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Few surprises surfaced in last week’s elections. Most of the incumbents skated to easy victories. But two losses stand out.

The biggest upset belonged to Jeff Williams, who unseated Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck with ease. (Is it appropriate to characterize one middle-aged white businessman beating out another middle-aged white businessman as an “upset”?) Williams took 58 percent of the vote to the mayor’s 39 percent, even though Cluck had served for 12 years and seemed to be — seemed to be — popular. Arlington, in its long history, rarely votes out a sitting mayor. But some of Cluck’s backers jumped ship early in the race. And even though Cluck is largely credited with luring Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys to Arlington, he didn’t do much to develop the area around that stadium and nearby Rangers’ ballpark.

But the kill shot probably came from voters infuriated by the city’s red-light cameras. Cluck stood firmly behind that high-tech version of highway robbery, even though most Arlington voters didn’t. And why should they? The red-light cameras are controversial and overseen by private companies, some of which shorten the amount of times a light stays yellow, meaning more people run red lights, more tickets are written, and more money is generated for the city. Fort Worth should ban the cameras as well.

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Speaking of Fort Worth, the only city council incumbent to get ousted was Danny Scarth in District 4, which includes eastern and northeastern portions of the city. Scarth lives in eastern Fort Worth, but redistricting diluted his power and paved the way for Cary Moon to nab a win. Moon, who lives farther north, is a welcome addition to the council. Then again, a damp dishtowel would have been better than Scarth, who catered to urban gas drillers during his 10 years on the council but didn’t accomplish much else.

Scarth’s backstory is inspiring. Paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for most of his adult life, he can still be seen attending numerous local events, brought there by his customized van. You’ve got to admire his chutzpah. His public service, on the other hand, was marked by ethical lapses. A city councilperson picked civilian Scarth to represent residents on the city’s gas drilling ordinance task force in 2005, but Scarth appeared more interested in pleasing drillers ­–– so much so that they got him elected to the city council the next year. Afterward, Scarth fell behind on his property taxes, at one point owing $2,600 in overdue taxes and penalties. A state agency once fined him $500 for improperly filing a campaign finance report.

Some people might have viewed Mayor Pro Tem Sal Espino’s narrow margin of victory as a surprise. He has served as District 2’s city council representative since 2005 and is very popular. But he faced the recently retired but longtime Fort Worth firefighter Steve Thornton. Police and fire unions are a powerful force in local elections. Espino’s margin of victory was so narrow that Thornton says he’ll seek a recount.

Local voters didn’t seem overly inspired by the races. About 9 percent of registered voters hit the polls countywide but only about 6.5 percent in Fort Worth

4 COMMENTS

  1. Cluck is 76 years old and Williams is in his 50s. It would be more accurate to call Cluck an elderly retiree (sort of). He reportedly has a plumb “no show” job with THR (which allegedly got some special tax breaks during the Cluck regime for building doctor’s offices etc.in prime Arlington realestate–hint–“only the little people pay property taxes” ) Some private ACO physician practice acquisition “management” companies with interesting records of physician employee “misuse” and general nastiness (including slander/libel trying to destroy the careers of physician competitors who “got in their way”) came out with lucrative THR buy outs under the “Cluck Cluck Cluck” regime

    It is true, however, that the voters were finally awakened by the “red light” camera scam. Not only were the yellow lights jockeyed with, slow to stopped traffic turning right upon waiting at endless red lights–some even behind other stopped cars–were subject to fines. The group opposing red light cameras was unable to get any data on “speeding through red light” offenses versus sitting duck slow right hand turning fine recipients. Intersections labeled as dangerous lost their red light cameras to others when people caught on to the scam and changed travel routes. Generally Cluck and other entrenched council folk who loved red light cameras were also lackluster at other municipal government performances, lacking an interest in attempting to bring Arlington into the 21st Century ( other than a possibly short lived sports and entertainment tourist destination, that is).

  2. Being fairly new to Texas (five years) this is the first time I became involved in local elections. I emailed Scarth about yet another construction project in Fort Worth. To his credit he responded that day and followed up with some information. In the end, being fed up with growth that appears to be poorly managed, I became a supporter of Moon. In some regards I wonder if Moon has benefited from timing. essentially, for the past two years, there has been no improvements to the area and every negative aspect of the proposed growth has materialized and non of the hoped for improvements. It appears that by natural timelines, some long anticipated improvements will happen this year. An example of what irritates us here in the North was the building of a Walmart Neighborhood market without public notice. The agreement was done in secret… later we find that Walmart paid for some road construction and then receives a 20 year tax break. Nothing improves home values in a 300k – 600k per home neighborhood like a run down Walmart on the corner. Along with that we have seen the building of thousands of apartments and countless fast food restaurants. What I wonder is… what can Moon do about it? I am not hopeful, but certainly the change can not hurt!

    • The Walmart is probably being built to accommodate the mega apartment dwellers in the soon to become the” ghetto next door” mega apt complexes. For reasons which are become obvious (lining of elected official pockets, sweetheart job offers after the elected term expires etc) mega complexes with their tortured history of lack of local voter support, whopping big tax breaks, out of town string pulling, and even assorted love triangles have been promoted from Richardson to the far reaches of Tarrant County and not excluding Arlington,etc.. Try to get an honest answer from anyone in office or running for office about THEIR future intentions in the face of all of this. Good Luck!

  3. Local “talk radio” hosts liberal and conservative who support red light camera tyranny are stumbling all over their respective ideologies this week with the belated news that red light camera extortion revenues supported hiring of 23 police officers in Arlington. Funny how the “anti big Government” crowd didn’t get the irony that the declining revenues (citizens catching on to the scam) were all committed to the police payroll which was now in deficit spending numbers. It is bad municipal policy to spend money based on faulty calculations and then pump up the numbers of fines with technological trickery–like shortened yellow lights etc. Luckily the voters were intellectually ahead of the idiot talking heads, and rejected the “red light tax”. One sees in retrospect why the local Police support entrenched politicians–someone was bought off.

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