Concern Over Growth Sparks A Revolution In Richardson

Elections in Richardson have long followed the pattern of most suburban cities: low interest, low turnout, and long tenure for incumbents. Ray Noah held the mayor’s job for sixteen years before retiring in 1983 to make way for Martha Ritter, herself a council member since 1973. In the 1983 election, nobody bothered to challenge any of the incumbent council members.

This past April, however, the status quo in Richardson was radically reshuffled. After an unusually spirited campaign, voters dumped three incumbents, including Ritter and her protege”, Gary Skaggs, who also is president of the North Central Texas Council of Goveniments. Two other members retired, giving the seven-member council five new faces. Attorney Charles Spann, who defeated Ritter, was named the new mayor.

The issues that sparked the Richardson revolution are familiar to most Dallas voters: how to balance rapid growth and its attendant headaches with the need for a thriving economy and a healthy tax base. Newcomers Spann and Mary Ann Fraley are past presidents of the Canyon Creek Homeowners Association; along with challenger Ken Bell, they campaigned against a council they claimed was inaccessible and too friendly to developers. The challengers were particularly frustrated by a council decision in October that gave twenty-nine million square feel of development rights to Herbert and Bunker Hunt in exchange for the right of way necessary to complete proposed Slate Highway 190.

In his campaign literature, Spann warned of the “Canyons of Concrete” that would engulf the city if the pro-development trend continued. Fraley boasted that she was “not afraid of stepping on toes, however powerful or influential.”

On election day. Spann out-polled Ritter by a margin of 2,687 to 2,502. Thai’s far from a majority of the town’s 41,150 registered voters, but not bad, considering that the previous high vote had been 3,209 hack in 1967. A third candidate got 371 votes, forcing a runoff two weeks later. Spann won, although Ritter charged him with a “no-growth” mentality.

The new council will probably chart its own course on development in Richardson. Developers will be granted fewer blank checks, but it’s unlikely that any anti-business clique will dominate the council. All the new members are in business themselves: two of them. Bell and Gary Slagel, are executives at Texas Instruments.

Comments