Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Richardson Idol: Week Two

The second week of Richardson Idol aired last night from the sanctuary of the Richardson East Church of Christ. This week's sponsor was the Owens Park Neighborhood Association. Twelve of thirteen contestants vying for the grand prize, a seat on the Richardson City Council, appeared, some with fresh material, some reprising their old standards. Neilsen ratings were down a little, but not by much. As the format requires, it is up to the audience (and by audience, I mean me) to eliminate one contestant each week until we have a council. (The recap of last week's show can be found here.)

But before we hear who will be eliminated this week, let's first hand out superlatives ... after the jump.

The "Pollyanna" award goes to the four incumbents who couldn't say enough how proud they are of Richardson, the council and what the council has accomplished, and how Richardson is in good shape and moving in the right direction. Scott Dunn, running unopposed for a vacant seat, gets honorable mention for this award for speaking like an incumbent.

The "Who Do You Trust" award goes to John DeMattia. He directly challenged the Pollyannas on at least two points. One, he claimed that the city budget has been in the red by as much as $20 million dollars over the last few years. Two, he charged the city with violating the legal requirements of the city charter with respect to conducting audits of city accounts. Who is right? As DeMattia says, it's a matter of who you trust. Do you trust the city staff, the city council, the KPMG auditing firm, the Moody's bond rating firm (which rates Richardson city bonds AAA) and the bond market (which continues to buy Richardson bonds at interest rates favorable to Richardson taxpayers), or, on the other hand, do you trust a challenger running against an incumbent?

The "Beavis & Butthead Eh heh heh" award goes to William Gordon. Whereas John DeMattia limits his charges of illegal behavior to candidate forums, Gordon has spent the last few years actually suing the city in court. As Gordon said, when he complained to the city, he was told if he didn't like it, he could sue. Gordon cackled, "So I did. Eh heh heh."

The "Some Of My Best Friends Are Diverse" award goes to Dennis Stewart. In a surprising performance, Stewart has twice now been the strongest proponent of inclusiveness in city government. Last week, he suggested translating city council meetings into Spanish and broadcasting them with SAP or closed-captioning. This week, he used his experience on the Richardson Police Department to highlight the advantages of having ethnic diversity in city positions. "Imagine being a paramedic called to a house where no one speaks English." I'm beginning to think there's a warm heart beneath Stewart's gruff exterior.

The "Read Between The Lines" award goes to Amir Omar. Twice now, he's introduced himself by saying how appreciative he is of voters who took a chance on him two years ago when he was the unknown candidate with the "funny name." Props to Omar for alluding to it, but the real issue here is not his funny name. Karl Voigtsberger has a funny name. Laura Maczka's name is damn near unpronounceable. Yet neither of them has a "funny name" problem. No, the real issue is that there is open religious bigotry at work in Richardson. Good people need to call it for what it is and make sure it doesn't take root and grow.

The "Golfers Deserve Some Love, Too" award goes to Scott Dunn for standing up for golfers (and symphony-goers). Dunn argued that the public library isn't required to turn a profit. Parks aren't required to turn a profit. Let's not condemn a city golf course or a center for the performing arts if they aren't always profit centers, either. A diverse city needs diverse amenities.

The "Don't Quit Your Day Job" award goes to Steve Mitchell. Mitchell was obviously feeling confident in re-election (he's running unopposed for the second successive election), confident enough to use his limited talking time for stand-up comedy. Alluding to the church venue, he began by saying, "Let us pray ... just joking." Later, he started to answer a question about his greatest failure by mentioning that he married at age 46. "That's not a failure" he said with perfect timing.

The "Can't Follow Directions" award goes to the audience member who asked one of the questions. The moderator laid out the rules beforehand, which included no multi-part questions and no questions directed at a single candidate. This audience member then proceeded to ask a multi-part question directed at a single candidate. Actually, it wasn't even a multi-part question. It was two completely different questions.

The "What the Heck - Let's Wing It" award goes to moderator John Wallberg. Running out of questions before running out of time, Wallberg told the candidates, in effect, "For the next question go ahead and answer any of the previous questions you want."

The "Limited Short-Term Memory" award goes to Diana Clawson. Given the huge opening by Wallberg to address any of the questions of debt, taxes, redevelopment, diversity, transparency, etc., she said, in effect, "I can't remember any of the questions, so I'll just talk more about myself." She then demonstrated she has better long-term memory, recalling the days when Jupiter and Arapaho Roads were two-lane, tarred roads with ditches. You might think she would praise Richardson for the prosperity it has achieved since then, but instead she said that she's running for council because she says our neighborhoods have been allowed to deteriorate. Apparently, nostalgia gives her long-term memory a distinctly rosy tint.

Finally, the time has come to pick the candidate who will be sent home this week. Remember, someone has to go. Not going on to the next round is not a dishonor. Drum roll, please. ... This is it. You've been patient. The votes have been tallied. Richardson has spoken. Alan North, please check your messages. Missing the first candidate forum, you were given the benefit of the doubt. But also being a no-show at the second forum is too much. If you don't have time to run for office, how will you have time to run the city? But, thanks for (not) playing. Tune in next week for another edition of Richardson Idol.

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