Fort Worth Hispanic Leaders Pushing for New City Council Seats to Start Now

Voters in Fort Worth recently approved adding two new city council members, to better represent a quickly growing population.

But the change won't take effect for another seven years, and that's not good enough for many in the city's Hispanic community.

Take a walk down Hemphill Street in Fort Worth and you'll see lots of Hispanic-owned businesses. It's just one corridor where the community is growing fast. But the area doesn't have a Hispanic city council member, and some community leaders think it's time for a change.

The lunchtime special at Benito's Taqueria on Hemphill gives a taste of the growing flavor of Fort Worth.

"We have real, authentic Mexican food here," said owner Joseph De Leon, adding, "It was the first taqueria in Fort Worth."

And he was one of the first De Leons.

"My father, I remember him pointing out to me that he was the only De Leon in Fort Worth, and now of course we have pages and pages of De Leons," said De Leon.

Fort Worth is now about 35-percent Hispanic, but the city council has only one Hispanic member. Community leaders have been advocating since 2000 to add more council seats for better representation.

"Just our culture, we want somebody to understand us, it affects us," said De Leon.

Voters just finally approved a charter change, adding two seats, but it won't take effect until 2023, after the 2020 census.

"It's a slow process," said Fernando Florez, of the United Hispanic Council.

It's too slow for him.

"The Hispanic community wants it now. There's no question about that," said Florez.

They're looking to gather petitions or even go to court to add the new council seats sooner.

But city leaders say that would require another public charter vote, which, under state law, couldn't happen until late 2018, right before the 2020 census that could re-shuffle everything again.

But to the city's growing generations of Latinos, one thing is clear.

"The city is changing," said De Leon.

And they say it's time their leaders catch up.

"This is the 21st century, we need to be ready," said Florez.

The United Hispanic Council is still figuring out its next move for how to speed this along. City leaders told NBC 5 they'd welcome petitions, they're just not sure it will make much of a difference in the timeline at this point.

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