Monday, June 29, 2015

Filling City Council Vacancies - ctd

The commission appointed by the Richardson City Council to review the city charter made numerous recommendations for charter amendments. On June 22, the council deliberated what to do with those recommendations. I previously discussed those deliberations regarding one particular recommendation (filling a single vacancy on the council by appointment instead of a special election). Today, I want to add a postscript to that.

Only one council member suggested that Richardson ought to let the voters decide who fills a vacancy on the city council. Steve Mitchell proposed having a special election instead of letting the council itself appoint a replacement. Of the other six council members, two (Townsend and Solomon) explicitly rejected this democratic reform and the other four (Voelker, Dunn, Simpson, Frey), either implicitly rejected it or at least failed to openly support it. Mayor Voelker even failed at getting each council member on record.

Just three years ago, a previous council also rejected a democratic reform (direct election of the mayor), only to have a citizen petition and referendum overrule them by an overwhelming majority. I'm surprised how unmindfully this council walked down this same path again, as if the past has nothing to teach us. None of the council members other than Steve Mitchell even entertained the notion that maybe, just maybe, the council ought to put the question before the voters and let them decide if they want to choose who represents them on the council when a vacancy occurs, or if the voters are just fine with handing over this job to the remaining members of the council to decide for them.

Three years separate the council that rejected a democratic reform in 2012 and this council that just did the same thing in 2015. Three of the four council seats have changed hands in the meantime. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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