Sunday, May 15, 2011

"Going Down the Path of Self-Destruction"

Campaign Signs

"Going Down the Path of Self-Destruction." So said Ernest A. "Mac" McDowell in an infamous YouTube video, referring to the city of Richardson. McDowell was so concerned that he founded a political action committee, the Richardson Citizens Alliance (RCA), funded it with $50,000, and found a slate of candidates to support in an effort to overturn the city council and impose a new vision on the city.

After the jump, how well did that go?

In short, not well. Not well at all. McDowell's $50,000 failed to buy even a single seat on the new city council. All of the candidates backed by the RCA lost and lost big. The vote total of the five RCA-backed candidates ranged from 25% to 38%.

McDowell's RCA campaign led me to say, before the election, that there was a "widening political divide" in Richardson. Scratch that. I have to issue a retraction. Not that there isn't a political divide. Not that it isn't deep and wide. It's just that there really aren't that many malcontents on the far side of the divide. I was misled by a very vocal, very well financed, and as it turns out, very small handful of malcontents who made a lot of noise leading up to the election. Their negative message and attack ads on other candidates and the city staff were roundly rejected by a large majority of voters. It turned out to be a suicidal campaign strategy for the RCA. In the end, it was McDowell and his RCA that were going down the path of their own self-destruction.

Finally, I have a bit of a confession to make. The negative attitude taken by McDowell and his slate of candidates so turned me off that I took sides. I came out squarely in favor of their opponents. I don't apologize for that (it was the right thing to do), but I confess that there were events in the election campaign that I failed to comment on that I normally might have. The RCA's tactics were so over the top that these other issues shrank in comparison. For example: statements by various candidates that the city hasn't raised taxes or that the city has cut expenses or that the Eisemann Center is profitable, etc. Some of these statements may have been simple mistakes. Some may have been cases of political spin. In a normal election, I would have challenged candidates to clarify or retract. But this wasn't a normal election. In the context of the election campaign the RCA chose to wage, these misstatements by the non-RCA candidates turned out to be minor infractions compared to the repeated and serious misstatements made by the RCA. I focused on the felonies and let the misdemeanors go.

Now that the election is over and the RCA's charges will recede in memory, the misstatements made by the winners leave lingering doubts about just what the new council members believe to be the state of Richardson's finances. Not serious concerns, but still the situation bears watching. Although I hope we've seen the last of the RCA, there are some defeated candidates who I hope will stay active to provide that watchful eye over Richardson's city government. But they need to distance themselves from the RCA (or Empower Richardson, as it might be called in the future) in order to play a constructive role in moving Richardson forward. Let's hope they make that transition.

Campaign Signs

P.S. I found a 1965 video of a much younger Mac "Path of Self-Destruction" McDowell. He was singing the same tune way back then -- different targets for his complaints, but same anger and despair. I don't know why the video isn't listed in the RCAlliance YouTube channel. He would have so won Richardson Idol ;-)

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