Thursday, January 3, 2019

No, Fort Worth isn't much like Baltimore

Ever since Forth Worth's police chief Joel Fitzgerald (born in Philadelphia) has been first rumored, and then confirmed, to be favorite pick for Baltimore Police Commissioner, people have been grappling with this choice. One of the reasons for the consternation: Considering the DNA of Baltimore, whether it is historical, demographic, economic or geographical, there is hardly a place that is more different than Fort Worth, Texas, a place that many consider the most Texan of all Texan cities.
Baltimore and Fort Worth,  hard to compare (Date USA)

Since there is so much talk about Fort Worth, here a few fun and not so fun comparisons:

When Baltimore was America's second largest City, Fort Worth had hardly even been considered as a stop on the Crisholm trail. But today Fort Worth's population exceeds that of Baltimore by roughly 250,000 and is home to several Fortune 500 companies. (Baltimore: Zero). Fort Worth's largest employer is American Airlines (about 22,000 employees), Baltimore's is Johns Hopkins (about 35,000 employees). Both metro areas are home to Lockheed Martin plants. Baltimore's unemployment rate in May 2018 was 5.6%, that of Fort Worth 3.5%. Baltimore's poverty rate is 23%, that of Forth Worth is about 22% (2016) but because of different statistical methods it is also sometimes given as a much lower 17%. Our property tax rate is 2.25, theirs is 0.78 per $100 valuation. (Baltimore's actual average effective rate is $1.65 due to homestead credits).
Christmas at Sundance Square, Fort Worth
(Photo: Philipsen)

The largest universities in Baltimore, MD are Johns Hopkins University, with 8,159 graduates, University of Maryland-Baltimore, with 2,126 graduates, and Loyola University Maryland, with 1,642 graduates. The largest universities in Fort Worth, TX are Tarrant County College District, with 7,759 graduates, Texas Christian University, with 2,796 graduates, and University of North Texas Health Science Center, with 663 graduates. The median property value in Baltimore, MD is $153,500, and the homeownership rate is 45.7%. Most people in Baltimore, MD commute by driving alone, and the average commute time is 28.9 minutes. The average car ownership in Baltimore, MD is 1 car per household. The median property value in Fort Worth, TX is $151,000, and the homeownership rate is 57.1%. Most people in Fort Worth, TX commute by driving alone, and the average commute time is 26.7 minutes. The average car ownership in Fort Worth, TX is 2 cars per household.(Data USA)

From a policing point of view both cities share a rough and tumble past. Baltimore is also known as Mobtown whereas Forth Worth had its "Hell's Acre" or "bloody third ward".  Both cities also have a strong railroad past, Baltimore as the origin of the nation's first passenger rail line, Fort Worth as historically the westernmost rail-head and a switching station for cattle transport. Both cities' history includes an influx of black Americans followed by segregation policies. However, overall Forth Worth has only about 20% black residents. The Texan town has a Star as its local paper, Baltimore, of course, a Sun ("light for all"). Both Cities have ridiculous visions and slogans. "Fort Worth will be the most livable and best managed city in the country" and Baltimore of course simply wants to be "the best city in America".
Christmas in Baltimore (Photo: Philipsen)

Interestingly, Fort Worth is also home to one of the oldest public housing projects in the nation (constructed in 1939) and a Housing Authority (FWHA) that goes back as far as 1938. Butler Place, the locale of the historic public housing project there, is today separated from downtown in a similar way as Cherry Hill from downtown Baltimore, namely through a jumble of elevated highways and railroad tracks. Like Cherry Hill Butler Place is a mostly African American community. Like Baltimore Housing, FWHA (now called Fort Worth Housing Solutions (FWHS) is experimenting with federal rental assistance demonstration program money (RAD) to engage the private sector in rehabilitation. Like Baltimore Housing is re-imagining Perkins Homes and Somerset as  a new mixed use, mixed-income community, so is FWHS looking for ways to "re-invent" Butler Place, considering relocation of all of its residents. Displacement, apparently, isn't a big issue there.

