Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Forum notes from a reader...

Thoughts and notes from part of last nights Forum:

The format was confusing. Written questions were asked first, drawn from a hat by each candidate. If the question drawn had a specific person's name on it, the person it was addressed to was asked the question and another question was drawn. Unless the original candidate wanted to answer the question. In which case, the candidate who the question was addressed to could also answer the question, or not.


(as I refer to my notes):

Place 1

Bob Townsend
Did you support the bond package? Yes.
Do you support employee pay raises? Yes, we will look at this again. We were able to give step increases, thankfully.
Most pressing environmental issue? Only 25% of homes recycle.
How to get more retail? I chair the Retail Committee and have been on it for 2 years. There is not much we can do. (???)
BT gave upbeat answers, for the most part. Regarding possible future bond packages, he complimented the citizens, saying that we know that it's an investment in the city.
Grade = C (points off for most pressing environmental issue and 'not much we can do' re: new Retail, with him as the chair of that committee. Don't look to him for new ideas in that area.)

William Gordon
No show
Grade = Incomplete

Place 2

Mark Solomon
Have you read the Charter and Budget? Yes, I study them and devote Sat and Sunday to reading, also (probably reading for the next Council meeting, in that case, also).
What do you think about the NPAR? I think HOAs and HOA pres meetings are great ways to communicate. If some other group is needed, then we'll give them the same attention and respect as the other groups.
Why are you running? Place 2 is where the action is. East Side, new Transfer Station, Bush Renner development. We're excited by all of the good things happening.
How to balance the budget? We're doing a very good job. All debt is covered by taxes. We have AAA ratings so we're good.
Grade = C (I think the balanced budget question was incomplete. Bond ratings are not a full indicator of financial health. Also, Turn Down The Volume just a bit, please.)

John DeMattia
Do you support Term Limits? Yes, and he elaborated. Someone (audience? panel?) said 'that's what we already have' but John corrected them by saying 'the current council grandfathered themselves in. That should be changed. (If I'm understanding the charter correctly, John nailed that one.)
Should the NTMWD(?) increase the amount of trash at the Lookout station? The agreement is already in place so it's not open for discussion. However, I do not agree with the placement of the new station. As Steve Mitchell has said, Richardson is a different place than it was years ago .. and the transfer station should have been relocated to vacant land near Fujitsu, for example.
What question would you like to answer that you have not been asked tonight? Government and Citizen misunderstanding needs to be lessened. For example, the Bush Renner development with 7,000 apartments. The citizens could only give last-minute input. Compare that to Plano and a similar project, where the city gave the citizens 18 months lead time with frequent meetings and updates of the project. We need to do that sort of communication in Richardson.
PACS - Have they influenced your campaign? They fill a void for some people who have not been heard.
Grade = A (seems to know his stuff, no stumbles, and if his facts are accurate, a very solid forum for him)

Place 3

Scott Dunn
Talked about 'us' vs. 'them' that had been brought up earlier. His response: 'The RCA slate - They want to run the city and get rid of all the good things in the city.'
Do you agree with policy to buy back sick days? Yes. It's what people are told when they are hired. And since government jobs tend to pay less but have better benefits, it fits that.
The Spring Valley projects will need 180 million additional to be implemented. Are you OK with that? I've attended those sessions. The money will be coming back as businesses move in after the redevelopment.
Do you support once a week garbage pickup? I'm glad I got this question since there was misunderstanding from a prior meeting. No. I do not support once a week garbage pickup. But, if worse comes to worse, we could put it on the table.
Zero based budget - why doesn't the city have it? Because you have to rewrite the budget each year, the cost and effort to do that is too much. It's out of the question. (I don't know if his answer is correct or not. Anyone?)
Scott Dunn got a question that I wish would have gone to one of the incumbents: 'At the first meeting of the new Council, they go into private discussion, then come back to vote for the Mayor. What is said in that private meeting, and do you think the discussion should be public?' -- Well, Mr Dunn said "I don't know what is said in that meeting and I think it should be open..." (or something like that). I did notice Amir and Steve grinning as the question was asked. Wonder why?
Grade = F (loss of 1 letter grade for inability to concisely express himself in front of a group. I've talked with him, one-on-one, and he presents a smart, friendly personality. loss of the rest of the letter grades for the 'they ... want to get rid of all the good things in the city' answer. Wow)

