When it comes to decision making, those who have our best interests at heart are often the people who are closest to us, not government leaders who seldom if ever visit our area and would have difficulty finding Live Oak and McMullen counties on a map.

Over the past few months, there have been attempts by some state legislators to silence and curtail local government, and in my opinion, that is definitely the wrong way to make sure people get the best representation.

When Ronald Reagan was President, big government was supposed to be a thing of the past. The best government was seen as the government closest to the people. Federal government would focus on the big picture issues, with an emphasis on national defense. State government would focus on those things closer to home. But the realm of local government, such as the ability to set local taxes and make local decisions with direct input from the citizens, was truly seen as government at the grassroots level.

For decades the conservative mantra was “local control,” and barring exceptions such as when corrupt local politicians took advantage of people (I am speaking in general terms and not casting aspersions on anyone specifically), that has worked well.

The old phrase “power corrupts” isn’t always true. I have seen countless examples in which local leaders held their positions for quite some time, and they have always been receptive to the views of local residents and seemed to have their best interests at heart. The words “public servant” truly seemed an apt description in those cases.

Unfortunately, the higher one goes in government, it seems, the more control many of those leaders want. It’s a shame that some leaders want to prevent our local governments from having a full say in state politics. When the Texas Legislature is in session, it is not uncommon for deliberations to run into the wee hours of the night — or in some cases, all night.

It is unreasonable for county commissioners, city council members, school board representatives and average citizens to be able to attend all of these sessions. Thousands of bills are filed and debated, and the process can be very long and complicated, to say the least.

With that in mind, local governments are fortunate to be able to rely on the services of organizations such as the Texas Association of Counties, the Texas Association of School Boards, the Texas Municipal League, the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, etc. to help cut through all the massive amounts of red tape.

Those associations are considered lobbyists, because they work for local governments — and for the people those governments represent — in getting funding for our communities and schools, and in helping to make sure the laws passed are in our best interests.

There are some lawmakers who want to make it illegal for local governments to provide funding for these organizations, and that would definitely make it much more difficult for our cities, schools and counties to make sure they get all the funding and representation they deserve.

There are always loopholes of course, and the bigger the fish, the bigger the loophole. Some of the state’s larger cities will find it much easier to work around this. It’s the smaller areas that stand to suffer the most.

What’s good for Dallas, Austin, Houston or San Antonio might not be what’s best for George West, Three Rivers, Tilden and Oakville, Whitsett, Swinney Switch or Clegg. We need for our local voices to be heard, and to have associations paying attention and lobbying for us at the state level so that important matters don’t fall through the cracks.

Hopefully, rural areas such as Live Oak County and McMullen County won’t be constrained by legislators from larger areas who aren’t considering that some of the rule changes they want to make are not in our best interest.

This is definitely an issue we should pay attention to, although it’s something that has been defeated before. The interests of smaller communities shouldn’t be steamrolled by those from outside our area who give little to no thought on how their efforts can hurt us.

•josborne@mysoutex.com•

 

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