“Politically Incorrect – And Damn Proud of It,” reads a sign hanging in Chuck Silcox’s business office on Camp Bowie Boulevard. Static, who is frequently incorrect politically, not to mention socially and sartorially, couldn’t let “Citizen Bubba’s” death go unnoted here, though other folks have already said plenty of good words over him – including some who probably even meant them.
He had represented District 3 on the Fort Worth City Council for a record 17 years, keeping his steely eye on tax rates and asaults on neighborhoods. Often the most outspoken council member, he was loved by his district. It was an unlikely romance. Owner of a janitorial service, Chuck’s hobby was drag-racing, and he favored loud ties and red suspenders. Still, some of his biggest supporters were high-salaried professionals and downtown establishment types, who appreciated him for getting the job done at city hall, from fixing potholes to fixing fat-cats’ wagons. He always had the support of his wife, Brenda Silcox, a neighborhood activist who called herself his “kitchen cabinet.”
Silcox never hesitated to clash openly with the most powerful in this city when needed, including the late Police Chief Thomas Windham. But his biggest battles were with the mayors he served under – Kay Granger, Ken Barr, and Mike Moncrief – as well as fellow council members and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, over tax abatements for big corporations. Silcox called such tax breaks “welfare for the rich.”
But he had no objection to tax abatements for companies willing to locate in low-income, minority neighborhoods such as Stop Six or Como. “I sure as hell resent the fact that poor, working-class people, black, brown, and white, can’t get the things they need to survive,” he said. “I’d vote for abatements in a New York minute if [those corporations] would go into those neighborhoods. But when they only want to go to Alliance [Airport], well, it’s not right.”
Silcox wore the Republican cape but didn’t fit any mold but his own, said former councilmember and long-time friend Jim Lane, in an earlier interview. “Chuck’s never been a right-wing anything,” Lane said. “He’s an old prairie populist, he just doesn’t know it.”
The one thing he did want, and thought he deserved for being the longest-serving member of the council, was the ceremonial title of mayor pro-tem, which he got to hold for two years. Then Moncrief took it away in a procedural move, in what was seen as political payback for Silcox’s open opposition to many of Moncrief’s pet projects, from tax abatements for mega-corporations to the uncontrolled onslaught of urban gas drilling. But Silcox took the petty blow in stride.
There’s a lot to miss about Silcox – including knowing what his reaction would have been to the accolades about him delievered by the mayor and others following his death.
Some civic group needs to invent a “Red Suspender Award” in his honor, for folks who do right without regard to political fallout or party lines. Wait – Static works for a newspaper. We’ll see what we can do.