Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My Nominations for Charter Review Commission

The City of Richardson is finally making good on a long-overdue need to review its creaky city charter. This doesn't erase the charge of reneging on a campaign promise, but better late than never.

I learned some things the last time Richardson's city charter was debated. And when I say "debated," I'm actually understating how it went down. In the end in that case, Richardson voters did approve a charter change calling for direct election of the mayor, but that change created a dozen or so ambiguities in the charter that make a charter review even more necessary after that change than before. And there were plenty of things needing review before (hat tip to Bill McCalpin).

Anyway, we're now, finally, at long last, getting that long overdue charter review commission. After the jump, my nominees for who should serve on that commission.

First, the commission should contain some former city council members. These people governed week in and week out with the existing charter. They know from experience what parts need clarification, what parts need updating, and what parts hinder rather than aid good governance.

Second, the commission should contain some former candidates for city council. These people often had strong opinions about change needed in city governance. Changes not just in who ran the city, but how the city is run. Let's hear from them about the changes needed in our city charter.

Third, the commission should contain some members from previous charter review commissions. Wizened Richardson residents might be chuckling to themselves at this. The last time the city council thought it necessary to appoint a charter review commission was 1987. That's right -- over a quarter of a century ago. My guess is that there are still a few members of that commission around who would be willing to serve again. Let's make sure we bring that institutional memory on board.

Fourth, the commission should contain representation from the homeowner associations. Several HOAs were particularly active during public hearings over rezoning of the West Spring Valley Corridor, CityLine, Palisades Village, and other issues. Our neighborhoods thrive or die based on how our city is governed. Let's make sure some officers from those HOAs are represented.

The charter review commission should be diverse in many ways -- geographically, ideologically, ethnically, culturally, socio-economically. Responsibility to achieve this rests on the community -- you have to apply for membership to be appointed. When you read the categories I want to see represented and a category fits you, if you wonder whether I was thinking of you when I wrote it, well, yes I was. Responsibility for a diverse commission also rests with the city council. They need to appoint a diverse commission, not just those who think like themselves. With the right commission, Richardson will be well served. We can clear out the cobwebs in the current charter that led to hard feelings in many of the recent battles at city hall. And maybe we can make some structural improvements as well. Let's establish a precedent that we can do this and do it right, so won't have to wait another quarter century to do it again.

1 comment:

mccalpin said...

Mark, thanks for the tip of the hat. It may interest your readers to know that I am writing a series for the Richardson Insider section of the Dallas Morning News on the charter review background and process, drawing on but updating what I had written before at RumorCheck.org.

The first four articles are
1. First in a series of articles on the Richarson Charter
2. Review versus Revision, and why occasional review is needed
3. The history of charter review in Richardson
4. Specific examples of items that need to be reviewed