Daniel “DC” Caldwell is a 36-year-old educator in Fort Worth who is seeking the mayor’s seat in a crowded May 1 election.
Caldwell has run for public office before, but wants to make a difference as the replacement for Mayor Betsy Price, who announced in January that she would not seek a seventh two-year term. Price, 71, was first elected in 2011.
The Report sent Caldwell a questionnaire to see where he stands on issues important to Fort Worth.
Q: Why are you running? What got you interested in city politics?
A: I have several reasons. I decided to run for city council because I learned as an Eagle Scout to strive to serve and be involved as a citizen in the community, nation and world. Specifically, I believe serving on the council would be a worthy use of my education and personal aptitudes.
Q: What are the two most important issues you see facing the city?
A: The top two priorities are stewardship of the city resources, namely managing the city budget, and responding to concerns, requests for assistance, and suggestions of constituents.
Q: What sets you apart from the rest of the field?
A: I am honestly a seeker of consensus and common ground, as demonstrated by my recent record. In both 2018 and 2020 (virtually), I attended both the Texas state conventions of the Republican and Democratic parties, having been separately elected as a delegate to each of them. Some people claim to want to collaborate with those they disagree with, but their ‘bipartisan’ efforts are not credible in our polarized political landscape.
I want to bring back the kind of unity that Allan Shivers demonstrated when he was nominated as governor by both the Republican and Democratic parties.
Q: Name a past accomplishment that you are proud of and explain why.
A: I am proud of my legacy as a former student at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law. In 2017, I became the Federalist Society chapter president, founding an organization that did not exist yet which now continues on in good hands. As a law student in April 2018, I realized by taking surveys that literally none of the students nor faculty knew off-hand what the law school’s values were (“cooperation, excellence, fairness, integrity, and learning,” abbreviated FICLE, C-FILE, or C-LIFE). In order to promote a value-oriented culture, I consulted with professors, administrators, and bar association and class officers to propose ways to integrate the values into the curriculum, informal activities, and formal programs of the law school.
After multiple interviews with alumni and organization representatives in order to shepherd the idea forward, the TMSL Student Bar Association Executive Board voted in February 2019 to approve the proposal to re-write the values and refer the recommendation to the TMSL Student-Faculty Relations Committee.
After follow-up, the TMSL Student-Faculty Relations Committee voted in March 2019 to approve the proposal to re-write the values and refer the recommendation to the Faculty Senate.
At the April 2019 TMSL Faculty Senate meeting, I learned they had not had a quorum at any monthly meetings since the school year started, so I personally delivered flyers reminding them to attend the May meeting to each voting professor.
In May 2019, the TMSL Faculty Senate voted to officially change in the law school values to ones which spell the acronym IMPROVE: Integrity, Mindfulness, Professionalism, Responsibility, Opportunity, Vision, & Excellence.
Q: As mayor, how do you plan to bring more people to the table so that more voices are reflected in the Council’s decisions? Why is it important to ensure our city is inclusive?
A: In order to be more inclusive and to increase transparency, I would like to facilitate the public hearing process by having each council member conduct hearings with their constituents that are recorded and automatically transcribed into the meeting minutes using voice recognition software. Then, the remaining council can read the testimony provided while the original council member provides a synopsis and ask to confirm with the constituents if that summary was accurate in touching the major points. Of course, as mayor, I would listen to constituents from whichever district had the most speakers on a given day. This kind of inclusion helps the city government fill its primary role of being responsive to the needs, concerns, and suggestions of residents. We cannot effectively address requests for help if we do not hear them. Another angle I want to take on being more inclusive is to make the city’s social media links on its website more prominent and inviting to help with engaging residents; they are small enough that I overlooked them for literally two years of visiting the city webpage every month.
Q: Public safety is an important issue this election. How will you ensure that people feel safe in the city while also balancing the need to make sure the Fort Worth Police Department treats everyone equally regardless of their race?
A: My first thought on reading the question is that feeling safe and being safe are often unrelated; many fears are by their very nature irrational. However, for building rapport with the police and helping the police to relate better with residents, I am a vocal proponent of the FWPD Ride-In Program. I want to improve community policing by encouraging members of the community to connect with the police with positive experiences like many I have had.
