Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The One With My Endorsement for RISD

Yesterday, I announced my endorsement for mayor of Richardson. I admit I was conflicted. After going from being very happy with both candidates to beginning to wonder if Richardson would be better served by having a third choice, I ended up endorsing more out of necessity than enthusiasm. Negative campaigning does as much harm to our city as it does to the opposing candidate. Anyone who engages in or tolerates negative campaigning loses stature in my opinion.

That's completely different from my attitude towards the Richardson school board race (RISD). After the jump, my endorsement.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The One With My Endorsement for Mayor

After weeks of growing despair at the increasingly negative tone of the mayor's race in Richardson, after going from being very happy with both candidates to beginning to wonder if Richardson would be better served by having a third choice, the time to vote is finally here. Early voting begins today. The general election is less than two weeks away, May 11. My weeks of waffling are over. I have to decide how to vote.

After the jump, I come down off the fence.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Of Inner Cities and High Density

Amir Omar is doing his best to lose whatever sympathy he gained by being the victim of personal attacks during this election campaign. He's doing that by taking quotes from Laura Maczka out of context and spinning a "vision" for her that people who have paid attention this election campaign would never recognize (and by "people who have paid attention" I mean me.)

Here's the quote from Omar's latest mailer.
We are now an inner city.
Source: Amir Omar mailer.
This quote is all that appears on a full page. Omar is clearly trying to play it up as something huge.

After the jump, my thoughts.

Friday, April 26, 2013

No Knockout in Mayor's Race

After weeks of campaigning and a dozen or so rounds in the ring, the two candidates for Richardson's mayor were bloody but still standing after the last round, the big forum in the Grand Hall of the Richardson Civic Center, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Richardson.

I won't provide a blow by blow account because the city recorded this one and made it available for all to stream from the city's website for viewing at your leisure. It's only 82 minutes long. Inform yourselves.

After the jump, the highlights, from my point of view.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Airbrushing the Voters Guide

Soviet Censorship

In the old Soviet Union, the men in power had a habit of airbrushing the photographs in each new edition of the history books, removing the images of leaders who had been purged from government since the last edition. Often, Western analysts learned more about changes in the Soviet hierarchy not from any official announcements, but from who disappeared from the photos.

The same kind of analysis is still useful today. After the jump, what's missing from the Richardson Coalition PAC's 2013 Voters Guide?

Mayor's Race Both Negative and Cynical

If you came here looking for my opinion of the final mayoral candidates' forum at the Richardson Civic Center on Wednesday, you're out of luck. I need time to figure out what my opinions are. In the meantime, here are further thoughts on the downward spiral of the campaign so far.

On Tuesday, I deplored how the Richardson mayor's race has turned personal and negative. Today, I add cynical.
Do you want a mayor who is beholden to unions and special interests?
Source: Laura Maczka.
That's a line used by Laura Maczka in her closing statement during the recent candidate forum at Mohawk Elementary School. She was referring to the endorsement of Amir Omar by the Richardson Fraternal Order of Police, the Richardson Firefighters Association, and the MetroTex Association of Realtors. But Maczka didn't name them. She didn't say firefighters, police and realtors. She said "unions" and "special interests." Given that "unions" are reviled in Texas and "special interests" reviled everywhere, it's probably good politics. It's as if Maczka expected her audience to shudder a little and silently pray, "No!"

After the jump, why it's so deeply cynical.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Would-Be Mayors Overplay Their Hands

Early in the Richardson mayoral election campaign, Amir Omar overplayed his hand by accusing Laura Maczka of "leading the charge" against direct election of the mayor. Instead of having to defend her votes to kill talk of direct election of the mayor for the rest of the council term, she was able to change the conversation to whether or not she was the "leader" of the anti-change majority on the council. Arguably, she was not. Inattentive voters might have dismissed the whole flap as a "he said, she said" argument. Omar might have scored points, but Maczka kept the damage to a minimum.

Now, it's Laura Maczka and the Richardson Coalition PAC who have overplayed their hand. After the jump, opening the books on Amir Omar.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Head Games (2012)

Head Games (2012): Exposé of concussions in sport: football, hockey, even soccer. Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to play football. A-

Mayoral Race to the Bottom

Yesterday, I deplored that the Richardson mayor's race is turning into a race to the bottom. Both of the candidates' closing remarks at the Mohawk Elementary forum turned personal and negative.

