All right, welcome back and fortitude, folks. The guy over there is Brinton Payne. I’m JW. We constitute FORTitude. And we have a guy today in studio Brinton. That is an interesting cat. He’s got a pretty cool backstory. But there’s a lot of things for the city of Fort Worth. Yeah, I guess. Before we talk to Mr. David Cooke, we’re going to talk about CAP Tex real quick. Yeah, this all this David is because of people like cap Tex and Mike Thomas, specifically over cap Tex. Sure. They’re one of the one of the only, you know, like, went to local banks, truly local banks with hundreds of years of local bank experience. So obviously, they’re helping us here, but we want to help them because we believe they are a superior product for those seeking banking needs. Yes, sir. Thank you guys. Again, that
was good. Was that on the spot? That was fantastic. The delivery was unbelievable. Enough about that.
Let’s talk about this guy. Yeah.
I have a question, though. When we’re getting into city city stuff. We’ve visited this subject before the speed. This is not a speed limit discussion. This is more of a everyone’s breaking the speed limit. And I’m convinced. I think they’re drafting now. I think people are going so fast behind the tail. I have a large vehicle. I think maybe the price of gas is high enough. Have you noticed this too? You drove here from downtown. They’re drafting behind you there. There’s no cautious distance between the tailgater. And now.
I did not notice that. And I did come out the Chisholm Trail Parkway. And what I did notice, it was obvious to me that there are more people on the road. I think COVID Xover. I agree. I agree. More people on the road. They might be traveling a little faster. And they might be drafting because of the cost of gasoline. Yeah, I know that
crotch rockets, the motorcycles are in full speed. I mean, those guys are whizzing.
I have seen that a time or two. Yeah, not. I’m just saying kind of excites me. I like the wheelie. So that’s something bad just waiting to happen. Yes.
Voice we’re hearing is the is the guy today of David Cooke. He’s the city manager of our great city of Fort Worth, Texas. Welcome to the show. Mr. Yes, thank you. Thank
you. It’s great to be here. Thank you for having me.
Before we talk about what you do for a living. Our crack research team has discovered that you wrestled collegiately at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. That is outstanding. Please tell us how that happened.
So my though like
that we pulled that matches that crowd noise well, that
crowd noise is probably not from a wrestling match because that would have been too many people in your crowd noise
could have been much more like this.
That’s probably more like where did you grow up? First off, so I’ve I’ve lived in a number of different places family as I grew up in California, Illinois, graduated from high school in North Carolina so I’ve made a loop around the country and spent a lot of time in North Carolina but I’ve been here in Texas for the last almost eight years be eight years in June. Yeah, we wrestling scholarship at North Carolina I was so I started in junior high which was in Illinois, and then went to North Carolina and finished up high school there and then went to college at University of North Carolina what
class and how good a wrestler were you
so I’ll give you a little bit so I was a couple of time all American finished second in the country my junior year
this isn’t this is not just my show. This is about city and stuff you got a sports show with Estridge and now you’re just bringing all that over here background background so
I did want you to know though that I went to a 40 year reunion just a couple weeks ago in Chapel Hill with for wrestling with wrestler witness former wrestlers but the highlight of our weekend I think was on that would have been Saturday night when we beat Duke in the Final Four wow and so the we just happened to be in Chapel Hill when that happened so in the town goes crazy
any of the singlets come back out for the reunion pictures of old singlets
came out but no real old St. James know
the name of it and that’s how I know it’s the required issued uniform. Okay. standard fare now okay.
I’m impressed with it now
any wrestling any actually like a couple beers? 12 2k am like you want to take me kind of thing go on just for old times sake.
I think unfortunately, no. So I don’t want to sound boring or anything but like city council meeting. You can tell it’s been 40 years. Yeah. So yeah,
so everyone was team everybody was staying. Okay, good. Good. Good.
Let’s get into the city stuff. Now. Fire for
sure. So, um, how do you get how do you get into this? You come out at UNC. And then what was the first How does someone become a city manager?
