Richard Greene

Local control is at stake in important Texas House races

Early voting continues through Friday in the March 1 primary elections.
Early voting continues through Friday in the March 1 primary elections. Star-Telegram

Tarrant County voters are deciding whetherto control their representatives or hand off that control to outside forces determined to usurp the core principles of home rule.

Essential values of citizen-servant government are facing a significant challenge in high-profile local legislative races across the state.

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland in District 92 and Rep. Tony Tinderholt in District 94 are waging fierce campaigns to hold on to their seats. Both have received huge sums of money originating from wealthy West Texas and Austin individuals and political action committees.

Stickland’s and Tinderholt’s challengers, depending largely on contributions from constituents inside their districts, have received but a fraction of the cash pouring into the campaigns of the incumbents.

Pastor Scott W. Fisher of Bedford is challenging Stickland, and Arlington attorney Andrew Piel is running against Tinderholt.

For the sake of full disclosure, I reside in District 94 and am supporting my friend Andy Piel because I believe his lifetime of public and volunteer service in our community provides experience and insight far exceeding that of the incumbent.

Fisher and Piel both have campaigned on current issues and why they believe their ideas best mirror those of the majority of the people they want to serve.

The incumbents complain that both Fisher and Piel are conducting dirty campaigns and accuse them of lying.

Those charges come as a result of the challengers exposing the incumbents’ voting records on key legislation.

Usually incumbent office holders are proud of their records and run on them as reasons why they should be re-elected.

But these races are not so much about where the candidates stand on issues. They’re about something considerably more crucial to our system of representative democracy.

A great example of this is demonstrated on the website of one of the organizations pumping large sums of money into Stickland’s and Tinderholt’s campaigns.

The questionnaire they use to decide which candidates will receive massive funding clearly demonstrates their determination to supersede the will of local voters.

For instance, they want to know if a candidate will vote to curtail the practice of local citizens’ rights to decide on the development of public facilities in their own communities.

It is obvious from their questions on the issue of local control that they want the state to decide when bond elections can be held and restrict or eliminate local authority to arrange terms of financing best suited to achieving what the community wants.

The decision on who gets the organization’s endorsement and money will logically follow their wishes even if contrary to the express will of local residents.

Most recently, they actively opposed Arlington’s school bond proposal to raise the quality of public education that eventually was approved by 70 percent of the district’s voters.

Tinderholt’s support was sought for Arlington’s measure, which was endorsed by community leaders across the city.

Sadly, wanting to keep the financial bounty of the outside opposing forces, Tinderholt did not join that support.

Such a disconnect with the concept of local control is a serious matter for voters to consider.

First, they must get beyond the avalanche of political ads in their mailboxes and sensational robocalls in their ears — mostly funded by political machinery disconnected from local interests.

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.