One Tarrant County’s largest cities, Fort Worth, is looking at a very exciting local race. Our very own chairwoman of the Tarrant County Democratic Party, Deborah Peoples is running for Mayor of Fort Worth. I sat down and spoke with Ms. Peoples about her experience in Fort Worth, local politics, and the issues most important to her.
Ms. Peoples began by highlighting why this election for mayor is so important. Fort Worth is not only the county seat but the largest city in Tarrant County. She feels “it is a city that is full of progressive Americans who are demanding a progressive agenda. Low voting totals have meant we are led by a very non-progressive mayor, a mayor who votes against the interest of most of the citizens of Fort Worth, and I believe it is time to put a stop to that and restore some sanity to government.”
Being a resident of Fort Worth has given Ms. Peoples the insight and perspective she needs to fill this office. She describes her first experience with Fort Worth back in 1975.
“the Fort Worth I found back then was much different. It was a Fort Worth that believed in reaching out to residents, there was more sense of community.”
However, the Fort Worth she encountered when she moved back in 2012 was quite to the contrary.
“republicans had taken over city government, and there was a very different attitude about
reaching out to the ENTIRE community. In my work with the democratic party, I saw this huge schism that existed between neighborhoods. I watched and talked to residents all over the city and recognized the chasm that existed between income levels. I recognized the distance between racial and religious groups. It was that realization, of how deep those schisms had become, that propelled me to activism. I decided I would reach out to include everybody to work on solutions that would benefit everybody.”
Ms. Peoples firmly believes that having an agenda that only benefits a certain few is not the way to move forward. “I have talked to people in all parts of the city, and everybody says it’s time to do something different, they feel the division.”
A good example of this division is the selective rollout of the Blue Zones Project. This is a
program that promotes healthy living and eating. Blue zones are predicated on having great
grocery stores, and introducing more recreational activities, basically it brings a healthy lifestyle closer to residents. However, this program has only been implemented in certain neighborhoods. Fort Worth’s 76104 is an area of poverty and of high-density minority residents, this area was excluded from the Blue Zones Project. Ms. Peoples is concerned that these residents don’t have the types of programs that benefit citizens in other areas of Fort Worth. Residents should not be disenfranchised because of their zip codes. This exclusivity and sense of entitlement for the few is something the residents are tired of and something Ms. Peoples will put a stop to.
She will better serve those constituents and make sure the people in her community feel seen and heard. “You have to bring everybody to the table; you have to value everybody. You can’t govern based on a certain pocket of the city, you have to govern based on the needs of the whole city.”
For her, bringing the residents’ needs to city hall is of the upmost importance. “I will throw open the doors of city hall, you have to be able to listen to all of the residents.”
Deborah Peoples is tired of the blue-ribbon committees that the mayor appoints. Everybody on these Committees seems to come with a title and a certain higher income level. “you have to bring people from across the entire income spectrum, and racial spectrum, to the table.”
One issue that Ms. Peoples highlights is the marriage of business and the city of Fort Worth and the tax policy that come along with that. “One of the things that have happened here is a rush to attract businesses to Fort Worth that help the greater business community. Betsy Prices’ administration appears to have offered them unfettered tax abatements. What that has done is attracted businesses here with lower taxes, and to maintain city budget we had to put a greater tax burden on residents, I will fix that. That means we need to sit down with businesses that we’re trying to bring here and create realistic plans with them, that not only bring them here, but give jobs to residents, and get the businesses more involved in paying their fair share.”
Ms. Peoples recognizes the crippling infrastructure issues in the city. One important issue is public transportation. “we have whole pockets of the city that don’t have access to good public transportation. This means they can’t get to their jobs that are further away in the city. All great cities have great transportation plans, and that is something that we need to work on to improve.”
Providing better transportation allows for people to gain access to services and employment that will help them thrive. Ms. Peoples believes in encouraging housing opportunities for all. “in today’s environment city council members get to weigh in on whether we allow multi-family housing in their districts, and so what has happened is that council districts of means really fight to put in multi -family housing opportunities in certain pockets of the city, and that is not good because it becomes limiting for the families that reside there.”
Being such a big part of the Tarrant County Democratic Party, Ms. Peoples is no stranger to the importance of local politics. What’s happening in Washington and Austin needs to be balanced with a more stressed hyper focus on what’s happening locally. “talk about the availability of jobs and such, that is the business of the city. Talk about fixing the roads in your neighborhood, creating better school programs, that is the business of the city.
It is imperative now that we elect peoples who will not be negligent to the needs of our community. We must recognize the needs around us if we want to succeed as a community. The peoples have spoken, they are looking for a government that is inclusive. They are looking for a government that brings compassion and concern for all and not just a few. They want a leader who will bring together and raise them higher, and Ms. Peoples is ready and determined to be that leader.