Traffic on Boat Club Road, a main thoroughfare from the northwest part of Tarrant County toward Highway 820, is a special kind of headache.
The Texas Department of Transportation took a stab at improving Boat Club Road this last year and from the looks of the ongoing construction, it’s still a struggle.
Infrastructure — or the inadequacy of it — is a huge issue in the race for county commissioner in Precinct 4, which covers northwest Tarrant County and west Fort Worth. It’s a hot Republican primary contest because the seat hasn’t been open for more than 30 years.
The two most prominent candidates, Joe D. “Jody” Johnson and Manny Ramirez, have lengthy law enforcement backgrounds. The third, Larry Dale Carpenter, called himself the lone “grassroots conservative” and touted his business and organizational experience overseas as the three met at a candidate forum last week.
But there’s also some big generational differences, as well as divergent views on the most important issue facing northwest Tarrant County.
Johnson is the son of the longtime commissioner, J.D. Johnson, a political power-broker who is retiring. Jody Johnson is a two-term Republican constable for Tarrant County and a bit of an “aw shucks” kind of guy. When asked what the single biggest issue facing the precinct was, he said “we’re gonna have to fix” high property taxes and “we need help from the Legislature” to do it.
Ramirez and Carpenter repeatedly mentioned infrastructure as a larger issue than property taxes. Ramirez, a first-time candidate but hardly a stranger to politics — he’s currently president of the influential Fort Worth Police Officers Association – said current roadways are “nowhere near capable of handling” the traffic in the area.
“Infrastructure is something that doesn’t solve itself,” he said.
The forum’s moderator, former congressional candidate Chris Putnam, pressed all three candidates on infrastructure with a separate question on the “nightmare” that is Boat Club Road.
Ramirez said that he would ensure Precinct 4 had “a seat at the table” at the North Central Texas Council of Governments in order to make suggestions on big projects such as Boat Club.
Carpenter said that Precinct 4’s infrastructure is “15 years behind” and said the area needs infrastructure that “helps small businesses.” On the Boat Club Road project, Carpenter also blamed the council of governments, saying, “Someone fell asleep at the wheel.”
Johnson downplayed the issue and suggested the county commissioner’s hands would have been tied on the Boat Club Road project. “If you think you’re going to tell the state they’re not going to build, you have another thing coming,” he said.
The candidates largely agreed on illegal immigration, mask mandates and County Judge Glen Whitley’s decision last year to shutter businesses. All opposed mandates to close businesses or force people to wear masks, When asked if they knew how much of the county budget went to healthcare for those in the country illegally, the candidates couldn’t provide a specific answer, but they offered strong responses on the overall topic.
Johnson called healthcare costs “an undue burden on our criminal justice system.” and Carpenter said “we should not be fronting the bill for illegal immigrants.” Still, federal law prohibits hospitals from turning anyone away from emergency medical aid, and no one presented a concrete solution to the issue.
The race seems close, particularly between Johnson and Ramirez. They offer differences on what’s really ailing Precinct 4 and how to fix it, as well as whether any of the candidates running for county commissioner could really steer northwest Tarrant County in a different direction.
The primary is March 1, with early voting starting Feb 14. If no one gets a majority, there will be a runoff. The winner will face Democrat Cedric C. Kanyinda in the general election.