Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On May 8, Vote Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes

Monday night was open mike night at the Richardson City Council meeting and visitors were lined up to speak to the proposed $66 million bond package that the city council later unanimously agreed to place before the voters on May 8. Of the total, $25 million is for streets, alleys, sidewalks and creeks, $23 million is for parks and recreation, $10 million is for municipal buildings and $8 million is for neighborhood vitality projects such as screening walls, landscaping and entry features. Voters will be able to choose to support and/or reject each bond proposition separately.

After the jump, what the visitors who spoke had to say about it all.

Thirteen visitors spoke. Compared to recent council meetings, that's a lot but it's not so large a number as to suggest that this bond issue is particularly controversial. Of the thirteen, eight were clearly in favor of the bond issue. Three expressed concerns, but didn't definitely say they opposed it. Only one was adamant in opposition, two if you count his wife, who also spoke but was more tongue-tied than outspoken in opposition.

Encouraging to me was that four neighborhood association presidents either spoke or were represented. Three association presidents support the $66 million dollar bond project as written. That suggests to me that the council has done its homework in reaching out to residents of Richardson. On the other hand, several neighborhood assocations were not represented. Where was Duck Creek, Yale Park, Owens Park, etc.? The council outreach efforts should have made sure their voices were expressed, whether in support or opposition.

Puzzling to me were the no-shows by the most vocal critics, for example, the ones who call rec centers sprinkled, iced-turds or pretty civic booster crap (what's with the anal fixation?). In contrast on Monday night, the strongest criticism voiced was that "half" of the bond package items are useless "crud". Only half?!?

Various points made by the speakers:

  • Local taxes are the best bargain in government.
  • A tax rate increase is bad. (John Murphy commented that Richardson's tax rate will be about in the middle of the rates for surrounding cities.)
  • It's a good time to borrow. Interest rates and construction costs are both down. The economy can use the boost.
  • It's a bad time to borrow. The economy is down. The federal deficit is high. Money might be cheap, but it's still money. Hold off and wait to see what happens.
  • Spend more money on roads. Drivers hate potholes.
  • Spend less money on alleys. Homeowners are inconvenienced during construction, which takes months and is muddy.
  • Don't build roads for UT-Dallas. (Mayor Slagel commented that the UT-D deal was a tradeoff that was a net positive for Richardson.)
  • Add a little more for libraries.
  • Rec center, pools and parks are important. Some Richardson parents today are driving long distances to other cities because that's where the recreational facilities for their children are.
  • We've got a rec center and pool. They haven't been condemned so don't replace them.
  • $262K for entry signs is absurd. (Mayor Slagel commented that he gets very positive reaction about entry signs from businesses considering relocation to Richardson.)
  • Who needs a new fire station? (John Murphy commented that the fire station is old and has no facilities for women fire fighters.)
  • Senator Scott Brown's win is a great victory for conservative people. (WTF?)

Obviously, there is not unanimity of opinion regarding the wants and needs of Richardson. I was struck by how many council members mentioned "balance" in describing the particular mix of projects in the bond proposal. The propositions before the voters in May are broken into four pieces. Voters can pick and choose which to support. For those who like road repair but hate rec centers, they can vote yes to one and no to the other. Similarly, voters who like everything except entry signs and screening walls can vote yes to all except one bond proposal. The Richardson city council has done a good job of winnowing the original $500 million of suggestions down to a $66 million mix of projects in four areas: streets, parks, buildings, and neighborhood amenities. And now the council has turned the final decision over to the tax payers and voters, as it should be. Good work.

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