Q: Economic development is a major issue for the city. How does your background help the city strive toward luring more companies to relocate here and start more homegrown businesses? Why is economic development important for residents?
A: My background in civil engineering emphasizes improving quality of life and providing the infrastructure that residents and businesses need to function. I know the value of redundancies and safety factors and conservative rather than idealistic assumptions to reducing risks and mitigating losses, as well as the importance of seeking a high rate of return when it comes to selecting projects whose value is proportionally large compared to the cost invested. Economic development is important for providing employment opportunities, shifting the property tax burden away from residents to effective reduce cost of living, and increasing the feasibility of maintaining healthy, safe, stable neighborhoods. Economic development includes attracting grocery stores to eliminate relative food deserts, increasing the city’s reputation in order to maintain a constant stream of investment from outside the city, and recovery from the losses suffered as a result of the crushing austerity measures imposed to slow the spread of viral pneumonia.
Q: Mayor Betsy Price has touted that the city has been able to shave off 12 cents from the tax rate, which is currently 74.75 cents, during her time in office. How do you strike a balance between a low rate and ensuring City Hall is able to meet the growing needs of Fort Worth, maintain existing infrastructure and attract more business here?
A: The city budget indicates its four largest chunks are the police department, debt service, fire department, and water service. While still paying the police, I would lower the police officer “starting” salary in order to be able to afford to hire more of the qualified applicants who are turned away each year to match the lower amount that the firefighters earn. I would also eliminate across-the-board automatic pay raises that exceed inflation, relying instead on merit-based raises and promotions.
To reduce the city’s pension obligations, I propose that we stop promising new hires a lucrative pension and instead convert them to IRA accounts which rely on their own contributions. Furthermore, I would condition portions of the employee benefit package on residency in the City of Fort Worth in order to reduce the cost borne by taxpayers or to recoup a portion of the cost when the employees begin contributing to the tax base that provides their salaries. These cost savings will contribute to allowing us to lower the tax rate to 70, 71, 72, 73, or 74 cents per hundred dollars of property value, noting that the tax rate should be rounded to two decimal places, not four.
Lowering property taxes contributes to attracting both residents and businesses. Additionally, improving regional mobility by bridging gaps where roads currently dead-end will also allow for development in areas that are currently inaccessible to business. For example, a service road on the south side of I-30 between Beach and Brentwood Stair would allow for offices or apartments to be built in east Fort Worth, and connecting Oakland Blvd to Carson/Sanders St. should attract businesses to a part of town that was avoided due to its relative geographic isolation caused by the Trinity River.
Q: The next mayor will likely lead the city out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Why are you the person to help the city and business community bounce back from the virus?
A: We should not have forced businesses to close, isolated individuals and families, and muzzled literally everyone.
I opposed the censorship of doctors that disagree with Fauci. I did and do oppose the unconstitutional mandates restricting speech, assembly, religion, travel, work, shopping, and other activities.
Rather than catering to the panic of the new normal, I would have allowed 99% of people to continue their lives as normal, knowing that ~1% of the population will unavoidably die any given year just as a matter of mortal life span.
In a normal given year, almost 3 million Americans will die, with the average life expectancy of 78 years holding steady.
With that in mind, I would not have shut everything down and cost millions of jobs that are essential to surviving and thriving for tens of millions of Americans young and old.
Q: Fort Worth ISD has dozens of underperforming schools, according to state accountability ratings. Good, high quality schools are a part of the economic development puzzle that would help bring more people and business. How can the city help the district as it tries to improve its schools?
A: In every district, “all the schools have struggled this past year. Fort Worth Independent School District, and the other districts, have primary responsibility for managing their facilities, and the city’s supporting role is largely limited to responding to needs and requests of schools and district administrators as they are called in, such as providing crossing guards and traffic signals for ensuring the safety of students going to and from schools.”
Editor’s note: Some of Mr. Caldwell’s answers were lightly edited for brevity and style.