FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – When the sun goes down, new city streetlights click on in Terrell Heights, just southeast of downtown, turning it into a splash of brightness – a considerable contrast to the neighborhood next door, in Hillside, where dogs howl in the darkness.
People who live and work in Terrell Heights say they appreciate what the city, led by Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks, has done for their neighborhood. It’s safer now, they say.
But those who live in Hillside, which is also represented by Hicks, say they don’t understand why they haven’t seen such improvements in their neighborhood, where most of the streetlights are old, broken and bent.
“When you come out at night, it’s dark. You cannot see anything,” Hillside resident James Washington said. “You hear gunshots; you wanna look out and see; you can’t see. You have pit bulls running around and you can’t see … You’ve got raccoons the size of dogs …
“You cannot see.”
A CBS 11 News investigation has found that the City of Fort Worth has allocated more than $1.7 million in federal grant money to putting up new streetlights in Terrell Heights.
Meanwhile, on the other side of Hillside, in the Morningside neighborhood, the city and Hicks have spent more than $283,000 in federal grants. That money was also used to put up new streetlights.
But in Hillside, not a dime of federal money has been allocated to improve lighting, city officials have conceded. And that outrages those who live in the historic area.
“When God slapped his hands and said, ‘Let there be light,’ he meant to light up the whole world; he didn’t mean to light up Morningside and Terrell Heights and forget about us,” Washington said angrily.
Hillside’s neighborhood leader, Mary Blakemore, says she has met repeatedly with Hicks in unsuccessful efforts to improve lighting in her area.
“We continue to get nothing … and I don’t know why,” Blakemore said.
Hicks repeatedly declined to talk about the reasoning behind money going to Terrell Heights and Morningside but not to Hillside.
Instead, Hicks issued a statement saying, in part: I have driven at night through the … Hillside neighborhood several times and do recognize a need for public infrastructure in this area …
But unfortunately, there is more need than there are dollars …
Hicks also said in the statement that she has “invited” Blakemore to “write a letter” and apply for federal grants, but that Blakemore has refused.
Blakemore angrily denied these claims.
Besides, she and other Hillside residents say, it should be the City of Fort Worth and their elected council member, Hicks, who should ask the federal government for available grants – not the elderly and needy in the neighborhood.
Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief says he understands why Hillside residents are frustrated.
“If we all had our druthers, everybody would want a streetlight on every corner. Everybody would want a police officer on every corner. But we don’t have that luxury,” Moncrief said.
He added that, in time, he believes the improvements in Terrell Heights will attract new businesses and residents that will spill over into Hillside.
“We have to take things one step at a time,” the mayor said.
Hillside residents say they have waited long enough, and want to see some return for the taxes they pay.
“This neighborhood means a lot to me because I was born and raised here,” Blakemore said. “We should have everything other neighborhoods have.”
Washington says he fears the city will continue to keep his neighborhood in the dark, while the more affluent neighborhoods continue to receive government assistance.
“The reason they’re not servicing the area is because you have a lot of old people living here … they figure you’re old and you’re poor,” Washington said, adding:
“It’s all political.”