Both cities have women mayors, but that is where the similarities end. Baltimore's Mayor has lots of power whereas Forth Worth's Mayor Betsy Price is more of a figurehead in a city manager system. Baltimore is landlocked and surrounded by a county with its own government, in Texas cities are part of the county. Tarrant County is Republican, Baltimore City Democratic. Baltimore's murder rate is 307, Fort Worth's is under 70.
Butler public housing in Fort Worth  (Photo: Philipsen)

Baltimore's downtown once was a vibrant retail center, Fort Worth's downtown has only recently become a real place after Downtown Forth Worth Inc. was founded in 1981 (a group similar to the Downtown Partnership here) and created  Texas' first public improvement district in 1986, then in 1996 a downtown tax increment financing district. Today Sundance Square gives Fort Worth a "there" that many find worth visiting and that has plenty of programming, retail and restaurants. Baltimore has the Amtrak Northeast Corridor as an excellent rail connection, Fort Worth has an anemic commuter train linking it to its twin city Dallas and is dreaming about high speed rail that will one day connect it all the way to Houston.

While Maryland forewent fracking as economic development because of its environmental hazards, the Fort Worth economy is heavily relying on fracking and gas.
Chief Fitzgerald was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1971, and was educated locally and attended Villanova University, where he graduated with a Baccalaureate Degree (B.A.) Liberal Arts. He continued his education at Eastern University, where he earned his Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) degree, and later earned a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Business Administration. Fitzgerald received appointment to the City of Philadelphia Police Department in 1992, and served over 17 years in various ranks before his 2009 selection to serve as Chief of Police in Missouri City, Texas. In December 2013, he became Chief of Police in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he faithfully served until 2015.. (Fort Worth website)
The Baltimore police department has 2,514 sworn members with a budget of nearly half a billion dollars policing 92 square miles. Forth Worth has 1,700 sworn officers policing 350 square miles a budget that is a bit more than half of Baltimore's ($253,000). Fort Worth's operating budget is about $1.9 billion, its General Fund $611 million (2016). (Baltimore's combined budget is $3.4b)
Unemployment map of Fort Worth: Another black butterfly

Fort Worth's murder rate "has mostly mirrored the national trend. From 1985 to 1995, an average of 138.5 murders occurred each year, including a high of 200 in 1986. In 10 of those 11 years, no fewer than 108 murders (1995) occurred. The outlier, 1987, saw 97 murders, a number that hasn’t come close to being matched since homicides in the city dropped dramatically in 1996....In 1986, Fort Worth’s population was 432,342. By 2016, it hadulged to 851,849." (Star Telegram).

Based on population the Fort Worth murder rate is about 8.1 per 100,000, Baltimore: 51.1.

Baltimore residents can meet the proposed police commission this weekend in two "meet and greet" events. The City Council will have a conformation hearing coming Monday.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

The interviews  City Council members conducted in Forth Worth can be found here.
The job application and resume Fitzgerald submitted to the City can be found here.

Update: The below meetings have been cancelled due to a medical emergency, so Mr Fitzgerald has postponed his visit to Baltimore (Baltimore SUN, Ja. 3, 4:46pm)
City Council meeting: The council will take comments from the public on the nomination at a 10 a.m. meeting Saturday in its chambers at City Hall.
“Westside Community” meeting: A meet and greet with members of the community will be held 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Sunday at the Jewish Community Center, 5700 Park Heights Ave.
Fort Worth has conflicting views on Baltimore police commissioner nominee Fitzgerald, report shows
Eastside Community” meeting: A meet and greet with members of the community will be held 2 p.m.-3:30 p.m. Sunday at Morgan State University, Morgan Business Center, 4200 Hillen Road.
Second City Council meeting: At 5 p.m. Monday, the council will hold a second meeting in its City Hall chambers, during which members will question Fitzgerald
. (Baltimore SUN)

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