Claiming she has a conservative record, outgoing Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price is running to replace retiring Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley. While she didn’t defund the police, taxes have gone up, the city has been identified as a financial “sinkhole,” and her actions last year are similar to Whitley’s in being anti-citizen.
Two days after Whitley announced he would not run for re-election in 2022, Price confirmed she will run in the Republican primary to replace him. Whitley and outgoing Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams are among those who have endorsed her.
“Anyone Whitley recommends as a replacement is not a good option,” True Texas Project CEO Julie McCarty previously told Texas Scorecard.
Price will face former Tarrant County GOP Chair Tim O’Hare and Trevor Buker in the Republican primary. O’Hare has a long list of endorsements, including citizens like McCarty and Yvette DeOtte, and elected officials like U.S. Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R–TX), Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn (R), Texas GOP Chair Allen West, and State Rep. Jeff Cason (R–Bedford).
“I have a proven record as a strong, conservative and compassionate leader who brings people together to get things done with a focus not only on what’s best for our county, but also our growing region,” Price stated when announcing her run.
Unlike the City of Austin, Price and the Fort Worth City Council did not defund the police, they increased funding. However, a number of her other actions last year are similar to Whitley’s in that they were against citizens.
On April 7, 2020, in-person worship was banned in Fort Worth after city council approved an emergency declaration signed by Price. In response to a press inquiry, Councilmember Cary Moon claimed the ban was not present in the language council voted on—something former Councilmember Brian Byrd disputed—and that staff was “correcting the communication.” It was amended to say “worship services can only be offered online or through drive-in services, where attendees stay in their respective vehicles and are parked at least 6 feet apart.”
“We are under an order from the governor, the county judge, and the City of Fort Worth for no in-person worship services,” Price said in a video message the morning the language was changed. She acknowledged there could be drive-in services, “but you can’t get out of your car.” However, Whitley had already been forced to recant the county’s in-person worship ban.
On April 21, Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a new guideline that stated, “Local governments may not order houses of worship to close.” Afterwards, Price said the city’s “current restrictions in place” were still in effect. After Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins (D) fell in line behind the new guideline, Texas Scorecard received an updated order from Price ending the in-person worship ban.
That’s not all. Based on returns from open records requests from Texas Scorecard, Fort Worth issued 66 citations last year against citizens and businesses for not following COVID restrictions and mandates. Five of them were for “street feeding,” which citizen Joel Starnes said was for feeding the homeless.
There’s also the matter of taxing and spending.
Data from the Tarrant Appraisal District shows that since 2013, under Price’s watch, the city’s average property tax bill for homeowners has spiked by more than 46 percent.
Debt has climbed under Price’s tenure. According to the Texas Comptroller’s Office, Fort Worth’s outstanding total obligation debt in 2011 was more than $1.5 billion. As of 2019, it is more than $2 billion, with more debt expected for the new city hall that council approved in December 2020, while citizens struggled financially from government-imposed COVID shutdowns and mandates.
When asked in January by Texas Scorecard why the property tax rate wasn’t cut enough to lower homeowners’ tax bills, Price replied:
[The] City has to continue to deliver excellence in service, and it’s very hard to lower the rate enough to meet that guideline when you’re growing at the rate we are. We had to balance out the growth of better than 200,000 citizens with being able to cut the tax rate enough, and we worked very hard on balancing the tax base so that the burden isn’t just on homeowners.
Sources told Texas Scorecard last year that Whitley had asked Price to run to replace him and that the chamber of commerce wants her to run in order to protect their interests.
Citizens will decide in the Republican primary next summer.