In a stunning display of unprincipled hypocrisy during a recent interview, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings doubled down against pro-taxpayer reforms using worn out “local control” rhetoric. Conveniently, they abandoned such rhetoric for federal and state policies they support.

Local control sounds like a good idea. After all, narrowly defined it would simply reinforce America’s federalist system. However, local control advocates are only in favor if it preserves more power for themselves.

Mayor Rawlings raised the most glaring examples. He co-wrote a letter asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that all states be required to recognize same-sex marriages, despite the objections of Texas voters who approved an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as between one man, one woman. He also supported state restrictions on gun ownership, state-mandated pre-k programs and liberalized immigration policy. But on legislation that protects Texans and their businesses by limiting the power of local politicians, he’s opposed. You know, because of “local control.”

Rawlings advanced the typical alarmist plea claiming that stronger property tax limits would cause a spike in crime. “The people pushing this, they don’t care about crime…or they don’t understand. If that cap happens, there will be unintended consequences. When crime is low, and revenue is up—I’m happy.”

Many would agree with Rawlings in one respect—most politicians are happy when given more money to spend.

Price echoed Rawlings by objecting to lower property tax limits such as SB 182 even though the cap isn’t a hard limit. City politicians could break the taxing cap, but only with voter-approval. Shockingly, requiring the consent of local residents to raise taxes doesn’t qualify as “local control.”

Price says she met with Tarrant County legislators on the issue, lamenting that city concerns weren’t being heard. She asked, “If [legislators] are not listening to us, who are they listening to?”

Perhaps they’re listening to taxpayers who have generally seen skyrocketing tax increases while their local governments drown in debt.

Both Mayors were happy to defend the controversial practice of taxpayer-funded government lobbying, which allows politicians to use taxpayer money to hire lobbyists and third-party associations such as the Texas Municipal League (TML).

Rawlings criticized Sen. Konni Burton’s (R-Colleyville) desire to end the practice legislatively saying, “…Burton should go before local communities and ask for [it] to end…it should be changed at the local level.” Ironically, while Rawlings is actually in a position to locally enact such a change in his own city, Burton is not.

When questioned if they were comfortable with TML’s government-protectionist philosophy, Rawlings was dismissive while Price pivoted. They denied the fact that TML exists to preserve the power of local politicians, claiming they’re a “tool” politicians use to “serve the interests of their residents.”

Perhaps they’d know better if they actually read TML’s own published agenda, which contradicts their claim. TML’s legislative “philosophy” is three-fold: to protect the power of city politicians, to oppose any “revenue” restrictions and any unfunded state mandates. Nowhere are the interests of Texans themselves even mentioned.

Neither Mayor did any favors for the “local control” crowd. By supporting federal mandates for gay marriage, state mandates for mandatory pre-k, gun restrictions and immigration, it became clear that local control only matters when it suits them.

Unhinged “local control” is dangerous to liberty and sound fiscal policy. It’s nothing more than a rhetorical crutch for anti-taxpayer policies supported by local politicians and their lobbyists—including those that protect or expand their own power.

As State Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R-Irving) recently penned, the liberty of Texans trumps local control at every level of government. After all, politicians are our servants, not our masters.

Ross Kecseg

Ross Kecseg was the president of Texas Scorecard. He passed away in 2020. A native North Texan, he was raised in Denton County. Ross studied Economics at Arizona State University with an emphasis on Public Policy and U.S. Constitutional history. Ross was an avid golfer, automotive enthusiast, and movie/music junkie. He was a loving husband and father.