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Four Candidates Vie For Open Seat On Fort Worth City Council

Saturday is Election Day for cities and school districts across North Texas. In Fort Worth, there will be at least one new face on the City Council. 

Councilman Sal Espino is retiring after nearly a dozen years representing District 2, which stretches from downtown to the Far North Fort Worth. Four candidates are vying to replace him.

Carlos Flores: Looking for smarter development

Carlos Flores stands in District 2’s most iconic location: The Fort Worth Stockyards, where the smell of livestock permeates the air and longhorns still walk the streets twice a day. Flores, an aerospace engineer, traces his family history through this historic place: His grandfather and uncle worked in the once-thriving meatpacking plants.

Now, the stockyards are undergoing a major overhaul. Flores served on a task force to craft design standards to keep its historic nature intact.               

“We’re going to have a lot of opportunities here, with that redevelopment, that will showcase and preserve those things that made the stockyards what it is then and keeps it what it is now,” Flores said.

That $175 million project is an example of what Flores calls smarter development: working together with developers to make sure their plans integrate into the city’s larger vision and infrastructure needs. He says that applies to this aging area and to new development in the district’s far-north neighborhoods.

“We have to make sure that the infrastructure is appropriate and can accommodate that added use,” Flores said. “So the time to do it is before any development starts, because it’s more costly to come back and have to do it after the fact.”

Credit Christopher Connelly / KERA News
Carlos Flores is a City Council candidate.

Jennifer Treviño: Wants to bring people together

Just a couple miles to the south, Jennifer Treviño is at Magdalena’s, a growing catering business and supper club, built in a retrofitted cloth diaper factory. Treviño says this kind of smaller-scale entrepreneurship can get overlooked amid the massive projects underway in the districts: the stockyards renovation, development around Meacham Airport, or the billion dollar Trinity River Vision plan, for example.

“You have all these big development projects, but you also have opportunities for smaller businesses to be involved in that,” Treviño says. “That’s what I think is exciting: To have different ways for different-sized companies or startups to be involved in those bigger projects, or do smaller projects like this one on their own.”

Treviño stepped down as an executive at UNT Health Sciences Center to run for council. She says worked to bring together the right people to make sure the growing academic medical center ran smoothly. It’s this role as a convener of stakeholders that she sees as a model for representing District 2 in City Hall. One example, she cites: Launching an economic development corporation for the district.

“Often times, organizations, individuals, and businesses are working towards the same thing, but maybe not on the same page, or the timing’s off, so I really think this could help foster that community or collaboration,” she says. “That’s one of my strengths: bringing people together."

Credit Christopher Connelly / KERA News
Jennifer Treviño is a City Council candidate.

Tony Perez: 'We are one district'

Realtor Tony Perez is  the only candidate who lives north of Loop 820, in an area of Far North Fort Worth plagued more by the growing pains of rapid expansion than aging infrastructure.

“One of my goals is to connect the north side with the far north area, because we are one district,” Perez says.

Perez says many residents up here often feel left out of the decision making process. He’d use social media and convene stakeholders the district’s different regions to make sure all voices are heard, he says. But he also wants more literal connections to the rest of the district, like busses and bike trails. He says amenities like these would help the city attract companies that bring higher-wage jobs to the city.

“We need some retail, of course, we need some food service,” Perez says. “However, when that’s all that’s here, then there’s essentially a cap, an economic cap on what’s possible in the city.”

Credit Christopher Connelly / KERA News
Tony Perez is running for a seat on the Fort Worth City Council.

Steve Thornton: City Hall is like a pot of soup

In Fort Worth’s historic Northside neighborhood, retired firefighter Steve Thornton shows off his meticulously restored 1910 home, which also houses his financial planning company. It’s one of a handful of houses he’s restoring in the neighborhood.

This is Thornton’s second run at City Council – both times running as a political outsider. Thornton says people across District 2 on both sides of the 820 loop feel like development decisions made downtown come at their expense.

“What the people are feeling here are that they are being ignored,” Thornton says. “And I’m not telling you that the city’s ignoring them, but I can’t deny the fact that they’re feeling ignored.”

Thornton wants to the city council to be more responsive to regular people. He also wants term limits to bring in fresh ideas. City Hall is like a pot of soup, he says – he’d bring a spoon and a ladle to the job.

“What I want to do is get in there with my spoon, and stir it up. Let all those good ingredients come to the top again. But the other question you have is ‘what’s the ladle for?’” he says.

That, he says, is for getting old ingredients out of the soup that don’t work so well anymore.

Voter turnout is usually low in this district, often in the low single digits. Thornton says maybe with four candidates running for the seat, more voters will weigh in by going to the polls on Saturday.

Credit Christopher Connelly / KERA News
Steve Thornton is running for a seat on the Fort Worth City Council.

Christopher Connelly is a reporter covering issues related to financial instability and poverty for KERA’s One Crisis Away series. In 2015, he joined KERA to report on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. From Fort Worth, he also focused on politics and criminal justice stories.