Friday, June 07, 2024

Happy birthday, Fort Worth. I love you. Do better.

Yesterday was Fort Worth’s demisemiseptcentennial. Don't you love that word? Happy 175th, Fort Worth.

A lot has changed since that fort named after General William Jenkins Worth (who fought in the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War and was a slaveholder) was built on the bluff above the Trinity River. The fort was located there by the U.S. Army to protect the white folks from the Comanches.

Sometimes it feels like the only thing that has changed are the people white folks need to be protected from. It was Comanches then. In the post-Civil War era and on into Jim Crow, it was Black people. Still is. Then add in "illegal immigrants," a sweeping phrase meaning all brown people from south of our border. Or South Texas. Then toss in LGBTQIA+, especially trans children. Oh, and drag queens. And uppity women. Don't forget them. Any woman not a trad wife is suspect.

Funky Town has indeed grown, but I'm not sure it's grown up.

The deep racism of my city has grown less overt, but is still very present -- as it is in ALL Texas cities. The gulf between rich and poor widens every year that Republicans run the state, and as our voucher-obsessed governor greedily eyes school tax dollars for private Christian schools, the starving of our public schools is bearing the predicable fruit.

Our city takes up a big chunk of Tarrant County, named after General Edward H. Tarrant (commander of militia forces of the Republic of Texas and owner of the largest number of slaves in Tarrant County at the time).

Tarrant County leadership is now dominated by a QAnon devotee and other Far Right politicians. The Republican sheriff spends his time trying to get on Fox News while at least 65 prisoners have died in the Tarrant County Jail since the sheriff took office in 2017.

The jail is short more than 200 staffers, according to news reports. The county signed a $18 million contract in September 2023 to move 432 inmates to a private prison in Post, Texas, because of staffing shortages. Detention officers make up about 80% of the sheriff’s office workforce, according to news reports.

To fix this, the county wants to build the sheriff a fancy new very expensive law enforcement training center. Never mind that there are three existing law enforcement centers within 20 miles of the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office that train about 5,700 officers each year. According to news reports, Tarrant County taxpayers have spent at least $123 million on building new public safety training centers in Fort Worth and at Tarrant County College since the early 2000s. The reason given for a shiny new "world class" training facility is that it would help with recruiting and retention of officers.

KERA reported, however, “'There is no research saying that, if you build a brand-spanking new facility with all the bells and whistles, that is going to drive people to apply and become officers or sheriff’s deputies for that department,' said Dic Donohue, a policy researcher with the RAND corporation, focused on law enforcement training and recruitment/retention.

"There are a number of other factors that appear to reliably boost recruitment though, including pay increases, wellness programs and, controversially, relaxing some hiring standards.

'Facilities tend not to not to be high on that list,' Donohue said."

But when you are constantly drumming up fear about "illegals" and drag queens, the solution is clearly more officers, right? To protect white people.

And then there's our mayor.

Fort Worth's Mayor Mattie Parker removed a Pride badge from the city’s summer reading challenge last year after eight parents wrote nearly identical letters decrying the badge. Parker threw a fit and ordered the badge removed from the program. Then when more than 2,000 people signed a petition to have the badge reinstated, she said she had been out of the country and didn't know about the uproar.

“I would never want anybody to feel unwelcome or unseen,” Parker told WFAA in July 2023. “I think my decision was well-founded and, again, it was not meant to hurt anybody’s feelings.”

But this is not about hurt feelings. This is about life and death for some of the most marginalized people in our society -- the youngest of which are at high risk of suicide because our society tells them they are sinful and worthless.

Read more about how this unfolded at

But wait, there's more. Most recently the mayor used her clout to have the city give permission for LUCA (Latinos United for Conservative Action) to host a program focused on “the impact of LGBT ideology, the social contagion of transgenderism, and the dangers of pornography” at the city-owned Fire Station Community Center this month.

The Justice Network of Tarrant County said this is “nothing more than a blatant attempt to heighten fear and spew inaccurate and dangerous information about the transgender community. This can only put the lives of transgender folks, whose safety and security are constantly at risk, in more imminent danger.”

The Justice Network is an interfaith collection of more than 20 organizations and 350 faith leaders and individuals.

Fort Worth Park and Recreation Department’s Community Center Policies & Procedures handbook says, “Use of community centers shall not be permitted to groups which practice, profess, or have as their policy (official or unofficial) discrimination against persons on the basis of sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, color, or national origin,” the policy reads. “Nor shall access be permitted to groups affiliated with organizations which practice, profess, or have a policy of such discrimination.”

That seems really clear.

Parker clearly knows the dangers trans kids face. In a March 2022 interview with the Texas Tribune, ""Parker came to the defense of transgender children and their families amid the state’s push to label some parents of transgender youth as child abusers. Gov. Greg Abbott, who endorsed Parker when she ran for mayor in 2021, recently directed the state’s child welfare agency to investigate parents who let their trans children access gender-affirming care.

"Parker said policymakers should instead focus on providing mental health resources for teenagers and improving conditions for children in the state foster care system. She also cited figures showing transgender teens are much more likely to attempt suicide than their cisgender peers.

“ 'I'm worried right now that you're targeting families that are already incredibly vulnerable and in a really difficult circumstance, when there are so many other hundreds of thousands of kids and families that are in dangerous positions with no regard for the subject of transgender,' Parker said.

“'I could not run in a Republican primary because I just couldn't look myself in the mirror and do it,” Parker said during the event with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith.

Read it all at

So what happened? What happened, I suspect, is some Republican donors with big bucks.

And I haven't even touched on the Fort Worth Police Department and its stuttering moves toward "rebuilding trust" in the wake of the Jacqueline Craig and Atatiana Jefferson.

So whither Fort Worth? We are among the fastest-growing cities in the nation, not all those newcomers are conservatives. Hence the Republican cry, "Don't California my Texas."

But it doesn't take being from California to want a level playing field, to want the state to stay out of people's medical decisions both those of trans people and of women and girls. Texas women risk death if they have a miscarriage because our abortion laws have terrorized physicians and hospitals. (Of course these laws are supported by the same people chanting, "My body, my choice" to protest mask mandates during the height of the pandemic.)

And here's the crux of the matter.

Texas has long been plagued with low voter turnout, especially in municipal and county elections.

"Of the nearly 1.3 million people registered to vote in Tarrant County, only 6.52%, or 83,161 people, voted in the May 4 election, according to election results reported by KERA on May 4, 2024."

This in an election that included "a number of ballot items, including elections of appraisal district board members, municipal government representatives and school board trustees."

Almost 50,000 voters cast their ballots in-person during the early voting period, and 6,434 people voted by mail, according to unofficial results from the county’s elections department," KERA reported.

Only 6.52% of eligible voters -- Fort Worth, you should be ashamed. Way too many of you can't be bothered to exercise the most basic right of all, the bedrock of our Republic -- the right to vote.

I love Fort Worth. I love its museums and parks. My daughter and grandchildren went through the FWISD. Fort Worth people are generous and kind in a thousand ways a day. People are working their butts off helping the homeless, feeding the hungry, loving the unlovable, caring for children, helping neighbors.

But the only way all that goodness can manifest itself in our city, county, state, and national government is if all those good people vote. Otherwise, we will continue to be governed by those elected by a tiny smidgen of the people.

So come on Fort Worth. You are so much better than this.

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