There were lots of messages sent across North Texas in the most recent election, and sifting their meaning is important to understanding where people stand these days on government.
One that struck us as otherwise unremarked, but nevertheless telling, came in Allen, a town known for loving its high school sports and especially its football program.
Despite that, voters decided to limit the school district’s spending on sports. They also made it tougher for elected officials, namely the mayor and council, to become entrenched career politicians.
Allen voters rejected charter changes that would have allowed council members and the mayor to serve three consecutive terms instead of two, increased lifetime elected public service from 12 years to 18 years and would have allowed a person who has served the maximum terms or years to be appointed to fill an unexpired vacancy. Those changes were roundly defeated by more than 1,100 votes, with 56.6% of votes cast opposing the measure.
School district voters also sent a message to the Allen ISD, this one on fiscal accountability. Voters turned aside two bond propositions totaling $23.6 million that the school district wanted to use to pay for several facility updates, including the Allen High School tennis complex, the weightlifting center at the Lowery Freshman Center, and the Allen ISD Activities Center. Both spending propositions drew the opposition of nearly 60% of voters.
It is rare that local voters reject school district bonds or have opportunities to consider changing the length of the terms of elected officials, which in the case of the city of Allen, would have allowed the mayor and council to stay in office longer. Supporters had argued that the change in terms would put Allen on par with neighboring Collin County cities and improve continuity of government. With all due respect, voters disagreed.
Voters in the school district also sent a “you work for us” message to Allen ISD officials, who last year won a close victory with the passage of a $214 million bond package, but decided to double down and repackage items that didn’t win voter approval then into new and larger bond proposals this year. And voters drew the line with a resounding rejection.
Since voter turnout wasn’t overwhelming, the outcome reflected a level of activism, if not broad-based voter engagement. But it gauges where the strongest feelings are in the suburbs — and they are decidedly against expanded government, even it’s for something cities have supported repeatedly, like great sports.
We’ll learn over time whether voters did the right things for the school district and city government. But at a time when many Americans feel that government is getting too big and too powerful, Allen voters grabbed the megaphone and made their voices heard.
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