Monday, June 4, 2012

Election of the Mayor: Rumors and Hearsay

A petition is circulating demanding that the City of Richardson call a referendum for changing the way the city chooses its mayor. Currently, at the beginning of each term, the city council elects one of their members to serve as mayor. The petition demands that the mayor be directly elected by the voters instead.

Rumors are also in circulation. After the jump, I fulfill my duty, not to check the truth of the rumors, but to give them legs by passing on what I've heard through the grapevine.

As far as has been publicly revealed, there are only two persons identified as being behind the petition.

One is Alan North, who announced the petition (reported here). Alan North is a former candidate for city council famous for filing, then not showing up for any forums or doing any other campaigning.

The other is one Chris Cutrone, who submitted paperwork to the IRS required to register the 527 organization formed to promote the petition (reported here). Cutrone lives in Austin, has been active in Republican state politics, and has no known ties to Richardson.

That's it. As far as I know, North has not named any of the people who have supposedly pledged their support, donated money, or volunteered to help plan, run, or even just participate in the effort. As far as I know, no one has come forward to announce their involvement, either.

Rumors have it that North is enthusiastic about the response to his announcement and his progress on collecting signatures on this petition. An estimated 2,500 signatures are required by law (5% of eligible voters). Rumors have it that the effort during early voting and on primary election day netted roughly half that total. That would mean there are over 1,000 Richardson voters who have already signed the petition ... if you can believe the rumors.

Rumors have it that some persons collecting signatures at polling places were either (pick any or all) not from Richardson, were college students, admitted being paid for each signature collected, and/or admitted being put up to it by a certain city council member. All of these rumors, as far as I know, take the form "Someone told me that someone said such and such." Or the even weaker form, "I wouldn't be surprised if..."

What is fact is that Amir Omar was the only council member who voted in favor of holding a referendum on the direct election of the mayor. That could explain rumors that he's secretly behind the petition drive to force a referendum against the council's will. It doesn't match Omar's very public persona (the man is seemingly everywhere and makes sure everyone knows it). Omar himself denies any involvement. But you know how hard it is to prove a negative.

I may have inadvertently contributed to the Amir Omar rumor myself when I noted (see here) that the petition calls for replacing the Place 7 council seat with a mayor's seat on the council. Because Amir Omar currently holds the Place 7 seat, I facetiously offered my congratulations to him as Richardson's first mayor. I repeat - facetiously.

In the interest of full disclosure, originally I had many reservations about the direct election of the mayor, but I changed my mind, not because I was convinced on the merits, but because I was convinced that some very vocal residents of Richardson would never be reconciled to the current system. If a referendum can eliminate this as an issue, then let's have a referendum. I may still vote against it, however, on the merits.


Unknown said...

There is one more rumor, and having just made aware of it, I want to make a statement about it. My position regarding the public election of Mayor has been documented in a number of places: most publicly at the candidate forums during the election and in the recorded City Council work session on this issue that's available online. I have read the wording being proposed by the petitioners, and understand it as simply removing one councilperson position (place 7) and replacing that spot with a publicly and directly elected Mayor in the next election cycle.

The rumor I want to address is an interpretation that I don't see, but it is serious enough to merit a statement. The interpretation is that the person in place 7 immediately becomes Mayor if the referendum associated with this petition passes in November. I have checked with 2 attorneys and they both interpreted the petition the same way I did. I want to make perfectly clear that if the language is interpreted as Place 7 becoming the Mayor without an election, I would decline the position or if necessary to reject the unelected position, I would resign on principal.

I typically ignore rumors, they are just a byproduct of being in public service that one needs to be ok with. Although I feel that this rumor has no merit, I felt it was important enough to diffuse it by publicly making a statement.

I love Richardson and am honored to serve our City. Regardless of the success or failure of this current effort, Richardson will continue to thrive because our residents make this the best City in the best state in our Country to live in.


Mark Steger said...

Thanks, Mr. Omar, for making a public statement on the matter. I'm a believer in the sentiment expressed in the following quote.

"Where the public wants to understand but does not receive any official answers, there are rumors. Rumors are the black market of information."
-- Mark Schindler

P.S. Not that it matters, I share your opinion that there is nothing in the wording of the petition that would cause any change to be made before a new election.