The Politic: Though you are a Republican, you were elected in 2011 in a non-partisan election.  This is a tradition in many Texas cities.  What are the benefits of keeping party politics out of mayoral elections?  Any drawbacks?

The bulk of the citizens see their mayor and indeed their city council members as the people on the front lines getting stuff done.  This is the person who is just like the CEO, who’s going to get the job done for everyone.  Party politics don’t really play a big role in how people choose their mayor or how they look at what he or she is doing.

The Politic: Your website identifies some of your primary goals as mayor, which include making Fort Worth safe, efficient, connected, and fit.  Let’s start with safe.  What steps has the city taken in the past few years to decrease crime rates?

We’ve focused our policing efforts on neighborhood policing, moving from a more beat cop system.  We also have been focusing on the sectors where crime has been the biggest.  The biggest piece for us has been our Crime Control Prevention District (CCPD).  It is funded by a half-cent sales tax that has to be renewed every twenty years.  It allows us to supplement our police departments with the latest technology to make them more efficient and effective.  We also have a uniformed officer in every junior high and high school.  CCPD pays most of the patrol officers’ salaries, and the officers in the schools.  We also have what we call “citizens on patrol.”  We have citizens appointed as neighborhood watch and trained to report suspicious activity.  This means we have to deploy fewer officers, and it makes people feel involved in making their community safe.

The Politic: Let’s talk about “efficiency.”  You were a small business owner for 17 years, and you have served before as Tax Assessor for Tarrant County.  You identify as a fiscal conservative.  How are your background and political beliefs reflected in how you have handled the administration of Fort Worth?  More generally, what do you think the guiding principles should be for large cities in handling their budgets?

We had a rapidly escalating pension issue, an unfunded liability in our pensions that was just growing out of sight.  Being a fiscal conservative, it was lot easier for me to negotiate a good settlement on the pension issue with our council and the unions.  As a conservative, I think the government can’t spend more money than it has.  We cut our budgets, not on services that our citizens need, but with a scalpel, focusing on areas with a lot of waste.  The use of technology can save you a lot of money and make you a lot more efficient, and thus reduce your bottom line.  When I came into office, the technology being used was outdated, but we’ve made great strides since then.  In fact, this is the first time in eight years that our budget has been without a deficit, and our revenue is on the rise.

The Politic: Fort Worth has been working to develop a commuter rail system.  The benefits for the city are obvious: reduced pollution, shorter commute times, a more accessible and, in your words, “connected” city.  But the timeline for such a project is very long, involving years of securing funds, design, and construction before the benefits are seen for commuters.  How have you been able to convince the citizens of Fort Worth and the members of city council that the investment is worth it?

This is a project that was already in the works when I came into office.  It was just a matter of language, and we needed to frame it in the right way.  We have such horrible congestion in Fort Worth because of all the construction. We call it “orange cone system.” We have had such tremendous growth, which is great, but it means a lot more cars on the road.  When you’re sitting in a car and you know you could be on a train, the rail system actually seems really appealing.  Air quality has been a problem, as well, which the rail system would help.  The beginning of a public transportation system is always difficult.  It has to be subsidized, and I think people understand that.

The Politic:Finally, let’s talk fitness.  The statistics for Fort Worth are sobering: obesity rates are upwards of 35%, with more than half of schoolchildren overweight.  What are the underlying causes of such epidemic obesity, specifically in Fort Worth?

What we’re seeing nationwide: lack of education, easy access to fast food, more eating out, soft drinks, and unhealthy snacks.  People aren’t outside during the day: kids are on their tablets, parents don’t have time to go out with their kids.  There’s been less of a focus on city parks.  We’re trying to increase access to these outdoor spaces to get people out and active.

The Politic: The good news is that your administration is working very hard to bring these numbers down.  You formed FitWorth, an initiative to promote nutrition and fitness and reduce childhood obesity.  Can you talk about some of the programs that have been developed as part of this initiative?

We have a fitness challenge for kids, where different schools compete to win PE equipment for schools.  Kids track food, water, exercise.  We were amazed that 25,000 kids participated.  Sometimes kids just need to be motivated.  Parents have contacted me saying, “We were prepared to hate you.  We’re cooking dinner, the kids are doing their homework, and they’ll say we need to go outside because Mayor Price said so.”  When you start to get outside, you meet your neighbors.  Then you’re engaged in your neighborhood, you’re neighborhood community becomes stronger, which in turn makes neighborhoods safer.  We also have the Fit 15 challenge.  Businesses have employees walk at least 15 minutes a day.  Steer Fort Worth, a group of politically minded folks I help organize, works on revamping the cafeterias at schools with healthier options.

The Politic: In a similar vein, I don’t think many of our readers will be familiar with the concept of a “rolling town hall.”  Could you explain what this is, and how successful it has been?

A rolling town hall is a way for us to hear from the people of Fort Worth, while at the same time encouraging them to be active.  We would go biking every Wednesday, announcing on the website where we would be.  We would say, “Come out and ride with us and talk with us.”

The Politic: Opportunities to get out and get active in Fort Worth are on the rise, including an increasing number of commuter bike trails.  You are an avid cyclist yourself.  What is your favorite ride in Fort Worth?

Right now, we have the Tour de Fort Worth.  It’s three weeks of riding every day, each day in a different part of Fort Worth.  Riding in the parks is great, and people enjoy getting to see some of the neighborhoods that they might not have known about otherwise.  Also, we had an amazing 350 people participate in our inaugural Mayor’s Triathlon.

The Politic: What impact can a mayor have that no other elected official can?

People see the mayor all over the place: in the news, in the paper, on TV.  [People] know [mayors] do things that impact their lives directly.  They can help to improve education and to balance the budget.  You can lead by example, because you’re right there and people see how you live day to day.  And that’s what I’ve been doing with these biking and health initiatives.  When businesses come in, they always ask about the health of the community.  When the kids or parents are sick, the parents aren’t at work.

The Politic: Say I’m laid over in Texas and find myself with just a few hours to spend in Fort Worth.  Where do I go, and what do I see?

First of all, once you get started seeing Fort Worth, you’ll want to keep going.  We have fabulous museums, including the Museum of Science and Industry, the Kimbell Art Museum, and the Modern Art Museum.  Go to our historic stockyards, where we still have a twice-daily cattle drive.  It’s not the Hollywood western, it’s the true western experience.  Go to Joe T’s for Mexican food.  But of course, there are many great restaurants in Fort Worth.

The Politic: What is your vision for the city of Fort Worth in 2020?

Fort Worth is well known for its openness and its Western entrepreneurship. People like to say it’s the best small-town big city.  I hope we continue to become an active city, a healthy city, an engaged city, and, certainly, a fiscally responsible city.

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