The Intertwining of Local and National Politics: Austin City Council and Trump’s Wall

Article by Delaney Davis

In a 10-1 vote, Austin City Council members voted to avoid doing business with contractors who will be involved with the construction of Trump’s infamous border wall.

Council members Mayor Steve Adler, Alison Alter, Greg Casar, Jimmy Flannigan, Delia Garza, Ora Houston, Ann Kitchen, Leslie Pool, Sabina Renteria, and Kathie Tovo voted in favor of the proposal to boycott border wall contractors, while Councilwoman Ellen Troxclair, the last Republican left on the city council after November’s election, was the lone dissenter.

Austin isn’t alone, however; cities passing similar legislation include Tucson, San Diego, and Oakland (00:25 in the video).

According to Austin Mayor Steve Adler, “This wall is not about keeping us safe. What it is, is a symbol. What it is, is an attempt to send a harmful and destructive message” (1:10).

Councilwoman Delia Garza, the sponsor of the resolution, voiced similar sentiments. In her mind, the resolution’s aim is to stand up to “the current divisive efforts that encourage racism and discrimination that would isolate Austin from its cultural and economic partners.”

Companies would be required to disclose if they had been associated with any work with the wall before entering business negotiations with the city of Austin. Such disclosure would likely prevent them from working for the city of Austin.

To give some context, the city of Berkeley, California, became the first city to boycott border wall contracting companies in March of 2017.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s statements at the time mirror those of Mayor Steve Adler: “You have to balance cost and efficiency with social responsibility,” he said. “I’m sure there would be other companies that we could do business with. It sends a message to companies to not get involved in the border wall — or else they might not be able to do business with municipalities.”

The fact that Trump’s wall, one of the most controversial elements of his 2016 presidential campaign, is being debated and voted on in city councils around the country is proof of the newfound intertwining of national and local politics. Previously, the two were believed to be completely unrelated.

Local politics used to be confined to discussing the construction of a new city park. National politics were for gay marriage, immigration, and tax reform. Big issues only. Specification was better left to city councils.

Some may argue that city councils have no business chiming in on national matters. This belief isn’t a refutation about the importance of local politics, but a penchant for divided attention between local and national issues. However, local governments chiming in on seemingly unrelated national matters is probably one of the best things to happen to the local political sphere.

National politics are glamorous, at least compared to their local counterpart. Watch parties are organized for State of the Union addresses and presidential debates, thousands of tweets are posted online in response to breaking national politics stories, and academics banter for hours about the implications of individual words in speeches by national politicians.

When has the same enthusiasm ever been applied to the local political sphere? Has passion for local politics suffered because national politics are seen to be more overarching and thus more influential? This theory goes against a common claim made by “get out the vote” activists: that local politics matter more than national politics.

By incorporating national politics in the local political agenda, the enthusiasm for national politics can be redirected to the local level. However, this shouldn’t be used as a tactic to gain more attention for local politicians and their agendas.

Trump’s wall does affect those living in Austin city limits. By virtue of geography, there are no doubt many immigrant families living in Austin and the surrounding areas. However, there are also contractors interested in making profits that also work in Austin. There are stakeholders in this controversy that deserve to have their issues debated and discussed in our city halls.

By understanding and discussing the national issues impacting those within their districts, local politicians can better serve their constituents. The added attention to local politics is simply a bonus.

Categories: Texas

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