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Why Texas cities need lobbyists to represent them in Austin



Texas – Serving as a local elected official, especially in a capacity that is close to voters like the city council or mayor, is the ultimate form of giving back to one’s community. The job is hard, often 24/7, but it’s also most fulfilling.

When some of our Texas legislators express concern about what they call “taxpayer-funded lobbyists” representing cities, we want to speak up for mayors and council members across our region to explain why eliminating professional lobbying for municipalities is a solution in search of a problem.

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The term lobbyist is a misnomer in this case. Counties and municipalities often join associations and hire advocates to work on behalf of the citizens, just like we are working on behalf of the people who elected us. These advocates are experts in their fields, monitoring hundreds of bills filed each session and alerting us to any that might be potentially bad for our citizens — as well as helping us promote legislation that would benefit our neighbors. Hiring experts to represent our interests is so important that the state of Texas has a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., representing us.

Even so, these important advocates represent a small budget line in our cities’ budgets. For example, in Fort Worth, our community advocacy expense is only .00082% of the overall annual city budget.

The return on investment is indisputable. Through advocacy, cities often gain funding for important capital and infrastructure projects, including airports, water systems, roadways, and convention and community centers. Not only do these projects provide services to citizens, but, in some cases, revenue back to the cities.

There are 962 cities and towns in our state, each one with its own unique mix of opportunities and challenges. Each one with local leaders who cheer on the same high school football team, worship in the same pews, and shop at the same grocery stores. Many local citizens may not know their state representatives or senators, but they typically know their mayors, council members and school board representatives. They know us, they see us, and they elect us.

Our state legislators have plenty on their plates for the upcoming session setting biennium budget, ensuring that Texas schoolchildren have the best education we can provide them and building policy that continues to fuel our state’s economic development.

One-size public policy does not fit all. That’s why we believe the government closest to the people should continue to have a voice and advocate for what is best for its citizens.