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Espino, Lane Sling Mud, Debate Roots In Fort Worth Council Dist. 2

Shelley Kofler

Former Fort Worth Council member Jim Lane wants his job back.  Sal Espino, the council’s only Hispanic, says he deserves to stay.

For Northside voters in  District 2 the election probably comes down to this: are you better off today with Sal Espino than you were eight years ago when Jim Lane stepped down after 12 years on the council?

  Joe Maldonado says yes, things are better which is why he was among the slow trickle of early voters at the Diamond Hill Library checking the box in favor of Espino.

“I see a lot of construction going on here.   Revitalization is very important,” said Maldonado. 

“We don’t have as many young kids running around the neighborhood creating disturbances as there were before.  I guess I credit that to Espino,” he added.

But a few minutes later, Virginia Nelson countered his vote by casting her ballot for Lane.

“I think more needs to be done,” Nelson said. 

“Just like last night my little granddaughter was lying in the front of the house.  (It was) maybe about two o’clock.  There were four gunshots across the street from us. This goes on all the time.  There needs to be more security,” she said.

The newly drawn District 2 is more than 60 percent Hispanic.  It now includes areas like Marine Creek Lake on the northwest side. But Espino and Lane both say their roots are in the traditional heart of the district, the area that stretches north from downtown to include an industrial corridor and the historic stockyards.

Just who has the deepest roots has become its own contest between the candidates.   Lane, 68, who famously sports a cowboy hat and a colorful Texas drawl, claims Espino has sold out.

“You know, he moved from the historic part of the district up to the northern end of the district and I think when he did that he lost a lot of his focus,” said Lane. 

“All you have to do is drive around in our area and you begin to see now the tags are coming back up which is gang related.  We’re having trash situations.  The streets are horrible.  I worry about enough police and fire out here.  Those are the basic issues.  I can do a better job simple as that,” Lane said.

But Espino, 45, says he’s more in touch.  

“I grew up here, went to school here. I worship here. I have a law office here.  I’m in the Northside every single day,” he said.

And Espino says services are much better since he took over.

“We’ve added 200 police officers in the last eight years; a hundred new firefighters; four new fire stations in North Fort Worth,” said Espino.

“Here in North Fort Worth we are about to open the first brand new swimming pool since the 1950’s in Marine Park.  Also there was an attempt by some to close the Northside library.  We opposed that and the Northside library was renovated, the parking lot expanded,” Espino said.

Lane’s council resume includes some big scores, too:  key roles in bringing Texas Motor Speedway and Alliance Airport to Forth Worth; proposing daily Longhorn cattle drives through downtown to promote Western heritage; bringing the Cat’s baseball team back to Fort Worth.

“That’s the history and heritage I was proud of,” said Lane. 

But as the saying goes, what have you done for us lately?  Better yet what will you do in the future?

Both candidates say they’re laser focused on basic needs- better streets, public safety and code enforcement. Bringing development to the district with the Trinity River Vision project.

Beyond that there’s a lot of finger pointing.  Last week Lane hit voters with a mailer that claims Espino voted to give tax breaks to a “stinky” metal recycling center.  He says Espino has also failed to fight a sex offender halfway house that wants to move to the district. 

“I especially don’t agree with this sex offender deal.  I don’t want one in District 2 to start with.  I don’t want it in Fort Worth to tell you the truth.  And he put the vote off until the Tuesday after the election,” said Lane who questions why Espino didn’t immediately vote against the halfway house.

Espino says he delayed the vote at the request of the applicant but doesn’t support allowing the halfway house in District 2, and he hopes to relocate the recycling center outside the district. 

He’s responded with his own mailer calling his opponent “Low Road Lane” who he criticizes for representing sex offenders as their criminal attorney.  

There’s no telling if the last minute slams will make a difference.

Early voters for Espino at the Diamond Hill library were more likely to say they’re voting for the councilman because he’s bringing a new swimming pool to the Northside.

“It’s very important for us and the kids, too,” said Ester Galdeano.  “You know they really enjoy it.”

Lane supporter Ray Cipriano says he’s voting for a neighbor he knows and trusts.

“What really helps me is knowing Jim Lane lives here with us,” said Cipriano. 

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.