Texas Politics

Fort Worth, Dallas mayors united in Austin

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings puts on a TCU T-shirt after losing a football bet to Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price in 2013.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings puts on a TCU T-shirt after losing a football bet to Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price in 2013. Star-Telegram archives

It’s an enduring part of North Texas lore: Cowtown super-booster Amon Carter, founder of Star-Telegram, detested Dallas so much that he always took his own sack lunch whenever he was forced to travel to the city east of Fort Worth.

But in the view of the two latest leaders of Fort Worth and Dallas, those days of intense rivalry and even hatred between the two giants of the Metroplex have long since given way to a shared spirit of cooperation, regional growth and even mutual cheerleading.

That was a pervasive theme Thursday as Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings discussed a host of common interests — and seemingly few differences — during a joint interview in Austin with Texas Tribune editor-in-chief and co-founder Evan Smith.

“What’s good for Dallas is good for Fort Worth, and what’s good for Fort Worth is good for Dallas,” said Price, lightly referencing what she called “The Mike and Betsy Show.”

Price and Rawlings have been mayors of their respective cities since 2011, serving as the two dominant municipal leaders in the country’s fourth largest metropolitan region. After their elections, Price said, she and Rawlings “sat down and talked about regionalism” and ways to further accelerate economic growth.

“A lot of issues unite us,” noted Rawlings, saying that Dallas and Fort Worth are more interested in “cheering each other as opposed to stabbing each other in the back.”

The mayors pointed out that other major cities in the Metroplex, including third-largest Arlington, have experienced enormous growth, effectively blurring city lines as resident frequently cross municipal boundaries to shop, travel and go to work. They also cited the Dallas-Fort Worth area as a driving force of economic growth.

Both mayors signaled resistance to any attempts by lawmakers to usurp local control and cited education and transportation, including high speed rail, as high priorities to boost by state and regional growth. Price described education as “the backbone for this state.”

One seeming disagreement centered on proposals to permit carriers of concealed handgun permits to carry firearms inside campus buildings. Rawlings said he flatly opposed the measure, saying, “You just don’t need guns and 19-year-olds and alcohol getting together on our campuses.”

Price noted that “a lot of kids on campuses” already have concealed weapons permits.

The mayors also defended the need for tax-financed lobbyists for local governments, an issue that gained attention after State Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, served notice that she would not talk to tax-paid lobbyists working for government entities.

Price said it would be “impossible” for either she or Rawlings to find the time to track the thousands of bills and issues that affect their cities.

“We can’t stay up on every one of those bills so we have to depend on the experts to do the research,” she said.