Think of what's required to draw a decent picture on a classic red Etch A Sketch.
You work with painstaking precision: The tiniest adjustment with the knob on the left, a slight move of the right, occasionally a twist of both in tandem.
Now imagine trying to draw that picture with only one of the two knobs. Impossible.
Operating a city or county government in Texas -- especially when it comes to spending decisions -- requires that same meticulous and creative Etch A Sketch savvy.
That's why Richardson Mayor Paul Voelker and many of his North Texas counterparts are so uneasy about efforts in the state Legislature to, in his words, "limit the knobs we can turn."
Voelker, a Republican, is particularly incensed by Austin's meddling because his political party has historically been the one that stood up most strongly for local control. Or, as Volker and the other mayors see it, local liberty.
Their immediate concern is the push to lower the cap on city and county property tax revenue growth. Voelker labels Senate Bill 2, the proposal to dictate local spending, *"mind-boggling," "hypocritical" and "downright wrong."
We agree. After all, these are the same lawmakers who just voted to join other states in a movement to wrest power from the federal government and give it back to them.
Austin can't have it both ways: Seeking to "rebalance" Washington's authority while hijacking local government's decision-making sounds like state leaders want to be king of the world.
Playing defense in Austin is nothing new for cities and counties. The 2015 legislative session began with bills filed by tea party Republicans to limit local government.
But with one major exception -- a measure that stops cities from banning the drilling practice known as fracking -- state lawmakers steered mostly clear of mischief.
The biggest potential whack at local liberty this session, SB 2, would require voter approval for any annual property tax increase of 4 percent or more. Currently, voters can petition for an election if the proposed increase is 8 percent or more.
Among municipal leaders on high alert is Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere, also a Republican, who says: "We have strong fiscal track records. ... We're adults. Don't govern for the lowest common denominator."
Mayors Voelker, LaRosiliere and Dallas' Mike Rawlings say reducing the tax burden on citizens is always top of mind -- as long as the reform is fair, reasonable and a local choice.
SB 2 is none of that. The state wants to cap local revenue, walk away and leave local governments to figure out how to make it work. Strangling long-established taxing authority will only grow municipal debt burdens or shatter basic services.
Rawlings also stresses that one-size-fits-all is a poor governing strategy in a state with so many and diverse municipalities.
Austin, don't disable one of the knobs that local governments need to create the best financial picture for their citizens.
-- The Dallas Morning News