March 05, 2005
Battling in Bedford
The city of Bedford, Texas, which is a suburb of Fort Worth, has an election today over the property tax rate.
In one of the most contentious city elections since the community incorporated on a 55-20 vote in 1953, voters go to the polls today to decide if they want lower property taxes — even if it may mean closing the library and swimming pools and laying off city employees.
Bedford's tax rollback election features a heated contest in a highly Republican community of 47,000 residents northeast of Fort Worth.
The outcome could send signals to a Republican-dominated Legislature about how a key group of Texas voters feels about the push for less government and lower taxes at the national, state and local levels.
"There's no difference between Bedford and Washington, D.C., except Washington, D.C., is just on a larger scale," said rollback organizer Dorothy McWhorter, 72. "I would venture to say we could fire 75 percent of the people in Washington and the government would still work."
The rollback campaign has turned Bedford Mayor R.D. "Rick" Hurt's name into a slogan: "We've been 'HURT' enough." Meanwhile, rollback opponents have been quoted in the local newspaper as saying, "We can no longer be nickeled, dimed and McWhortered."
Businesses that have contributed money to campaigns for or against the rollback have risked boycotts and had their names posted on the Internet.
Gov. Rick Perry carried the city with 59 percent of the vote in 2002, and most other Republicans won with at least 56 percent of the vote. Perry has been leading the legislative effort to cut public school property taxes statewide. The rollback fight was triggered last fall when the Bedford City Council voted 4-3 to raise the city property tax rate from 38.9 cents per $100 valuation to 49.5 cents.
For purposes of comparison, the city of Houston charges at a rate of 65 cents per $100 valuation, so forgive me if I don't join hands and sing "Kumbaya" with the rollback proponents. Heck, even the city of Bellaire charges 48 cents per $100. In short, Bedford's rate doesn't strike me as being an outrageous amount. I'll be curious to see how this turns out.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 05, 2005 to Election 2005
I'm reading your blog from the bottom up, so I haven't seen the results yet, but I'm betting the rollback passed. They can get away with it because they can sponge off the less miserly citizens of Ft. Worth. Who cares if you have to drive a bit to get to a library or public pool?
Ft. Worth would be better off if they could just annex suburbs like this and be done with it.
I was wondering if a recount was done and what the outcome was. I had read there would be refund checks, how do I check on that. Any info you can give will be very helpful.. Thanks.
The rollback did indeed pass, by the whole of 10 votes out of over 10,000. A recount took place and upheld the original results.
Refund checks were mailed out and should have been received by now. The city has started a program called "I'm Backing Bedford" through which citizens can donate their refund back to the city to help offset the budget cuts necessitated by the rollback.
The rollback was supported by a group that calls themselves "Bedford Citizens for Responsive Government" and is led by a vindictive old woman named Dorothy McWhorter. She always has "sound-bite" quotes in the local paper when an issue involves Bedford, but she's not woman enough to get herself elected to public office. Instead, she uses her group to support candidates who then proceed to do exactly what she tells them to. As one person has said recently, why should she run when she already has 5 votes (out of 7)?
I can't stand folks like Dorothy, who refuse to be part of the solution but have no trouble adding to the problem. Her puppets on the council not only voted against all the cuts that the rollback they supported required -- they didn't even bother to offer any alternatives.
I do a lot of volunteer work with the Bedford Police, and consider the Police Chief a friend. He has been asked for too many years to make do with less and less. The department is nearly 20 officers short of their approved staffing level. This is primarily because their salaries are the 2nd lowest in the county. Lots of new officers come to Bedford and let Bedford pay for their training, and then leave to work in any of the nearby cities, all of which pay substantially more. As a result of the recent elections, it is rumored that the Police Chief, who has worked in Bedford for over 20 years, is looking for a job in another city. He must have gotten tired of the city and Dorothy's puppets not listening as he told them that crime rates were going up and response times were slowing.
Dorothy and her cronies put out incredibly misleading information for both elections. One piece made a big deal out of the alleged fact that the city has too many vehicles - almost one for every two employees. What they didn't mention was that included in their count of vehicles were things like dump trucks, bulldozers, riding lawn mowers, fire engines, ambulances, and police cars. They also claimed the several of the vehicles were "high-dollar" ones. Specifically, they referred to a Mercedes SUV used by the police in their Community Services division. The SUV, as anyone who cares to know could easily find out (by looking at the information painted on it) was donated to the city by the Mercedes dealership located in the city.
The rollback passed, Dorothy's gang got two hard-working, independent council members replaced with two of her pet puppets, and now the mayor has resigned. It will be interesting to see how far this goes and what these new council members do to fix the problem they helped to create (but claim that they did nothing of the sort)...