During a joint interview with Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price hosted by the Texas Tribune in Austin, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings spoke out candidly against the growing tide in the state Legislature against local control.
Rawlings words come in the wake of a start to the 2015 Texas Legislative session that's been openly hostile to the state's big cities. Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin are, basically by default, the most liberal places in the state. Along with smaller cities like Fort Worth, El Paso and Plano, the big four have begun to take progressive measures in the face of state inaction. Dallas and Fort Worth both awarded pension benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees this year. Plano passed and to this point has withstood a legal challenge to an ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Denton places, banned fracking within city limits and Dallas joined Austin in attempting to limit disposable plastic bags.
That these things are happening in spite of state government has upset many members of that government. In outlining his priorities for the state, newly elected Governor Greg Abbott railed against regulations passed by cities that threatened to California-ize Texas. Phil King, a Republican state representative from Weatherford, has introduced a bill that would require cities to get state approval before putting any initiatives on the ballot. Don Huffines, Dallas' freshman Republican state senator, has proposed making it illegal for a city to pass any law more stringent than existing state law. Huffines also wants to get rid of any local LGBTQ protections.
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Rawlings said that taking things out of the hands of home rule cities like Dallas limits economic growth and choice for Texans.
"We all agree that we want Texas to grow, or at least I thought we did, and we want freedom and liberty," Rawlings said. "If we want to grow, we need a portfolio of products to grow with."
Allowing cities to be somewhat autonomous gives people, from Texas and elsewhere, a reason to choose the state, according to Rawlings.
"There is an inconsistency between cities on certain issues. Is that bad?," he said. "It's selection. It's citizens speaking up. It's them ruling themselves. It's them having a voice with their neighborhoods about how they want to do this."