Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Permanent Campaign Comes to Richardson

It used to be that Richardson residents would be blessedly free from local election campaigns until a couple of months before the May election, about the time of the filing deadline. That all changed November 6, when Richardson residents voted to have a say in the choice of who cuts ribbons and presides over the city council. Now that the voters will directly elect the mayor, the election campaign begins earlier than ever. On November 14, Amir Omar announced his candidacy, a full six months before voters go to the polls.

After the jump, the implications.

This city council has shown few differences of opinion in the first eighteen months of this term. Assuming other council members are also eying the mayor's seat (and Laura Maczka has told The Dallas Morning News of her own interest), it's reasonable to expect the political campaign to spill over into the workings of the city council during the long six months remaining of the council term. Politics has a way of breeding division. All for the privilege of cutting ribbons. Sigh.

If it turns out that there is no contested race for mayor -- no Laura Maczka candidacy, no Bob Townsend, no Alan North -- then ... never mind. The campaign will still be long, but not divisive. That won't be good for popcorn sales. So, for now, let's imagine that we will, in fact, have a real race. Let's have a look at our first candidate's announcement.

The office of mayor carries only two powers: cutting ribbons and presiding over council meetings. Amir Omar seems to be relying on the former in his campaign. In his announcement, he talks about his involvement with numerous civic groups as a representative of Richardson. He's clearly out in front of any other potential candidate in this regard.

As for the only real power of the mayor, that of presiding over the city council, Omar offers no reasons why he is a good choice. He lists no endorsements by council members he's served with, present or past. That can't be a good sign.

Omar does highlight "Tree the Town" as a signature personal achievement, which it is, but you'd think after four years of service on the council, a mayoral candidate would be able to provide a longer list of issues for which he's taken a leadership role on the council.

Not that the other council members are obviously superior in this regard. Leadership seems to be a generally missing quality on Richardson's city council this term. If the mayoral election changes that, this switch to electing our mayor could turn out to be a plus. But if all it does is introduce divisiveness, it will be a minus. Time will tell. I just wish we had more time before we had to deal with it. Permanent campaigns don't serve the public well.

1 comment:

Mark Steger said...

It has been pointed out to me that even if there is no contested race for mayor, this campaign could still have divisive effects on the smooth operation of the council. True dat. I stand corrected.