Local government elections vital in enacting tangible change

Olivia Griffin

It doesn’t matter if Trump or Clinton wins. Uber will still be gone, campus carry will still be in effect, the cost of off-campus housing will continue to rise and downtown traffic will skyrocket.

Because local politics matter.

Whoever we elect as president on Nov. 8 (not Nov. 28) will only have so much control over local Austin issues: Clinton cannot alleviate Austin traffic woes, and Trump can’t make Sixth Street great again by bringing back Uber and Lyft.

Many of the proposals by Clinton and Trump require the involvement of like-minded local politicians. For example, Clinton spent a great deal of time at the first debate discussing criminal justice reform and promised to tackle the pervasive criminal justice and racial justice issues in America today by “supporting legislation to end racial profiling at the state and local level.” Note that she said, supporting, not enacting, legislation.

As president, the most that Clinton could do to influence the practices of local police departments would be to restrict their federal funding to police departments. These funding cuts would have to go though bureaucratic red tape and lobbying groups in Congress, and the appropriations bill would likely not pass. Because most funding for police departments comes from the state and city, these punitive federal funding cuts, were they to pass, would fail to make a substantive effect on police departments.

Similarly, Trump’s tax plan and the tax reductions that he promises cannot be done at the federal level. The president does not set the tax rate nor cut taxes to the scale that Trump promises. State and local governments do. This is why through decades of presidents on both sides of the aisle, taxes in Texas have been consistently lower than taxes in California — just ask the Austin offices of Google, Hewlett-Packard and Apple. This is also why taxes for certain school districts in Texas are higher than others.

Even on the federal income tax, Trump’s effect will be meager, as tax rates are subject to congressional approval and a plethora of bureaucratic institutions. It would be quicker for voters to lower their taxes by changing their local and state tax rates than by attempting to work through the bureaucratic nightmare to modify the federal income tax.

On top of this, Clinton and Trump have minimal influence over many important issues. City governments, on the other hand, can address Austin’s numerous triggers such as traffic, public transportation and the removal of Uber and Lyft. On Election Day, City Council will allow voters to decide on a $720 million transportation bond that will expand highways and have a far more tangible impact on the lives of Austinites than any high-level presidential policy.

So on Nov. 8, get out and vote down the ballot for candidates that reflect your personal views at all levels. Educate yourself on all the candidates and issues. Research the stances of City Council members and state representatives on the issues that are important to you. Because voting solely for Clinton or Trump (or Stein or Johnson or Deez Nuts or Harambe) will fail to make any real change in Austin.

Griffin is a government and Plan II junior from Dallas. Follow her on Twitter @OGlikesdogs.