Monday, November 30, 2009

Richardson at the Crossroads: Dialog or Pitchforks?

What are the hot-button issues in Richardson city government? After the jump, two viewpoints.

Judging by the issues brought before the city council by homeowner associations, the hot-button issues are local, local, local.

  • Trash: The residents around Sherrill Park Golf Course and Lookout Park don't want to see the Lookout trash transfer station enlarged. They'd rather see more trash directed to NTMWD's other transfer stations.
  • Blight: The residents in southwest Richardson want to see a long-range redevelopment plan for the apartments and businesses fronting US 75 and Spring Valley Rd and Belt Line Rd west of Central Expressway and an immediate halt to "half-hearted" redevelopment.

Judging by the issues being discussed by local bloggers, the hot-button issues are all inside city hall: wasteful spending, lack of ethics, corruption and violations of state law. The perceived grievances are many:

  • Wasteful Spending: The city manager and top staff are paid too much. The city offers too lavish automobile allowances. The golf pro who runs the city-owned Sherrill Park Golf Course is paid too much. The city pays a former legislator to lobby the state government. The city went into debt to build the Eisemann Center. The NTMWD pads its books by sending Plano's trash to Richardson. And this week, the city wastes money by seeking accreditation of its Police Department to demonstrate professionalism and adherence to best practices.
  • Unresponsive government: The city is too slow in responding to Texas Open Records Act requests. The Richardson Chamber of Commerce does not respond at all to Texas Open Records Act requests. The city council members are puppets of Charles Eisemann and the Richardson Coalition. The city council gives visitors only five minutes to speak at council meetings. The council does not represent Richardson's interests with the NTMWD or the state legislature. The city attorney is almost never present.
  • Illegal behavior: The city council votes 7-0 too often for there not to be an illegal conspiracy at work. The council uses closed executive sessions for illegal purposes. The city's contract with the city manager is longer than the two years called for in the city charter. The city and the Richardson Chamber of Commerce blur the line between city business and chamber business.

Inevitably, the issues of the homeowner associations and the bloggers intersect. When they do and the issues aren't resolved quickly enough or to everyone's satisfaction, the bloggers know just where the blame lies:

"Why do the people who are suppose to represent us turn a deaf ear and stubbornly refuse to fight for the people they are suppose to represent? What do you say we bulldoze that other money pit, the Eisemann Center, and make that our new trash dump? After all, Eisemann is responsible for these deaf, dumb and mute hacks being on the city council through his PAC."

The city council ought to be very, very wary. It's one thing to dismiss the bloggers as cranks and kooks (in truth, many of them are). But if the council loses the cooperation of the homeowner associations, Richardson city government will become bogged down in factionalism and partisanship, leading to a gridlock in which nothing is accomplished. The council's challenge is to find ways to remain open to constructive-minded residents of Richardson while keeping the uncompromising critics from poisoning everything. The homeowner associations face a similar challenge, to keep the dialog going with city hall and resist the urge of those wanting to take up pitchforks and torches and march on city hall. That third group, those lighting the torches, isn't going to listen to me anyway, so I'll spare them any advice.

No comments: