Who gets to decide policy when it comes to policing, public health or housing?
State versus local control has long been a hot-button issue in Texas. This legislative session, a bipartisan coalition of mayors representing the state’s largest cities is pushing for more issues to remain under the purview of local governments.
The coalition, Texas’ Big City Mayors, has 18 mayors representing over 8.5 million Texans from every corner of the state. Mattie Parker, the mayor of Fort Worth, said the goal is to focus on issues that the group agrees on. Texas mayors do not run with party affiliations listed on the ballot, but Parker is affiliated with the Republican party.
“I think our big-picture items are really consistent, even though sometimes our individual cities might have different approaches,” she said. “But I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to learn from one another. In my opinion, we’re where the rubber meets the road. We have to find compromise and consensus wherever possible. You’ve seen us do that on a variety of issues over the last year and a half since I’ve been mayor, and when that coalition started. We think there is strength in numbers to try to find those items where we can identify together, regardless of party, on behalf of the residents that live in our cities.”
Some of the big-ticket items the coalition is focusing on this session include property tax relief and fortifying local governance.
“Local governance really just helps protect our community-based decision making,” she said. “I started my career in Austin as a legislative staffer. I have full respect for both the body of the House and the Senate and the way things operate. But acknowledging that in Fort Worth we might do things differently than in Austin or in Dallas – we want to kind of keep that ability in place.”
Other priorities include pushing for workforce development and education, with a special focus on early childhood education programs. Parker said the group also wants the Legislature to work on reducing violent crime and expanding broadband internet access.
Parker said being in the coalition compliments efforts by each mayor to advocate for their own personal priorities.
“We just try to live as mayors the way each of you live in your normal lives, right? You don’t get the luxury of just disagreeing, walking away and refusing to work together in your businesses or your personal lives. I think that translates in our role as mayors,” she said. “At the end of the day, most people are the same. The things that divide us are about the 2% that we tend to focus on. And as mayors, we really just try to focus on the 98%. How can we get to yes? How can we work together and recognize that a coalition is much stronger than going at things individually, just for partisan purposes?”