Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tuesday Night Smack Down at Sonny Brian’s

There were just a few items missing from last night’s mayor debate: Blood and guts, fat lips and bloody noses. It was a slugfest! It was just the opposite of the love-fest every Monday night at the council sessions where consensus seems to rule.

Both candidates came out strongly with their views. It was a good debate but could have been made much better with choices on the questions. Some were very lame softball questions and had nothing to do with the determination of whether the candidate is qualified to be mayor.

Offsetting some of the lame questions, there were some follow up question asked which really dug into the meat and potatoes of what was being spoken about. This is where both candidate elaborated and held firm on their positions.

On the Natatorium (for us old timers, a Natatorium is a $3 word for an “indoor Swimming Pool”)

Laura Maczka seems to back the idea that we need another bond election to build the indoor swimming pool at a cost of about $30 million. Amir Omar is forwarding the idea that we should work with RISD and share time between student and the general public at Berkner and Pearce high schools.

It is my thought that Amir’s idea would be a far better deal for the residents than Laura’s idea if it can be worked out. The city would share some of the costs associated with running the pool and pretty much none of the capital cost to build the pools.

Laura made the claim that the school pools are completely booked from about 4am to about 10pm every day. Amir made the claim that he has already made contact with some of the admin of RISD and think a deal may be able to be worked out. Laura came back with a comment that the city needs to go it alone on a pool because some of the seniors currently using the pool complain the water is too cold which seems to contradict her previous statement that there was no pool time available.

Amir’s idea is innovative and I think worth pursuing. It will not add to the debt like Laura’s proposition and may still give people yet another amenity in this town of amenities to enjoy.

The Agenda Setting Behind Closed Doors

Once again Laura said that for anything to be placed on the agenda at least 4 councilpersons must approve it.  This is not done in public, but behind the scenes. Every week it seems, the council members have meeting with city management. They discuss what ever and I think this is where lots of behind the scene work goes on. This also appears to be where lots of tax payer money gets spent on food and booze. The city managers credit card shows almost daily expense for food, sometimes $20 dollars for grub and sometimes $700 or $800 in feed. If you have never seen the credit card statements for the city management, you should do a Freedom of Information Request and take a peek. The amount of food, booze and gas will probably shock you.

I think a better idea for setting agenda items would be an agenda item at toward the end of the agenda where the council people make suggestion for the agenda items for the next meeting and approve or dismiss the items in a public vote.

RPD Narcotics Unit

Apparently,  a former police chief with wondering hand syndrome  disbanded the old narcotics unit. We don’t have a drug problem here in Richardson (not one bad enough for a narcotics unit, apparently). It came to light in this debate that there was a home in the panhandle of Richardson being used for growing pot. Apparently to keep off the grid, they plug directly into the grid, electrically I am thinking. Who said the dope growers were smart.

Laura made the argument that the police already have trained officers to deal with drugs without the need for a dedicated drug unit. Amir pointed out that all of the cities surrounding Richardson have their own drug unit.

Laura has a recurring theme for Amir’s suggestion, “How do we pay for it?” My answer would be to start with limiting how much money we allow the city management to spend on food and booze with maybe a $10 limit per meal or let feed himself with his own money. That would be a good start. Amir also pointed out that many narcotics units usually pay for themselves with fines and forfeitures.

Donation Source – Where Did the Money Coming From

Financial filing will be available very soon at the city secretary’s office and some questions will be answered. Laura claims she has taken no pack money. Technically she may be correct. I think what the financial support will show for her is that individuals members of the Richardson Coalition donated directly to her or made in-kind donation. She will probably have fewer donors that Amir who gave an average high amount than Amir.

Amir will probably have a few large donors also. But based on the last financial report I am willing to be that Amir had many more donors than Laura.
Laura claims to have raised about $55k. Amir claims to have raised about $70.

Overall Impression

Overall both candidates did a great job. Richardson residents will win with either of them as mayor. They are both a step up from where we have been.

From my point of view there are some shortcomings with Laura and her not being tenacious enough through her first two years. There are problems that have been going on for a long time in Richardson where I have seen little initiative taken on her part. Fund Sweeps, what I look at as credit card abuse from the city manager’s office, and a few other things.

I have not agreed with Amir on everything and some things I have been against that he has done and wants to do. He has probably been more active that all the rest of the council combined in his efforts to improve Richardson. He has come up with some unexpected and novel viewpoints and creative initiatives. He has demonstrated that his is willing to work on solutions for problems even though some of the other council members don’t see the need. For example, Mark Solomon said he had not heard from the citizens they wanted direct election of the mayor, so dismissed the idea when it came to a vote. 75% to 25% tells me Solomon didn’t have a clue what the citizens want.

It comes down to this for me: Amir has shown he will lead, even if he has no consensus from the other council members while Laura seems to want to lead only if there is a consensus to do so. Maybe I am wrong about that, but it is the impression I have.     

