Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Analysis of the Votes for Richardson City Council

The voters have spoken. The votes have been tallied. The new City Council in Richardson has been seated. Another council term is already underway. Before we get into all the issues to be faced by the new council, let's take one last look back to see if there are any surprises to be found in a precinct-by-precinct vote analysis.

After the jump, crunching the numbers.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Rice and Northwestern: Champions

Northwestern Wildcats: 2011 NCAA Lacrosse Champions
Northwestern Wildcats Lacrosse Team
Rich Barnes/Icon SMI

3-day weekend. Lazy start to summer vacation. Before we close the books on the 2010-2011 school year, let's celebrate some deserving athletic achievements by two schools that are known more for academic success than success on the playing fields.

This weekend, the Northwestern Wildcats, the school that other Big Ten fans mockingly say are kept around to boost the conference GPA, won their sixth NCAA championship in seven years in women's lacrosse. It's not a sport that draws the audiences of football or basketball, but the athletes work just as hard and deserve the same credit when that work pays off. Congratulations to a group of young women who demonstrate that it's possible to excel on both the playing field and in the classroom.

Also this weekend, congratulations to the Rice Owls baseball team, who won both the Conference USA regular season and conference tournament -- the latter by an extra-inning 4-3 win over cross-town rival University of Houston. Good luck to the Owls in the NCAA tournament, which picked Rice as one of the eight top regional seeds in the 64-team tournament. The tournament climaxes in the College World Series starting June 18 in Omaha, Nebraska. Rice won it all in 2003.

The Steger Garden on Memorial Day (2011)

From Flowers

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Saturday, May 28, 2011

What's The Matter With Politics?

You don't have to be an Einstein to know something is the matter with politics. Politics is frustrating to anyone with any training in, say, business or science or engineering. British economist Tim Harford, in an interview with The Washington Post's Ezra Klein, pinpoints a key difference between politics and these other human endeavors.

After the jump, risk analysis.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cottonwood, Cotton Belt, Cotton Fields

From 2010 03 High Five

Texas is on pace to have the first road building project to feature a road wider than it is long. OK, maybe that's exaggerated, but it has the ring of truthiness.

After the jump, the evil genius scheme behind Texas's road building plans.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cheers and Jeers: Tornado Edition

"Jeers: To CBS 11's chief weather guy, Larry Mowry, for being the new 'Chicken Little.' He keeps interrupting the TV programs to bring us a weather update every time a clap of thunder occurs."
-- Harlan Wood, Grapevine, in Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 14, 2011

Just ten days ago, Fort Worth Star-Telegram panned Channel 11 for taking thunderstorms in Tornado Alley seriously, worthy of informing its viewers about. Since then, at least 120 people were killed in a tornado in Joplin, Missouri. Just Tuesday night, 8 more people were killed in a tornado in Oklahoma City and several more in Kansas and Arkansas. Let's never get blasé about them, OK?

After the jump, north Texas's turn to duck and cover!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Build the Wall. Not that Wall.

From 2011 03 16 Xian

Let's build a wall. Not at the Mexican border. Around Dallas. At Loop 12. Or maybe at IH635. I dunno. Ask Jim Schutze.

First, it was Patrick Kennedy lobbying to tear out the downtown freeways in Dallas. He still tolerates freeways between cities and mass transit solutions like DART inside cities. Just not freeways inside cities. A daring suggestion, but not without precedent.

After the jump, The Dallas Observer's Jim Schutze raises the bet.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Richardson Selects a Mayor

Last night, while most Richardson residents were home watching the Dallas Mavericks play the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 4 of their NBA Western Conference Championship series, a large number of civic-minded citizens were waiting in the Richardson City Council chambers like expectant fathers. They passed the time by relaying the basketball score while waiting for news of the arrival of Richardson's next mayor.

Richardson has an unusual way of choosing its Mayor. The voters don't do it. The voters elect seven members of the City Council. After being sworn in, the first act of the new council is to elect one of themselves Mayor and another Mayor Pro Tem. The official vote is done in open session, but it's preceded by a closed executive session during which the new council deliberates.

Earlier, I discussed the pros and cons of having the City Council select the Mayor as opposed of having the voters do it. Here, I want to discuss the pros and cons of the City Council doing it in a closed, executive session.

