My thoughts on Plano City Politics and the City Elections
Posted by Mike O on May 1, 2011
In the city political landscape- both in the council and the school board- something has long been lost and that is adequate supervision of the respective administration by the elected officials. Both administrations are very good; however, their viewpoint is that from a bureaucracy, not necessarily that of the taxpayer. Most of time they do very well, but far from perfect. And the elected officials should be willing to spend the time to look at the details and challenge- respectfully- everything and anything that doesn’t make sense in terms of fulfilling the core services and the most bang for the buck. This is especially essential now in these hard economic times, where the over reliance on high growth rate and flourishing economies is coming to bite BOTH entities.
A simple example: The city of Plano, after several years of serious shortfalls, still retains a position of ‘urban forester’, who apparently spent a great deal of time this last year determining the GPS location of every tree on public land. Never have I seen a job better suited to a couple troops of Boy Scouts- at considerable taxpayer savings- than this one. It has been pointed out several times- and yet the position remains. Bureaucracy over common sense? Probably. And NOT ONE City Council candidate has had the guts to stand up and say the Arts Center is a bad idea at this time and should NOT be funded.
I do not call these recommendations, simply because I am not completely satisfied with ANY of them in term of bringing an effective, objective eye on the City Council or even the School Board to represent the average taxpayer with focus on fiscal restraint. Not one can claim to be a ‘Tea Party candidate’ (for good or ill). However, some represent at least some change in the way things have always been done, and will give fresher eyes to look at things than we’ve sometimes had in the past. Possibly we’ll even get som split votes out of some of these, and something other than mindless rubber-stamping of the administration’s recommendations.
In my OWN decision, it is actions and not words that bear most weight. The action that carries the LEAST weight is calling a perceived Tea Party leader at the last minute and ask for a meeting to pitch their candidacy; that totally ignores the primary dynamic of the Tea Party movement; we are grassroots organized and without being available to make your case to the group, your case can not be effectively made. That group might establish a vetting committee (when it has the time and resources to do so), but it is still more than one or two people doing the research, asking the questions and coming to a decision for the group. Currently, our group is trying to rest its primary resources for the much bigger fight to come next year; fights over billions and trillions, not millions as in the city races.
So here are my personal picks: if you don’t like them, tough: they are my picks and no surrogate sent- from within or without the Tea Party movement- to argue me out of them will be successful. I have not spent as much time on them as I normally would like; trying to fight Austin from afar, do organizational things, keep my kids going in Uganda through 100% inflation there (and now, bullets and tear gas associated with full-scale riots), and working for a living does limit my time for city stuff these days.
Plano City Council Picks
Place 7: Greg Myer is my pick here. He seems to at least recognize the need for fiscal responsibility, even though he is honest about his continued support for the Arts Center. He has come many meeting of the Tea Party and certainly got an earful. He spoke to a couple of us on the roundtable leadership extensively and seems to have some good ideas of what needs to be done. Matt Greer, who I’d seen speak, in an event or two, called me late, wanting that meeting. Our discussion on the phone was far more him slamming Greg than talking about what he envisions for city government. Greg is, as I’ve already said about all of them, far from an ideal candidate. But he spent quite a bit of time listening to average taxpayers; and that counts for a lot.
Place 5: Russell Head for a couple reasons. Russell seems to actually listen, not so focused on selling himself. In some ways, I doubt he is the most conservative candidate in the race; but, since none of them are solid conservatives, I’d rather take one of them in it for the right reasons. He is cautious and seems to be looking for a lot of answers, not willing to take things on faith.
Jim Duggan is a nice guy and dedicated to the city; but he- more than any other candidate on the ballot- represents a continuance of the way things have been. He talks a good game of fiscal responsibility, but he simply would not have had the position he had if he DIDN’T play ball with the powers that be. Just the expression on his face when I mentioned the possibility of not funding the Arts Center; it was clear I was speaking heresy. Agree or disagree on this, but because a few powerful people want something despite the financial times, does not make it the thing to do.
Matt Lagos comes across in a big way as primarily interested in one thing; Collin Creek Mall. It is an important asset, but not the MOST important. And I would strongly urge him, if he’s going to go to the Candidate Forum held by the Democrats and send a surrogate to the Tea Party Candidate forum instead, send someone who at least knows his name (the fellow said Matt Duggin at least twice before being corrected.)
Jim Duggan also went to the Democrat forum rather than the Tea Party one; apparently he made an earlier commitment to theirs. Matt apparently likewise. I heard the Dems had maybe 15 Plano residents while the Plano Tea Party had 50-55 (One of the biggest forums, I gather). The ‘chose poorly’.
Place 3: Cathy Fang, reluctantly. Like many others, I am deeply concerned about the problems she’s had since her last campaign in terms of due diligence in her accounting business. Certainly nothing criminal; just inadequate due diligence. Had I known about this SEC stuff and the like earlier, I just might have filled out the paperwork and run myself (and taken a verbal beatdown from the wife for doing so; if I went into this she knows it would take even more of my time than I spend now.)
However, my vote comes down to this (and, again, if you don’t like it….): there is a subculture in the political world of Plano that seems to live and breath based on nasty rumor and gossip; personal slander is their trade currency. If there is blowback on any given rumor, they quickly deny such a rumor ever existed. It is vicious and vindictive group …and it simply hates Cathy with a passion. Bluntly I suspect some of central characters (which seem centered in West Plano) are the ultimate elitists- with a hint of racism. The kind of people who sniff at the clothes others wear, the cars they drive, even the builders who built their home here. They want everybody to play the city government game by their rules: Leadership training, volunteering in the ‘right’ areas, and the like. And I feel anyone who draws their ire is worthy of a benefit of a doubt. We are often known for the enemies we draw- and sometimes to be respected for them. (Ironically, most cities have the same gossipy sub-culture; my mother faced the same in her successful run for City Council- in Hutchinson, Kansas in 1967).
I like Andre as a person- and she hasn’t done a bad job. But she is NOT one to ever challenge the administrative voice of authority, simply because she has NO background for doing so. And, sometimes, you need just ONE on a council who actually reads the numbers and asks the questions to make a difference. Cathy’s possibility of doing this is probably greater than any other candidate.
Plano School Board Picks
It was stunning with the attitude of the majority of the Board (more than by the decision itself) on the Academy building, which was CLEARLY rushed through to avoid the upcoming new board having a say in it. I know there is a real need for leadership change here (and that leadership cannot come with someone who showed the arrogance Missy Bender demonstrated that night.)
Place 5: David Stolle. In this race, David is clearly the one more willing to consider making changes and asking the questions necessary to bring back a focus on the basics of education within the economic realities of the day. David certainly going to ‘play well with others’ on the board; he will be willing to ask the questions necessary for all board members to consider more angles than currently
Place 4: Steve Day is the EASIEST decision of all of these. Steve will definitely INSIST on having answers to all aspects before committing scarce resources beyond fundamental education in hard time. He will also most assuredly delve into the details of budgets to confirm the PISD Administration is getting the most bang for the buck. Bart Ridley is clearly an extension of more of the same.