After the jump, is the current city council vulnerable?
The current city council has taken a series of stands in the last year that have upset people enough to make their opposition publicly visible and vocal.
- Strike one: The council approved construction of a thousand or so apartments next door to the Canyon Creek neighborhood.
- Strike two: The mayor reportedly spoke at a TxDOT meeting in favor of tolling Central Expressway by converting the HOV lane into an HOV/toll lane.
- Strike three: The city council refused to grant a special use permit for a farmers' market in the Richardson Heights shopping center despite enthusiastic support by the local neighborhood association and a reported 150 letters in support by individuals.
So, does all this make the city council vulnerable? Potentially. The opposition in country-club Canyon Creek to apartments and the opposition of the tea party to, well, just about everything could form an odd-couple base for a winning coalition.
Still, the bogeyman of apartments failed to decide the mayoral race in 2013, maybe because both candidates said they were against apartments. This time, it'll be harder for the incumbent to make that claim with a straight face. Incumbents will have to neutralize the issue by trumpeting State Farm and Raytheon and businesses and jobs and growth and progress. The farther you live from those apartments, the more those other factors will influence your vote.
As for tolling Central, that's still just talk. And it's a TxDOT decision that won't require a vote of the city council. Incumbents should have no trouble telling voters they oppose it even if they might be telling TxDOT something different.
As for that farmers' market, only a small minority of Richardson residents will ever shop at any farmers' market. The farmer's market issue can be neutralized by a PAC mailer that praises the incumbents for "standing against those rat-infested, litter-generating, flea markets." (I added the quotation marks to make it easier for a PAC to lift the quote and put it into a mailer in a way that makes it sound like conventional wisdom.)
One issue that combines all of these other issues just might have the power to shake up the council at the ballot box. That's character. 2013 mayoral candidate Laura Maczka's campaign mailer: "When it comes to apartments, you know that Laura has always said we do not need more apartments near our neighborhoods. Period." In 2015, the right challenger can turn that quote against Maczka and make the issue whether voters can ever trust her again. Whether that right challenger exists is another question. There's an old saying in politics: "You can't beat somebody with nobody." And there's nobody on the horizon. Now. But it's still too early to say, right?