After the jump, is this a good idea?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Direct Election of Richardson's Mayor

Each council term, Richardson's mayor is selected by the seven council members from among their own ranks. The mayor for the 2011-2013 term will be selected Monday night, May 23, 2011. Earlier, I offered The Wheel's betting line on which council member will end up mayor.

Today, I want to look at a bigger question. Should Richardson voters directly elect the mayor? You might think that property taxes and city services might command voters' attention instead, but this process issue keeps cropping up in city council elections. Some of the interest can be attributed to the dislike of the long-serving, soon-to-be former mayor by a vocal minority of residents. They haven't been able to dislodge the mayor through the current system, so they look to change the system. Regardless of the source of the desire to change the system, let's look at the issue on its merits.

After the jump, should Richardson change its charter to have direct election of the mayor?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Betting Line On Richardson's Next Mayor

Richardson's City Council election is over, but the selection of the next mayor is still ahead. That's because Richardson's system of government has the mayor selected from among the seven council members by the council members themselves. After being sworn into office Monday evening, the new council's first order of business will be to select the next mayor from among their own ranks.

After the jump, The Wheel's betting line.

Friday, May 20, 2011

No Reply: Does It Mean He Doesn't Love You?

Cleaning out my refrigerator of election leftovers, I came across something that maybe should be taken straight to the dump (with a stop at the Lookout Drive Transfer Station along the way, of course). But, smart or not, I've decided to make one last election meal of it anyway.

After the jump, chewing over NPAR's last meal.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How Important Are Candidate Forums?

A few days ago, I reviewed the candidacy of Alan North for Richardson City Council. North received fewer than 400 votes out of almost 8,000 cast. That came as no surprise, because North:

"attended none of the forums, responded to none of the questionnaires, reported no political fund-raising or expenditures, placed no campaign signs, pounded no pavement, kissed no babies, etc., etc."

After the jump, conjecture on what hurt North most (hint: it wasn't the babies) and advice for the candidates of 2013.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bad News for Arts of Collin County

On May 14, voters in Frisco revoked the authority of the city to issue its remaining $16.4 million in bonds to build the Arts of Collin County Performing Arts Center. The project was originally conceived a decade ago as a joint project of four cities. McKinney voters rejected the bond issue in 2002, leaving Plano, Allen and Frisco. Now Frisco has taken a step to back out, which would leave only Plano and Allen. Plano mayor Phil Dyer said before the Frisco election that if Frisco dropped out, Plano would have to take a second look at the project itself.

After the jump, why bad news for the Arts of Collin County means good news for Richardson.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In Defense of Rejecting False Equivalence

I have been criticized for my confession in my analysis of the Richardson City Council election results. I confessed:

"that there were events in the election campaign that I failed to comment on that I normally might have. The RCA's tactics were so over the top that these other issues shrank in comparison. ... Misstatements by the non-RCA candidates turned out to be minor infractions compared to the repeated and serious misstatements made by the RCA. I focused on the felonies and let the misdemeanors go."

Because I said I found RCA's tactics to be over the top, I have been accused of voting with my emotions, of voting my personality likes and dislikes instead of the issues. I have been accused of admitting that I gave a pass to gross misstatements of the non-RCA candidates. I have been accused of failing to explicitly identify any misstatements made by the RCA.

Once again, Duty Calls. There are many problems with this criticism. After the jump, my defense.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Alan North, Man of Mystery

The big question surrounding the Richardson City Council election -- who would win and how big a victory would it be -- is now settled. Congratulations to the winners and all who worked to achieve their electoral success.

But there's a minor mystery that persisted through the entire campaign that has never been solved. Just who was that Alan North guy? He filed to run in Place 7 (eventually won by Amir Omar), attended none of the forums, responded to none of the questionnaires, reported no political fund-raising or expenditures, placed no campaign signs, pounded no pavement, kissed no babies, etc., etc.

After the jump, a mystery story.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

William Gordon's Response to the Election

The following statement is from William Gordon:

Some General Thoughts About The Election:

First, Mac McDowell, who funded much of the RCA and my campaign is one of the most highly ethical people I have ever met. His were the most honorable of intentions. He simply asked of me that if I were to get elected to be respectful, honest, and transparent in everything I did. This is all he ever asked of me. I have learned much from him, and will admire him for the rest of my life.

