Who will it be? Read on.
Yesterday, I analyzed the upcoming referendum to amend Richardson's City Charter to have a directly-elected mayor. I confidently predicted that the proposed amendment would pass. I less confidently predicted that there would be no serious organized opposition because the amendment would be likely to pass in any case. Everyone would save their time, effort and money for the upcoming mayoral election in May, 2013.
After the jump, how that will go down.
For the sake of argument, let's grant the assumption that motivated many of the petition organizers, that Richardson's mayor is selected by secret back room politicking by power brokers who dictate to the council members whom to select. The assumed power brokers are the Richardson Coalition PAC (or RC for short). Let's call the petition backers who want to change the system the Richardson Outsiders (or RO for short).
If the RC really does have the power that the RO claims, then there will likely be little change come May, 2013. The new mayor will be whomever the RC endorses in the mayor's race. All other establishment candidates will accede to the RC's decision, choose not to run, and the mayor's race will come down to the RC-backed candidate against an RO-backed candidate. In the 2011 city elections, the RC-backed candidates beat the RO-backed candidates 7-0. So, don't expect change. In fact, the only way that the charter change will bring any real change is if the RO's conspiracy theory is wrong. Ironic, no?
But let's stick with the RO's fantasy a little bit longer and assume the charter change breaks the lock on power of the RC. The RO's dream will be to have two or three or maybe even four of the current council members all decide, because the RC is no longer calling the shots, to go for the brass ring themselves. Only one can win the mayor's race and all of the others would be off the council, opening up seats for RO-backed candidates. Dream on, RO. Ain't gonna happen.
In fact, the truth as always is somewhere in the gray area in between. The RC doesn't have quite as much power as the RO claim, but the RC clearly can influence election results and will continue to do so as long as RC decides to remain active in Richardson politics. Any candidate who wants to run with the support of Richardson's business community will want to gain the support of the RC. That can be only one candidate. Expect the others to see that and choose, wisely, to seek one of the six other council seats instead.
After all, the mayor's role is not a powerful one, no matter how he or she is chosen. The mayor's seat will still be just one of seven council seats. It brings with it no veto power. It brings no appointment power. It does bring the power of the gavel during council meetings, but even that requires at least three other council members to acquiesce in how the mayor is running meetings. In short, when it comes to real power and not just ribbon-cutting photo ops, the mayor's seat is "not worth a bucket of warm piss," in the famous words of a US Vice President from Texas from another era. It's certainly not worth a nasty election battle between otherwise good candidates that would cost the City of Richardson the service of whomever losers.
So, who will be the first directly elected mayor? Here's where I'm going to disappoint readers. It depends on who runs. I don't know who that will be. I'm not sure he or she does yet, either. Expect there to be only one of the current Richardson council members running. Expect him or her to have a challenger from the RO. Then, it's easy to predict what comes next. After the election, expect the RO to claim they was robbed ... again.