Tension between state and local government is a hallmark of Texas politics, and that dynamic has been on full display since the pandemic started last spring. State and local decisions have determined much of our day-to-day lives – from how and when to back go to work or school, whether we wear face masks and whether we worship or gather in public. But it hasn’t always been clear who’s in charge. Often, cities acted early to “flatten the curve” only to have the state step in and reverse those decisions. Other times the state took the lead, and those rules trickled down to local levels. Texas Standard wanted to explore those decisions to show a larger picture of Texas during the pandemic. It’s an effort to hold leaders accountable, but also to begin to understand whether state or local authority, or a mix of both, is best for managing a widespread public health crisis.
How Did Your City Rate?
Each city has responded to the pandemic with a unique mix of state and local decision-making. Texas Standard asked reporters in 15 cities about the most consequential government decisions in response to COVID-19 affecting their area, and collected them here. Hover over the points to see whether state or local authority is driving your city’s pandemic response. View all of the decisions here.
Methodology: Texas Standard contacted public radio and other reporters in 15 cities, asking for their impression of the top 5 most consequential decisions by state and/or local government between March and August 2020. Most provided five decisions; some responded with fewer. Many had similar responses especially when it came to decisions made by the state. This is not a scientific analysis, rather it’s a collection of impressions by reporters who were on the ground as the pandemic unfolded. The map is based on “decision ratings” between -4 and +4 for each city. The greater the number of local decisions, the smaller the rating number and vice versa.
This story was produced by Caroline Covington, digital producer/reporter for Texas Standard, with contribution from producers and reporters at NPR affiliates across Texas:
Mitch Borden, Marfa Public Radio, Midland/Odessa
Sam Cedar, KWBU, Waco
Heather Claborn, KACU, Abilene
Chris Connelly, KERA News, Dallas/Fort Worth
Lon Gonzalez, KEDT, Corpus Christi
Angie Haflich, High Plains Public Radio, Amarillo
Mark Haslett, KETR, Northeast Texas
Angela Kocherga, KTEP, El Paso
Reynaldo Leaños Jr., Texas Public Radio, Rio Grande Valley
Audrey McGlichy, KUT News, Austin
Carlos Morales, Marfa Public Radio
Jen Rice, Houston Public Media
Sarah Self-Walbrick, Texas Tech Public Media, Lubbock
Lauren Terrazas, Texas Public Radio
With help from Julia Wallace at the Laredo Morning Times