A few minutes with Councilman Chris Nettles, Episode 4

Jessica Priest

Hey everyone, my name is Jessica Priest, and I’m a journalist with the Fort Worth Report, and we’re spending a few minutes with Councilman Chris Nettles. You may have seen on our website that we’ve done a few minutes with Mayor Mattie Parker. Mayor Parker isn’t available this week, so I asked the councilman if he’d like to talk, and he graciously accepted. And that’s great because we’ve always wanted to make this a broader series with more community leaders and Councilman Nettles is part of like a new majority on Council. A majority of newbies I guess, five new City Council members in Fort Worth. So thank you for joining us this morning. To start off, could you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on this week? (Please note this conversation has been edited for length and clarity.)

Chris Nettles

Well, this week, like all the other weeks, has been pretty busy. We have several meetings, and we’ve really been working and focusing on the Evans and Rosedale project that surprisingly had been stalled and on a standstill for over two and a half years. We are going to revitalize Evans and Rosedale and bring new development, jobs and a potential grocery store. The developer has in the works, in the plans to set aside a spot for a grocery store, but first we have to get the development off the ground in order to make that take place. We have some things going on in Morningside. Morningside is building new homes. There have been a lot of vacant lots that have been there for some time now. … I’ll be meeting with a reporter there to kind of talk about the difference between gentrification and revitalization, and basically, how we can bring up the Southside and Historic Southside…

Priest

What is gentrification to you? And how as a council member are you going to develop without gentrifying, if that’s your goal? 

Nettles

Yeah, I mean, you know, it is my goal. I tell people (the difference between) gentrification and revitalization is very faint. (They are) almost one in the same. But gentrification is where you actually take a piece of land that’s probably owned by other people, and you build on it for the wealthy to come in, move in and take over the land … We’re not doing that at all. The land that we’re building on is for people who used to live in Morningside, people who left and, you know, their homes are not there anymore and so they’re just purchasing their homes. And the difference is, they’re not building homes from 1960 to 1970, so the brick-and-mortar is going to be different. It’s going to look a little bit modern. But that’s not gentrification. That’s just bringing up the community. And I tell people that, in an older neighborhood like that, it is going to be my goal and initiative to make sure that our seniors who live there have tax exemptions … people who own their homes, reach out to my office so that we can make sure that we get you tax exempted so that when taxes start going up, because it’s probably going to happen, they don’t go up on those who have lived there for many years.

Priest

And on the grocery store, what steps have you taken to recruit a grocery store? What kind of grocery store are you looking for in District 8?

Nettles

I met with Mayor Parker, the city manager and I kind of asked for their assistance and help, because I think it’s gonna be a city-wide initiative that needs to take place to help bring this necessity to District 8. And so we have reached out to a couple of grocery stores. We’re trying to contact H-E-B again because initially they tried to come. Well, there was some negotiation to bring them to the east side of Fort Worth. And so I’m going to reach back out to them. We’re trying to reach back out to Aldi’s. As it relates to the Evans and Rosedale project, we’re trying to complete — well, not complete — but start the project. See the houses, the apartments go up, the development move, so that we can say, ‘Hey, we have 300 units that’s coming here. We already got these people that live in this area. What type of grocery store can we bring here?’ Maybe it’s Sprouts, but we don’t want anything that people who live there cannot afford to shop at, and we want to make sure it has fresh produce.

Priest

You talked on the campaign trail about maybe getting some numbers from Walmart to show that the area can support an additional grocery store. Were they amenable to that, to getting you any numbers?

Contact Nettles

Fort Worth City Council District 8

Nettles

Well, we’re still working on that. … We should hopefully by the end of August have a set meeting with those who are in a charge of that and we want to get those numbers, because I think those numbers are really — and I’m glad you brought that up — going to help support a second grocery store. The type of traffic that is in there, the amount of or how many times the shelves are emptied, you know, how many deliveries they have on a constant basis, because during COVID-19, I know every store was empty, but that store was completely empty. And then there was no other resource around versus in District 6 you have Kroger, Albertsons, Walmart. … You can sit down on the corner and look from corner to corner and see all these stores. You can’t do that in District 8.

Priest

What’s the location of that Walmart that you’re referring to?

Nettles

It’s in the east part of Fort Worth off of 287 and Mitchell. And I tell people 10, 11, 12 years ago, that Walmart did not exist … Kathleen Hicks, former Mayor Mike Moncrief, and Happy Baggett worked tirelessly to prove that we can support a grocery store. That was 12 years ago, so surely, we should have some numbers and data…

Priest

So switching gears, in your first days in office, you wrote and delivered a letter talking about the Atatiana Jefferson case and how you wanted to see that go to trial sooner rather than later. Can you tell us what response you got to the letter and what, if anything, more you’re going to do to see that that case goes to trial if you can?

