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Special interests are once again bankrolling Plano politics, donating to “pro-developer” council candidates backed by the city’s mayor.

High-density real estate developer Sam Ware donated $1,000 each to a slate of four Plano City Council candidates backed by Mayor Harry LaRosiliere, according to the latest campaign finance reports. Ware’s company Dreien Opportunity Partners is on track to build a 795-unit apartment complex at the former J.C. Penney corporate headquarters site in Legacy West.

Plano’s planning and zoning commission gave Ware’s proposal the green light last month over the objections of current property owners in the corporate business park, and city council is expected to approve the project later this month.

The pro-developer council slate supported by Ware and LaRosiliere includes incumbents Rick Grady (Place 3) and Ron Kelley (Place 5) and open-seat candidates Maria Tu (Place 1) and Ann Bacchus (Place 7). Grady and Kelley both have records of voting for higher city property tax burdens. Bacchus is a former Democrat precinct chair who ran unsuccessfully for council in 2017. Tu is a political newcomer who identifies as Republican but is backed by Democrats.

Dreien partner Jeffrey Blakely also donated $1,000 each to Bacchus and Kelley on the same December 2018 dates as Ware, as did developer Jack Dawson of Centurion American. None of the three donors live in Plano.

Outside special-interest money is nothing new in Plano politics. LaRosiliere raised over $300,000 for his 2017 re-election campaign. More than $175,000 came from individuals and PACs with ties to developers or their financiers, apartment projects, and other special interests from outside Plano.

The investment appears to have paid off. The mayor has continued to push an unpopular density policy that aims to urbanize the suburb at the behest of developers, despite near-unanimous opposition from Plano homeowners, earning him the nickname “High-Density Harry.”

In a campaign fundraising email sent March 1, LaRosiliere urged his supporters to send him money to help elect the candidates he said “will help me over the rest of my term” and defeat his chosen slate’s opponents, who he called “anti-business, anti-developer, anti-growth,” and “anti-new headquarter relocation.”

The political outsiders challenging the mayor’s coalition say they favor responsible growth that maintains Plano’s current suburban identity and doesn’t overtax residents or give special deals to developers at the expense of residents.

Candidates Daniel Long (Place 1), Colleen Epstein (Place 3), Shelby Williams (Place 5), and Lily Bao (Place 7) are endorsed by Plano Citizens’ Coalition, an organization that promotes government accountability, transparency, and fiscal responsibility.

Plano citizens can follow the money to determine which candidates support high-density developers and other special interests, and who prioritizes the interests of city taxpayers.

Early voting in Plano’s May 4 municipal election runs April 22-30. The last day to register to vote in the election is April 4.

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