Place 4

Laura Maczka
Do you have an environmental vision? As a member of Parks and Rec, yes .. (and a solid answer followed)
How long can apartment requests keep coming in to be approved? Answered with general 'keep an eye on the number of apts but support them in areas of high transit.'
What to cut to pay for infrastructure needs? Rather than cut, increase tax revenue with businesses coming into the city.
Were you hand picked by Gary Slagel? No, she says she considered several Council places. Is independent, has her own opinion on things, was not picked by Slagel.
What are your first two priorities if elected? Ensure that the new developments get off on the right foot. (I didn't catch priority #2)
Grade = A Two solid candidates, no incumbent. At this forum, I call a 'tie'.

Karl Voigtsberger
Question about 'us' vs. 'them'. I am not 'against' anything. I am running 'for' Place 4.
Do you support Agenda 21? Yes, recycle but I do not support Agenda 21. We should not give up soverignty to the United Nations. (Google this on your own, folks. First I've heard of it, but Karl V seemed familiar with it)
How can we balance the budget/ pay for infrastructure? Concentrate on infrastructure. For example, there was an overpass built for 6.5 million that served only one neighborhood. That could have been used for street repair throughout the city.
How does the city plan to pay for debt w/o raising taxes? They told us the 2010 bonds would raise taxes. I want to operate the city on a cash basis. Today, the balance sheet debt plus off balance sheet debt is greater than a half billion dollars. That must be addressed.
Why are you running? In Richardson 22 years, its a great city with citizen involvement. I'm suitably organized, a budget hawk, a financial data analyst.
Grade = A Two solid candidates, no incumbent. At this forum, I call a 'tie'.

Place 5

Kendal Hartley
Long, long winding question about Rec Center fees and if they will be increased. I mean, it was a long question. It brought some chuckles from some in the audience and some of the candidates. His answer was ok - He was (is?) on the Parks Board and is familiar with the fee structure. And the paid membership and use of the new Rec Center is far beyond planned levels. (I couldn't figure out if that meant increased fees would or would not be coming).
What should we do about the divisiveness in the city? My notes say "vague answer".
How can we get the culturally diverse groups together and into the process? Another long, long question. During his answer, Kendal chuckled about getting long, winding questions. A woman in the audience yelled out "Just answer it!" which brought a quick glance and raised eyebrow from Kendal. He then answered a good, general: We need to get groups together to participate. We welcome them.
What other groups are you involved in? He listed a number of boards and other volunteer groups over the last 15 years. A good track record of community involvement.
How can we get a Kohls in Richardson? I'd like to see a Kohls, too! Then he gave an answer that my notes show as "give up" (see below)
Grade = B- (Good presence, long time volunteer. His retail answer was similar to what we heard from some others. "The demographics of some areas in Richardson just don't support new retail. Until the demographics change, there's not much we can do". Well.. it seems that adding all the transit oriented apartment space isn't likely to increase the median income in Richardson, but what do I know...)

Dennis Stewart
If I conserve water, why does the city have to pay more for it? (the confusing deal that many North Texas cities have for water). Dennis explained it, with a good grasp of the concepts. Yes the water cost wouldn't go down, but our cost for the chemicals would go down, so there could be some decrease in fees. Plus, we want to conserve so allow up to 400 gallons of rainwater to be captured w/o a permit. Good factual content delivered in a slightly humorous manner.
How would you unite the city? There is no North South East West Richardson. Just Richardson. (Good answer)
What can we do to keep the (something) nature reserve near Bush Renner? Reduce the numbers of apartments to protect the area.
Pensions for city workers. How can we pay for them? Dennis is a retired RPD officer which he said up front, then gave the reasons for the pension short-fall which he says is state-wide. There is a funding plan in place, across the state, and cities are adding dollars for funding. The city is catching up.
What specific budget line would you increase? Dennis worked through two budgets, said it's not as simple as "one line" because all of the figures are closely calculated by city staff. Each budget is looked at closely. Good big-picture answer.
Grade = A (experience and seems to have respect from various groups in the city)