The room was filled to standing room only. Here are a few pictures of the night. Click on any of the images to enlarge (and no, your vision isn't blurry, my phone camera is)
Cheri and Casper



  1. I found it fascinating that Laura spent a great deal of effort pushing for a $30 million natatorium (w/ a debt service of over $1 million annually) while, at the same time, arguing that the City cannot afford a Narcotics Unit to address the drug problems in Richardson. Her argument included, “What Amir isn’t telling you is that someone is going to have pay for this and it could cost approximately $1 million a year.” Real nice - let’s choose a 30+ million natatorium over lowering the crime here in the city. THAT’S the purpose of our city government – right??? To provide cool stuff for its residents. Interestingly, Laura noted that it is the residents of the City that are demanding the natatorium through the Parks Master Plan process. What she fails to mention is that there only about 100-150 residents that are pushing this $30+ million natatorium. As she acknowledged, these are the senior citizens that desire water aerobics. I guess after further reflection, her position makes complete sense. Let’s take on huge debt for a cool natatorium ($1+million a year for the life of the bond) rather than pay $1 million a year over the next 30+ years to lower crime and make our city safer. Oh, I’m not even going to get into my thoughts concerning the fact that her son is a nationally ranked swimmer. I’m sure that has NOTHING to do with this push for a THIRD natatorium in Richardson. Just ask Mark Solomon about his grand-daughter who loves gymnastics. That also had NOTHING to do with him pushing staff to include the new Gymnastics Center on the last bond election. Good times here in Richardson. Good times. Oh, and cool stuff too. Lots of cool stuff. Don’t worry about the crime rate though.

  2. I saw two very different people last night. One who seems to enjoy spending other people's money and one who wanted to spend other people's money in a thrifty way.I go for the thrifty way and hope otherdo too.

  3. I go to the gym to swim (although I have a pool in my back yard). I've been doing that for 20+ years, paying the membership.

    I don't expect the city to provide every amenity I want (the library is pretty much it.)

    Coming from another state, I really thought Texans were for small government. I'm truly shocked! Sounds like Richardson is becoming a nanny city.

    If the city council tries to put this one over on the citizens, we should recall them.

  4. Alan North looks like a magician. Maybe that explains why he just suddenly appeared.

  5. I attended the Tea Party with very different thoughts when we got home. Especially based on the group we used to attend. I have to agree with 6:31 on smaller government. There is little here to compare to the values the Tea Party stands for. Surprising. From what I heard from the two candidates, Omar has a stronger platform he has put thought into. He was much closer to a Ted Cruz, than the other candidate. We have heard many comments from neighbors about both. After listening last night, I may change my mind, to my own surprise and vote for this guy.

  6. It is clear Laura has some preconceived notions on safety that appear to be incorrect. When you carry this over to the rental registration and inspections, a building inspector certainly cannot protect a tenant as Laura proclaimed.

    Police have no legal duty to respond and prevent crime or protect the victim. There have BEEN OVER 10 various supreme and state court cases the individual has never won. Notably, the Supreme Court STATED about the responsibility of police for the security of your family and loved ones is "You, and only you, are responsible for your security and the security of your family and loved ones. That was the essence of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the early 1980's when they ruled that the police do not have a duty to protect you as an individual, but to protect society as a whole."

    It would seem to stand that if a well trained police officer cannot protect an individual, than an unlicensed, inexperienced code officer can't either.

  7. The prosecutor for our Municipal Court in Richardson determined that the inspector is not even qualified to talk about the ordinance. Begs the question, are they qualified to inspect??

    MR. WYATT: Your Honor, I do object to the witness -- I think we've established Defense counsel has established he's not a qualified witness to talk about the ordinance. He's not a lawyer. He didn't draft the ordinance.

  8. Sorry to highjack your post to discuss Residential Rental Inspections but it was the first question of the night.

    The question should have been ‘Will you appoint an independent non-profit commission to review every ordinance and city by-law to determine that it applies to every citizen equally??’ example – residential rental homes are no different than owner-occupied homes – why aren’t owner occupied homes inspected??

    Richardson Texas Home Inspection Program – make sure there are covers on all the light switches – some how Judge Noah got the notion that homes are rented in Richardson with light switches hanging out the wall, make sure the toilets aren’t leaking (water conservation), make sure there are no windows stuck (how many owner-occupied windows are stuck), check to be sure there is no drug use, check to make sure there are no pet stains on the carpet, make sure there are no holes in the ceilings, check to... well, you get the point. No difference between a tenant and an ordinary resident.

    Let’s do it for the vitality of the city, throw in a little health and safety and it all equals - every home in Richardson should be inspected.

    Curious word to use ‘vitality’ m-w - a : the peculiarity distinguishing the living from the nonliving.

  9. You guys need to give up your made up fight on rental registration.

    Residents love it. Neighborhood leaders love it. I know realtors are against it but given the current state of Richardson real estate that sells homes fast at the moment in most areas they have little to stand on.