Second, too often my signs would disappear just as my opponent's signs would pop up across the street or somewhere nearby. I do not blame my opponent. But what I learned during this campaign is that there are unethical people who will do anything to win. Do they have no shame? Did their parent's not raise them better than that? Perhaps they believe that the means justify the end? You know who you are. What you did was dishonest and unnecessary. (This goes for what people said and did at candidate forums as well!) Our City deserves better. We need to be more respectful of each other and our differences.

Third, throughout this campaign there were many good people whose characters were smeared, and who were attacked relentlessly (some more than others). I'm not naive; I understand just how fierce the competitive battle of politics can be; however, many of these people are community leaders in every meaning of the word, people who have given so much of themselves to Richardson; volunteering, supporting their neighborhoods and youth; giving their time, money, and energy to schools, churches, and anyone who ever asked anything of them, including the City. Regardless of whether a candidate won or lost, the vilification has got to stop. Each of us is more than just a one-sided characterization of how the opposing side decided to paint us; we are people who support our community in many positive ways. The race for City Council is over. It's time bridges get built and relationships mended.

Fourth, I am respectful of both the Richardson Coalition (RC) and the Richardson Citizen's Alliance (RCA). There is a place for each in this community of ours. I like the RC, its focus on community heroes, leadership, and on all the positive things our City and its people do. We need this organization. But we also need an organization that keeps our City leaders honest and processes and information transparent so we can truly trust that fiduciary responsibilities are being met and that obligations are being upheld. But each of these organizations need to learn to play friendlier. Let's keep to facts, leave false allegations and personalities out of it, and try not to advertise our discourse and disagreements beyond the borders of our community.

Fifth, I would like to recognize the power and influence of our local blogs. Thank you Andrew Laska, Bill McCalpin, David Chenoweth, Destiny Herndon-DeLaRosa, Ian McCann, and Mark Steger, among others. Unless you've run a blog, you don't know how difficult and time consuming it can be. So many times I didn't agree with what you wrote or posted, but I certainly appreciate your commitment to our city and giving voice to people and opinions that would otherwise be lost without you.

In closing, my prayers are with our newly elected City Council. Just because you won and others lost, doesn't mean that the concerns and ideas of the losing candidates aren't without merit or worth exploring further.

Warmest Regards,

William Gordon

"Going Down the Path of Self-Destruction"

Campaign Signs

"Going Down the Path of Self-Destruction." So said Ernest A. "Mac" McDowell in an infamous YouTube video, referring to the city of Richardson. McDowell was so concerned that he founded a political action committee, the Richardson Citizens Alliance (RCA), funded it with $50,000, and found a slate of candidates to support in an effort to overturn the city council and impose a new vision on the city.

After the jump, how well did that go?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Election Day in the Steger Garden

From Flowers

Election winners:

  • RISD Bond: Yes

  • Richardson City Council Place 1: Bob Townsend
  • Richardson City Council Place 2: Mark Solomon
  • Richardson City Council Place 3: Scott Dunn
  • Richardson City Council Place 4: Laura Maczka
  • Richardson City Council Place 5: Kendal Hartley
  • Richardson City Council Place 6: Steve Mitchell
  • Richardson City Council Place 7: Amir Omar

  • Overall winner: Residents of Richardson and RISD

Bill Keffler's Scarlet Letter

"She had wandered, without rule or guidance, into a moral wilderness."
-- Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Earlier, I republished and linked to an open letter by the Richardson City Manager, Bill Keffler, responding to criticisms of the city made by the Richardson Citizens Alliance (RCA) PAC. But I never commented on the propriety of the city manager writing the letter.

After the jump, my (belated) thoughts.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Wheel's 2011 Voters Guide

It's Friday. Election day is Saturday, May 14, 2011. This is the last chance for voters to do some, you know, ... homework, in order to cast their ballots as *informed* citizens. Everyone else seems to have published a voters' guide. Why not me?

After the jump, The Wheel's 2011 Voters Guide.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Talking Past Each Other In Richardson

The Richardson City Council election is widening a political divide. The charges being leveled against the city, the City Council and the city staff, are growing in seriousness and volume. Enough that the City Manager took the most unusual step of responding publicly, defending the city against what he diplomatically calls "misstatements." His letter is unlikely to settle the debate. Why?

