Last week, the American-Statesman vigorously defended the case for cities to run wild in its editorial “Abbott’s target on individuality of cities is anti-Texan.” Contrary to the editorial board’s argument, Gov. Greg Abbott shouldn’t be criticized for reining in cities that heap a mountain of new regulation upon their constituents; he should be applauded for it.
You have probably met someone from out of town and moments after you get the words out that you are from Austin, they reply: “Why on earth did you guys get rid of Uber and Lyft?”
The Austin City Council’s overreach and subsequent political donnybrook became a national embarrassment for our city. When local control interferes with my ability to manage my own land, hop into a ride, rent my spare apartment, hire who I wish, or get a permit to build a home, then the state must step in to defend the economic liberty of the individual. Local control is not an open license to strip residents of their individual liberties.
Government overreach is not solely a federal or municipal problem; it can and does also happen at the state level. I will stand by to fight it then, too. Austin’s unapologetically liberal City Council seeks to control too much of our lives. Abbott’s agenda isn’t Austin-bashing; it is liberty-protecting.
If a CEO is looking to expand in Austin and attract high-paying, technology-based jobs, what type of message does it send when the mayor and City Council systematically dismantle your property rights? If you care about the economic engine that is Austin, then you must care when our City Council goes too far.
This is a serious debate that goes beyond cities hijacking personal property rights, such as prohibiting homeowners from cutting down a tree on their own property. The mayor and City Council’s solution to affordable housing is to raise taxes and fees on business owners to build said housing. I am puzzled as to how raising taxes on businesses — which in turn will pass those costs on to consumers, thereby further elevating the cost of living in this city — is somehow supposed to improve affordability.
I have received a document from an apartment builder that demonstrates the difference in total development fees for building a project in Dallas versus building the same project in Austin. Total fees in Dallas: $120,081. Total fees in Austin: $1,026,852 – nearly 10-times higher for the same project! There is no way to argue that these fees are not contributing to the affordability crisis in Austin.
Many Texas cities have fought to preserve their economic health and individual liberties. In fact, when the taxi companies complained to the mayor of Fort Worth that Uber and Lyft had a regulatory advantage over the taxi companies, Fort Worth responded by loosening the regulations on the taxi industry. This was a conservative answer to a question that the city of Austin decided was best dealt with by increasing regulation.
So, what constitutes an ordinance that should stand versus one that should be overruled by the state?
There are four criteria for determining whether the state should prevent or overrule certain local ordinances:
• When an ordinance in one jurisdiction affects citizens of another jurisdiction.
• When ordinances vary among jurisdictions such that confusion exists when traveling from one to another.
• When an ordinance has the potential to damage the economy of the state.
• When an ordinance interferes with the individual liberties of its citizens, including their private property rights.
Now, think about some of the ordinances that the city of Austin has passed recently — and judge them against these four principles.
Those who complain about their state representative getting into the business of the local municipality should remember that we are elected by those same people and have a duty to represent them as well. We frequently hear from those who believe that the city is going over the line.
Abbott called the special session on these and several other important issues. I will be eager to see that we overturn some of what the Austin City Council has foisted upon its residents.
I encourage you to come to the capitol to see our progress. Just remember: Parking is hard to come by around there. You might want to take an Uber or Lyft.
Workman has represented District 47 in the Texas House since 2011.