I'm allowed to change my mind. I've done it before. Now, I'm doing it again. After long opposing the direct election of the mayor of Richardson, I'm now in favor.A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,
adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.Source: Ralph Waldo Emerson.
After the jump, my reasoning, not that reason is all that important here.
I've long thought of the Richardson mayor's role like that of a chairman of the board, a speaker of the house, a foreman of a jury, a captain on a football team. That is, a leader chosen by his peers. If he doesn't have the trust and confidence of the rest of the team, teamwork breaks down and the team falters. No outsider should pick the team captain and expect the team to jell. In the case of the mayor, the voters may pick the members of the team, people who have their trust and confidence, but the council should pick its own leader, someone who has their own trust and confidence.
I had other reasons why Richardson's method of having the city council select the mayor from among their own ranks is a good system. You can go back and read my reasons again, if you'd like, but in the end, they don't really matter. There's a reason for that.
Choosing a form of government is not like building a bridge. In that endeavor, you're dealing with physics and chemistry and engineering -- the force of gravity, the properties of matter, the local geology and environment. You can measure and predict how these factors behave. There are objective measures you can use to judge whether a design will meet requirements. Choosing a form of government is something else entirely. You're dealing with people. Bricks and stones and steel don't have biases, knowledge gaps, emotions. People do.
It turns out that letting the voters directly elect the mayor "because it's the right thing to do" is an emotionally rooted, deeply felt, widely held belief among the electorate, one that I dismissed too cavalierly. Amir Omar cited this feeling in his arguments last Monday night in favor of placing the issue of direct election of the mayor before the voters. He said he was struck by how important it was for many voters to know who he was going to support for mayor. So many cared so much about it that he thought it best just to transfer that responsibility directly to the voters themselves.
I argued that there were compelling reasons not to. I was approaching it as a bridge-building exercise. Lay out the pros and cons and objective metrics to judge competing alternatives and let the analysis guide our decision. But this isn't a bridge-building exercise. It's a people-pleasing exercise. What matters is not that we end up with the most efficient government or even the most fair government. What matters is that we end up with a government that a large majority of citizens are happy with. Because, in the end, it's their government.
So, forget all those reasons I gave before for opposing the direct election of Richardson's mayor. As the saying goes, "When mama's not happy, nobody's happy." And mama's not happy in Richardson. If she won't be happy until she can directly elect her mayor, then let her directly elect her mayor.
P.S. Don't let mama read this. I have a feeling that even if I'm giving her what she wants, she won't like my reasoning. She won't be happy with that.