Some Richardson residents expect things to work differently in the city and when they don't, they see them as broken and want them fixed. When they aren't "fixed" these residents think the City Council and city staff, at best, are not listening to them and, at worst, are corrupt. On the other side of the divide, there are people (including the City Manager) who recognize that the things at issue work pretty much the way they are intended to work. They see nothing important to "fix." Sure, continuous improvement is always called for, but that won't meet the expectations of disaffected citizens, which are far out of alignment with how government processes are designed to work. Because their assumptions are so different, the two sides tend to talk past each other.

After the jump, let's take a look at a few misconceptions.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"It'll Feel Better When It Stops Hurting"

The Richardson City Council election has been consuming a lot of this blog's attention lately, but that doesn't mean I haven't been paying attention to what our so-called representatives have been doing to us for us down in Austin. It's time to have a look.

State Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) gives us an eyewitness update on what our legislators are up to. That means Sen. John Carona and Rep. Angie Chen Button for me and maybe Rep. Stefani Carter, Kenneth Sheets, Will Hartnett or Van Taylor for some other Richardson area readers. Summary: The outlook is not good.

Richardson ISD trustee Kris Oliver has been following the proceedings, too, with an eye on the impact on the RISD schools. One of his comments: "Really? We are working like mad to avoid laying off teachers, and the TX House reduces taxes on chewing tobacco."

After the jump, back to Sen. Watson's update.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

All For Maczka In Place 4

Karl Voigtsberger owns the distinction of being the first contestant voted off this season's Richardson Idol. Has anything changed since that long ago first episode for the judges to regret that decision? (And by judges I mean, of course, me.)

Laura Maczka, on the other hand, probably holds the distinction of serving up the fewest targets for satire of any of the candidates during the six-week run of Richardson Idol. If it weren't for her funny name, she might not have earned a mention at all (and even that was only in contrast to another candidate who always points out his own "funny name"). Is it good or bad to be satire-proof?

After the jump, a final look at Place 4.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Place 7: Challengers Never Had It

The Richardson Idol viewers made their choice (and by viewers I mean, of course, me) for Richardson's Place 7 City Council seat. They picked Amir Omar by a wide margin.

After the jump, has anything changed since the final show to question the judges' decision?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

OTBR: At the End of Runway 33L

Latitude: 39.1631 N
Longitude: 76.6619 W

A child on a road trip with his family asks, "Where are we?" and the father answers, "Let's check the map. We're off the blue roads [the Interstate Highways marked in blue on the road atlas]. We're off the red roads [the US and state highways]. We're off the black roads [the county highways]. I think we're off the map altogether." It was always my dream to be off the map altogether.

After the jump, a few of the random places (and I mean random literally) that I visited vicariously last month that are "off the blue roads".

Friday, May 6, 2011

Five Things I Learned About Place 5

The Richardson Idol viewers already made their choice (and by viewers I mean, of course, me). They picked Dennis Stewart over Kendal Hartley. Why? Who knows. You can read their reasons here, but be warned. Viewers of TV reality shows are fickle. There are no rules they have to follow. Sometimes they are influenced by what the candidates say on stage. Sometimes they are influenced by off stage behavior. There's no requirement that they actually do any ... research or anything hard like that. So, you have to make allowances for some of their decisions (that is, *my* decisions, if you're following along).

After the jump, five things I learned about Place 5 that might make me change my mind.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Glass-Eyed Politicians in Richardson

"Get thee glass eyes;
And like a scurvy politician, seem
To see the things thou dost not."
-- William Shakespeare, King Lear

I apologize in advance to any of the candidates who, in fact, literally have glass eyes. But as the election campaign for Richardson City Council heats up, it seems to me that more candidates are seeming to see things that just aren't there.

After the jump, a rundown.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

City of Richardson Responds to RCA PAC's Misstatements

Richardson City Manager Bill Keffler sets the record straight:
Fellow Richardson Residents and Businesses:

It has come to our attention that a number of unfortunate misstatements about the City of Richardson are being made through local media outlets and throughout our community.

