Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A City Election in November This Year

Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low.
Sayre was right ... with one possible exception, the politics surrounding the method of choosing the City of Richardson's mayor.

Richardson will hold a city election in November in conjunction with the presidential election. Normally, city elections are held in May, separate from the partisan bickering that dominates the November elections. But because of a petition organized by Alan North (at unknown cost), the November ballot will also ask Richardson voters to amend the City Charter to replace the current method of selecting the mayor with direct election by the voters.

After the jump, what it means.

What does it mean? Probably not much.

Richardson has a council-manager form of government. The council hires the city manager. The city manager runs the day-to-day operation of the city. The position of mayor is mainly ceremonial. The mayor is just one vote of seven. The mayor is only as powerful as the other six members of the council let him be. Whether the mayor is elected by the voters or chosen by the council members themselves as their presiding officer is not likely to have a significant impact on Richardson government.

The backers of this petition tend to be the same faction that was unable to win a single council seat in the 2009 and 2011 city council elections. Now, they've found a cause, direct election of the mayor, that will likely win a majority in the November election. Afterwards, they will likely claim a huge victory. They will see it as the start of change in Richardson government (one anonymous commenter called it a "revolution").

We'll see. The likely success of the November referendum election is not likely to change the dynamics of the May city elections. Paying people to collect 3,051 signatures on a populist petition to "let voters choose their own mayor" is one thing. Winning a city council election, where voters have to choose between two candidates, is something else again. The backers of the petition are still going to have to run someone for mayor. Unless they change the kind of candidates they put up and the message they run on, they aren't likely to translate their success in the referendum to success in the mayoral election. But like I said, we'll see.

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