Gov. Abbott grants meeting with West Texas mayors after open letter

Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope (left), Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson (center), and El Paso Mayor Dee Margo (right), after meeting with Texas Governor Greg Abbott on July 27, 2017. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)
Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope (left), Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson (center), and El Paso Mayor Dee Margo (right), after meeting with Texas Governor Greg Abbott on July 27, 2017. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Three mayors from West Texas met with Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday. The visit marks the second of three planned meetings between Abbott and mayors from across the state.

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson, Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope and El Paso Mayor Dee Margo spent time outlining several concerns with Abbott during their trip to the Capitol.

The mayoral meetings came in response to a letter signed by 17 Texas mayors on July 17, addressing worries they have over the special session agenda. The group argued some items on the governor’s call “directly impede the ability of Texas cities to provide vital services that reflect the priorities of local residents.”

“We’re here to talk about issues that impact our citizens, our neighborhoods, our small businesses — the people we represent,” said Pope after the meeting.

Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope after meeting with Texas Governor Greg Abbott on July 27, 2017. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)
Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope after meeting with Texas Governor Greg Abbott on July 27, 2017. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

“We had a great meeting with the governor, very substantive conversation around revenue caps, around annexation, around key issues that impact our citizens — the folks that pay taxes in our communities, that create jobs in our communities, that live in our neighborhoods,” Pope added.

Nelson mentioned the “one size fits all” method does not work well for West Texas communities, because of the variety in populations and economics.

“I think our biggest concern is the fairness of the one size fits all approach to revenue and spending caps,” Nelson explained. “Amarillo and as far as West Texas are traditionally and extremely fiscally responsible conservative so these bills detrimentally affect us even more than the cities they’re meant to address because our tax rates are already so low.”

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo after meeting with Texas Governor Greg Abbott on July 27, 2017. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)
El Paso Mayor Dee Margo after meeting with Texas Governor Greg Abbott on July 27, 2017. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

Dee Margo, El Paso’s mayor said, “We signed that letter along with the other mayors to make sure we had a voice so we could talk with the governor about some of his issues that he’s directing the legislature to enact and what their impact may be on a community such as El Paso.”

“I was very encouraged by the conversation. We had some good give and take on some conceptual items related to some of his issues, and I’m very pleased with the reception,” Margo mentioned.

All three advocated for the state to leave most of the decision-making to local entities.

“I’ve always felt that the best decision-making process was by the taxpayers at the most local basis,” Margo stated. “I’m a big believer in that.”

Mayor Nelson said, “Just like voters are unique and come in all shapes and sizes, communities and cities are the same way. So, one size fits all is not the best solution for approaching things from a state level.”

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson after meeting with Texas Governor Greg Abbott on July 27, 2017. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)
Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson after meeting with Texas Governor Greg Abbott on July 27, 2017. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

“I value the idea that local citizens would be trusted to make those local choices,” Nelson added. “We’ll be looking for every opportunity to reinforce the idea that we value fiscal responsibility, as we have one of the lowest city tax rates in the state and that we value that because we are locally deciding that for ourselves, so I’m glad that we’ve had the opportunity up until now to trust our local citizens to make those decisions for themselves,” she continued.

Pope said, “We’re all focused on what we can do to support the citizens and I thought it was a valuable time [Thursday].”

Abbott met with mayors from Corpus Christi, Galveston and San Marcos on July 26. He also scheduled meetings with mayors from Arlington, Frisco, Irving and McKinney on Aug. 2.

Mayors from four of the largest cities in the state — Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio — also signed the letter, but had not been added to the list of announced meetings.

Full text of mayors’ letter to the governor:

July 17, 2017

Dear Governor Abbott:

Texas cities are among the fastest growing in the country and play a critical role in the Texas economy. We believe that several of the proposals announced as part of the call for the 85th Special Legislative Session will directly impede the ability of Texas cities to provide vital services that reflect the priorities of local residents. We would like the opportunity to meet with you to discuss the role cities play in attracting jobs and investments to support the prosperity of the State of Texas.

Recent reports project that the largest cities in our state will increase in population by at least 50 percent over the next 25 years. People are moving to Texas cities because we are home to strong job markets and places where they want to live and raise their families. To prepare for this rapid growth, we must continue to have the tools to manage our budgets, improve infrastructure, provide critical services like public safety and pass policies reflective of local resident priorities. Harmful proposals such as revenue and spending caps, limiting annexation authority and other measures preempting local development ordinances directly harm our ability to plan for future growth and continue to serve as the economic engines of Texas.

As Mayors, we are dedicated to delivering quality services to our residents and attracting new businesses to move Texas forward. We respectfully ask to schedule a meeting with you as soon as possible to discuss your specific concerns with Texas cities and how we can work together to ensure a productive partnership for Texas.

Signed by:

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson

Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams

Austin Mayor Steve Adler

Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb

Dallas Mayor Michael Rawlings

Denton Mayor Chris Watts

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price

Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney

Galveston Mayor James Yarbrough

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner

Irving Mayor Rick Stopfer

Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope

McKinney Mayor George Fuller

Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg

San Marcos Mayor John Thomaides

Sugar Land Mayor Joe Zimmerman

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