League on Friday, citing transportation, water, education and public safety as top issues facing Texas cities in the face of continued population growth in the coming decades. As president of the influential municipal lobbying organization, Jordan, an eight year member of the Fort Worth Council, will espouse the common concerns of more than 1,100 Texas cities. He ascended to the leadership post on the final day of the TML’s three-day convention in Austin, succeeding Mesquite Mayor John Monaco.
Jordan becomes the sixth Fort Worth official to head the TML since its creation 100 years ago. He will serve a one-year term. “I’m pretty excited and also pretty humbled,” Jordan told the Fort Worth Business Press. Five of his colleagues from the Fort Worth Council, City Manager Tom Higgins and Jordan’s wife of 43 years, Glenda Jordan, sat at the front of a cavernous ballroom in the Austin Convention Center as Jordan accepted the leadership post
“He’s ready to roll, said Council member Gyna Bivens. .The TML, one of state‘s upper-tier lobbying associations, was created in 1913 to advocate for the interests of towns and cities. Although urban giants such as Fort Worth, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio have expanded their clout with burgeoning population growth, 80 percent of the TML’s membership is composed of cities and towns under 10,000. “Whether you’re a small city or a large city, you’re an equal member,” Jordan told TML delegates. He described Texas cities as “fiercely independent” entities that want to be free of unfunded mandates and federal and state restraints. “We want to be left alone to handle our own challenges,” he said.
Jordan, 65, who became president-elect at the TML’s 2012 meeting, outlined Texas municipal priorities in in a speech that included a heavy focus on transportation and other infrastructure issues. Transportation is one of Jordan’s trademark issues on the Fort Worth council.
“That’s my passion,” Jordan said. “You can blame a lot of those orange construction barrels on me.” “We call him Mr. Transportation,” said Mayor Pro-Tem W. B. “Zim” Zimmerman. “We’re proud to have him head up the TML.” Fort Worth Council member Sal Espino said Jordan will keep a “laser-like” focus on helping cities cope with infrastructure challenges such as water and transportation. “He’s a good man, a good leader,” said Espino. “He’ll do a great job.” Jordan announced the creation of a 15-member TML committee to work with the Texas Department of Transportation on a plan to help cities voluntarily take over maintenance responsibilities for some state highways. The committee will also be tasked with looking at long-term funding options for transportation as fast-growing Texas adds millions of new residents in the years ahead.
In August, state transportation officials announced that they were developing plans for cities to voluntarily turn over maintenance of nearly 1,900 miles of urban state highways to cities to save the state $165 million per year. Several cities and counties have contacted TxDOT and expressed interest in participating in the program, TML officials said Wednesday.
Jordan said the TML has had “very productive conversations” with TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson about developing the program. The TML’s working group will be look into funding and other issues in the weeks ahead.
Jordan said he personally supports ballot initiatives to bolster water resources and shore up the state’s transportation network.
A proposal on the November, 2013, ballot will ask voters to finance state projects with $2 billion in start-up money from the state’s rainy day fund. A separate initiative to go to voters in November of 2014 would increase transportation funding by about $1.2 billion a year.
Jordan has been a member of the Fort Worth Council since 2005, representing District Six in far south and southwest Fort Worth. He is former chairman r of the North Central Texas Regional Transportation Council. He has also served as Chair of Rail North Texas and currently serves a chair of the Passenger Rail Working Group. He also heads the council’s audit committee.
Jordan described cities as “the incubator that bring jobs to Texas” and underscored the importance of creating adequate infrastructure to accommodate future growth. Having adequate roads and rail, he said, is essential for Texas if it wants to capitalize on boosted trade volume expected to be generated by the expansion of the Panama Canal, a project targeted for completion in 2015.
Jordan said the TML is also poised to fight against growing efforts in Washington to do away with a tax exemption for investors who purchase municipal bonds, which he described as a “very safe investment.”
“We want to keep that exemption,” Jordan said.
The last Fort Worth official to head the TML was then-Mayor Kenneth Barr, who served in 1999. Other TML leaders were Mayor Bob Bolen in 1986, Councilman Edgar Deen in 1951, City Attorney R. E. Rouer in 1939, and Mayor W. E. Cockrell in 1922.