Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Early Look at Local Elections

The Richardson local elections on May 14 promise to offer important choices for voters. Whether those choices turn out to be controversial or highly contested is another matter. So far, there are no fireworks visible on the horizon. But it's still early.

After the jump, a look at how the school district and city council elections are shaping up.

Voters in the Richardson school school district (RISD) will have two decisions to make. First is the choice for two seats on the school board. Incumbents Karen Ellis and Kim Quirk have both announced their intentions to run for re-election. So far, no one has announced plans to oppose them. The rumor mill is quiet. Perhaps individuals will emerge, but it's looking unlikely that they will have the support of an organized opposition group.

The other decision RISD voters will likely face is whether to approve a $170 million bond package for capital improvement projects. The school board has not yet made the final decision to place this before the voters, but it almost certainly will. No opposition has emerged. Town hall meetings were held in January at all four high schools in the district. Turnout was small. A question raised at one of the meetings suggests strong support for Richardson's public schools: "Are you sure the bond package is big enough?" The school board seems to have done a good job of meeting essential needs without requiring a tax increase to pay for those needs.

The RISD is high-achieving and well run. The election campaign has not yet begun, but at this early stage I'm inclined to support the current course -- that is, re-election of the incumbents and passage of the bond package.

Whereas the RISD election looks, at this point, to be uncontentious, the Richardson city council election is more of a wild card. At least three of seven incumbents are stepping down -- Mayor Gary Slagel, John Murphy and Bob Macy. Amir Omar has publicly announced his candidacy for re-election. No other incumbents or challengers have publicly announced their candidacies, although Slagel has endorsed Laura Maczka.

In the 2009 election campaign, open and transparent government was a key issue. What the issues will be in the coming election will depend on who the candidates turn out to be. We'll know that March 14, the deadline for filing. A dozen or so people have picked up candidate packages from city hall.

After the contentious 2009 election, the council delivered on its promises of televised council meetings, an online city checkbook, and a code of ethics for the council. The council proposed and voters approved a bond package for much needed capital improvements to streets, neighborhoods, city buildings and parks and recreation centers. Redevelopment of West Spring Valley corridor and development of the vacant land around the Bush DART Station both moved forward. I don't want to re-fight these battles. Like the RISD election, unless there are some surprise candidates with surprise issues, at this early stage I'm inclined to support candidates who support the current course in the city of Richardson, too.

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