One year ago today, I stood on a stage alongside my colleagues on the Fort Worth City Council as one of six new faces transforming its makeup, and made an oath to serve this city and its residents as Mayor.
A two-thirds turnover of the governing body and loss of decades of City Council experience in a single election could have been destabilizing, especially in the midst of Fort Worth’s explosive growth, the aftershocks of a global pandemic, and national political and cultural reckonings.
But it is with immense pride that I look back on the last 365 days seeing what we, as a community and as a Council, have been able to accomplish by truly leading with a focus on what unites us rather than what divides us.
And what unites us, above all else, is a focus on the highest quality of life for Fort Worth residents. We understand what we are responsible for as a municipal government: those most basic services that mean the most, simple things like trash and recycling picked up each week, clean water flowing from every faucet, beautiful parks and greenspaces, enriching libraries and community center services, continually updated and expanded roadways, and safe neighborhoods for every resident and family, regardless of ZIP code.
Fort Worth has long been a city of excellence, built by the pioneering spirit of the policymakers who came before us and the everyday leaders who thrive in communities across Fort Worth: visionaries in business, education, philanthropy, and community advocacy. I believe we have only added and expanded on that foundation of civility and compassion, and Fort Worth is better today than it was a year ago.
Despite the turmoil at all levels of government across the United States, Fort Worthians can be proud that their leadership is committed to embracing positive policies and consensus building, perhaps best illustrated by the unanimous, 9-0 vote to adopt a new redistricting map following months of intense, and at times contentious, discussions.
Additionally, voters showed their confidence by approving a $560 million bond program that will nurture our growing city by expanding streets and mobility infrastructure, building or improving numerous park and recreation sites, public libraries, police and fire safety facilities, and acquiring open spaces.
We have implemented exciting, innovative economic development initiatives that will launch dynamic new businesses, like the Techstars Physical Health Fort Worth Accelerator. We’ve connected Fort Worth’s underserved communities to financing to help businesses reach their full potential with CDFI Friendly Fort Worth. We’re showing the world that we are open to technologies transforming the financial landscape by launching the City of Fort Worth Bitcoin Mining Pilot Program.
There are so many projects vital to our future which we can be proud of. The Central City Flood Control Project made tremendous moves and the Texas A&M University System downtown urban research campus took its first steps. In addition, to serve our most vulnerable, soon 165 units of permanent supportive housing will allow us to address chronic homelessness in our city.
We’re aggressively investing in the next generation, with efforts to fund early educators, expand childcare infrastructure and bring together the best and brightest thought leaders to direct our future funding with the Blue Ribbon Action Committee on Child Care.
Even as we celebrate the triumphs of the last 12 months, there are still so many challenges ahead.
We are battling a rise in violent crime and the devastating effects of gun violence, with 45 homicides so far this year following 2021 where there were 118 homicide victims, a 27-year record high in Fort Worth. This is unacceptable. Solving these issues will require a multifaceted approach that I shared following the tragedy in Uvalde: leaders advocating for commonsense policies, expanding and funding programs that work, and leading with a simultaneously pro-police and pro-community mindset. I am proud that Fort Worth stands apart from other large cities by having a City Council dedicated to supporting the needs of its police officers. We will not balk on funding, and we will support Chief Noakes’ dedication to implementing best practices that ensure his tenets of safety, wellness and resiliency for both the Police Department and the community it serves.
Our students are struggling to overcome a steep academic slide. In 2021, only 28% of third- to eighth-grade students met grade level on their math and reading exams. Our kids and our teachers deserve more of our attention, and it will take the efforts of school systems, city leadership, and nonprofits pulling together to get students back on track. At the end of the day, regardless of if your child is in a public school, private school, charter school, or homeschool, every student in every ZIP code deserves a high-quality education. Our classrooms must also be setting students up for success in life, which is why I have established the Mayor’s Council on Education & Workforce Development to help enhance educational programs and career pathways in Fort Worth public schools to help prepare students for their future careers, even the ones yet to be invented.
In the coming months, there will continue to be issues coming to City Council that matter deeply to our residents. There will be debate on what is next for growth-related economic development issues and a focus on how to keep taxes low in the face of rising property valuations. Residents continuing to face cost of living increases caused by inflation will need robust, compassionate city services more than ever.
Both one year ago and today, I am confident that we are prepared to address these opportunities and more, coming out stronger.
This time next year, your City Council will be made up of 11 members rather than nine. It will be another shakeup, but it is certainly one we can look to with excitement for what we will be able to do for our growing community.
I want to sincerely thank Fort Worth for the care and support shown to me, my family and my husband over the last year, and for embracing having a mom of young children balancing life and public service. Thank you.
In one year, I look forward to looking back on the Fort Worth that has become even a better version of itself. Our greatest is still yet to come.