Nettles

I talked to a lot of people who said it was a campaign promise, and it was, but more than a campaign promise, it’s reality. It’s just fair. And we need to bring this trial to the head. And I tell people that as (a member of) City Council, the mayor or any elected official, you have the ability to have power, to use your position to change the direction going forward. And so that’s exactly what I wanted to do is use my position of authority to say, ‘Hey, it’s important to our community that we have justice as it relates to Atatiana Jefferson.’ As it relates to the outcomes that we received, the judge did acknowledge that he did receive our letter. We sent it via email, as well as hand delivered it. I haven’t heard anything from the district attorney’s office. But Mayor Parker also wrote a statement shortly right after or simultaneously. … She released a statement saying the importance of the trial coming to a head. So prior to the new council, nobody else in the council did anything. So for me to do something and then Mayor Parker to turn around and do something, that really speaks volumes that I don’t stand alone, I don’t stand in a silo. I’m actually leading the forces to bring the groups of people around. And I sent the same letter to all my colleagues, and I believe that it’s important to be transparent, so I wanted them to know what I was doing. And just to be aware of so if anybody or a reporter were to ask them about it, they were aware of what I was doing … I’m not asking for any special privileges, or we’re not asking for you (the judge) to rule any special way. You know, we just think the only way that we can start the process of peace, of unity, is if you set a trial and let the people or the justice system work. 

New councilmembers Jared Williams, Leonard Firestone, Chris Nettles, Elizabeth M. Beck, and newly elected mayor Mattie Parker were sworn in at the Fort Worth Convention Center on June 15. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

Priest

When I talked with Mayor Parker, she mentioned that there may be some other cases that he has to try before this one. Do you know of those specifics?

Nettles

I’m sure that’s true, but you have to look at the seriousness of this case. It happened in October. It happened almost two years ago. And so we are walking on two years. And there’s a lot of cases I’m sure that they have not seen, have not tried due to COVID-19. But I think it’s important. This is not somebody who stole something in the grocery store or somebody stabbed somebody. This was a then Fort Worth police officer who murdered a resident in her own home. He’s no longer with the force. He has been indicted for murder, and, I mean, it is a community issue that has not been solved, so it affects the entire city of Fort Worth, so I think is it and should be at the top of the list.

Priest

Have you worked with the mayor or the police chief on how when the case does go to trial, you will support or protect the city through this emotional case? …

Nettles

Mayor Parker has been involved and some city staff has been involved in meeting with community leaders to come up with a central message that, when this trial comes to head, when it concludes, that there is a message that the city is going to put out and a message that the community is going to put out. And it’s going to be the same message and vision, which is, it’s not going to be easy; that’s going to be a hard message to put out of unity. But I’m going to be on the frontline and say, ‘Listen, I want the trial, but I want the community still to act accordingly. Protest if you will, you know, march if you will, but make sure that we stay safe. … We’re asking for no violence to take place… We want the trial to stay here in Tarrant County. We want people to be able to sit in on the case. We want people to be able to have complete transparency. And for us to do that, we’ve got to make sure that we don’t lose our cool. And so you will see me being a little vocal, reminding the community. … I’m still gonna be on the same frontline. But I’m gonna be saying, ‘Let’s keep the peace. Let’s let the justice system work. Let’s believe in the system. And let’s hope that Atatiana Jefferson and her family receive the justice that they are entitled to…’

Priest

Is there anything else you want to talk about? 

Nettles

On Sept. 22, we’re going to have a state-of-the-district address … in mid August, if we don’t have a trial date set. Look to hear from me on the next strategy to help promote that date…

Priest

Well, that’s all the time we have. Thank you so much for joining us. Viewers. If you have any questions that you would like us to follow up with Councilman Nettles on, please message us in our social channels. You can also suggest future guests for us. We’re still learning about the community, and this was a great first step. Thank you again for coming. And if you want to support our journalism, go to fortworthreport.org. You can read about some of the topics that we have been talking about, some of our coverage on them, and you can also donate by going to fortworthreport.org/donate. Thank you.

Jessica Priest is an investigative journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at jessica.priest@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter

At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Jessica Priest

Jessica Priest is Fort Worth Report's government and accountability reporter. She was previously on USA TODAY's regional investigative team. After Jessica reported that a Midland County prosecutor worked...

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