So my story was I got an undergraduate degree in Economics and Public Policy. And I didn’t know what to do next. I said graduate schools obvious the next step. Yep. So I ended up getting a Master’s in Public Administration. And it was in that program that I met some people that did the city manager thing. Yeah. And I thought, well, that sounds pretty cool. I think I’ll try that. Yeah. And the rest, I started in the city of Charlotte, worked my way to the federal government for a very brief period of time, and then went back to local government. So local government excited to me, that’s where you get to see the fruits of your labor. Right firsthand whether it’s potholes or sidewalks or new projects.
Yeah. So and it was county level two, right. You’ve done
city and county. And now I’m back in on the city side.
A big difference between those. I mean, you’d like one? I
don’t think so. You still work with an elected bodies still work with a number of different elected officials? And you still have to get things done?
Yeah. Is it? Um, you look at those elected officials is like a new board coming in almost if you were working on the private sector? Or is it much more challenging because of the whole public election process and things like that and appeasing them?
Yeah, I don’t know if I can compare much to the private sector. I haven’t spent much time in the private sector. But I’ve worked with elected bodies now going on? Well, almost that 40 year period of time, right. And, and when you think about it, they put themselves up before the voter to take on that job of leading a city or a county. Yeah. So I have great respect for anybody that wants to put themselves up to vote up for an election. And as you know, over this past year, we’ve had a new council or council change where we have six new members and new mayor. Pretty soon we have an electoral we have an election in a couple of weeks. And there’ll be another new council member. And then another year from now we’ll have add two seats. Yeah. And so there’s change going on, changes. Good. I mean, I don’t see that change is bad. And it just requires people like me to have to adjust and yeah, and respond differently. Well,
and we’re going through and just explosive amount of growth here. So maybe talk a little bit about how that’s changed in maybe some of the other environments you’ve been in, in, it’s maybe a really good thing, but a super challenging thing as well.
Oh, that’s a great, I’ll describe it this way. So during a pandemic, we did more building permits than the year before the pandemic. And so in 21, has been our highest number of permits so far. And that came on the tail of a year in the pandemic, which was higher than the year before. So growth has not stopped in the city, Fort Worth. And I know we’re going to talk about the bond program in a minute. Yeah. And it’s the growth that leads to the need for bond programs where we take those votes before the voters so we can invest in infrastructure. Let me give you another context. So we’re adding about 20,000 people a year. So every five years, we’re adding about 100,000. So every five or six years, 100,000 people just think about the infrastructure that’s needed for 100,000 people. And we need to do that about every five or six years. How
many pipes is that? How many water and sewer pipes? And what size?
I know you’re asking your co host? Yeah,
well, let’s Let’s back up for just a second. For those that don’t know, what does a city manager do? What is it? What is what are your duties include?
That’s a good, that’s a good question. So I’ll describe in a couple of different ways. So I worked for, I think about it in a private sector model. So I work for a board of directors, the mayor and the city council are the board of directors. Then they hire a CEO, and I’m the CEO that’s got to carry out the policy of the board of directors and the day to day operations of the business. What’s pretty cool is the city’s business is a number of unique, different businesses, right? So we do police, fire Parks and Recreation libraries. We run a convention center, we have three municipal airports, we have a regional water, and sewer utility, we have to manage all the sidewalks, roads, streetlights, intersections. And we have to make sure that all that works on a day to day basis. A lot of the stuff that the city does, I hope people take for granted, right, it just works. How many total employees about 7000
So like one of the the area’s largest employers to Right,
sure one largest employers and so I hire in fire all the directors of all those different businesses and departments I just mentioned, but really, it’s trying to make sure that the needs of all of our citizens and visitors get handled each and every day and that we’re planning for the future. And that’s part of that bond program that we put in the infrastructure that’s necessary for growing city. So very excited. This
is a lot of things. So generally speaking, what does your day look like? When are you getting up? And how? How does that go? And then when are you done? Is it an everyday job? Are you Saturday, Sunday off?
So I think that varies, right? Most of the nights this week, I’ve had a night meeting some of it’s related to the bond and trying to communicate what the bond means to our citizens. I actually have a meeting tonight. So what are you guys doing after?