  10. Good Morning April 12, 2013 at 7:28 AM,

    Everybody loves it as long as they're not inspecting your home.

    No body worries with someone else's 4th amendment right... wait until it's yours.

  11. >April 12, 2013 at 7:28 AM

    Are you Joe Citizen?

    You and pro-program people, including city staff, never provide quantitative data to back up your claim.

    The record shows that several HOAs were against the program when it was conceived.

    Who are the "residents"? Renters? How many renters did you actually talk to? Some of us went door do door. We haven't come across ANY renter who loves it. Even council members are aware of that because those who refused inspections went to the council meeting to voice their opposition. (You don't even have these facts right.)

    Even the renters who thought their properties aren't well-kept aren't happy with inspections because they're the ones who have to take time off to let an inspector in for an inspection AND a re-inspection, and as a result, the condition of the properties doesn't improve.

    And please do NOT tell me you care about renters. You guys don't! You just want to get rid of rentals from your neighborhood, which isn't going to happen, with or without the rental registration program.

    >the current state of Richardson real estate that sells homes fast at the moment in most areas they have little to stand on.

    This doesn't even make sense.

    BTW, some of us aren't against registering our rentals. We're against forced inspections. Those who want to be inspected can be inspected without this ordinance.

  12. >April 12, 2013 at 7:28 AM

    Hey Joe Citizen, I’m sure there a few other Nazis like you in the city that think it’s just dandy for the city’s code enforcement goons to force their way into people’s homes, but I doubt very seriously that you have any idea what the majority would think about such unwarranted and unnecessary and ineffective government intrusions.

    Rental inspections are a classic slippery slope, and the owner-occupants out there who don’t live in Canyon Creek or somewhere similar need to understand that once the government has established its authority to get into a private home, then it’s not a big leap to envision it turning its attention to owner-occupied homes that just don’t quite measure up to the city’s inflated view of itself.

  13. April 12, 2013 at 7:28 AM

    How do you know those fast sales are just homeowners and not investors? There are several sales in my neighborhood of young couples that are trading up houses, which in essence is an investor. They want to stage into their dream home. It is one way to real estate investing that paces the inflation government and banking creates.

    Whether you want to believe it or not, the young families you think will come to Richardson are far and few between. There is nothing new and creative the Council and staff are doing. They are copying what has already been done elsewhere in the country. Every one of them say we have a great city, but we have to level every part of it to move forward. That makes no sense at all. You are being programmed to believe a lie. Well, at least the lie they need you to believe for a vote.

  14. "Whether you want to believe it or not, the young families you think will come to Richardson are far and few between. There is nothing new and creative the Council and staff are doing. They are copying what has already been done elsewhere in the country. Every one of them say we have a great city, but we have to level every part of it to move forward. That makes no sense at all. You are being programmed to believe a lie. Well, at least the lie they need you to believe for a vote. "

    Fierce criticism but that's all it is. What ideas make up your vision for a better city? What amenities would you give up or add? What services would you give up or add?


  15. It is not any different than the criticism of Laura to keep hammering some neighborhoods need revitalizing and that the citizens HAVE to accept that. She has said that many times.

    To your response: Fierce criticism but that's all it is. I agree.

    How can you have a specific rebuttal when the dialog is vague and global in the first place?

    Staff and the Council already know there is not the import of the young families they would like. How many times do you have to hear Bob Townsend say retail is not coming to Richardson? Staff has admitted they have restricted too much in the past to get retail here now. Does anyone ever say that? Does anyone ever claim we have tried this or that? Never. It is always Richardson is a great city.

    If you really want to know the truth, many here just want to know the truth. Simple as that. You have to like election time. Especially, this one. It has brought more dialog and discussion than any time in the last decade.

    You have to know where you are in order to plan where you are going.
    Back to that transparency thing.
    Many ideas have been shared and dismissed, maybe. One wouldn't know if you never get a response. So start with that list.

  16. You guys have it wrong. Retail misses Richardson for several reasons most of which are correctable with effort. The problem is we don't put forth the effort with skilled people. We have more skilled people with corporate relocation. Retail isn't a priority at the chamber. If it was a priority then we would have more success at it.

  17. Really? Every year the Chamber takes credit for all kinds of retail. Even when they never have met the business owners.

    I was speaking specifically on the "Retail Committee" whose responsibility is retail, but the apparently do not know how. Busy doing not much. Good for appearances, though.

    We could go so far as TIF board that is not allowed to do anything but create the appearance of democracy in following local government code. They get to gather for an annual meeting where staff tells them what they did.
    Boutique retail there. Much vacant.

    Large supply of vacant office is a good place for the Chamber to work. Relocation takes a business from one city to another. Like taking State Farm from it's N Dallas campus to Richardson. Just seems like an infighting game when looking for growth and expansion.