Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Message From The Chief

The Richardson Coalition PAC mailed a brochure to Richardson senior citizens. The Dallas Morning News posted a copy of the mailer here.

After the jump, let's review it.

The Coalition is a political action committee. Meaning its primary purpose is to sway voters. Win elections. Influence government. They are under no obligation to tell both sides of the story. That's legal. That's democracy. No complaints from me on that front.

The Coalition recruited former Richardson Police Chief Larry Zacharias to be their spokesman. Zacharias is currently chief of police for UT-Dallas. The Dallas Morning News reports that UT-Dallas says Zacharias's actions comply with their policy about political activity. So, nothing wrong on that front, either.

Zacharias is identified as "Chief." Nothing wrong with that, either. He's entitled to that honorific for life, as far as I'm concerned. The mailer uses the past tense in mentioning his service on the RPD, but it would have been better had he been identified as "former" Chief Larry Zacharias. A teensy demerit against the mailer.

Zacharias says the Richardson Coalition PAC's goal in 2009 was to identify "fiscally conservative" candidates. I can see how that causes heartburn for the Richardson Citizens Alliance PAC, which is trying to lay claim to being the true fiscally conservative party in the current election. But there are different opinions about what fiscal conservatism means. The RCA doesn't have the right to use the term like it's some kind of trademark they've registered. Personally, I prefer to hear candidates' positions on the issues more than what labels they lay claim to. A teensy demerit against the mailer (and the RCA PAC critics, too).

Zacharias claims that the 2009-2011 City Council "cut expenses, avoided tax increases, and maintained a balanced budget." These claims are in hot dispute. The most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), which covers one year, not the two-year council term, suggests that expenses are flat to slightly higher. [Author's note: Reference to CAFR was stricken because the relationship of the CAFR to the "budget" is in dispute.] According to the link on the city's website labeled "2010-2011 Budget," "Net Budget Appropriations" are up 4% in the "Budget FY 2010-11" compared to "Estimated FY 2009-10." Because of the passage of the 2010 bond packages, property taxes rose. I don't think anyone disputes that. It's true that voters made the final choice on that, but it's hard to justify the claim that the council "avoided tax increases." As for the budget, the "2010-2011 Budget" link on the city's website shows a document that lists "Net Budget Revenue" of $179,688,540 and "Net Budget Appropriations" of "$181,781,618." I'm not an accountant, but to this untrained eye, that looks like a very slight budget deficit. All in all, I have to call this paragraph in the mailer questionable, at best. A big demerit for that.

The whole purpose of the mailer is to offer senior citizens a convenient way to vote by mail (presumably for Coalition-endorsed candidates). Personally, I'd like to see our government do more to make voting easier (education, voter registration, etc.) but with the system we have, it's up to the political parties, the PACs and the candidates. No complaints from me that the Coalition PAC is doing this. A big commendation for this.

(As for the mailer's mention of bad weather in 2009? According to my research, it rained 5 of the 10 days of early and election day voting. I can believe some voters were inconvenienced, but "unable to vote"? A teensy, tiny demerit on that claim.)

All in all, this is a political mailer that performs a public service -- tear-off applications to vote by mail. That's more useful than the vast majority of political mailers. I give the mailer one big commendation, three teensy demerits, and one big demerit. Overall, three Old Glories (out of five).

1 comment:

Mark Steger said...

City Council candidate William Gordon just tweeted, 'Is UTD's current police chief and the Richardson's former chief complying with university policy?' He linked to a DMN story whose first sentence is, 'UPDATE: A UTD spokeswoman told me by email that the ad appears to comply with UT System policy about political activity.' In other words, Mr. Gordon, the answer is 'Yes, he's complying with policy.' Mr. Gordon doesn't get the basic facts straight.