Will voters want you back if you quit during your term in office? Will they think you’re ineffective if don’t vote on big issues because of a family conflict? Those are two of the biggest questions in the Fort Worth District 8 council race between incumbent Kelly Allen Gray and the council member she replaced, Kathleen Hicks.
Last year, after seven years on the Fort Worth City Council, Kathleen Hicks left in the middle of her term to run for Congress. She didn’t win that race, and is now trying to regain her old council seat.
She says she wants to reassure citizens who may be wondering she isn't going to jump ship to run for Congress again.
“No. I don’t plan to run for Congress again,” Hicks said. “I truly love this community. Congress didn’t work out but there is another chapter of service in my life and I feel that’s why I’m doing this.”
But incumbent council member Kelly Allen Gray, who succeeded Hicks nine months ago, says Hicks’ run for Congress is an issue because council resignations trigger mid-term elections that are expensive.
“This is the third election in a year we have had for District 8,” said Gray. “We are continuing to have tax dollars spent on an election because she left. Those are dollars we could have done others things with in the city.”
“Basically what I am asking is for the opportunity to have a full two-year term,” Gray said.
Gray believes she’s accomplished a lot during her nine months on the job. She’s created a task force of citizens who identify basic service problems. She says she then works with city staff to get them fixed.
“In the last nine months we’ve had over 573 vacant lots that have been mowed; there were over 1300 street lights that have been replaced; we have parks that are in line to have new equipment put in. Nothing was happening there,” Gray explained.
Gray was also among council members who voted 5-4 to prevent an increase in water rates. She says she was standing up for citizens who weren’t told about the rate hike and couldn’t afford it.
Kathleen Hicks also wants to build on her council accomplishments: the creation of a special tax district to assist development in the East Berry area; the renovation of Cobb Park; the new Shamblee Library.
“This area had been forgotten in large part by the rest of the city. During the seven years I was on the city council we came into our own,” said Hicks. “We got economic develop. We got the new library. We got city services.”
And Hicks claims she’s better equipped to fight for District 8 because she doesn’t have a conflict that has kept her opponent from voting on the city’s employee pension plan.
Gray says she’s chosen not to vote on pension issues because her husband is a Fort Worth police officer.
“I have chosen not to vote on police issues that directly affect my household. Other issues that affect policy I have voted on,” said Gray. “My goal is to be as transparent as I possibly can be and not to have that perceived conflict.”
Gray says her vote wouldn’t have changed the outcome of reforms to the city pension plan. Hicks says that’s not the point.
“The pension issue is not only my priority it is a top priority for this city. We’ve heard we have a $50 M budget shortfall and the pension continues to be a huge issue,” said Hicks.
“There can’t be an empty seat when it comes to District 8. We need to be at the table,” Hicks said.
Gray says she’ll be at the table though on some pension issues she just won’t vote.
Gray and Hicks both say that if elected they’ll serve the full, two-year term.