Even before the next president is sworn in, the future of Texans’ power to shape their lives and their communities will begin to be decided by their representatives in Austin.
As the Legislative Assembly convenes on January 12, this is an important issue for all of us. The state agenda, already in preparation, will unfold, and we should make our desires known to those whom we have sent there to carry out our will.
Critical decisions that affect us all will have been made by the time the adjournment arrives some 140 days later, and we don’t want to look back on what happened and wish it had been something more to our liking.
The Greater Arlington Chamber of Commerce has been working for months, surveying its members and meeting with legislators and their staff, to develop its preference on the issues and possibly the most comprehensive examination in the city of the concerns we all face.
The resulting position paper, which represents the vast majority of House members, was approved by its board of directors and provided to area representatives in the Texas House and Senate.
For the sake of transparency, I recently served on this board and on the House Public Policy Committee.
“Our program,” the report outline reads, “aims to continue the economic success currently enjoyed by our state and region by creating sound policies that ensure we have the tools, talents, infrastructure and health systems necessary for economic and community prosperity. ”
Supporting a strong local economy results in benefits for all citizens through job creation and business investment that shifts the property tax burden from residents to the commercial sector.
The centerpiece of this goal is to leave the decisions about how to shape cities in the hands of their citizens. In recent sessions of the Legislative Assembly, there have been foolish efforts to transfer this power to the state.
Such proposals are contrary to the fundamental principle of self-government. The self-governing form of government has helped make Texas cities the fastest growing in the nation.
This is why economic development strategies are at the top of the priority list in favor of well-paying jobs in very poor areas and support for the retraining of displaced workers using a combination of community colleges, labor commissions. labor and private employers.
Then there are strong positions on health care, calling for maximizing federal matching funds to expand coverage to the working poor, the self-employed and uninsured Texans through public and private markets.
In the area of public education, the chamber is calling for emergency funds to make the adjustments required by the global pandemic and the elimination of unfunded mandates resulting in higher property taxes.
There is support for dual-credit courses, junior high schools, and advanced-levels testing to reduce the number of credit hours required after high school and make college more affordable.
Community and state infrastructure needs are identified, including advocacy for the use of public-private partnerships to leverage public funds for transportation needs and broadband expansion in each county providing basic access to distance education and telemedicine.
You can see from this sample of initiatives that the purpose of the chamber is to improve the quality of life for the entire community through the rising tide of economic prosperity. It’s a great demonstration of how it lifts all boats.
This is especially important for ordinary citizens in these boats, and it suggests ways for all of them to contribute to the high calling of demanding that our legislators protect our powers to decide for ourselves how we want to be governed and how to shape our hometowns.
Richard Greene is a former mayor of Arlington, was appointed by President George W. Bush as Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and teaches at UT Arlington.