Yeah, that’s what you’re doing? That’s what we’re doing here. Yeah. Yeah. And,
but let’s take tomorrow, there’s couples city items. Tomorrow, there’s a groundbreaking on a park on the north side of the city. And there’s a bond meeting at the Hanley Meadowbrook recreation center. Right. So
and then there might be a particular venue and team that I’ve seen you out a few times that we’ve maybe had some players from. Yeah,
so actually, there’s a lacrosse game tomorrow night at 730. I think we’re up against the Georgia swarm. I think
brothers I think is who they have, right? Yeah. And all three are going to be playing it should be a big game for our guys.
So here’s this lacrosse game. Oh, sure. Right. We
on the glass. This guy’s on the yeah, here’s,
here’s a shout out to the Panther city lacrosse team. So thanks for being here in Fort Worth. It’s exciting.
I had the thing I had that. We I was going to try to do that and put it in post. Yeah, we just did it without having yet. You don’t need that. You don’t need that. But ya know, it’s a great that is like the best. Like, it shouldn’t even be Kempsey. You people should go out and see those games. It’s a beautiful facility. And it’s it’s just exciting. It’s good for Fort Worth to have that. So, absolutely. You saw the Dickey stuff go through. That’s another part of the job. Yes, building, you know, huge venues that bring a lot of people in tax revenue here. So maybe talk about, you know, that’s almost kind of like an investment deal where the city alongside somebody or some things may invest, and then hopefully record the revenue back into the folds as well.
Yeah, I’ll do it in this way. The life of his cities over a long span of time, right in the Dickies arena. That concept idea started couple decades ago, right. And so then it takes time and it takes money. And the state legislature was involved in the Dickies arena financing. When I moved here. Almost eight years ago, the voters of Fort Worth had just approved the revenues for the Dickies arena. Right. And so then after you have the revenues, then you could design and build it. Yeah. So that’s happened really in the last eight years and if you remember where Dickies Arena in the parking deck, currently sit there were businesses there so you had to relocate the business as well. So an idea like Dickies arena takes time to get it done. But I’ll tell you what, everybody’s really excited about having Dickies arena now. Yeah. And they’re killing it. Right. They’re putting on the shows, they’re putting on the concerts and drew the lacrosse team. So I think they’re meeting and exceeding people’s expectations that we had a number of years ago, right? Yeah,
city, the best thing you’ve seen or hope to see their
best thing I’ve seen, well, let’s you can’t get Led Zeppelin. I don’t think they’re making a comeback. So
you never know. Matt’s a friend. I mean, he may he could pull that off. At least plant and pay. They’re
not. Yeah. Where did you see him? I never saw him. Oh, yeah. I never saw him. And I understand they did play at the convention center in the That’s right. Back in the day, back in the day.
Yeah, like it was like 70s 80s. Yeah,
I saw you too, in that convention center. Nice. Yeah. It’s a good place. What’s
the what’s the hardest part of your job?
The hardest part of the job? And I think it’s probably like other businesses, too. It’s when you have personnel issues you got to deal with that are challenging every now and then. Yeah, yeah. But the policy side, I really enjoy the relationship with the council members. I really enjoy. So that’s not challenging.
Anything that you were you were really on board with that? Maybe you have regret now that didn’t happen the way or is there anything like that you could speak to that something you were adamant about that didn’t get done or was done wrongly?
God if it gave me more time, I’m sure there are after 40 years of a that didn’t go the way I thought but nothing comes to mind right now. And I’ll tell you where there’s when we get into the bond program. Yeah. One of the things that I’ll talk about his open space, right, and it’s one of those things that, you know, we want people to come out and vote. And open space is one of those new propositions on there. I’ll do it now. So we’ll go ahead later. Because I think as we grow, and we’re gonna continue to grow here in Fort Worth, right, that’s going to happen, and we have the land to do it. And the Metroplex is just an exciting place to be. So people are moving here, jobs are moving here. So I don’t I think growth is in our future. And it’s not going to slow down anytime soon. How long do you think I don’t want to make a shot on that. Because I think we’ll still go through business cycles, sure, you’ll see ups and downs, but one of the propositions we have is about protecting open space, as we grow, where we take land from a natural environment, and we build on it, right, and we’re doing it now at the pace of about 46 acres a week. So if we want to protect spaces, which I think we should, then we need to think about preserving some of the green spaces, open spaces, natural areas that are here, before they get developed. So one of the propositions is I think its proposition is to approve 15 million for the city to continue to protect natural areas and ecosystems. And that’s not for us today or tomorrow, although we can benefit from it, but it’s really for the next generation to Yeah, so we have to have a long term perspective.
