Monday, October 21, 2019

The Wheel's Voters Guide

Election day is Tuesday, November 5, 2019. Early voting is underway. Two trustee positions for Richardson ISD's Board of Trustees are on the ballot. There are also ten state Constitutional amendments on the ballot.

Here are my recommendations for how to vote, not that anyone cares, and certainly not that it will matter in the vote count. But I needed to go through the process anyway to know how I should vote myself, so I might as well share my thinking.

Beginning in 2019, the Richardson ISD Board of Trustees has five single-member districts and two at-large positions. This November, Districts 2 and 4 are up for election. Note that I personally can vote only in District 2, but I studied District 4 also, as if I did have a vote because its outcome will affect my school district.

I attended multiple candidate forums, so you didn't have to (you're welcome). I also read candidate questionnaires. I also read pros and cons for the ten Constitutional amendments.



RISD Board of Trustees District 2

The Wheel recommends Vanessa Pacheco.

The school district will be fortunate to have either candidate, Eron Linn (incumbent) or Vanessa Pacheco, on the Board of Trustees.

Eron Linn has four years experience on the Board of Trustees, plus prior experience on the City of Richardson's boards and commissions. Although that experience more than qualifies him for another term, it also calls for scrutiny of the track record of the school board during his service. There are four matters where I believe the board let the district down. One was the decision not to break out the $60 million for four multi-purpose activity centers (MACs) into a separate item on the 2016 bond election ballot. The board chose an all-or-nothing approach: you must vote for the MACs if you want, say, A/C maintenance in the schools. Two was the district's fiasco in addressing elementary school overcrowding in Lake Highlands. The district bought a building to convert into a school, then decided to enlarge an existing school instead, selling the purchased property without ever using it. Given the emphasis on teamwork this board has, Linn must share in the ultimate responsibility for the poor execution of this. Three was Eron Linn's sole opposition to the Tax Ratification Election that raised revenues to give teachers a sorely needed raise. Linn might have favored another scheme that would have achieved teacher raises, but he voted against the motion that reached the board. Four was the board's decision to ignore a call for a change in the voting system to address the lack of diversity on the school board. Instead of taking a proactive role, the board chose to spend half of a million dollars in taxpayer money fighting a lawsuit, only to surrender and adopt the hybrid single-member (5 seats) and at-large (2 seats) voting system we now have. Linn, as a member of a team of seven that values teamwork, shares the successes of the board and must accept responsibility for the failures. If there is a qualified alternative to him on the ballot, that candidate deserves serious attention.

Vanessa Pacheco is that qualified alternative. Pacheco may lack Eron Linn's depth of experience (every non-incumbent would), but she has the education, background, vision, and temperament to serve on the Board of Trustees. Given that the voting rights lawsuit was over a lack of diversity on the school board, it is a bonus that Pacheco's presence would bring needed diversity. She will advocate for diversity/equity/inclusion in all schools. She will advocate for pre-K for all children. She will advocate for better community engagement, including seeking more dual language teachers and administrators to reach more families that speak any of the many languages other than English spoken at home. She sees school security as needing something beyond metal detectors and school resource officers, advocating for programs affecting the mental health of the school community, like peer mediation programs, to reduce the likelihood of violence arising in the first place. All in all, she has demonstrated that she has original ideas that will complement, not conflict with the existing teamwork on the board. The Wheel recommends Vanessa Pacheco.

RISD Board of Trustees District 4

The Wheel recommends Regina Harris.

District 4 is an open position, trustee Katie Patterson having resigned earlier this year. District 4 has four candidates: Taler BK Jefferson, Patricia Price Hicks, Regina Harris, and Sakennia Reed. The school district will be fortunate to have any of these four candidates serve on the board.

Regina Harris has the strongest experience, with service on multiple PTA boards, including president at Richardson High School, and district-level committees, including the Diversity/Equity/Inclusion Committee and Community Engagement Action Team. Harris is best positioned to have an immediate impact on the board. Her priorities are to achieve diverse representation across RISD, diverse community participation, and fair and adequate funding in each district. Harris will bring a unique viewpoint that will enrich the board, not conflict with it. With the right attitude and with goals important to RISD, Harris would be a strong addition to RISD's Board of Trustees. The Wheel recommends Regina Harris.

RISD Board of Trustees District 5

Incumbent Karen Clardy is unopposed.

Constitutional Amendments

Proposition 4: "NO"

Proposition 4 makes it harder for the legislature to put the question of a state income tax to a vote by the people.

There is no state income tax now. There won't be one in the future, either, whether you vote YES or NO on this Proposition. So why the proposition? If it ain't broke, why are they fixing it? Look at the details to see what's really going on here.

The Texas Constitution already prohibits a state income tax without approval by Texas voters. Apparently, the legislature doesn't trust future voters, so they want to make it harder for future legislators to put the question to the voters.

It pays to dig a little deeper to see what else might be going on. There are two subtle changes that were slipped into this amendment as well, both worth looking at.

One, the wording forbids instituting an income tax on "individuals," not "natural persons" like all other tax law specifies. This Constitutional amendment opens up the possibility of a court challenge to the state's franchise tax (or margin tax) on businesses. There was a last minute law passed that says "individuals" means "natural persons", but that's only a law, not part of the Constitutional amendment. Who knows how a court might rule on whether a law can overrule the wording of the Constitution. Besides, a law can easily be repealed by the state legislature without asking voters.

Two, the amendment repeals the current Constitutional provision that if an income tax is ever passed, two-thirds of the money raised has to be used to reduce property taxes and one-third must go to public education. With that Constitutional provision swept away, a future income tax (however unlikely that might be) could be used for any purpose whatsoever.

The Wheel recommends a "NO" vote on Proposition 4.

Proposition 9: "NO"

This proposition would exempt gold and other precious metals from ad valorum property taxation. Businesses would be able to escape taxation of their income-producing investments by converting them to gold and placing them in an repository. If you believe in the free market, and don't believe government should be picking winners and losers, then you should oppose this constitutional amendment that favors one investment category over others. Gold shouldn't be unfairly advantaged in tax law.

The Wheel recommends a "NO" vote on Proposition 9.

Proposition 1,2,3,-,5,6,7,8,-,10: YES.

Some of these are good and deserve passage. Some matter to a few people and won't affect most of us either way, so voting YES is at least harmless. One proposition, however, shows the absurdity of how the Texas Constitution is used for picayune regulations instead of focusing on the fundamental principles of government. That's Proposition 10 that would allow retired police dogs to live with their handler. You read that right. You see, otherwise the dogs could be considered "property" and the Constitution apparently spells out how state property must be disposed of. Allowing a retired police dog to live with his handler is not one of the approved methods. It shouldn't require a Constitutional amendment to treat an old dog humanely, but apparently it does. The Texas Constitution has been amended 498 times because of all that's been crammed into it. It needs to be rewritten entirely and stripped of silly details that are best left to elected representatives. And in cases where voter approval is a justifiable careabout (maybe like for instituting an income tax), the Constitution should trust the people to decide (unlike Proposition 4, which makes it harder to trust the people). As it is, frivolous matters are turned over to the voters and important matters are prevented from the same.

"I never saw anything funnier than Texas politics."
— Molly Ivins


E. Bradshaw said...

Thank you for your diligence in being informed about local, state, and national politics. I value your insight and advice.

Mark Steger said...

In District 2, Eron Linn was elected with 55% of the vote.
In District 4, Regina Harris was elected with 51% of the vote.
Nine of the ten constitutional amendments passed, including Prop 4 and 9. Only Prop 1 failed, which would have allowed voters to elect municipal judges to serve in more than one city at a time.