Fort Worth is faced with a major challenge on roads and transportation. If we cannot move, it will impact our economic development. We have secured funding for the widening of I-35W from I-30 to US 287 invested $300M in road infrastructure. Indeed, you see much street reconstruction already taking place in North Fort Worth. A new bond election is proposed in the amount of $276M for May 2014 with proposed funding for reconstruction of our neighborhood streets and widening of arterial streets. Yet, more funding is needed to address all of our transportation needs. We all need to work together in determining how to best find a "lockbox" for funding road improvements in our city. We also need to complete the TEX Rail commuter line which will come through the Northside/Stockyards area of District 2 to Grapevine and to DFW Airport. We also need a new commuter rail line north in our city connecting downtown Fort Worth to the Alliance corridor where the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (the "T") can connect to the Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA) and eventually to Denton.
During the past eight years, there have been NO tax rate increases and two tax rate DECREASES. We implemented a Senior Tax Freeze to protect seniors on fixed incomes and we preserved the homestead exemption. We have created an Audit/Finance Committee, hired a new City Auditor, and reformed the city's pension plan for employees to reduce the liability to taxpayers. New rules have been implemented dealing with General City Employees and their pensions for new hires after July 1, 2011. This past fall, the Fort Worth City Council voted to further reform the city's pension plan. The reforms affect general employees and police and are for future service, not benefits already accrued. The city will reduce the multiplier used in calculating benefits, raise the number of years used in figuring base retirement pay, and eliminate overtime in calculations.
Despite our rapid population growth, Fort Worth continues to see its crime rate decrease. In the past eight years, we have added 200 police officers and 100 firefighters. In North Fort Worth, four new fire stations have been opened. Gang crime has also decreased due to our zero tolerance policies and working with the Boys and Girls Club on the Comin Up Gang Intervention Program. District 2 also has a large number of Code Blue volunteers - Crime Watch and Citizens on Patrol. I am committed to making that number expand. It's a partnership to keep crime down - citizens and our police working together. We also need to invest in a North Fort Worth Police Substation past Loop 820 and along the US 287/I35W corridor. In order to keep our neighborhoods safe, there have been major Code Compliance efforts through Safe Neighborhood Initiatives. In collaboration with neighborhood associations, multiple violators were cited and staff aggressively moved to curb illegal dumping and deal with nuisances in our neighborhoods.
As a proud graduate of Fort Worth Public Schools, I firmly believe that education is the foundation of success for the future of our community. Working closely with the Fort Worth ISD, we have created the School Security Initiative (SSI) and Fort Worth After School. Through these initiatives, we have ensured our children are safe at school and have organized activities when the school-day is over. We were also able to obtain funding for Early Childhood Learning Centers at the North-Tri Ethnic Community Center and Northside library so children under the age of five can get a head start on kindergarten. As the Chairman of the Leadership Committee for a brand-new initiative called SPARC (Strengthening Programs through Advocacy Resources and Collaboration), I have fought to ensure that our after-school programs meet the high standards of excellence we expect from our providers. We will continue to focus on partnerships between the city and local school districts. Today's students are tomorrow future workforce and world leaders.
During a recent fiscal year, city staff recommended closing the Northside Library. With much community support, we were able to keep this literacy asset open in a community where we need to encourage more young people to read, stay in school, and take advantage of educational opportunities. We will work together to keep the Northside, and Diamond Hill libraries open. We also worked hard to maintain funding for our community centers including the Northside, Diamond Hill, and North Tri-Ethnic Community Centers. A new multi-purpose facility is needed North of Loop 820 to serve our new communities which can house a library, a community center, and other city departments.
After the city closed its swimming pools, I fought hard alongside North Side residents to bring back the Marine Park Pool. The pool reopened in May 2012. A brand new swimming pool complex with an investment of $3.85M to serve the children and families of the North Side will open in May 2013. Marine Park is also being improved with a new skate park with 8 elements, refurbishment of the tennis courts, 800 linear feet of new and replacement walk, renovation of the existing pavilion, and improving the overall aesthetics of the park.
Twenty-seven park projects have been completed with an investment of over $8.2M . These improvements include, but are not limited to, playground renovations, security lighting, ball field lighting, and parking improvements. Rockwood Park has undergone extensive improvements with an investment of $2.6M which includes new baseball fields, pavilions, parking lot improvements, improved grading/drainage, and parking lot improvements. At Rockwood Golf Course, the First Tee of Fort Worth teaches young people not only golf skills, but also life skills. The First Tee has built the Ben Hogan Learning Center at Rockwood, a brand new 5,800 square foot facility at an investment of $1.5M.
The City of Fort Worth was awarded a $1 million Urban Outdoor Recreation Grant for development of the Marine Creek Park Corridor. The matching grant funds will be used to improve five parks for a total investment of $2.9M along the Marine Creek Park Corridor. Parks included are Rodeo Park, Lincoln Park, Marine Creek Linear Park, Marine Creek Linear North Park and Buck Sansom Park. Planned park improvements being this year of 2013 and include the renovation of existing athletic fields, trails and playground; and the development of a fishing pier/canoe launch, walkways with interpretive trail signs, plant restoration, erosion controls and creation of wetlands.
A new Northwest Community Park is being developed. This park is a 245.77 acre undeveloped piece of land located west of Blue Mound Road and south of Hwy 287. The City of Fort Worth was awarded a $1 million Urban Outdoor Recreation Grant. When completed, the park will feature a canoe launch, dock and overlook, a paddling trail, paved trails as well as nature trails, picnic facilities, landscaping, a practice athletic field, parking facilities, and dam repair.
Urban Gas Drilling
Fort Worth has been at the center of the Barnett Shale and urban gas drilling. During the past eight years, two Gas Drilling Task Forces were convened, and both times, District 2 had strong neighborhood representation on these task forces. In collaboration with state/federal agencies, we continue to monitor and mitigate against adverse neighborhood impacts from urban gas drilling which has slowed down due to low prices for natural gas.