Are there other places in the country that have done that, that you’re kind of modeling after?
Sure, there are many places? Colorado has several counties and cities that do that, or I’m familiar with several in North Carolina, that is
that the Greenbelt stuff, like in Austin, is that so it could
be Greenbelt? It could be natural. We have a great natural preserve. Yeah, here in the city of Fort Worth. Yeah. And I think it’s one of those jewels that people take advantage of. But it’s the largest assemblages of land that had been protected. And we want to make sure that that continues in other areas of the city.
I’m so excited I get to ask this question. I’m going to steal your thunder. Can you tell us about the 2022 bond election? Well, thank you for
asking one of those non nine percenters who gets out there and hits the polls on a rainy Tuesday night? Let’s answer that question I thought you’d
be proud of me for I’m very proud of you.
That’s good. So yes. Did you know there’s a bond propositions coming up?
Did he know that JW? Yes.
So I’ll do this upfront. Early voting starts next Monday. Okay, April 25. Yep. And the Election Day is Saturday, May 7. We are asking voters to vote on five things. And I already talked about the premise of needing this. We’re growing, we need the infrastructure. So the largest part of the bond program is roads and transportation, right. And the total amount of all five is 560 million. If you drive around the different parts of Fort Worth, I think you’ve already recognized the need for some mobility improvements in parts of the city. And this is particularly an issue in the north part of Fort Worth. And as part of putting the bond program together. We started this conversation over a year ago. And when you would go to public meetings in North Fort Worth. All you hear about is roads. Yeah. And so you’ll that’s why you’ll see that being one of the largest numbers in the of the bumper puzzle overall,
just potholes, asphalt overlay, what kind of I mean, we’re breaking up there,
it’s mostly widening roads. Okay, right, taking two lane roads and making them four lane roads, and adding all the stuff that goes with that, which includes sidewalks and street lights and those things. But there’s a big number in the in the proposition two for fixing neighborhood streets. Now we’re back to potholes and and going into the older parts of the neighborhoods where the road needs are a little bit. You think about the age of those roads, more repairs need to be neat. are needed. Yep. And the other thing is part of this bond program that we looked at equity in a different way. Right. So we looked at the needs of each area of the city and some areas of the city have more needs and they have different needs. So the older parts of the city have more old road needs. If you go to North Fort Worth, they want you to widen their roads because they don’t have as many perhaps potholes but they want those roads be wider and be able to carry more vehicles. Yeah. So we got roads on There, that’s the biggest part of the bond. That’s Proposition A. Proposition B is Parks and Recreation. And there’s a number of neat projects that are in there. In different parts of the city. Some the highlight is because it got some news was Forest Park pool is getting replaced. Well, we’re also going to add another aquatic center that will be part of the stop six, what’s called the stop six hub. So that’ll be a rec center, a community center library aquatic facility on that part of the city, and then we have improvements in different areas Heritage Park downtown, the water gardens gateway Park. I know I’ll leave something out.
But the first part poll real quick, David does that you’re said you’re replacing it. Does that mean it’s going to be it’ll stay there, the pool will remain I’ll just be fixed up or is it going away?
Now what you do is the existing pool and in its current form will go away. But in the same space, a pool very similar to what is currently there will be some pushback, I think
from the from the locals for the pool, because a lot of like TCU uses it for their swim team at some point and that there were some issues, I thought but it sounds like it got solved.
Sure. I think the issues got solved. I think at the beginning of the bond program, when we went out with the first scope, there was a concern of losing the lap lanes because you’re right there not only TCU but some other swim clubs US Forest Park, and they wanted to make sure that the same length swim lanes were replaced, right.
Okay, so sorry. And where is that thing over by Granberry road where it splits there? Where it goes up
to right next to close to the zoo. It really isn’t a beautiful piece of property. Yeah. When you’re in Forest Park, you really can’t. It’s kind of like your houses. Yeah, outside. Yeah.
For the propositions Oh, sorry.
Yeah, A and B. C, I believe, is public safety facilities. So that’s replacing two fire stations, a new police station, always needing D is a library. And that’s in the far north part of Fort Worth. And then II, as I mentioned was open space for 15 Main.