Omar accused Maczka of accomplishing nothing during her term on council, of putting her service on city council "on cruise control" for two years waiting to become mayor.

Maczka accused Omar of having his eye on the mayor's seat for at least two years; of being "beholden to unions and special interests"; of being more a "community organizer" than a president, er, mayor; of having an approach to governing of "ready, fire, aim."

So much for running positive, uplifting campaigns. After the jump, other examples of both candidates and their supporters trying to ruin their opponents' reputations, and as a result, risking ruin of their own.

Monday, April 22, 2013

#@!% Comments

I've switched The Wheel over to the newly available Google+ commenting system. There are some advantages, but there are disadvantages as well. For one, the "Recent Comments" widget is broken. For another, the comment count at the bottom of blog posts is broken. For a third, you have to have a Google+ account to comment (but if you have a Google account, adding Google+ is easy). I'm sticking with the new system, in expectation that Google will eventually get these shortcomings worked out. But in the meantime, beware.

Update: I've switched back. See the comments for why.

Mayoral Forums: Stay To The Bitter End

There was another Richardson mayoral forum on Thursday, April 18, 2013. This one was at Mohawk Elementary. The forum was sponsored by the JJ Pearce & Reservation HOA and the Greenwood Hills NA.
They were both impressive. Either one will be good for the city.
Those were the first words spoken by a stranger sitting in front of me after the forum. I used to think so, too, but my confidence in both candidates is beginning to flag. The forum started on an upbeat note. The candidates were asked to "say something nice about your opponent." The forum ended with closing statements that reflected none of the good cheer displayed at the start. It's hard to say exactly how the candidates ended up where they did, as they agreed more often than they disagreed in between. Much is going on under the surface. Stress levels are rising. Chinks are beginning to appear in the armor of both candidates.

After the jump, the play by play.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Life of Pi (2012)

Life of Pi (2012): Boy and tiger adrift in lifeboat on ocean. Beautiful fable of survival and the way of God. Which story do you prefer? A+

Compare with my review of the novel, which I graded only B+. The movie is a feast for the eyes. The novel, a feast for the imagination. Over time, I wonder if I'll swap the two grades.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

April Surprise, Richardson Edition

In American political jargon, an October surprise is a news event deliberately created to influence the outcome of an election, particularly one for the U.S. presidency. The reference to the month of October is because the date for national elections (as well as many state and local elections) occurs between November 2 and 8, and therefore events that take place in late October have greater potential to influence the decisions of prospective voters.
Source: Wikipedia.
For springtime local elections in Richardson, the "October surprise" comes in April. Right on schedule, this year's April surprise has dropped, in the form of a Richardson Coalition PAC "2013 Voters Guide -- Senior Citizen Edition."

The surprise is not that the Richardson Coalition PAC has published a "Senior Citizen Edition" of its voters guide for the first time, although there's nothing in it that appears to address issues that are of particular interest to seniors instead of voters at large. That's a curious matter, but irrelevant to our surprise.

The surprise is not the usual innuendo and half-truths. Richardson voters have come to expect that from the Richardson Coalition PAC's "Voters Guide." The surprise is not even that the Richardson Coalition PAC would stoop to springing April surprises. Maybe, in the end, there's nothing surprising about how Richardson politics are playing out this year. I had hoped that our city was better than this, but I can't really say I'm surprised.

After the jump, the April surprise.

Still No Popcorn in the RISD Election

There are three places on the Richardson (RISD) school board on the ballot in the May 11, 2013, election.

  • Place 3: Kris Oliver (incumbent)
  • Place 4:
    • Bonnie Abadie
    • Lanet Greenhaw (incumbent)
    • Rachel Chumney
  • Place 5: Karen Holburn (incumbent)

Only Place 4 is contested, with the incumbent trustee facing two challengers. When I last looked in on this election, I said the two challengers for Place 4 "have to be considered extreme long shots. The election campaign might have a surprise in store, but I'm not popping any corn." On April 17, those three faced off before an audience of about 75 people in the RISD Administration Building auditorium in a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Richardson and the Richardson ISD Council of PTAs. After listening to the candidates make their case to the voters, is it time to start popping that corn? After the jump, an update.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Punching Through Central at Palisades

Palisades Village
There's a glimmer of hope for my quixotic dream of punching through Central Expressway to help end the divide between east and west Richardson. Does the name Palisades ring a bell? It's the office park on the west side of US 75 across from Galatyn Park. I use the term office park loosely, as it's mostly vacant land with one big office tower (perhaps the tallest in Richardson, but who's measuring?), another smaller office building and an ugly parking garage facing Central Expressway. Otherwise, there's a lot of grass. And streets that go around and around but end up nowhere.

