Monday, March 25, 2013

The Old Guard vs The Outsider

Amir Omar is a two-term city councilman, but to the city's old guard he remains an outsider.
Source: D Magazine.
The "old guard" versus the "outsider." That's the way Michael Mooney of D Magazine is presenting Richardson's mayoral election pitting Laura Maczka against Amir Omar.

Mooney telephoned me for information for his story. From his questions, it was clear that the "old guard" versus the "outsider" was how he was framing his story. It felt to me like he was calling for confirmation of his framing. After the jump, what I gave Mooney for his story.

What did I give Mooney? In short, not much. I told him I disagreed with his premise. The electoral divide in Richardson is not over the issues Mooney presents:
the struggle between "new Richardson" (young families interested in urban development and things like parks and the new Alamo Drafthouse) and "old Richardson" (mostly white retirees more interested in bringing new corporations and big office buildings).
Source: D Magazine.
In my analysis, the majority of residents (including those who Mooney calls the "old guard") support everything on both sides of Mooney's divide: urban development, parks, the Alamo Drafthouse, new corporations and big office buildings. The minority (call them the "outsiders" if you must) want lower taxes and fewer services from local government. Most residents in Richardson are happy with the status quo and reject candidates who claim Richardson is on the road to fiscal ruin. It's not a given that the endorsements by the "old guard" (the Richardson Coalition PAC) swept the current council to office in the 2011 elections over the interests of the majority. The losers of the 2011 election, by wide margins, were some fatally flawed candidates. They are the "outsiders" in Richardson city government. Calling Amir Omar an outsider risks confusing the real divide in Richardson. Remember, Omar was endorsed by the "old guard" and won his election handily.

The 2013 mayor's race does not hinge on Mooney's divide at all. Both Laura Maczka and Amir Omar are incumbent council members who were endorsed by the Richardson Coalition PAC in the last election. Both have largely voted alike. Both are up-and-comers in Richardson. They are pitted against each other only because a 2012 charter change made the mayor's office an elected position. Some predicted that one consequence of that change could be that it would pit up-and-comers against each other, with only one winner allowed. The city would lose the services of the other(s). And so it has turned out.

Anyway, my conversation with Mooney was short. I recommended that he read the archives of my blog, especially items on the 2011 election, for the background he needed. If he had any questions afterwards, I'd be happy to talk more. I saw no evidence he ever did that homework. He never called back. And so he got the story he wanted: the old guard vs the outsider.


Mark Steger said...

Privately, a reader respectfully disagreed with my analysis that the "old guard" is interested in urban development. Here is my response to that reader:

The current council members don't understand urbanism. But it's good that they *think* they are in favor of it. They've approved Brick Row and Eastside and PGBT form-based code and are keen to get the Cotton Belt line. Sure, I'm impatient with many of their decisions regarding these and other redevelopment projects, but imagine if the RCA slate of candidates had won in 2011. The RCA may have gone back in the woodwork this election, but their kind of thinking still exists. And it's a larger fraction of the electorate than people who approve the policies I've advocated on my blog.

People who choose to support Maczka or Omar in hopes of finding a champion for or defender against urbanism are, in my opinion, merely projecting their own hopes onto these two. Maybe the election campaign will reveal more differences in their respective road maps for Richardson's future, but I haven't seen enough in their careers so far for me to differentiate their visions. All I know for sure is that no matter who is elected, the RCA isn't coming back.

Mark Steger said...

Bill McCalpin fact checks Michael Mooney's "D Magazine" article.