Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Richardson Citizens Deserve Better

"Richardson Citizens Deserve Better." So says Amir Omar in a letter to the editor of The Dallas Morning News. "A full two-year term served by a non-democratically elected leader is a gigantic leap backward that undermines the will of Richardson voters."

It's hard to argue otherwise. In fact, I haven't heard anyone say that Richardson residents have been well served by the mayor's decision not to serve another term, including any of the six remaining council members or three candidates seeking their first term on the city council.

I understand Omar's frustration. I sympathize with his desire for another outcome. But I can't sign on to Omar's proposed remedy. That would be another affront to democracy and constitutional government. Two wrongs don't make a right.

Omar's remedy:
Our current council and mayor have an opportunity to show true leadership and put the interests of the electorate before their own by calling for a special election. This keeps the city moving forward, restores faith and holds true to the democratic election our residents overwhelmingly approved.
Source: Amir Omar.
On what legal basis should that special election be called? Omar himself says the city is planning to use a "charter provision" to determine the next mayor. That charter provision is Section 3.03, which says, "Upon a vacancy in the Mayor's position, the Mayor Pro Tem shall fill the unexpired term."

That provision in Section 3.03 was drafted by the faction that wanted to have direct election of the mayor. That provision was then overwhelmingly passed by the voters less than three years ago. Following the city charter, all of it and not just the parts we like, is exactly what the city ought to do now, no matter how surprised voters might be to find out what it was that they approved.

Instead, Omar is calling for tossing aside Section 3.03 of the city charter and filling an unexpired term of the mayor in some other fashion, because it's what he thinks the charter ought to say. There's a charter review commission meeting right now. If Omar wants to change the charter, he ought to be making his case to them. Until they recommend a change and the voters approve it, let's live by the law we have, not the law we wish we had. You don't have to like it to know it's the right thing to do. Anything else would be the "gigantic leap backward" that Omar decries.

Don't let Amir Omar persuade the city council to ignore the city charter. Richardson citizens deserve better.


Amir Omar said...


Thanks as always for all you do to help readers keep up with all that is going on in our amazing City. It is a truly thankless effort, but one that adds a tremendous amount of value to those wanting to understand the intricacies of our City government!

As it relates to my letter to the editor, it was an edited down version of an op ed that I submitted more than a week ago. As you may know, op ed's are usually 650 words and allow for more detail, the 250 word maximum "letter to the editor" is a bit more limiting. Therefore, it would have been difficult to do much more than give a high level comment about the situation. One can clearly argue as to whether or not I made the best use of those 250 words.

Since you are asking for detail, let me take a stab here.

It might help to lay out what I hope are some mutually agreed points:
1) This entire situation is unfortunate
2) There has been an interpretation of the Charter that was delivered by the City in the form of the public communication received within hours of the announcement by our Mayor (Kudos to a super responsive City Staff!)
3) To date the Council has not had a session (either executive or public) to discuss all options at their disposal to cause a special election
4) The Charter Commission should (and I have confidence they will) recommend corrections that solve the issues we face here

My suggestion would be that the Council first have a public work session to discuss all possible options. These options would hopefully include a deeper understanding of and/or an airing of differing interpretations of the Charter as well as other conditions necessary to prompt a special election. A session of this sort would of course require council members who decide to be engaged and willing to dig between the lines to do their best to find a way to cause the election. I believe our Council, recognizing the magnitude of this issue, would give it that level of attention and scrutiny.

Let's say for the sake of argument that that meeting does not result in any new information. No problem, at least our residents have the ability to hear that deliberation for themselves. The process itself has value. This would begin the process of building confidence in a Council that is willing to explore options beyond the lightening fast City communication.

If the Council does not find another way via the Charter, there is another option. Two Council Members could choose to value our resident's right to vote (especially considering the circumstances of this resignation) more than they value the possibility of drawing an opponent, and resign. Those resignations will result in 3 vacancies and under the current Charter, force a special election. Those 2 selfless leaders could and should run again for their previous seat (or the Mayor's) and continue to serve our City.

Mark, these are extraordinary times and they may require extraordinary effort or sacrifice by our leaders. As you quoted, and I would gladly reiterate, "Richardson Citizens Deserve Better". The only question is whether or not we have anyone willing to make the sacrifice to help restore confidence in our elected officials during this difficult time.

Thank you for the forum allowing me to expand the 250 word "letter".


Mark Steger said...

Thanks, Amir, for your response. I concur with your "mutually agreed points." My post argued that there is no legal basis for calling a special election. You didn't identify one in your letter to the editor. You didn't identify one in your response here. Instead what you are calling for here is for the council to meet "to discuss all options at their disposal to cause a special election." I wouldn't be opposed to that. But I don't hold out any hope of a legal reason arising from such a meeting, not when no one, including you, has yet been able to make a legal argument against the plain wording of the city charter.