I don't know the history of that property. It was laid out as if some developer had big plans that never came to fruition. After the jump, is the time right for an even bigger and better plan?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"Ladies First"

I love Richardson's diversity. And the various candidate forums for the mayor's race strongly highlight that diversity while also showing common interests across the city. But it's the diversity that keeps me coming back. It's the unique questions I listen for, as much as the answers.

The first forum, sponsored by the GOP, was held at Richardson's country club. The unique questions were about Agenda 21 and fluoride in our drinking water. The next forum was at a public school, sponsored by a neighborhood association. Someone wanted to know where the candidates live in relation to their neighborhood. Someone else asked the candidates to do something about speeding on Grove Rd. The third forum (which I missed) was at a BBQ joint, sponsored by the tea party. They wanted to know how much a natatorium was going to cost Richardson taxpayers. The most recent forum was in Richardson's Chinatown, sponsored by the Dallas Chinese Community Center. The moderator set the unique tone with her polite explanation of how it was decided which candidate would speak first: "Ladies first."

After the jump, a progress report on the campaigning skills of Laura Maczka and Amir Omar.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Push Polling for Mayor

A push poll is an interactive marketing technique, most commonly employed during political campaigning, in which an individual or organization attempts to influence or alter the view of respondents under the guise of conducting a poll.
Source: Wikipedia.
I've heard, secondhand, of accounts of Richardson residents receiving push polls of the mayoral election. The callers fail to identify who is paying for the telephone campaign. One such report wasn't even secondhand. I received a push poll myself. When I asked who was paying for the political advertisement disguised as a public opinion survey, I was told that information wouldn't be revealed.

After the jump, my proclamation and pledge to the candidates.

Friday, April 12, 2013

S2L77: Red Fort of Agra

Agra, India
March 7, 1977

At night we attended a Sound and Light show at the Red Fort - a very good way to present history.
Source: Personal travel notes.

From 1977 03 02 India

More photos after the jump.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Review: The Time Keeper

The Time Keeper
From The Time Keeper, by Mitch Albom:
Open quote 

A man sits alone in a cave. His hair is long. His beard reaches his knees. He holds his chin in the cup of his hands. He closes his eyes. He is listening to something. Voices. Endless voices. They rise from a pool in the corner of the cave. They are the voices of people on Earth. They want one thing only. Time."

After the jump, my review.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How to Revitalize Collin Creek Mall

And, at the same time, how downtown Richardson can learn from our northern neighbor.

The Dallas Morning News endorses Harry LaRosiliere for Plano mayor. Several sentences in the News' editorial are relevant to Richardson, too, but I'll focus on just one:
To counteract loss of retail to northern suburbs, [LaRosiliere] says, the stagnating Collin Creek Mall area needs a makeover and should be re-established as a destination, perhaps through a bond vote and a public-private partnership that opens up the creek and connects with downtown.
Does that sound familiar? It should. After the jump, a flashback to a blog post here from last October.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

OTBR: An Ice Road over the Baltic Sea

Latitude: N 58° 37.716
Longitude: E 023° 02.076
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".

Monday, April 8, 2013

Who Killed D.E.? A Richardson Whodunnit

One question is guaranteed to come up at every Richardson mayoral debate. It's worded something like this: Who killed direct election of the mayor? OK, maybe not as dramatic as that. Maybe more like this: Did you support direct election of the mayor?

Amir Omar makes his answer the centerpiece of his campaign. He says not only did he support direct election of the mayor, but he took a principled stand in favor of it despite being warned that he would have difficulty winning re-election if he did so. Further, he accuses Laura Maczka of "leading the charge" against putting the matter before the voters in a charter amendment election.

