Thursday, November 5, 2015

Seven Takeaways from the Charter Election

Richardson voters approved all 83 city charter amendments by wide margins. Here are seven takeaways from the election.

  1. Many amendments did as advertised, simply clean up outdated sections of the charter. But some increase the power of city government. Some increase the power of the city's residents. And some amendments restrict the power of citizens. It's a mixed bag. There's something for everyone here.
  2. There was a vocal movement to get voters to vote "NO" for all propositions. Two propositions received 89% of the vote. That means that, at most, 11% of the voters could have voted straight "NO". The "Vote NO" campaign failed by a large margin.
  3. The 2012 charter amendment by citizen petition for direct election of the mayor proved that reform of our charter can happen bottoms-up. The "anti" side in this election should learn a lesson. In a city where residents are largely happy with the status quo, being against something is a harder sell than offering constructive positive improvements for the voters to consider. Arguing that approval of these mostly anodyne amendments amounts to surrendering our Constitutional Republic is not a winning strategy.
  4. There was also a movement to get voters to vote "YES" for all propositions. One proposition received 57% of the vote. That means that, at most, 57% of the voters could have voted straight "YES". The actual number is probably less than that, maybe much less. Still, it's a reasonable hypothesis that many more voters voted straight "YES" than straight "NO".
  5. Eighty three propositions is a hard slog for any voter. The amended charter now mandates that we don't go more than ten years without another charter review. That's the longest we can delay. Future councils would be wise not to wait that long. The sheer number of ballot propositions may have been the best argument the "anti" side had going for it. (Another campaign message, "We Don't Need to Fix Spelling Mistakes", just sounded petty. And a third, "Vote No So We Can Do This All Again Next Time" was just too confusing.)
  6. By law, the charter can't be amended again for two years. Citizens interested in pro-actively driving reform need to begin now and have an organization and petitions ready to go to force an amendment election in November, 2017. If the city beats them to it and offers its own charter amendment election in 2017, the petition process will be off the table for yet another two years, until 2019. In other words, we could see a race to the ballot box in 2017.
  7. Finally, voters didn't listen to me. I recommended "NO" votes on eight propositions. Of course, they all passed. Why do I even blog? ;-)

1 comment:

Mark Steger said...

Some clarifications based on reader feedback:
2, 4. The "Vote NO" movement was a small affair. I didn't mean to imply otherwise by saying they were "vocal." For that matter, the "Vote YES" movement was small as well.
6. It's possible for the 2017 ballot to contain propositions from both citizen petition and from council's own action.