Place 6

Steve Mitchell
First question - in my notes I wrote "Joking twice"
Next question - Why do you want to serve? my notes: "Joking around" then he gave a heartfelt answer about family, roots, strength of Richardson
Next question - Should the Mayor election be city-wide? "Joking again" then gave a decent, yet evasive, answer. Richardson has changed from original charter. I support appointing a charter commission to look at all areas.
Next question - Did you support the bond package? No joking this time. Look at cities that seldom have bond packages. We don't want to be like those cities. We wanted to make an investment in the city and the electorate agreed.
Next question - Do you support the RISD bond proposal. "Another joke". Yes, he does support it, and gave a good, solid answer.
Grade = C (when he got around to answering, those were "A". The jokes took it down 2 letter grades. suggestion: don't make is so obvious that you are running unopposed. We know that. We get it. But for the folks who go to these forums, this is serious business. Mix in one joke per forum, that's great. But one joke per answer and I'm concerned. I know you take this seriously. But it'd be great if you acted the part... particularly since you're the leader in the vote for Mayor)

Place 7

Diana Clawson
How can we get more retail? Consider many things, help with rent, emphasize at transit oriented developments.
How do we decrease the total retail vacancies? As HOA president, did surveys of neighborhood, met with developers and the city, citizens need to be involved.
Lookout Transfer Station - how to be certain to protect the neighborhood? Diana knew a MOA is a Memorandum of Agreement and had signed it as HOA president. Generally, know the rules and do all we can to protect the neighborhoods.
City Mgr salary and benefits 350K, President of C of Commerce 400K - Do you agree with these salaries? As a taxpayer, I'm concerned that the City Mgr makes more than the President or Governor. Everything on the budget needs to be examined.
A question about neighborhood vitality projects - Attract "young professionals", keep neighborhoods maintained, neighborhood vitality is important.
A question from the audience Why did you change your mind about running in place 1 and move to place 7? Diana gave a rambling answer and moved to describing her qualifications and service to the city. (and I wonder what the heck difference does it make? She changed her mind. Why she decided to run against Amir rather than Bob is a mystery, but why ask?)
Grade = B (retail questions had vague answers. Transfer station, salary and neighborhood vitality questions were answered ok)

Amir Omar
How many multiple family units are needed in Richardson? If you don't know, will you keep voting "for" them and why? General answer emphasizing "young upcoming professionals"
How do we attract more businesses? Need new ideas and concentrate on "young and upcoming" residents.
How do we increase tax revenue? East Side and Brick Row are places that will generate more tax revenue.
Renner Road Development will increase the population of the city 25%. How will we pay for the services? So, that number of 25% is not correct .. but there are fire and police stations nearby now.
A question about neighborhood vitality funding, should it be budgeted. We do include vitality funding in the budget. Also, there is 800k to maintain trees in the current budget. (good answer to the 'where is the $$' question from Channel 5)
Grade = B (annoying overuse of "young upcoming professionals" and starting sentences with "So, ..." I'd look around the room, see that the majority of the audience are not young, upcoming types, and rephrase that particular bullet point)

Alan North No show - and since he hasn't been to any forums yet, well, he'd better have a strong strategy to make up lost ground. Grade = F      

Then I left. Did I miss anything?

{Editor's Note: Yes.}

Thanks Will for sharing your thoughts!


  1. Only think missing was the yelling at the end of the meeting. But bloggermuse covered that. Great summary. Thanks

  2. I hope this is asked of those who actually now serve or have served on the Council:

    At the first meeting of the new Council, they go into private discussion, then come back to vote for the Mayor. What is said in that private meeting, and do you think the discussion should be public?

  3. Margaret McLarnon TownsendApril 7, 2011 at 8:09 AM

    I have never claimed to be a political expert in anyway. I think most people that read my blogs can see that. . . and most citizens that are as uninformed probably would not be blogging much less using her NAME. So the questions I have probably makes no sense to someone much more in the know. I thought the forums were to get an insight into how a candidate thinks and maybe into their decision making process. I honestly thought Diana’s point for running for Place 1 was admirable and understandable being a HOA President. She felt her neighborhood needed more representation. I guess after the meeting with Bob she felt better about that concern and felt she could serve our city better in an open Place as in 7. I just wondered why? I guess it is a STUPID question. But when one is not politically astute then one could draw some unfair assumptions. I did not want to unfairly believe she had an ulterior motive. Which of course is her right. Now to say she just “changed her mind” is great. . . I do it all the time but I am not so sure I could use that defense if I were on the city council. I would think I needed to explain why I thought something one week and just “changed my mind” the next week. The discussion I had with John DeMattia after the forum was a little more insightful. . . I am convinced he makes a great pizza(from friends raving about them) but he also makes a lot of good points about some of his concerns. And I bet he would always let us know why he “just changed his mind”. Probably will not be asking anymore “senseless” questions at forums which in my case means. . .will not be asking any more questions!! mmt

  4. I thought it was an awesome question!

    The answer was insane, but the question was great.

