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Fort Worth’s Population Boom Challenges City Council

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - Fort Worth’s population grew by 40 percent in the last decade.

The question city leaders face now is, should the city council grow with it, especially when the minority population is booming?

Fernando Flores spends a lot of time poring over voting district maps.

“Representation for everyone,” Flores said. “It’s just so important.”

A neighborhood activist with a group called Coalition for a Better Fort Worth, Flores has watched the Hispanic population grow 58% in Fort Worth since 2000 to a quarter of a million residents.

But there is only a single Hispanic representative on the city’s eight-member council.

“And it’s an embarrassment because our population is over 34 percent, nearly 35 percent of the population,” Flores said.

Flores and others want to add two more voting districts for the city council.  The proposal is called the 10-1 plan for its 10 council member districts and one citywide election for mayor.  The plan would carve the two new districts into predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods.

“When we stick to the same system of government it doesn’t speak to the sense of frustration and the sense of lack of empowerment people feel,” council member Sal Espino said, as the Fort Worth City Council prepared to vote on whether or not to keep its current eight person membership.

But others argue diversity within districts is what’s key.

“And right now we have only one predominantly minority district,” Councilman Joel Burns said during the meeting. “It’s not represented by any of the minorities up here (among the council members). It’s represented by me.”

Burns is white.

Tuesday, the council decided by a six-to-two vote to keep the current system. Council members Sal Espino and Kathleen Hicks voted against it.

That means once council district lines are redrawn to accommodate population growth, each member will represent 92,000 people.

Mayor Betsy Price says the districts will be fair and diverse.

Proponents of the 10-1 plan say they’ll push to get the plan put on a citywide ballot to let the voters decide.

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