Maczka denies Omar's charge, saying "it simply isn't true." She says she recognized that the city council votes weren't there to call a referendum on the question. There was no point to continue discussion and so she moved to end it. She says she has confirmed her account of what happened by going back and listening to the January 30, 2012, council meeting at which the issue was deliberated. She encourages voters to do the same.

I remember watching this drama play out in its first release. I reviewed it in "Campaign Promise? That Was Then". Here was my appraisal then:
Frankly, I was shocked with how cavalierly the council dismissed what I had considered to be a campaign promise. Not a promise as firm as, say, "Read my lips, no new taxes" but still, a consensus expressed during the campaign forums that it was time, after 25 years, to look into cleaning up our city charter and bringing it up to date. In one meeting, with no call for public input, with little or no homework evident on their own part, with no wrestling with conscience, the council quickly and decisively disposed of any further discussion of a charter review for this council term.
Source: The Wheel.
Still, in case my memory was faulty, in case the benefit of time might have me see things differently now, I took Maczka up on her call for voters to go back and watch it themselves. After the jump, what I learned from a second viewing.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Repeat Tweets: Berkner in Final Four

Repeat tweets from March, 2013:

  • 1 Mar 2013: Headline: "Catholic Church goes leaderless." Not out of the hole yet, but at least a chance for Church to quit digging.
  • 1 Mar 2013: @MikeHashimoto, Obama's real agenda: do things that are generally popular and that he campaigned and won an election on.
  • 1 Mar 2013: Headline: "Europe's horsemeat problem hits Taco Bell UK." Write your own punchline.
  • 1 Mar 2013: RT @SenTedCruz: "700+ more reasons for #FullRepeal [of Obamacare]." Quit whining and do something to enable health care for all.
  • 1 Mar 2013: Edo slams it. Berkner Rams up 64-58 and win regional semifinal in overtime over Westfield by same score. It's a great time to be a Ram!

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Mayoral Exam at UT Dallas

For the first time in Richardson history, city council candidates came to UT Dallas to face off in a candidate forum. The Wednesday forum was sponsored by Student Government's Legislative Affairs Committee and the Comet Debate Society. Mayoral candidates Laura Maczka and Amir Omar debated questions from the student government and the audience of about 75.

Anyone hoping the students would ask questions about, say, hookah bars, came away disappointed. Questions and answers were similar to the ones asked at earlier forums, and so won't be repeated here. Reread earlier blog items and you'll be all up to date. That said, there were a couple things said that the candidates didn't just copy from their previous exams. After the jump, a rundown of the new answers.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

What Will The Mayor Do For Me?

The questions and answers at Richardson's mayoral forums have been heavy on the personal attributes of the two candidates, Laura Maczka and Amir Omar. What are their qualifications, experience, leadership skills, etc. For the April 2, 2013, forum held at RISD's MST Magnet School, sponsored by the Highland Terrace NA, I decided to take a different perspective.

I decided to keep my ears open for promises made by the candidates, promises of what they would attempt to accomplish in the next council term. The word "promise" is used loosely, as both candidates are aware of and emphasized that the mayor can't unilaterally implement anything, that without the support of the council, the city staff, and the community, any mayor's program can't advance. With that caveat, what I heard the candidates' promise is after the jump.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Eaton Canyon Emergency

So... we decided to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Pasadena, California, hiking in Eaton Canyon.
From 2013 03 17 Eaton Canyon
It was the best of times...

More photos after the jump.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Shelf Life of an Endorsement

A public spat has broken out between the Richardson Coalition PAC and Richardson mayoral candidate Amir Omar. Its roots are in the Richardson Coalition PAC's 2009 and 2011 endorsements of Omar for city council, endorsements the Richardson Coalition PAC doesn't want Omar calling voters' attention to any more. In this election, the Richardson Coalition PAC is endorsing Laura Maczka.

Let's go to the archives, so readers can judge for themselves who has the better claim to truth and accuracy in this spat. After the jump.

Monday, April 1, 2013

More than Wielding a Gavel or Cutting Ribbons

Recently, I reviewed the qualifications of the candidates for Richardson's mayor, Laura Maczka and Amir Omar, against the role of mayor. I focused on serving as presiding officer at city council meetings and representing the city on ceremonial occasions because those are the only two powers given to the mayor and only the mayor.

After the jump, the other powers of the mayor.