Yep. So there is federal funding attached to some of this. Does that work that way? This is why it’s important and talk a little bit about if it doesn’t get done, there now is some kind of lag that exists kind of, I don’t know if you can lead.
Yeah, that’s, uh, thanks for the layup. I should have said something about,
well, can you use a wrestling term for that rather than a slam dunk? Yeah, just smack hold. Like here’s okay.
Yeah. Yeah. So where are we? Oh, yeah. Leverage? Yes, leverage is the word I was looking for. So thank you, if part of the bond program and looking at both roads and parks and recreation, is to try to leverage other people’s money. And so you’ll remember the county went and did a bond program for transportation projects. Yeah. So we’re going to leverage some of their money through this bond program, right, we’re also looking to leverage federal money, both through the infrastructure bill, and any other money. So we, when we are out on the stump, we tell people that for the if you vote for the transportation bonds, we’re going to leverage other people’s money. And instead of getting perhaps 350 million in roads, we’re gonna get a half a billion dollars in roads, because we can leverage that money. On the Parks and Rec side, there’s a couple of projects in there that we’re going to partner with other entities, whether it’s Botanic Garden, or the zoo, or Heritage Park. So we’re going to leverage other people’s money for the park and rec bond as well. So thank you for that isn’t important.
Well, and the bottom line is, someone else is going to go get that if we don’t, right. I mean, we can, we can say no, we don’t want that. And it’s like, then we’re just we’re giving it elsewhere. So that’s true on the transportation, like the federal highway funds where we give into this pool, and then we don’t go back and kind of demand our fair share with it. So it’s kind of a way of doing that as well. Yes. Okay.
So yeah, thank you for the leverage, because that point I needed make.
So our good friend, Chief Noakes, he’s been on the show, once coming on twice, here and Nick, and then next month, but this crime factor into your daily responsibilities with all that going on with Chief Noakes and all the police department, do you have to deal with crime issues at all, ever?
Oh, absolutely. acity? Well, I think the manager in the relationship with the police chief is tied up in a number of different ways, right? And just as an example, I’ll get all the notifications of whether there’s a shooting or a SWAT call out or, and so the manager’s office, I’m very aware when there are events occurring in the city. And I think Neil would tell you, there are too many of those events happening in the city. And it’s all of our jobs to try to figure out how to make sure that it’s a safe community. And it’s not just the police chiefs responsibility, it’s, it’s my responsibility. And frankly, it’s the responsibility of, of other departments in the city. Like we have a role in parks and recreation, we have a role in the code compliance department. So we all have a role in making sure the city safe. And in assisting the police department in a very difficult job,
you know, in the role of the citizens, I have fewer cops, and sometimes I see some unsightly characters that just you know, are up to no good roaming around the neighborhood. And I asked him about it, and the cop will say, just call the cops Smith. That’s what we’re there for, like, you got the the number that’s the non emergency, just call them and then they’ll help out. I mean, I think so much is of that is like this reluctance or this expectation that, well, why why isn’t somebody patrolling this, like, let them know that that’s going on. And I think that can happen, you know, with a lot of things shirk a big part of your job is, is hearing and understanding the public input. The worst thing that you can do as a citizen, is sit there and just not go and get involved publicly and let people know you want the Forest Park pool back or whatever. It’s just sit there and think let them make the decision. And I’ll just complain about it after it’s it’s done. Right.
Good point. I mean, actually, it goes broader than just police. We do want citizens to be engaged in their communities. Yeah, sometimes it’s gonna be a police issue. It’s also calling the pothole call in the streetlight that’s out. And
this might be a silly question, David, but is the boom in construction housing apartments commercial? Is this is all good. We know, but is that are we? Are we overdoing it? Or is this just a part of the plan?
Well, I don’t know this plan. Yes, I was gonna
say, city managers plan.
