Frisco Lawmaker Has Big Ideas for a Proposed "District of Austin"

Austin want to keep itself weird. A bill from a Frisco lawmaker could help with that.
Austin want to keep itself weird. A bill from a Frisco lawmaker could help with that. Wikicommons
Texas state Rep. Jared Patterson of Frisco announced last week that he has filed a bill that aims to establish Austin as “the District of Austin,” thereby retiring the roles of Austin’s mayor and city council. The conservative lawmaker, who also is in favor of banning the use of social media for anyone under 18, hopes to give the state government oversight powers similar to how Washington, D.C., is under the jurisdiction of Congress.

In the bill filed for the upcoming 2023 legislative session, Patterson proposes that “the governing body of the district shall submit to the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the house of representatives notice of each action taken by the governing body that adopts or amends the district ’s charter or an ordinance of the district.”

HB 714 and HJR 50, a proposed constitutional amendment, would still allow Austin to operate within its home-rule status to a certain degree. Patterson is merely the latest Texas Republican who is ready to assert control over the historically blue municipality, even if his constituency resides hundreds of miles away.

In a tweet announcing his filing, Patterson stated the bill will “give the elected representatives of the State of Texas an opportunity to better manage a Capitol District, reduce taxes, enforce our laws, and defend Texas values.”

In another tweet he explained why he feels Austin needs to be established as a district, noting “Elected officials in Austin have failed their city. Record high taxes and crime are pushing folks out of the city, and their San Francisco wannabe policies force the state to come over the top on legislation each session.”

Because Twitter often serves as a virtual town hall, representative Patterson took the opportunity to respond to some of the critics of his announcement. One of those replies came from Dallas City Council member Adam Bazaldua, who stated he views HB 714 as an “attack” on local control. Patterson replied by claiming that local control “doesn't mean you get to do whatever you want after 7% of the voting population shows up for an election.”
It’s worth noting here that there isn’t a minimum voter turnout required for a city to retain its status as a municipality. And interested parties in Austin have begun to speak out against the bill filed by the rep from North Texas. Patterson did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

State Rep. Cecilia Israel, a Democrat, is running for Austin mayor. She told CBS Austin, “I think this is an unfortunate use of legislative authority and it is a political stunt,” before adding “I would point to DPS’ 2020 Crime Report. Frisco was the second-worst for overall crime rate and third most violent crime. So this is not based on facts and data.”

Not only is the long-distance nature of Patterson’s bill incongruous, but there’s the not insignificant note that the capital city is famously a deeply blue island in a predominantly cherry red sea.

In the 2022 midterm elections, more than 70 percent of voters in Travis County voted for Democrat candidate Beto O’Rourke for governor as well as for Democrat Rochelle Garza, who lost the race for attorney general to incumbent Ken Paxton. An almost identical number of Travis County voters chose Joe Biden for president in 2020 over Donald Trump.

If Patterson’s bill were to become law, the wishes of the voters would be ignored by installing a Republican government over the newly formed district even though Austin as a city has repeatedly elected a Democrat as its mayor for decades. The current City Council is composed of Democrats save for a single Republican member.

Former Austin mayor and Texas state Sen. Kirk Watson, who is competing in a runoff election against Israel in December to again become mayor, was also asked about Patterson’s bill. Unsurprisingly, he thinks Patterson should leave Austin’s business to those close by.

“We can make better decisions for ourselves in Austin, and represent our people better in Austin,” he said. “I try not to immediately criticize anybody that files a bill because I've been there and seen how that operates. But this is obviously a bill that we wouldn't be able to support and we would need strong leadership in order to make sure that bill doesn’t pass.”
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Kelly Dearmore

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