The concept of government closest to the people being the best kind of government faces a significant test as legislators return to Austin next month.
If there was any doubt about that, the declaration, by Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, that cities and counties had overplayed their hand in the regular session cleared up any misunderstanding.
Predicting that things would not go as well for them in the upcoming 30-day reprisal of efforts to deny Texans the privilege of deciding what’s best for their hometown should remove any doubt of what’s at risk.
Among those tweeting his pleasure with another opportunity to substitute the autocracy of 181 legislators for city councils, school boards, and county commissioners was Michael Quinn Sullivan, who heads up the statist organization Empower Texans.
They and the members of the Texas Senate and House whose campaigns they have lavishly funded are on a mission to take from the hands of local citizens the power to manage the futures of their own communities.
Gov. Abbott’s announced agenda of what is included in the special session includes some appealing sounding things such as controlling local spending and limiting the growth of property taxes.
If citizens don’t look beyond those demagogic sound bites and discover what is at stake, they stand to be really surprised when the decisions that used to be theirs to make are taken from them.
Here’s a scenario that ought to constitute a call to arms for people who do not want to lose the power they now have to shape the places where they live, work and play:
Imagine any kind of improvement you might want to have for your city, its economy or, for that matter, your own neighborhood. It could be anything from street repairs, a new or expanded park, a fire station, library, or whatever else you would like to have to increase your quality of life.
Now imagine having to make a trip to Austin to convince the majority of those 181 legislators and the governor to get what you want and need.
What is most appealing to you — a trip across the state, or a few minutes’ drive to City Hall. where you can address those who were put in office by a majority of the voters of the city they serve?
And then there is this: How would you even approach the state’s lawmakers in session consisting of just a very few who have any interest at all in what you think?
Unlike full access to every city council meeting by just showing up, walking up to the microphone, and having your say, there’s a guard at the door to the House and Senate chambers who is there to control admittance.
In the end, whom would you like deciding questions about taxes, spending, and even access to bathrooms in local schools?
Do you want those in your hands, or are you willing to sacrifice that power by handing it off to the state?
If the measures now proposed win approval, it will begin an erosion of our rights ultimately producing the outcomes I have described. If not now, then every time the legislature convenes.
Cities across Texas are thriving. Local economies are strong and growing. The future is promising a better life for all.
If you would like to see all of that continue, then it’s time to send a message to the one or two members of the legislature who need your vote to stay in office and say to them — leave the power in our hands.
That’s the essence of the success of our country’s democracy where We The People decide — not some government that is out of our reach and fundamentally beyond our control.
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.