People Taking Power

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“The insiders who currently do the choosing are upset that so many voters want a voice in local government.”

One of the last things local officials seem to really want is true local control. That’s abundantly clear in the Dallas suburb of Richardson, where most of the city council and establishment groups are working to stop voters from being more involved.

For decades, the city’s mayor has been selected behind closed doors by the city council — despite a provision in the Texas Constitution giving that right to voters.

As the Dallas Morning News reports today, a petition to change the method of selection garnered more than 4,000 signatures this summer, forcing the city council to put the change before the voters in November.

Predictably, the insiders who currently do the choosing are upset that so many voters want a voice in local government. The arguments against the proposal reek of a very unfriendly elitism.

“If you let the public elect the mayor, then the public does not know the chemistry of the City Council members,” said Joe Russum, of the status-quo-defending Richardson Coalition.

The current mayor, Bob Townsend, doesn’t seem to have much faith in the people of Richardson to pick the right person for the job. He says that “the mayor has to work closely with the council. They need to be in step with each other.”

Put bluntly, that’s disgusting. The mayor and the city council need to be in step not “with each other”, but rather with the voters and taxpayers.

For as inconvenient as it might be to Mr. Townsend, Mr. Russum and the Richardson Coalition, the office of the mayor — and city government at-large — is not an exclusive club for a good-ol’-boy network.

Government belongs to the people. And it looks like in Richardson, the people are demanding that they be allowed to finally and fully exercise that ownership. That’s a refreshingly welcome power-play for the right kind of local control.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael is president and CEO of Empower Texans, and its premier project, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. A graduate of Texas A&M, former newspaper reporter, one-time Capital Hill staffer, think tank vice president and an Eagle Scout, Sullivan is married with three children. He divides his time between the Metroplex, the rest of Texas, and Austin.

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