Dallas Mayor Johnson Can Create a Model for Effective Democratic Governance That Will Please Republicans, Too

OK, we get it. Once one of the most conservative cities in the nation, Dallas is now a Democratically controlled city.Of course, Republicans will continue to try to win races where we can. And long term, Republicans will seek to recast their message in ways that appeal to urban voters, since we think conservative, free-market policies benefit everyone.Meanwhile, Dallas and its suburbs still have a significant population of voters who identify as conservatives. And that includes a significant number of business owners, entrepreneurs and corporate types who drive the economics of the city. So there's no "bringing the city together" without including us.But what does it mean to be a Democratically controlled city? Major cities in America are in deep trouble. Corruption is too common, public pension plans are disastrously underfunded, schools are failing, core city functions are being neglected in lieu of more ambitious pie-in-the-sky distractions, and elected officials seem more interested in pursuing social justice engineering than in the basics of running a city. Far and away, the greatest income disparity is to be found in our cities, not in the suburbs, exurbs or rural areas.And almost all of these cities are run by Democrats.New Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson has a historic opportunity to chart a new course of Democratic municipal government in a way that would be good for all Dallasites, including those of a more conservative persuasion.When it comes to local governance, Republicans have much in common with Democrats. At the local level, we all want clean and safe streets. We all want good schools, functioning institutions and voluntary associations, including religious institutions. We all want the potholes filled, the garbage collected, the critters controlled and the sanitation maintained.We all want an environment where our families can thrive, our employers and businesses can be successful, and our children can be safe and fulfill their potential.We all want transparent, responsive, accountable government with minimal corruption. And we don't want bureaucracies that operate as if residents are here to serve them, instead of the other way around.Where Republicans and Democrats tend to differ is when government finds running the private sector more appealing than running the city. Too often, it seems Democratic governance means using government power to tell entrepreneurs how to run their businesses and families how to run their lives. It's Democrats, not Republicans, who seem to always want to impose some pet policy in areas that are, frankly, outside the core competency of local government.It's not the city of Dallas' job to tell businesses what the minimum wage should be, or how their employee leave policy should work, or what kind of grocery bags customers should use. We don't need the city dividing us by creating protected classes and favoring certain groups at the expense of others. It's not the city's job to be the social conscience of Dallas — we have plenty of private social and religious institutions, and social conscience is their sphere, not municipal government's. Whenever there is tension between liberty and government coercion, city policy should prioritize liberty.When cities choose control over liberty, I am among the first to call upon the Legislature to overrule such municipal mischief, such as when Denton tried to illegally ban fracking or when Austin regulated Uber out of the city. After all, we don't live in medieval city-states with walls and moats, and the Legislature has an active obligation to protect the property rights and economic liberty of all Texans, including those who live in cities.But if Johnson can resist the demands of progressive constituencies to impose a social agenda on the people of Dallas, and if he will simply focus on doing a great job of running the core duties of the city, he can count on the support of Dallasites of all political persuasions, and in the process redefine Democratic urban governance, making Dallas a model for cities across the nation.Tom Giovanetti is president of the Institute for Policy Innovation in Irving. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.  Continue reading...

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