So I describe describe it. Describe it this way, I read in the newspaper a couple weeks ago, there was gonna get sticker shock when they get their property tax bill this year. And that’s because the assessed values of the properties in the city of Fort Worth generally are going up, whether it’s the land and the building, or both. Now, that’s part of the equation of why tax revenues go up as the assessed value, the other is the property tax rate. And the city of Fort Worth has reduced the property tax rate over the last number of years in recognition that the values are increasing at a pretty steep rate. And so it’s the combination of values are increasing property tax rates are going down. Some people, though, are paying more in property tax revenue, and nobody wants to pay more in property taxes. And I think it’s safe to say that I would put this out there the it is our objective and goal, that we do things that make this city attractive. And if this city is attractive, and people move here, and want to be here, then land values and houses are going up. Because we are attracting people to come here. I don’t think we want the opposite. I don’t think we want a place where people want to move from away from, right, those are places where values go down. Right? So if we do the things that attract people that attract jobs, the side whatever of that is values are going up. Our responsibility, then is to look at how much do we need to reduce the property tax rate and still meet the needs of a growing city in all the needs that our citizens have?
You may have just answered the next question with that. That was really nice. But how do you how do you define success for our city? And is it simply just people moving here? And that is that simple?
I don’t know if it’s, there’s a simple what, what I think about is, are we increasing the prosperity of people who are here and want to come here? So if the prosperity and we can debate how do you want to define prosperity? Is it income levels? Is it wealth levels, but I do think it’s our job to provide the services provide the infrastructure where everybody can prosper here in the city of Fort Worth, good answer.
On that attraction piece, maybe touch on the economic development, just kind of what’s going on because it is part of the bigger picture. The bond stuff makes, you know, all of the facilities amenities, a very attractive part of it. But what’s the city doing as far as attracting the corporate You know, job creators to keep people here once they move. So if they lose their job, they’re not just on to the next place.
Oh, sure. And so part we’ve, I think, you know, we’ve had an updated the economic development plan that last number of years. And, you know, my takeaways, we still have to focus on a number of areas, right? Everybody likes to talk about catching the big fish. But most job growth comes from existing businesses and small, small businesses. So we still have to have a lot of attention that we need to pay to existing businesses who are here entrepreneurs that want to succeed here. And then yes, we need a to have a role in how do we attract businesses come here from somewhere else? And so we work with all the Chambers of Commerce. We work with the state of Texas, and we try to be attractive for businesses that want to leave other states like California and New York or Illinois, or wherever they want to come from.
Yeah, yeah. If you didn’t work this job, what job would you work?
I didn’t work this job. It could be
you could be a masked wrestler. If you want to be anything. That’s not
it. Maybe an Uber ride, Uber driver, or a bartender? I don’t know,
maybe you could do both. And then they’d throw up in the back of the Uber or something like that. No, you wouldn’t be an Uber driver that you think so?
Why? You know, I do like getting around and like, seeing what’s going on around the city in Yeah,
do you? What do you do when you’re not managing managing the city? What are your hobbies?
I have a hobby. I like to play golf. Run every now and then. Have a great fiance who some of you know Yeah. And
sports. You love going sports kind of sports? Yeah, that’s right. Yeah.
Nice. Yeah. So we ask all of our guests by the way, thanks for the time today we ask all of our guests. Family aside, kids and all that your fiance congratulations. Thank you. Thank you. What would you consider the best day of your whole life?
The best that I like that question and answer the birth of my kids that always comes up about that. At birth the kids comes up
with can’t do kids no familiar familiar. Oh, man, we
keep you’re not the only one. We had the guy last time we said no family, they all go to the family. Victor Vandergrift, like, died on his sword for the family. Yeah. So it could be anything like you just for you. This one’s just for you. You don’t you know? Yeah. I’m trying to think everybody knows that. Like, that’s, that’s a given. Right.
Yeah. You know, I thought it was pretty cool. I found I got the job here in Fort Worth. So I was at Dell frescoes. And in Fort Worth, yeah. Is that when you found out? Yeah, and I and that’s when I introduced myself to Deep Ellum. IPA.
So were you in there? Can you say who you were in there with? And they just call it call. The
recruiter came in and told me and I was sitting at the bar. And that’s my big game. My began my relationship with Deep Ellum. IPA. That is beautiful. Yeah. David, thank you.
So Andrew, thank you for joining us. Thank you cap Tech’s bank for making us making us live. Thank you, sir. Yeah. Thank you for having me. Go vote city. It’s your safe haven.