Abbott versus the cities

The continuing story.

If Gov. Greg Abbott has disdain for how local Texas officials govern their cities, it didn’t show in a Wednesday sit-down with three mayors who were among 18 who jointly requested a meeting to discuss legislation that aims to limit or override several municipal powers.

“Whether we changed anybody’s mind or not, you never know,” said Galveston Mayor Jim Yarbrough. “But I will say it was a healthy conversation.”

What also remained to be seen Wednesday: whether Abbott plans to meet with mayors from the state’s five largest cities — who were also among those who requested to meet with the governor. So far, Abbott hasn’t responded to the requests from the mayors of Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio.


Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a press conference Wednesday that when he was a member of the Texas House, Republican lawmakers repeatedly complained about government growing and overstepping its bounds.

“And now we find that the state government is really reaching down and telling local governments what they can or cannot do and pretty much trying to treat all cities as if we are all the same,” Turner said.

During invited testimony to the House Urban Affairs committee on Tuesday, several city officials and at least one lawmaker denounced what they said were overreaching and undemocratic attempts to subvert local governance.

“If people don’t like what you’re doing, then there are things called elections. I don’t see it as our job to overreach and try to govern your city,” said State Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg testified that it felt like the state was waging a war on Texas cities.

“The fundamental truth about the whole debate over local control is that taking authority away from cities — preventing us from carrying out the wishes of our constituents — is subverting the will of the voter,” Nirenberg said.

At Wednesday’s meeting with Abbott, Yarbrough said he and his counterparts from Corpus Christi and San Marcos told the governor that local officials have a better finger on the pulse of city residents’ expectations and demands.

“We wanted to make sure we preserved the ability for local municipalities to be able to adjust and react to the needs of their community,” he said.

See here for some background. It’s mighty nice of Abbott to take a few minutes out of his busy schedule of threatening legislators to meet with these concerned constituents, but they shouldn’t have had to take time out of their busy schedules to try to persuade the Governor to leave over a century of accepted governance in place and butt out of their business. And not for nothing, but the cities whose Mayors Abbott has been ignoring are the reason he can make elaborate claims about how awesome the Texas economy is.

Let’s begin with population. The five counties that contain the state’s five largest cities have a combined 12,309,787 residents, which is 44 percent of the state’s total. If you want to talk about elections, the registered voters in those counties make up 42 percent of Texas’ electorate.

Those counties out-perform the rest of the state economically. Texas’ five biggest urban counties constitute 53.5 percent of total Texas employment. If you broaden it out to the metropolitan statistical areas, which include the suburbs as well, the proportion becomes 75.8 percent — and growth in those regions has outpaced growth in the state overall since the recession.

Not convinced Texas’ cities drive the state? Let’s look at gross domestic product: The state’s five biggest MSAs contribute 71 percent of the state’s economic output, a proportion that has increased by two percentage points over the past decade. Focusing just on counties again, workers in the ones that contain Texas’ largest cities earn 60 percent of the state’s wages.

If you look at the embedded chart in that story, you’ll see that the metro area that is doing the best economically is the Austin-Round Rock MSA, and it’s not close. It’s even more impressive when you take into account how busy the city of Austin has been systematically destroying Texas with its regulations and liberalness and what have you.

As I said in my previous post on this subject, quite a few of the Mayors that are pleading with Abbott to back off are themselves Republicans, and represent Republican turf. It’s good that they are trying to talk some sense into him, but I’d advise them to temper their expectations. Abbott and Dan Patrick and a squadron of Republican legislators, especially in the Senate, don’t seem to have any interest in listening. The one thing that will get their attention is losing some elections. What action do these Mayors plan to take next year when they will have a chance to deliver that message?

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4 Responses to Abbott versus the cities

  1. Joshua ben bullard says:

    You can check Sylvesters campaign contributions and check carol Alvarados reports ,its about local.politicians wanting to keep lobby $$$$$$ coming their way for taxi medallions – building permits- management districts etc etc ,if local control would not have abused their discretion for campaign money then Maybe the state wouldn’t have had to step in -by the way ,coincidence that borris miles,Sylvia Garcia, carol Alvarado,and Sylvester turner all pushing against statewide uber- are you out of your mind or just out of campaign money – Sylvester never fooled me,I’ve known from his first week in office he came in underestimating the job of Mayor.”a vision to nowhere in hired transportation “….

  2. C.L. says:

    @Joshua… you and the taxi medallion issue. SMH.

  3. Joshua ben bullard says:

    Its not a taxi medallion issue- Turner is involved in many issues with the city that involve money and lots of it I/e director of Public works paid bribes to Oliver for years – turner has had him in place for 60 days and puts him on paid leave,a paid leave is for a city employee that has worked for us for years not 60 days.Turner and his recycling contract problem,turner with the federal housing problem from fountain view,I’m the one that sounded the alarm first on Turner, Turner keeping his friends all in the same ” advisor positions ” Keith wade ,William Paul Thomas ,Carl davis ,Catherine Evans”The taxi problem with Turner lying to me on the campaign trail that he would end taxi medallions but then taking a hundred thousand from big taxi out the back in campaign contributions is the least of your worries with turner my friend ,I’m close to securing a federal jury question on him and if I’m that close I would assume others are even closer ,open your eyes ,turner came in here not to move Houston forward ,he came to the mayors office for money and lots if it.- appointment of Stephen Costello as Houston’s flood czar ,I’m sure the feds didn’t give that a second thought.

  4. Steve Houston says:

    The problem with those assertions Josh is that Turner hasn’t been Mayor “for years”, did not establish the practices you so hate, and as Mayor in a strong-mayor city is obviously going to be “involved in many issues with the city that involve money”. Then, look at the mess he inherited, hardly a walk in the park for a guy that wants to do all sorts of progressive things (which I admittedly often disagree on). But even if all sorts of bad things happen in the future, you won’t be able to claim dibs on being “first” since there were people with far, far better track records at prediction than you that have hated the guy since the late 1980’s/early 1990’s.

    Well, back to keeping track of that special session Josh guaranteed all of us would never happen, have a good day all. 😉

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