White Settlement Residents Vote Down Name Change

11-9-05 - Residents held on to their heritage Tuesday night and voted against changing their town name to West Settlement, despite proponents' arguments that the name has racial connotations and stunts economic development.

In a record turnout, 2,388 residents voted against the name change and 219 voted for it in unofficial, complete returns.

The city got its name because it was the lone village of white pioneers amid several American Indian encampments in the Fort Worth area in the Texas Republic territory in the 1840s.

Mayor James Ouzts and other city leaders proposed the change, saying the current name is confusing, misleading and has prevented companies from moving into this 15,000-resident suburb of Fort Worth.

However, the ballot measure angered many residents who said the change was unnecessary and too costly. Signs across town urged folks to "Be Proud! Don't Let Them Discard the Heritage of White Settlement. Vote No!"

"I'm disappointed, but we've got a lot of advertising over this. So, in a way, we've won," said 74-year-old Alvin Kite, who served on a committee that recommended the name change.

Former City Councilman Alan Price said he was pleased with the outcome, and he believes the passion people had about preserving the town's heritage will help, not hurt, the city.

"Since the publicity got so big and everyone knows that people are proud of it, I think businesses will take a second look," Price said.

Price and other opponents said the measure was so soundly defeated because residents believed city leaders rushed the issue, didn't want it publicized and were trying to make the working-class town into something it isn't.

"This vote shows how out of touch this city is with their citizens," said Nolan Fontenot, who is organizing an effort to have the mayor and city council recalled.

Mayor Ouzts said he still believes a more politically correct name would help draw new companies to replace several big businesses _ including Home Depot and Wal-Mart _ that have left for larger properties outside the city.

City leaders will keep trying to help the city grow, Ouzts said, despite the recall effort that he said was being done for the wrong reasons.

"We've been fighting for this community, fighting for economic development ... working very, very hard, and if that's the wrong thing to do, then I suppose I'm in the wrong business," Ouzts said.