From the Office of Mayor Pro Tem Jesse Davis: Keeping Local Decisions Local

Jesse Davis

With the 2021 Texas Legislature in full swing, I’m reminded of those famous words, “no man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.” I’m also thankful that our Denton delegation are not the sort of legislators our glib friend had in mind.

Of course, you know how legislative decisions can impact your family budget. But you should also know how Austin can affect the city’s work. In Texas, the people have vested most authority in the state, which then delegates it to various agencies and political subdivisions to do all their different jobs. Cities like Denton are “home rule,” meaning that we have the authority to make local decisions locally, closest to where they’ll be felt.

For example, the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) coordinates the highway network, but your city maintains the roads outside your home. It’s fine for TXDOT to decide when I-35 gets repaved, but we don’t really want an engineer in Austin to determine when a pothole on your street is worth a look.

This system of local control over things like roads, parks, police, and fire, has worked well for a long time. For example, in Denton we’ve been able to lower your city property tax rate for four consecutive years (down to the lowest in over a decade,) and still offer top-notch service to a growing city.

However, the actions of a few large cities, especially in cutting police budgets, have put our good system in jeopardy. A few legislators think that all city governments (not just the activists) have run amok and should be brought to heel. Their goal is to centralize more power in Austin.

Serving on the City Council, I love communicating directly with you. We see each other around town and we talk. Folks feel quite free to share how things are going or what we could do better. This makes me better at the job and gives you better representation.

Of course, I understand how a legislator from the Panhandle could look at a city like Houston and think he could handle things better. But isn’t it up to the voters in other cities how much they’re willing to pay in taxes? Or how underfunded they’ll allow a city department to become before they throw out their city leaders? I may not agree with what goes on in those cities, but I can’t imagine centralizing power in Austin would be any better.

Thankfully, our own legislators understand. I know that Rep. Stucky, Sen. Nelson, and Sen. Springer, appreciate the work we do for you here in Denton. But their colleagues may not be so well-informed. Some lawmakers only know about the big-city problems. So please keep an eye out for attempts to relocate your decision-making power to Austin, and be ready to help our legislators educate their peers.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me by email at [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you, and I’ll see you around town!