  5. So, Destiny, if I understand correctly the review of the meeting and the grades given were from one of your readers. Is that right? If so, I'd like to know if you were there and if you agree with the grades or would have filled out the report cards differently. Just askin'.

  6. I agreed with much of his insight, but probably would've graded a few differently.

    Karl did good and I was impressed with how he knew about Agenda 21, but I still think Laura blew him out of the water. And I would've flunked Diana based on her "why did you switch to place 7" answer. It was something along the lines of 'because I wanted to run against Amir Omar and because as a woman I thought it might be easier. *barf*

    I was offended as a voter and a woman by that one. Not to mention, I felt like she gave up a bit of the RCA playbook. Would've been easier for who? You or William Gordon because white man vs. white man, is better than white man vs. iranian-pakistani-muslim man. Yep, better go with woman vs. brown guy. Once again, she played the vagina card. (F-)

    Also, I probably would've graded the HOA too. They were a low C. Not only did one of the board members yell at Kendall Hartley (which was SUPER awkward), but when Shelly went after Steve (while many of her points were valid) I thought it was pretty unprofessional and selfish. Put the whole room in the middle of their fight and honestly made me uncomfortable. I have to say, I think that's what led to the guy shouting at DeMattia, "What should we do, tear the G** d*** thing down!?" in reference to the Eisemann. When the HOA officers set the level of civility that low, why would anyone be surprised when it gets out of hand with the audience.

  7. I can't imagine you ever uncomfortable or offended. Next at bat is "double M" T.

    And by the way after you meet Alan North, you might have a problem remaining "queer for Amir."

  8. Margaret McLarnon TownsendApril 7, 2011 at 11:43 PM

    Anonymous 9:09, At bat. . . are you pitching?? "double M T"

  9. hi MMT. You certainly can ask anything you wish, in a Forum or in person with any of the candidates.

    I apologize if my comments gave you the impression that I think it's a stupid question. I don't ... I just don't understand the curiosity.

    I guess that Diana would give you a complete answer if you called or emailed her. Just a guess...

  10. @Anon 9:09- Rest assured, my queerness runs through and through. :)

  11. Margaret McLarnon TownsendApril 8, 2011 at 8:02 AM

    Will, No that didn't work either, . . talked after the forum. . .said the same thing. ."umh, I talked to some people". . .and they convinced you why?? Talked to John D after the forum also(never had before) he has his own answers. . never said "umh. . .I talked to some people" Her answer to two others was "Just decided to change!!". Like I said "I love changing my mind for no reason". . .I know I would not have that luxury if running for City Council!! I can usually understand anyone after hearing where they are coming from. . . not happening with Diana. . .maybe she will have more answers the next time she is on NBC news.(she likes asking the questions better then giving the answers!!) She also told me she has NO idea why NBC called her. . . completely out of the blue. . . Grant woke up one morning dreaming about Tree the Town and started dailing numbers. . and Diana answered!! Her answers just make for more questions!!! I thought maybe just for me. . . a few emails I have recieved says I am not alone!! mmt The RCA talks about puppets all the time. . .they make a good point. . .we don't want any. . .We Want A Puppetless Council!!! Laura is no Puppet. . .Diana. . not so sure. . .I think Diana has her Puppet strings in a wad. . .hopefully she will get untangled!!!

  12. Margaret McLarnon TownsendApril 8, 2011 at 8:28 AM

    Will, didn't answer the question on curiosity(starting to sound like Diana). Only curious because before the FLIPFLOP. . she was telling Bob Townsend her reasons for running against him. . . .so she is the one who wanted to explain WHY I WANT TO RUN IN PLACE 1(even though no one had asked) so since she put her reasons out there. . . it made me curious why Place 7 suddenly got more important then her Beloved Place 1!!mmt Maybe her love of TREES!!

  13. mmt, you logic and comments are very irrational. but you do add something to grin about. gotta say that. try being consistent every now and then.