Mayor Mattie Parker’s No.1 priority going into 2023 is “inviting more people to the table,” she said during her first “State of the City” address to an audience filled with some of Fort Worth’s most influential people.
“All students right now don’t have a seat at the table for success,” Parker said following the speech. “We’re going to change that here.”
When asked if she was planning to run for mayor again in 2023, Parker said she would be surprised if she chose not to run.
The Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce sponsored event explored Parker’s accomplishments as mayor thus far and included an interview with journalist Margaret Hoover. The city’s leadership is starting to recognize the importance of addressing challenges in K-12 schools. Parker spoke to an audience of over 800 people, including other city leaders and business people.
Fort Worth ISD hiring a new superintendent offers a potential inflection point for education in the city, Parker said, but she emphasized that only half the students living in Fort Worth attend Fort Worth ISD schools. Twelve school districts serve Fort Worth residents.
“I don’t care where you go to school and what school you choose for your children,” Parker said. “I just want to make sure it’s a high quality education, regardless.”
Parker took the opportunity to touch on the high points in her first year as mayor.
Highlights included the allocation of over $400 million for the long-awaited Central City Flood Control Project, Techstars investment accelerator, expansion of the Texas A&M law school into downtown and the announcement of a new medical school campus in Fort Worth’s medical district.
Parker also announced that Taylor Sheridan is bringing a new series to Fort Worth focused on Bass Reeves, the first Black deputy marshal west of the Mississippi River. Filming will take place in Fort Worth, and add thousands of dollars to the local economy, Parker said.
At the start of her speech, she posed a question to the audience: What does it take to be a world-class city?
When Parker took office, she emphasized the importance of developing educational resources for young people in Fort Worth. She recapped her accomplishments, including forming a committee on childcare.
“Without a world-class education, you cannot have a world-class city,” Parker said.
There is work left to do in the area, Parker said. The state needs to invest more in school-age kids, and Fort Worth should advocate for the Legislature to better fund early childhood education and support for families.
The city has not ensured that everyone has access to the resources they need to raise healthy children with equal access to education, Parker said. She announced a goal: “that every single student has access to a credential or a degree before they graduate high school in Fort Worth.”
“We have an incredible skills gap across North Texas,” Parker said.
Only 23% of students in Fort Worth are making it to a two- or four-year institution. The city needs support from the business and philanthropic community to provide opportunities for young people to continue their education, Parker said.
“There is still work to be done, because we know that when adults demand better and get out of the way, our students actually succeed and surpass expectations,” Parker said.
The speech partially focused on the career and technical education programs in Fort Worth. Parker highlighted Brandon Irvin, who graduated from Crowley Collegiate Academy and received an associates degree from Tarrant County College at the same time.
Impact of the 2023 budget
Fort Worth is experiencing a spike in violent crime that has led to more homicides, especially among teens. She highlighted the 2023 budget, which added over 75 positions to public safety staff — including 14 civilian positions.
In the question-and-answer portion of the event, Parker repeated a chorus of Fort Worth being both ‘pro-police and pro-community.’ The job of city leadership is to ask police leadership what they need to do their job, Parker said. It’s also imperative to work with other cities, like Arlington and Dallas, to coordinate on public safety, Parker said.
The city also used money from the American Rescue Plan Act to fund the One Second Collaborative in partnership with United Way of Tarrant County, which will provide resources to the Fort Worth Police Department and other smaller organizations.
Other points she made:
– Development services will also be receiving a face-lift in 2023, Parker announced. Development services will receive 40 additional staff members. Additionally, the new city hall will have an entire floor devoted to processing city permits — streamlining the process.
– The city will invest $3.5 billion into transportation projects from 2018 to 2026, Parker highlighted. The bulk of those projects are focused on road-centric transit, but Parker also addressed public transportation.
“I know we’ve struggled with this, but world-class cities also have world-class public transportation,” Parker said.
– The open space program also received a shout-out from the mayor. The program has preserved 150 acres of natural areas. The city estimates it is losing 50 acres of open space every week.
– Homelessness will not be solved by city-sanctioned homeless camps, Parker said. Instead, the city is investing in building units for homeless families and individuals — the city funded 288 units of affordable housing using federal funds on Sept. 29.
– Parker also announced the first recipient of the Mayor’s Unsung Hero Service Award, which aims to honor Fort Worth residents who “are quietly showing leadership.” The first award went to Judge Brent Carr of County Criminal Court 9, who is retiring later this year. Carr is a Marine Corps veteran and has served Tarrant County since 1983 operating the county’s Mental Health Diversion Program, Veterans Court Diversion Program and RISE program.
– In a question-and-answer with PBS Firing Line’s Margaret Hoover, Parker addressed challenges in promoting Fort Worth’s brand in comparison with other large cities around Texas — the city needs to tell its story better, she said. To that end, the city recently hired Quinn PR, a New York-based public relations agency.
Businesses looking to relocate to Fort Worth should know the city is unique because it works hard for businesses who relocate to the city. She added the city needs to do a better job prompting the successful small business owners in the city.
Hoover touched on Parker’s age, 38, which makes her one of many ‘millennial mayors’ across the country. Age is less of a factor in leadership when local leaders are plugged into their community, Parker said. National leaders are typically more disconnected from reality, she added, specifically calling out President Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
“What I’m seeing right now from both parties, Republican or Democrat, is sort of a disconnect from common people and what our experiences are,” Parker said. “I think anybody at any age being mayor, you’re naturally going to be more connected than you are in Congress.”
Fort Worth should make sure every resident has a chance to experience the highest quality of life, Parker said in closing.
“That’s what it takes to build a world-class city,” Parker said.
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.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.