Support local government | Columnists

TEXAS HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

As the distance between voters and the 2022 election shrinks, many residents of House District 60 are intensely focused on statewide, congressional and statewide legislative races. With a showdown between Governor Greg Abbott and Beto O’Rourke on the horizon, as well as a chance to reclaim the United States House of Representatives, Republicans in Texas are more excited than ever at the polls. However, in the middle of the campaign season, I want to shift the focus from those races to the most important group of state officials: your local officials.

AT LOCAL LEVEL

Of all the offices up for election, it’s no secret that leaders at the state and county levels are among the hardest-working and least-appreciated aspects of government. Many of these local leaders have close, one-to-one relationships with their constituents, often devote long hours to growing communities, and are most directly accountable to constituents.

Thanks to their close ties, local leaders have the best idea of ​​which policies and programs will work best at the most direct level. Due to their small size and proximity to constituents, members of the public are often a fixture at town or county town hall meetings. Unlike state or federal government, politics at the local level is also more susceptible to public pressure. Tax measures, such as bonds or abatements, are either delivered directly to taxpayers for approval or by officials who live nearby, not by big government bureaucrats. Most local races are non-partisan, a breath of fresh political air, as it allows your leaders to make choices based on the good of the community, not the national political apparatus.

DO MORE WITH LESS

However, in rural and suburban areas, many municipalities, counties and school districts lack the necessary resources enjoyed by those in large metropolitan areas. Local leaders are being asked to do more with less, and hundreds to thousands of people are counting on them to get the job done. This means that many of your local officials, elected and appointed, must find creative ways to achieve results in their communities. In areas like House District 60, these officials play a vital role in advocating for local Austin interests.

WORKING WITH LOCAL LEADERS

During the 87th Legislative Session, I worked directly with local leaders in Home District 60 to create legislation for these specific communities that would not have been possible without their support. In fact, my first two bills in the House, House Bill 1471 to restore unused land in Stephens County for development, and House Bill 1554, to create greater opportunities for economic development in Brown County, were suggested and defended by local governments. Advocacy by these boards also goes beyond simply tabling legislation. During my first semester, along with helping Hood County, TxDOT announced an expansion of Highway 377 to better support our rapidly growing counties. Constant communication between our cities, school districts and subdivisions enables legislators to be effective in creating pro-local policies that have immediate personal impacts.

ORGANIZATIONS ASSIST AT THE COMMUNITY LEVEL

Unfortunately, the daily workload imposed on local governments alongside the frenetic pace of the Texas Legislature creates barriers for many rural communities to retain that voice. Organizations such as the Texas Municipal League (TML), Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), and Texas Association of Counties (TAC) have worked for years to educate, equip, fund, and unite Texas communities to bridge the power gap between rural, suburban and metropolitan areas. The Texas Municipal League alone has more than 1,200 member cities, with approximately 70% of their members coming from cities with populations under 5,000. These organizations collect dues from member cities, and this approach allows municipalities to pool resources to stay competitive with big cities like Dallas, Austin, and Houston. TML, TASB, and TAC then use these funds to provide up-to-date legal advice, economic development assistance, and create pro-local legislative programs that let lawmakers in Austin and Washington know how laws will help or hurt your community.

Unfortunately, there has been a concerted push in recent years to eradicate these organizations and force rural and suburban cities and counties to fend for themselves when advocating for your needs in Austin. Some want to go further and ban any public official, elected or not, from testifying or contributing to legislation that will impact their community unless they personally pay. At a time when our nation’s beliefs are under siege, there are interests that want to drown out your community values ​​in Austin. Instead of being a direct pipeline to your Representatives, Senators and Congressmen, your local leaders will be disarmed and silenced. With over 7,000 bills to consider in the legislative session, we need access to immediate and accurate information from our local leaders. With most lawmakers representing urban areas, rural Texans can’t afford to be without an organized voice on their issues.

From city managers to justices of the peace, our local leaders do the essential work of keeping streets safe, water flowing and values ​​upheld. It is more important now to elect elected officials who will defend your community’s right to local control in Austin and who are not afraid to stand up to those who seek to suppress your community’s voice.

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