Texas Monthly Lays It Out: Texas Rural VS Urban Values

A few paragraphs from Gregory Curtis, Texas Monthly, February 2013.  We would do well to ponder the several paragraphs that I've excerpted here.

"Over the past forty years, two competing visions of our urban landscapes have emerged.  While many, myself included, see museums and concert halls, libraries and universities, nightlife and fashion, sophisticated people and meaningful jobs, others see little but choked freeways, welfare chiselers, abortion, strident homosexuals, drug addiction, relentless government meddling and a general sense of purposelessness and lost values.  The last election was virtually a poll on these two visions of our cities and the results in Texas were clear and definitive.  With the exception of Tarrant County, President Obama carried every one of the counties that contain our six largest cities...Yet in Texas as a whole, Governor Romney trounced the president...Texas has great cities, but in the hearts of its citizens Texas is not an urban state.

"I will confess that I am surprised to find myself writing that. By the time this magazine celebrated its tenth anniversary, I figured that urban Texas had already prevailed or would very soon.  The next twenty years seemed to prove me right.  The boom in the seventies, the bust in the eighties, and the recovery in the nineties all hinged on the cities.  And the politicians were changing as well. After the six year gubernatorial term of Dolph Briscoe, a Uvalde rancher, ended in 1979, from then until 2000 the governors were William Clements from Dallas, Mark White from Houston, Clements again, Ann Richards from Austin and George W. Bush from Dallas.  They did their jobs in different ways and had differing degrees of success or failure, not none of them questioned that Texas, while remaining Texas, deserved to and should take its place in the larger world, that our cities could become the envy of other states and equal, each in its own way, to cities anywhere.  After the bust, new businesses flourished, often founded and run by mavericks who were nothing like the titans of earlier generations.  Intellectually and artistically there was great confidence that significant work and long careers were possible here and that Texas itself would not be a hindrance but a strong propelling force. At Texas Monthly, we saw ourselves as part of that force...

"Much of this growth was thanks to none other than the government of the state of Texas.  A vibrant movie industry sprang up when the Texas Film Commission spent our tax dollars to lure filmmakers to the state.  Our public schools improved because the state was willing to pay for improvements.  Higher education improved so dramatically that suddenly out-of-state students were vying to come to Texas for college and students in Texas had first-class school in their backyards.  Again, money from the state was a crucial factor. To me, those years, from the late eighties to 2000, were the time when Texas was not only at its best but also most like the Texas of legend - open, confident, capable, fun, unique and free.  And also urban, proud and productively so.

"But that spirit hasn't lasted.  For the past twelve years we have elected and reelected a governor who is defiantly rural in all the unfortunate ways.  With a visage made for Hollywood, a definite rustic charm in person when he's just being Rick Perry, the governor has a lust for power unequaled in Texas since Lyndon Johnson.  But while Johnson wanted to build Perry wants to dismantle.  His targets include a vast array of social programs, education, taxes and pretty much anything else that can be labelled government.  He is not a governor in the style of John Connally or even George Bush. Instead, he is like Pappy O'Daniel and Pa Ferguson, living proof that that strain of country obstinacy and willful unenlightenment has not disappeared from the Texas character.

"Now the governor, the lieutenant governor, and leading legislators are all pledging that the Eighty-third Legislature will produce more cuts in government. There is a kind of undeclared war on public education, whose real agenda is to take apart the whole school system. And the universities have been warned.  Social programs, which are mostly urban in terms of the people they serve, will be squeezed to death.

"This reverse social engineering will affect our cities first and most.  Those cities have matured and improved over the past forty years.  Much as I liked them back them, I like them more now.  In my better moments I believe that their upward path is inevitable, that not even years of misguided public policy can stop them.  I hope so, but it will be a long time before the heirs of O'Daniel and Ferguson are out of power.  The clash of rural and urban values will be the dominant theme in Texas in the coming years.  It should make for interesting reading."

Same issue of Texas Monthly states, "that though our rurual population of 3.8 million is still the country's largest, we are, for the most part, a bunch of city folk.  Almost 85 per cent of the state's population now lives in urban areas.


MMH said…
Just where is Texas really headed? Texas Monthy had an interesting take on our direction in its February 2013 issue. It sure gives perspective and context.