As employees of the City of Richardson, we take great personal pride in our daily work and remain focused on delivering the high quality services you’ve come to expect. Such misrepresentations however strike at the organizational and personal ethics and integrity that are a cornerstone of our ability to effectively deliver these services. Therefore, we feel it is important to publicly address the misrepresentations you may be hearing.

Following is a summary of misstatements with some additional information aimed at clarifying the facts you may have been wondering about.

Should you need additional information on these issues, or any others of note, don’t hesitate to contact us bill.keffler@cor.gov at 972-744-4204. We welcome the opportunity to provide information you can trust. Meanwhile we will continue to focus on excellence in public service day in and day out.

Bill Keffler
City Manager

City Manager Bill Keffler's full letter can be found here.

Richardson Citizens Alliance 2011 Voter's Guide

Last week was the mailing of the highly anticipated Richardson Coalition PAC's 2011 Voter's Guide. Richardson voters can be forgiven for eagerly checking their mailboxes for the competing guide, the Richardson Citizens Alliance PAC's 2011 Voter's Guide. After all, the RCA has a war chest of $50,000 (all donated by one man), surely enough to pay postage for a mailing of their own. But so far, my mailbox has been empty. Maybe my voter's guide got lost in the mail. But, the RCA Voter's Guide is available on the RCA website.

After the jump, let's pore over the copy there.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

One Thing To Remember In Place 1

One candidate is suing the city. Over a procedural matter. Really. Over closed meetings. What's that you say? You say that state law permits closed meetings in certain cases? You say that for decades, the city charter has granted the city all powers granted to cities by state law? You say that the city charter itself, since 2007, explicitly permits closed meetings in certain cases? I know. I know. I know. But one candidate is still stubbornly suing the city over a legally tenuous claim that's been moot since 2007. An appeals court dismissed the lawsuit. Now, one candidate is back in district court trying to revive it. It's easy to remember who that candidate is. He's first on the ballot, William Gordon. And that's the one thing you need to remember in Place 1.

Political ad paid for by Mark Steger

Monday, May 2, 2011

Twitter Tracks: State Budget Cuts, City Candidate Forums, Trees

Twitter tracks from April, 2011:

  • 2011 04 01 - For your April Fool's pleasure ... Rent-a-Grave. This might sound like an April Fool's story, but it's not. http://www.slate.com/id/2285478/
  • 2011 04 01 - Richardson Heights NA urges members to turn out to *support* the city. How refreshing. Is "IMBY" an acronym? http://goo.gl/vWeKG
  • 2011 04 01 - Headline: "Unemployment rate falls to 8.8 pct, two-year low." GOP blames health care reform.
  • 2011 04 01 - I grew up loving baseball. I'm glad Rangers won pennant. Still, steroids & money & mismanagement spoiled it all for me. No excitement today.
  • 2011 04 01 - By critics' logic, we ought to pave parks. If they really want to help Richardson, they can find more sponsors to cover more costs of trees.
  • 2011 04 01 - The Adjustment Bureau (2011): Bourne meets The Matrix meets The Candidate with a touch of Mad Men style. Most of all, a love story. B+
  • 2011 04 02 - Mark's Stylebook: Maybe the rest of us don't know what a compositor is, but he can only blame himself if the movie credit reads "composter".
  • 2011 04 02 - Get yourself over to Eastside. Free food. Great weather. Party atmosphere. Hurry. 'Til 4. Oh, did I remember to say free?
  • 2011 04 03 - Metropolis (1927): Long overdue viewing of this classic. Overwrought story but some amazing imagery. Will Avatar look as good in 2100? C+
  • 2011 04 03 - RT @amiromar: "Tree the Town inspires Tree North Tx." @amiromar doubles down. No concessions, then? In your face, critics?
  • 2011 04 03 - Tree North Texas: "a plan to plant 3 million trees in North Texas." http://goo.gl/joiMO Just think of the water that'll suck up. ;-)

After the jump, more Twitter tracks.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Richardson Coalition 2011 Voter's Guide

Sears 1968 Wish Book

It's out. It's the most anticipated mailing of the year. It's even better than the Sears Christmas Wish Book of old (ask your parents). It's the Richardson Coalition 2011 Voter's Guide.

After the jump, let's pore over our new Wish Book.