The City Council has seven members. Four incumbents (Mark Solomon, Scott Dunn, Paul Voelker, and Steve Mitchell are running for re-election unopposed. One incumbent, Bob Townsend in Place 1, is being challenged by Rick Wilder. One incumbent, Kendal Hartley in Place 4, has chosen not to run for re-election. His place is being contested by newcomers Mabel Simpson and Claudia Tatum.
Mayor Laura Maczka is running for re-election unopposed, but has announced that she will not take the oath of office for a second term. That means, according to the City Charter, that whoever the new Mayor Pro Tem is, chosen by the new council, will become Mayor for the next term. So, even though there will be an election for Mayor this year, the electorate's choice will not actually serve as mayor. Call it Democalypse 2015 (h/t Jon Stewart).
Not that anyone should care, but here are The Wheel's recommendations for how to vote.
Richardson City Council Place 1
- Bob Townsend Bob Townsend has served Richardson well as a council member for fourteen years. He has supported multi-use development near DART and recognizes the need for investment in infrastructure -- streets, sidewalks, alleys and sewers. On the other hand, Townsend has failed the city three times. First, in 2012, Townsend voted with the 5-2 majority of the council not to appoint a charter review commission, despite his stated support for a charter review in the 2011 election campaign. That vote led to the petition and election approving a charter change to directly elect the mayor. Second, in 2013, Townsend endorsed Laura Maczka in the first direct election of Richardson's mayor. This turned out to be an egregious example of poor judgment (see above, Democalypse 2015). (Full disclosure: I endorsed Maczka for mayor in 2013, in part because all council members, including Townsend, endorsed her. Fool me once...) Third, in 2015, after questions arose about a conflict of interest in Mayor Maczka's role in the approval of a rezoning request for the Palisades development, Townsend failed to lead the city through the crisis. As Mayor Pro Tem, the highest elected official besides the mayor, Townsend was best positioned to communicate with Richardson residents. He could have requested a public worksession of the council or a town hall meeting at which the public could get all of their questions asked and answered. He could have rallied support for the council's planned course of action to manage the crisis, whatever that was going to be. Instead of leading, Townsend allowed matters to play out on their own. The city has appeared to be rudderless since the mayor's shocking announcement that she would not serve another term. For these reasons, The Wheel cannot recommend a vote for Bob Townsend for another term on city council.
- Rick Wilder ✓ Making the decision to withhold a recommendation of Bob Townsend possible is the fact that in Rick Wilder there is a plausible alternative. Wilder has an adequate resume of volunteer service to the city. He supports revitalization efforts in our neighborhoods, infrastructure repair and replacement, mass transit (not just DART but the Cotton Belt Line), and efforts to attract quality retail, business, and entertainment to Richardson. Wilder didn't campaign on differences between his ideas and Townsend's, so he is likely to vote in a similar manner as Townsend would in another term. But being new to the council, Wilder will have the opportunity to help put the council's Laura Maczka era behind us and turn a fresh page. For that reason, The Wheel recommends a vote for Rick Wilder.
Richardson City Council Place 4
- Claudia Tatum Tatum was the only candidate voted off the island during this year's short run of Richardson Idol. She failed to show for two of the three candidate forums used by Richardson Idol to judge the candidates. Her excuse was abysmal ("I go where they tell me to go. I have a consultant.") Her personal biography reveals determination and persistence, but her performance at the one candidate forum we saw her at failed to show either broad or deep understanding of the issues Richardson faces. Because of that, The Wheel cannot recommend a vote for Claudia Tatum.
- Mabel Simpson ✓ You might think that with Claudia Tatum eliminated, that leaves Mabel Simpson with The Wheel's recommendation by default. Not necessarily. We are already tired of Simpson's go-to answer for things she opposes, "We don't need an ordinance for everything." No one is calling for an ordinance for everything. Richardson voters deserve reasoned argument for a council member's votes, not straw men arguments. Still, Simpson's background in real estate law is attractive. Because so much of the city council's business is dealing with land development deals, rezoning cases, and ordinances concerning what property owners can and can't do with their property, the city council can benefit from someone with legal training in the subject. Because of that, The Wheel recommends a vote for Mabel Simpson despite our misgivings about her dismissive attitude towards voters on some issues.